The Ultimate Hunting Clothes Guide For Beginners

a hunter wearing camouflage

If you're new to hunting, it's easy to underestimate the importance of the right hunting clothes. Magazines and websites are filled with striking images of camouflage-clad hunters, tough-looking people in ghillie suits, and folks wearing orange safety vests. To look at the advertising, it's hard to know what you need -- though there are plenty of people willing to take your money for things that look cool.

But it's about more than just looking cool. Hunting clothes are essential gear, just like your license and weapon. The right clothes will help you to blend in with the scenery and sneak up on your prey. At the same time, you want clothing that will protect you, not only from the elements but from other hunters who might mistake you for what they're hunting.

Your clothing must fulfill three vital functions. First, it needs to keep you comfortable. A hunting trip can expose you to extremes of both hot and cold. You may also encounter precipitation. In many areas, you will need sun and insect protection as well. Also, the right kind of hunting clothes can make it harder -- a lot harder -- for your prey to see, hear, and smell you coming. Finally, it needs to keep you safe. Accidental shootings have gone way down in recent years, thanks to hunter education. And 85 percent of hunting injuries are self-inflicted. Still, accidents do happen. Safety-oriented hunting clothes help to ensure that they happen less often.

Hunting Clothes: The Basic Pieces


a young man wearing a cup and long sleeves while holding a hunting rifle in the middle of a field

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Different climates require different hunting clothes. Choosing the right ones can mean the difference between the trip of a lifetime and a miserable slog. It can also save your life.

Torso 

When it comes to your torso, the name of the game is layering. That is true no matter what your climate. Base layers wick away sweat and insulate from the cold. Middle layers can stay on or come off, as needed. And climate-appropriate outerwear can not only protect you from cold, from insects, or from the scorching sun but can also help you carry your gear.

Base layers 

Base layers are what some of us used to call "long johns." They used to come in cotton, wool, and silk. Now you can find not only those but also high-tech synthetic options that both wick away sweat and insulate from the cold. You can find base layers in long-sleeve and short-sleeve options, for your torso and for your legs.

Middle layers 

The purpose of the middle layer also depends on your climate. For cold weather, your middle layer insulates against the cold. In a hot climate, you might want to skip the middle layer altogether. Common fabrics for middle layers include cotton, wool, and synthetic fleece.

Top layer 

Your top or outer layer protects you from wind, snow, sun, and rain. These different purposes require different fabrics. To protect from wind and precipitation, a light, moisture-proof fabric like nylon is an excellent choice. A Gore-Tex or nylon jacket can provide excellent protection from the cold as well. Waxed canvas is a traditional choice, and in many places, still a popular one for rain protection. If you're in a hot climate and need sun protection, waterproof synthetics aren't the most comfortable choice. In this case, a lightweight cotton or breathable rayon top layer can protect you from the sun without being stifling.

Many outer layer hunting garments have pockets and loops to hold your small gear. Figuring out what you'll be taking on your trip, and how to carry it efficiently, will make your entire trip go much more smoothly.

Legs 

a man with a dog in the outdoor for hunting

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In cold climates, layering is important for your lower body, too. Choose a base layer in cotton, wool, silk, or synthetic to keep your legs toasty warm. If you're expecting precipitation, a waterproof outer layer will keep your legs dry as well as warm. If you're hunting in a hot climate, though, skip the base and outer layers.

No matter what the climate, you're going to want full-leg protection. It might be tempting, in a hot climate, to wear shorts. But, in addition to sunburn, you may encounter insects -- both venomous and merely annoying -- as well as poison ivy, poison oak, thorns, brambles, and other unpleasant foliage. Best to stick with long pants.

Duck hunters may spend a lot of time in the water. Therefore, a good pair of hunting waders should be one of the first pieces on your list.

Head 

In a cold climate, you can lose between ​7 and 10​ percent of your body heat through your head. A wool cap, especially one that's lined with natural or synthetic fleece, can keep your head warm and your mind on the hunt. If you want something even warmer than that, consider a hood, a mask, or a cowl.

In a warm climate, a brimmed hat can not only keep the sun off your head, but it can also keep it out of your eyes, as well.

