I’ve refined my system for about 15 years but write this with only one caveat — don’t simply take my word for it. Yes, these are my personal choices, but the ideal setup for you may vary based on your body type, hunt conditions and preferences. Furthermore, the best system for an individual is only obtained through the trials of personally testing gear in backcountry environments.
With that disclaimer in mind, the gear in this list is what I’d typically bring for an extended mountain hunt and has covered me from summer through early fall. With a few substitutions (warmer headwear, gloves and insulation layers) I’ve comfortably used these pieces in some of the coldest conditions in North America.
When assembling a system, there are a few key factors I consider. It must be:
Then, I think through the scenarios a specific hunt could present. Consider all situations from hiking, glassing, hanging at camp, to stalking in and packing out. I ask questions like: What will I wear on a stalk? What if the ground is wet and I’m crawling? Do I expect to camp in the valley or up on ridges? Where will I glass from and for how long? Answers to these questions guide gear decisions while mapping out a hunt plan, which is inherently valuable.
Photo: Sam Averett
Dewpoint Jacket & Pant: I’ve loved the Dewpoint series since its inception in 2012. It's my go-to rain system. The beauty is in its simplicity: pockets that double as pit-zips, a simple adjustable hood, and no bells and whistles that add bulk or weight. The material used in the construction of this piece leaves it extremely packable and surprisingly durable for a product that’s so lightweight.
On a similar thread, I think about how pieces will interact with each other. Will my rain gear fit well over my insulation? When I’m hiking I’ll wear X shirt, around camp or glassing I’ll add Y jacket. Predetermining these scenarios has been helpful to determine what’s needed.
I strive to be efficient. Over the years, I’ve started to bring less and make more intentional choices. Back in the day, I brought extra pants and base layers in case my first pair got wet. The reality is, duplicate items are rarely needed. Sure, a clean shirt on day 7 is nice, but it’s not a necessity.
Below I’ve broken down each piece in my early/mid-season system, the role it fulfills and why it’s the right tool for the job.
Core Lightweight Hoody — Polygiene has advanced in recent years. Although I don’t think synthetic base layers are as “stink free” as merino wool, it’s getting closer. As a result, I’ve switched from merino to the Core Lightweight Hoody as it dries quicker. Bonus feature — a built in facemask and hood helps block the sun.
Ascent Pant - The Ascent Pant is my choice for summer and early fall sheep hunts as it’s the lightest weight (@ ~12oz) and coolest pant offered. I like that I can vent heat when the side mesh pockets are open. More importantly, the overall fit and stretchability is spot on.
Core Heavyweight Hoody - This hoody comes everywhere with me. It’s form fitting and cuts the early morning chill, sealing in heat with a contoured hood and long tail flap. It’s the perfect cozy piece for when activity slows and to sleep in on cold nights. It's super breathable and has a deep chest zip if I need to wear it when active.
Dewpoint Jacket - I’ve loved this product since its inception in 2012. It's my go-to rain system. The beauty is in its simplicity: pockets that double as pit-zips, a simple adjustable hood, and no bells and whistles that add bulk or weight. The material used in the construction of this piece leaves it extremely packable and surprisingly durable for a product that’s so lightweight. When not wearing it, I always have this jacket rolled up into its hood and stashed in an outside pocket of my pack for easy access.
Dewpoint Pant - Same goes here for this pant. The Dewpoint is everything I need and nothing I don’t. I’ve never carried a lot of stuff in the pockets of my rain gear as I find it bulks up around the thighs where the material isn’t as forgiving as a non-waterproof hiking pant. Therefore, I prefer the simplicity of this pant. It restricts my legs less than any other rain gear I’ve tried. Full side zips are absolutely critical for easy on and off.
Kelvin Down WS Hoody - Though this may be overkill for the summer months, I justify the Kelvin Down as an insurance policy. If I’m soaking wet, this jacket can be a hunt saver. I’ll throw this on over my damp layers and they immediately begin to dry out from my captured body heat. Also, if I have to spend a night out, or I'm camped motionless on a ram, the Kelvin Down will make an uncomfortable situation manageable. Storing it in its stuff sack helps keep me organized and saves volume in my pack.
Ascent Glove — For protection from bugs, sun and rocks, these gloves are simple and low profile. With no velcro straps, buckles or drawstrings they remain quiet and are either in my pant pockets or on my hands at all times.
Coldfront GTX Glove — A little extra warmth is always helpful while glassing or on a stalk. Not mission critical, but a nice-to-have that's worthwhile in my opinion. Hands and feet are the first things to get cold and losing dexterity is something I try to avoid.
Merino Beanie — Low-profile headwear to add a bit of warmth on cooler days. The merino properties have a great warmth-to-weight ratio and staying relatively odorless makes it a no-brainer.
Stormfront Gaiter — Gaiters are a key addition to a clothing system. Protecting your feet from blisters is paramount, and one of the best ways of doing that is by keeping them dry. A gaiter that keeps water from pouring over the top of your boots on creek crossings, traversing in snow or bushwhacking through wet willows is a must-have.
Pack Cover — A must-have for keeping your gear dry when you're on the move.