Ever had to wear wet clothes to work? That gross sticky feeling all over. It’s uncomfortable at work but in the back country it can be downright deadly. By planning, packing and staying careful the only water on you will be spilled from your canteen. Staying dry and comfortable is important no matter what the weather; but when the temperature drops on late season hunts you should be extra sure you’ve got the gear to keep you dry and be sure you don’t go home without horns. We’ve sat down and considered all the options and reviewed some of the best hunting rain gear in the industry.
The Best Hunting Rain Gear
The best hunting rain gear needs to be waterproof, breathable, lightweight and easy to take care of. This is a tall order but here we go with an example of how to make a system that would work year round:
Frogg Toggs Boonie Hat (Breathable)
Let’s hit the nail on the head; hats should be warm, preferably wool and have a brim. A ball cap over a patrol cap can be a potent combination for versatility while a full brimmed hat won’t work well with hoods. Hats can be sprayed for water resistance and should be. Don’t skimp on keeping your head dry and be wary of taking your hood off in heavy vegetation, wet leaves can dump plenty of rain water to soak you to the bone.
Jackets & Coats:
There’s a lot of wiggle room here but the two best items you should consider:
Frogg Toggs Tekk Toad Wading Jacket
Jackets are asked to do a lot. Keep you warm, dry and protected from the elements. A warm coat can be the mental pick-me-up the doctor ordered. A hard to beat coat can be the frogg toggs Tek Toads Wading jacket. It’s camo, the fabric works as advertised is extremely comfortable and very affordable.
Frogg Toggs All Sport
Another option would be to buy the whole enchilada and get the Frogg Toggs All Sport Camo Rain Suit that comes in camo and is made from the same material. All you lose is the hood design and the chest mounted pockets.
Bibs & Pants:
Frogg Toggs Pro Advantage Bib in camo
Again we look to Frogg Toggs, the best strike between quality, performance and price comes from the Frogg Toggs brand. Frogg Toggs is the best hunting rain gear for the money hands down. The Frog Toggs materials and design do what they’re supposed too and they can be counted on to keep you dry. The material is a little loud but the sound dripped seeping woods will drown it right out. The bibs are loose enough to fit women but younger hunters may have a problem with the length.
Boots & Socks:
LaCrosse Aerohead Hunting Boot
These are the comfort items. More than anything else great hunting boots and socks keep you comfortable. Comfortable warm wool socks are best and keeping them clean, dry and warm can be hard. Many hunters already use insulated rubber boots and they work well. Lacrosse footwear is a world leader in extremely high quality rubber boots and the new model Aerohead line of insulated waterproof boots are among the best they offer.
LOOGU Multifunction Military Camouflage Waterproof Rain Poncho
The versatility of a poncho means it shouldn’t ever be left behind. Having an extra poncho to drape over gear, have a dry place for meat, or just a comfortable place to sit is worth the light weight and small space they take up. Don’t spend too much on a poncho, they get used in so many different ways it’s hard to keep it 100% leak proof so buy quality but buy inexpensive.
Best hunting Raingear for Children:
MuckBoots Arctic Sport II Boot
Choosing warm, comfortable boots with good grip but that are not too expensive is the hardest part of rain gear for a kid. These boots do it all without breaking the bank. The only pair a youth hunter will likely need these boots can be a great resource. Muck boots are known for durability and not leaking.
Water Proof Bags:
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack
The insurance policy, your waterproof bags, shouldn’t be camouflage. Buy color coded bags or clear bags to organize your gear. These bags needn’t be Gore-Tex. Simple works best and Ziplocs can work in a pinch for day trips. I prefer sil-nylon stuff sacks to keep gear dry and keep everything tight and compact.
Water Proofing Spray:
Camp Dry Water Repellent Spray
The icing on the cake or the last line of defence depending on how you packed your gear. Make sure to plan ahead when using it can take a while to cure.
Guide to Picking the Best Hunting Raingear
Going Beyond the Coat
Hunting is in the details. Those little holes in your plan that let the water seep in and drown your chances. Let’s begin by addressing the little stuff. As a general rule remember: Cotton Kills. Don’t ever wear cotton in the backcountry! Cotton gets wet and losses it’s insulation value, then takes forever to dry out to boot!
When you start shopping for serious rain gear start by buying water proof boots and make sure they hold water! Literally pour a measured amount of water into the boot, let sit a few minutes, and then pour the water out and measure it. See how much you lost, of course some got absorbed, but if you’re missing 70% of the water you’re in trouble if you slip into the creek!
Socks, headgear and gloves should all be smart wool or merino wool. The new stuff isn’t nearly as itchy as old wool and was engineered to perform like a champ in the woods. Wool is lightweight, quiet, dries fast and will keep you warm even if wet. I don’t ever leave without at least a few hand warmers stuffed in my pack just in case. A little canned heat from these chemical packets can be all it takes to wait out Mr. Big into bow range.
Anything that can be reasonably sprayed or sealed… do it! New products have scentless silicone sprays that can coat fabrics to be water resistant. Backpacks, sleeping bag covers, or hats, gloves or even seats can be coated to be water resistant. Even if an item (like a seat) doesn’t need to be water tight, being treated with water resistant silicone keeps the fabric from absorbing water and can simply be wiped off.
How to Waterproof Your Hunting Gear
The first step to keeping dry is to keep your gear dry. When you buy gear consider that one day you might drop it in a stream, get caught in a down pour, or drive into a thunderstorm on your way to the hunt. Buy backpacks with storm flaps over the zippers and made of quality water resistant materials.
Even if you don’t plan on seeing rain or snow on your trip pack all your gear in water proof stuff sacks. It organizes all your gear and protects it from getting dirty if you need to repack your gear or get something from the very bottom. At the very least it protects you from having to clean blood of all your gear if you have to haul meat out of the back country.