Feet 

a man wearing hunting boots

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When I was growing up in Illinois, we had a winter layering ritual for our feet. It went like this: tights, cotton socks, wool socks, bread bags, boots. If it was really cold -- our parents would routinely make us walk to school in 20-below Chicago snowstorms -- we'd repeat the cotton and wool sock layers a few times. I doubt a lot of people wear bread bags on their feet anymore, but the laws of layering still apply.

First, you need a pair of dependable boots. If they're not broken in, don't take them on a trip until they are. If they're broken in but still give you blisters, get rid of 'em. Your boots should have a thick sole with a good tread that will protect you from anything you might step on, and keep you from slipping on rocks, mud, or wet surfaces. It's also a good idea to wear tall boots made from a sturdy material, in case you cross paths with a snake or other ankle-biting critter. Waterproof is always a good choice. In a hot, arid climate, breathability is key.

Beneath your boots, you'll want to layer socks. For warmth, try a bottom layer of nylon or silk. On top of that, cotton. If you need extra warmth or cushion, a nice, thick wool sock is a good choice. But with today's high-tech waterproof boot materials, you only have to wear the bread bag if you really want to.

Hands 

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If you're hunting in a cold climate, you're going to need to protect your hands. At the same time, you don't want to wear anything that will make it hard to use your weapon. Thinsulate is a thin insulating fabric made from synthetic fibers. Common in jackets and gloves, it can keep your fingers safe and warm, without compromising your dexterity. If you need protection from wind and moisture, choose a glove with a water-resistant nylon shell. For milder cold weather, where you don't need wind protection, microfiber fleece could be a good choice. It's a thin, breathable fabric that won't hamper your movement.

There are an incredible variety of glove and mitten designs and technologies for hunters. You might also consider a hunting mitten with a zip panel for your trigger finger, for example. Likewise, if you're concerned about spooking game with your scent, you can find any number of scent-control gloves on the market.

Comfort and Utility 


two men and a dog walking in a field to hunt

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Hunting can involve movement. It can also mean standing in place for a very long time. For this reason, it's not enough to merely protect yourself from the elements. Your hunting clothes need to be comfortable, too. As for utility, hunters have specific needs, and your hunting clothes have to fit those needs.

Free movement

As a hunter, you may be sitting in one place for a long time, observing and waiting for your quarry. But when your prey appears, it's time to act fast! That means you'll need clothing that can accommodate quick, sudden movement. Avoid bulky. Avoid restrictive. At the same time, avoid anything that's so loose it's going to trip you up or get in your way.

Breathability and moisture wicking

No matter what the climate, you're going to sweat. Your clothing needs to be able to handle it. Light, breathable fabrics will keep you comfortable in hot weather. And in the cold, synthetic base layers that can wick away your sweat will keep you dry, comfortable, and warm.

Pockets and storage

Phone? Check. Compass? Got it. How about extra ammunition? Yep. A first aid kit and firestarter? Multi-tool? Water bottle? Bear spray? Duck call? Errr this is starting to sound like a lot of gear. But the right garment can accommodate all that and more.

Before you set out for your hunting trip, make a list of everything you'll need. Whether you're going on an overnight trip or a day trip, you're going to need to pack a lot of gear. Some of that gear can go in a pack. But some, like that bear spray and ammo, you're going to want to have on hand. So look for hunting clothes with loops, clips, and spacious pockets that can keep your most essential gear at the ready.

Hunting Clothes for All Climates 


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Different climates require different hunting clothes. Choosing the right ones can mean the difference between the trip of a lifetime and a miserable slog. It can also save your life.

Hunting clothes for cold climates

In a cold climate, your biggest worries are cold, moisture, and wind. Fortunately, it's easy to be prepared.

Cold protection

Two names that you've probably heard are Gore-Tex and Thinsulate. Gore-Tex is a waterproof, ultra-warm synthetic membrane. Thinsulate is an ultra-thin, synthetic fiber that provides excellent warmth in jackets, gloves, ski pants, and more. Down is another very popular insulating material. Although there is no warmth rating system that covers all garments, you can look at a garment's fill power to determine whether that garment will provide more or less warmth.

