Advice Needed on First Layering Setup

SCLawyer

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
104
Quick Background: I'm a long time hunter in South Carolina - mostly stand hunting for whitetails with the occasional dog/man drive as well as turkey hunting and occasionally dove or duck hunting. I'm definitely mostly a whitetail hunter. Pretty much all my life, I've hunted in standard, off the rack hunting gear - mostly cotton for the early season and heavy insulated bibs/coveralls/jackets for the last part of the season. I've always been extremely annoyed at how bulky and cheap quality most of my clothing has been. It's also been way too hot.

Over the last year, I've had occasion to use synthetic and merino apparel as well as performance clothing from the big 3 - Sitka, First Lite, and KUIU. It's been a game changer for me. Deer season runs August 15 to January 1 in my game zone, so I start the season at 100 degrees and end near freezing. I've been able to sell most of my other camo clothes/jackets/etc... and have been slowly building a layering system that I think will work well for my in South Carolina and allow me to have the essentials I need for western hunting (I'm planning a trip out west within the next 2 years to try my hand at elk hunting).

I was hoping the experts here could give me some feedback on what other items I should add to my system, so I can keep my eye out for sales. I've done a ton of research and tried to buy pieces that will be versatile enough to be put to good use in South Carolina while also used for my eventual trip(s) out west. Keep in mind that for now, I'm mostly hunting stationary, so I am using more synthetics than I would if I were gearing my system solely for western hunting.

I'm pretty comfortable with the solids/patterns I've picked out. While I've found that KUIU fits me best, I get substantial discounts with both First Lite and Sitka as members of the Pro Programs, so it's kind of hard to justify buying from KUIU rather than discounted Sitka/First Lite. I'm trying to do this all on a budget and shop smart. Most of my items now would get me through most of the season, but I need some help with Outerwear - that's really where I'm struggling.

Here's what my closet looks like right now:

Boxers/Base Layer Bottom:
First Lite Wick Long Boxer Brief (Solid - Dry Earth)
KUIU Peloton 118 Boxer Brief (Solid - Olive)
KUIU Peloton 118 Zip-Off Bottom (Solid - Olive) (I'm hoping this will be a good enough base layer for most of the season).
**I'll alternate the Boxer Briefs and use the Zip-Offs when necessary.

Base Layer Tops
KUIU Enduro SS Crew (Verde 2.0)
Sitka Core Lightweight SS Crew (Subalpine)
Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody (Subalpine)
First Lite Fuse LS Crew (Fusion)
**I'm planning on using the SS Crews during the sweltering heat of August/September and then transitioning to the Core Lightweight Hoody and Fuse LS Crew once it gets cooler. I really like the Core Lightweight Hoody, but I find the mask to be a little annoying. It may end up being great in the field though**

Pants:
KUIU Tiburon Pants (Solid - Major Brown)
Sitka Mountain Pants (Subalpine)
**I'm planning on running the Tiburon Pants during the first half of the season when it's hot/warm and then transitioning to the Mountain Pants. Questions: During the heat, do you still find it helpful to wear base layer bottoms like the Peloton 118 Zip-Offs or is that going to be too hot? Run boxer briefs when I use the Zip-Offs? I'm trying to figure out whether I should plan on using any base layer at all during the heat or whether the boxer briefs and Tiburons (with hip vents) would be the best course of action**

Midlayers:
KUIU Peloton 200 Zip-T
**As of now, this is the only midlayer I have. Given the temperatures here, I don't think I'll need much more than that when used with insulation layers, but am open to suggestions. If I could do it all over again, I probably would have gone with the First Lite Klamath instead, but I'm going to give the Peloton a go this year

Insulation Layers:
Sitka Kelvin Lite Vest (Subalpine)
KUIU Versa Jacket (Verde 2.0) (This isn't really sold as a hunting jacket, but I think it will be a perfect light puffy for late season in SC)

Outerwear:
Nothing. I'm struggling to decide what to do here. What I'm looking for is an outerwear piece that will help with wind and moisture throughout the season. I'd ideally only like to buy one jacket and rely on my layering underneath it. I've had a couple of ideas - KUIU Axis Hybrid (although it is expensive), First Lite Corrugate Jacket, First Lite Sawtooth, First Lite Catalyst. I just don't know what to do here. I don't need a heavy puffy jacket, but I'm not sure what my best option would be. I like the Sitka Jetstream but it looks like it might be too insulated for me since I'm looking more for a jacket I can wear over layers throughout the season.