Next double bag items like: sleeping bags, extra clothes, first aid kits, and fire starting kits by putting them in a Ziploc bags before you put them into their stuff sack. Also consider lining your whole backpack with a contractor grade trash bag then putting your stuff sacks in that. This is all extra insurance if you see trouble on the horizon the weatherman didn’t mention.
Leave yourself enough time to pack your bag so you don’t have to worry about anything!
Water Proof Vs. DWR
Let’s dispel some marketing gimmicks: waterproof vs Durable Water Resistant.
Waterproof means very, very little water will get through if we make a bag out of the material and fill it with water. Durable Water Resistant (DWR) means if you splash water up against it, water won’t get through. The problem with DWR fabric can, and does absorb water and then starts to wick water to the inside of the fabric. DWR is fine, even a bonus, for inner layers but for a shell water proofing is needed. A material like Gore-Tex or PolarTec fleece that is windproof and water proof is needed for outer layers if tough elements are in the plans.
There are many laminates now on the market with varying degrees of quality but the standard remains Gore-Tex. The rub with Gore-Tex and similar quality material is the price. This isn’t the gear to hand off to a young hunter who rolls around in the mud. Keeping these garments clean is extremely important to not block the pores that allow sweat to escape.
Cheaper laminates such as Frogg Toggs are simply awesome. The price is right and a huge advantage that seems trivial now is: duct tape sticks to it. Duct tape won’t stick to Gore-Tex, fleece, nylon or other materials made with silicone or polyurethane. If you chose Gore-Tex be sure to buy a patch kit and carry the kit in case you slip and tear your coat, bib or pants.
Waterproof or DWR, the fabrics work best if left in one piece.
Size & Pockets
When you first start trying on rain gear try and gravitate towards models specifically designed for hunting. Your rain gear can benefit from being camo and the cuts on hunting came is generous to allow free movement and extra layers. The biggest concern for hunter is being able to access and use equipment when you need it quickly.
For bow hunters this means trying on your backpack and grabbing your bow to see if you can draw and shoot while wearing your coat and your pack. All your gear needs to work together. Ponchos while great for a lot of things, are horrible for shooting in. Consider what you need and when. Rifle hunters have it easy and tree stand hunters have it the easiest when it comes to shouldering and making a snap shot.
Depending on your hunt, pockets on the coat can be anywhere from unnecessary to a necessity.
Hunting in the plains or rolling hills means you need quick access to a range finder or a GPS to make sure you’re going the correct way. Having a cut out for a tree stand harness means you won’t get soaked when you go to clip into your safety strap. Having chest mounted pockets, or even regular coat pockets, is a huge plus when carrying gear in the rain and I recommend not buying a coat or bibs without pockets.
How do you plan on wearing your gear?
Are you looking for a heavy coat to fit over your duck wader?
Are you going to wear the jacket over a day pack?
Consider how and when you’ll be using this gear. It usually pays to have several different sets of rain gear. Lightweight summer style for the early season can be great and sized for fitting over a daypack or turkey vest. If you get a lot of snow during the hunting season you should look into heavy soft shell or technical layers that fit over all your layers including puffer jackets and heavy boots. Even forgetting to simulate pulling your bowstring can lead to disaster when you first go to shoot your bow. Ripping your coat or worse watching a trophy trot away will leave you wishing you thought it through a little more. If you do this right your coat will fit generously, this is usually a good thing.
Don’t discount ponchos, used and loved by our military they work great for many tasks such as: easily fitting over gear, can be laid out on a wet patch of ground for turkey hunting and loaned out without fear of not fitting. Ponchos also do something a pack cover and rain coat can’t. They keep the padding on your backpack dry. In a downpour water will run between your pack and your rain coat soaking your straps, padding, and hip belt. If it gets cold your pack can stay cold and wet for days after.
Design and Materials
This is the reason to buy high end brands. The design of the garment coupled with great materials is what sets products apart. Features like underarm zippers or an extra-long tail, a waterproof zipper, a storm style hood, an extended bonnet, and chest mounted chest pockets are exclusive to the top brands.
The two best features of high fabric are the water resistance, breathability and the noise. Cheap nylon ponchos with printed patterns make you cold and clammy while being 100% waterproof and loud as a rock concert. Be especially weary of the materials on your bibs or pants, otherwise you’ll sound like a herd of elephants crashing through the woods.
The original breathable waterproof fabric was Gore-Tex. It’s expensive and can be hard to maintain but worth it. Now there’s so many fabrics it’s hard to list and each manufacturer is vying for your dollars so be sure to research each product you buy.
Very quiet materials are out there but the vast majority have a small amount of noise when you rub the material together. Remember small amounts of noise blend into the noise of an entire forest of dripping branches and leaves. Soft shell jackets are among the quietest out there and are sometimes worth it if you hunt south of the Mason-Dixon and get rain often.
The first thing going through your mind when you pick up gear should be looking for pride. Be an absolute scrooge when inspecting workmanship on your equipment. High end brands will have genuine tags indicating their materials. Also, they shouldn’t have any imperfections in the material and will have consistent stitching throughout the entire product. Small dimples or problems with the fabric eventually will leak and make you wet.
Rain gear especially is hard to repair with modern materials like Gore-Tex and soft shell jackets which need to be serviced regularly by the original manufacturer. Be absolutely sure you know how to care for the garment you’re buying and how long you should expect it to last.
Rain gear can be hard to choose because of cost. We’ve outlined a good set of beginner systems that will work for men, women and children and won’t break the bank.
Be sure that you buy the best hunting rain gear you can and use it for what it was intended. Get outdoors and hunt!