Fill power for down ranges from around 450 to 900. Higher fill power often (but not always!) means the garment will be warmer. Synthetic insulation is measured in terms of grams. The higher the number, the more insulation the garment contains, and the warmer it will be.

Wind and snow protection 

A lot of staying warm comes down to keeping out wind and moisture. No amount of wool or cotton is going to do that. For this, you'll need lightweight synthetic outer layers. Think nylon. Think Gore-Tex. You want to block the wind and keep moisture from penetrating.

Hunting clothes for wet climates

a group of hunters laughing

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Your hunting trip might take you through rivers and marshes. Or you might find yourself struggling with humidity and bugs. Either way, you need hunting clothes that will protect you.

Insect protection

First, it goes without saying, whether it's hot or cold, cover up. Mosquitoes and other little biters are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, so there's no hiding. But you can make it harder for them.

Your first line of defense is to block their access. Insects can't bite what they can't get to. Bug sprays are another way to protect yourself. But did you know that there's chemically treated clothing that can keep the bugs away as well? If you're going to be in an area where bugs are a problem, it might be well worth the investment.

Water protection

You've got your waterproofs for rain and snow, but what about actual water? If you're hunting waterfowl, you may find yourself in the water at times as well. In this case, you'll need a pair of hunting waders. Waders protect your lower body with synthetic fabric like neoprene or rubber. You can buy hip-waders or waders that go all the way up to your chest. Either way, if you're going to find yourself standing in water, it's essential equipment.

Hunting clothes for hot climates 

Hot climates can be just as treacherous as cold ones but in a different way. Be safe.

Sun protection 

Hot weather may make you want to strip down, but, just like in cold climates, when it comes to safety, covering up is key. Long sleeves and trousers will keep the sun off and help to prevent sunburn. If those are made from lightweight, natural fabrics, they can also help to keep you cool. A hat will go far toward keeping the sun off your face and out of your eyes. And don't forget the sunblock.

Heat protection 

Breathability is paramount. Loose, breathable fabrics will help air to circulate and sweat to evaporate. Cotton, linen, and even lightweight wool make good choices. You might also consider very light rayon.

Stealth Gear 


a hunter wearing a stealth gear

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When it comes to hunting clothes, comfort and protection don't mean a whole lot if your prey sees, hears, or smells you coming. Fortunately, the market has some very innovative solutions.

Be invisible

Camouflage patterned hunting clothes have only been around for the past thirty years or so. Do you need them? Well, camouflage patterns can help you to visually blend into your surroundings, as long as you choose the right one. There are a lot of different patterns. You need to choose the best one for your needs.

There are three basic kinds of patterns. Mimicry patterns imitate the colors and patterns of the surrounding area. "Breakup" patterns break up your outline so that you aren't a clear, human-shaped presence in the eyes of your prey. 3D camouflage adds texture to either of the two previous kinds to help you to blend in. Which is best? You'll have to experiment and make that determination for yourself.

Be silent

The last thing you need is for rustling fabrics to alert your prey of your presence. Wool is a quiet fabric as well as a warm one. Lightweight boots are a good choice as well. You can also buy special sound-eliminating boots and hunting clothes to help you get close to your quarry.

Leave no smell 

One advantage that many animals have over people is a strong sense of smell. As for humans, well, we just smell strong. But you can, actually, buy scent-blocking clothing for your hunt. These innovative clothes use carbon alloy to block your scent so that your prey never smells you coming, either.

Hunting Clothes for Ultimate Safety


four men holding hunting guns

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Few people look good in hunter orange -- though some can absolutely rock it. But safety measures save lives. And in many places, it's the law. Will it scare animals away? Probably not. Many animals are colorblind, and many see colors differently from humans. On top of that, even if animals do see your handsome hunter orange, chances are, they won't see it as a threat. On the other hand, if you don't take appropriate safety measures, your hunting trip could be over very quickly.

Dress for Success...On the Hunt 


Just like your weapon, your hunting clothes are essential to your success. The right clothes mean climate protection, safety, and, most importantly, stealth. A lot of gear looks cool, but, ultimately, function must come before fashion. And when it comes to hunting clothes, just like everything else, you often get what you pay for. So do your research, know your needs, and choose the best clothes for the hunt.

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About the author

Jess Faraday

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