Would it make any sense at all to just buy a good rain jacket like a KUIU Northridge or Chugach (can't imagine I'd need anything heavier than that) or a First Lite Vapor Stormlight and just use that as my go to jacket for the season? I typically hunt in covered stands (except for turkey season), so I don't have a real need for heavy rain gear, but it would be nice to have my outerlayer piece be waterproof or resistant enough to cover a decent, steady rain. All I have now is an older bright green Marmot Precip.

Headgear:
KUIU AirMesh FlexFit Hat (for hot early season) (Verde 2.0)
Sitka Cap (for warm/cooler weather) (Subalpine)
Sitka Jetstream Beanie (Subalpine)
First Lite Aerowool Gaiter (Solid - Cipher)

Gloves:
KUIU Merino 210 Gloves (Verde 2.0)
**I'd like to get one more pair of gloves that can get me to the end of the season. I've been looking at the KUIU Guide Gloves so that I can use the Merino 210 Gloves as liners in the cold, but I'd love to find a Sitka or First Lite option that would work independently or with the Merino 210 as a liner**

Footwear:
Lacrosse AlphaBurly Snake Boots
Merrell MOAB Ventilator
**I will probably buy a pair of Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof. I think this will be all I really need in SC. Eventually I'll upgrade to a pair of Schnee's or Kenetrek, but I don't think it's worth spending the money now since I don't do a lot of walking. I'll also buy a pair of gaiters to keep the moisture out of my boots. I really like the look of the First Lite Traverse Gaiters since I don't think I need a full sized gaiter, but everything I've read on here indicates that they fit far too tightly. I only really need a gaiter for small creek crossings and to protect the bottom of my pants. Any suggestions are welcome**

Misc. Gear
KUIU Stalker 500 - This thing is awesome. I love it as a deer stand daypack and hydration pack for the sweltering hot early season
Vortex Diamondback HD 10x42 with GlassPak. I'd really like to get the KUIU Pro Harness since it integrates with the Stalker, but it seems like an unnecessary expense for now since the GlassPak works very well


Thanks in advance for reading all of this and being willing to help a newbie like me. I've got 25 years of hunting experience under my belt, but I'm sick and tired of sweating my ass off in cotton and being in massive insulated bibs and coveralls for the rare really cold days.

I'm planning on taking inventory of what I've purchased at the end of this deer season to see if I didn't use any items, and I'll list those in the Classified, but for the time being, I'd love any suggestions/criticisms/advice (particularly on what glove and outerwear to get).
 

Whiskey_Fish

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2015
Messages
370
Location
Wyoming
You'll waste a hard rain shell using it like a go to outer layer. I'd add an uninsulated soft shell and a puffy. Everyone needs a puffy. After those items you'll have more gear than anybody I hunt elk with so you should have plenty of options!
 
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SCLawyer

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
104
You'll waste a hard rain shell using it like a go to outer layer. I'd add an uninsulated soft shell and a puffy. Everyone needs a puffy. After those items you'll have more gear than anybody I hunt elk with so you should have plenty of options!

That’s a good point. I didn’t think about the wear and tear on the rain shell. Any recommendations on a soft shell? I’ll eventually get a FL puffy (or maybe a Sitka or KUIU if I can afford it), but I think I’m going to prioritize a soft shell and then rain gear when I can afford it. Thanks for the help!!


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doverpack12

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2013
Messages
2,315
I think the Axis is going to offer the most weather protection for you. Sitka Jetstream is a nice jacket and I have used both alot with the Jetstream getting several years of use probably 15-20 days or trips a year. The Jetstream blocks absolutely every bit of wind but that comes at a price of being heavy and far less versatile. The axis I haven't noticed blocking any less wind, but it breathes far better and has waterproof panels on the hood, shoulders and top side of the sleeves so it holds up better to moisture like wet snow or a light rain. Any significant rain and either is likely outmatched. To my knowledge First Lite doesn't offer a jacket in this same range of applicability.

I think the rest of your system you have acquired is pretty good. I wouldn't worry about adding much merino, I've gone from synthetics to merino and now back to synthetics. I always wear a SS synthetic top like the two you have then add my other layers. This seems to keep my warmer, dryer and happier than always being damp with merino.

I always wear something under the zip off kuiu bottoms.

for gloves look at the Sitka Mountain Glove or SKRE Hardscrabble (basically a Mountain construction looks identical side by side). Its enough for 20s with snow and some movement and not too hot at 40-50 with cold wind.

The cold when sitting stationary might surprise you, these systems are pretty reliant on you moving and generating heat to stay warm or adding puffy insulation, sitting for several hours can get very chilly if the temperature is cold.
 

Whiskey_Fish

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2015
Messages
370
Location
Wyoming
It's easy to get smokin deals on the Sitka Timberline if you pay enough attention. I really like mine for wind protection and mild moisture. Seems to be holding up well under shoulder straps and the waist belt on my packs. For the puffy you can save some money and go non-hunting easily. EB Evertherm or Stormdown are good, OR Transcendant is a good choice also.
 
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SCLawyer

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
104
I think the Axis is going to offer the most weather protection for you. Sitka Jetstream is a nice jacket and I have used both alot with the Jetstream getting several years of use probably 15-20 days or trips a year. The Jetstream blocks absolutely every bit of wind but that comes at a price of being heavy and far less versatile. The axis I haven't noticed blocking any less wind, but it breathes far better and has waterproof panels on the hood, shoulders and top side of the sleeves so it holds up better to moisture like wet snow or a light rain. Any significant rain and either is likely outmatched. To my knowledge First Lite doesn't offer a jacket in this same range of applicability.

I think the rest of your system you have acquired is pretty good. I wouldn't worry about adding much merino, I've gone from synthetics to merino and now back to synthetics. I always wear a SS synthetic top like the two you have then add my other layers. This seems to keep my warmer, dryer and happier than always being damp with merino.

I always wear something under the zip off kuiu bottoms.

for gloves look at the Sitka Mountain Glove or SKRE Hardscrabble (basically a Mountain construction looks identical side by side). Its enough for 20s with snow and some movement and not too hot at 40-50 with cold wind.

The cold when sitting stationary might surprise you, these systems are pretty reliant on you moving and generating heat to stay warm or adding puffy insulation, sitting for several hours can get very chilly if the temperature is cold.

Great advice. I really appreciate it. I think I’ve settled on the Axis.

One of my big fears in buying this system is what you mentioned - these pieces are designed for being on the move and not still hunting. Fortunately, I’m hunting 90% of the time in 45-50 degree plus weather, even into the late season because it’s hot as hell here.

Having not ever worn real puffy gear - is it warm enough to keep me comfortable during a really cold late season day? Looking back on all my years, I can think of some cold days hunting but I always went super heavy on bibs/overalls when it was 20 degrees in the morning and then was sweltering when it got to 45 by 9 AM. Seems like it might make sense to invest in a good puffy jacket/pant so that I can start those cold days with it and then take them off when it warms up.

Thanks so much for all the advice everyone.


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Spoonbill

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
323
Great advice. I really appreciate it. I think I’ve settled on the Axis.

One of my big fears in buying this system is what you mentioned - these pieces are designed for being on the move and not still hunting. Fortunately, I’m hunting 90% of the time in 45-50 degree plus weather, even into the late season because it’s hot as hell here.

Having not ever worn real puffy gear - is it warm enough to keep me comfortable during a really cold late season day? Looking back on all my years, I can think of some cold days hunting but I always went super heavy on bibs/overalls when it was 20 degrees in the morning and then was sweltering when it got to 45 by 9 AM. Seems like it might make sense to invest in a good puffy jacket/pant so that I can start those cold days with it and then take them off when it warms up.

Thanks so much for all the advice everyone.


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I am a big fan of the first lite uncompahgre jacket. It is a great jacket and would work well as a layer when it dips down in to the 20s. The first lite chamberlain puffy is warm too but I am not sure if you would get your money’s worth out of the jacket vs going with something cheaper like an Eddie Bauer down jacket (under 100 on sale) since it doesn’t get that cold in South Carolina.
 

BigBuckDirtNap

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2019
Messages
142
Location
SD
I have the kuiu merino and guide gloves. I wore them together last year a few times, but they ended up being a little too snug and not very warm. I would definitely go two sizes bigger in the guide gloves if you go that route. The Yukons or Expeditions by themselves would probably be a better option.
 

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