A couple of trips hunting "The Rock” – Newfoundland, Canada – provided profound experiences related to hunting clothing successes and failures. A trip in late September 2019 saw rain, rain and more rain, plus wind and cold. It was miserable, and I wasn’t adequately prepared when it came to rain gear.
The lightweight stuff I brought had a brushed exterior that absorbed water, making the garments cling heavily to me, transmitting the chill. It also leaked in a couple places. When you sat down and water pooled near your butt, it seemed to permeate the membrane designed to keep water out. The funny thing was it made you feel wet even when you weren’t, mainly because it was transferring the cold and damp. My boots were generally good, reliably keeping me warm and dry, but they didn’t have the best ankle fit, meaning my heel lifted while walking and climbing, creating blisters that required bandaging and ointment every day to protect them and prevent infection.
My most recent trip, in early October 2021, saw a stark difference in terms of weather. Except for two days with occasional rain and wind, dry skies prevailed, negating the need for full-time rain gear. Still, I was ready and the gear I brought was designed for all circumstances. Fortunately, I drove to Newfoundland in my Ram 1500 crew cab truck, so I could load up with lots of options to afford maximum flexibility at the time to fly into camp with Arluk Outfitters. Yup - got me moose!
First, my footwear was from Irish Setter, boots they introduced in 2020 called MudTrek. These are 17-inch, calf-high, waterproof boots available in two styles of fit and multiple options for insulation.
I tried both versions -- the “Traditional Full Fit” and the “Athletic Ankle Fit” --at home, determined blisters wouldn’t be an issue on this hunt. The traditional is a rubber and neoprene boot with 1,200 grams of Primaloft insulation. The ankle fit was a 400-gram insulation neoprene version. The traditional was easy on and a little snug getting off, with no ankle creep. The athletic fit boots were tougher to get on. Once on, they felt great but then getting them off took a huge effort. Everyone’s feet and legs are different and these were just too tight for me. I hunted with the traditional fit boots.
Newfoundland’s rugged terrain can be rough on boots and clothes. Rocks, spruce snags, creeks, watery bog holes and more are waiting to puncture or tear clothing or footwear. Those Irish Setters worked like champs, crossing creeks, climbing ladder stands, riding Argos and hiking miles.
The boots are considered “unisex” and come in sizes from 4-15. They have an antimicrobial scent control component to help eliminate odors. The “Rubber Mudder” sole is aggressive, offering good traction. But, the boots easily shed whatever muck wants to collect in the treads. I also like the heel kick that lets you get some leverage when removing the boots. The suggested sales price is $209. The boots have a Mossy Oak Break-Up Country camouflage pattern.
I wore good socks, a variety of snug-fitting medium-heavy weight options from both Darn Tough (a Vermont brand) and Minus 33 (a New Hampshire brand). The Darn Tough socks were the heavier of the two, so they saw duty on days when it was expected to be cold. The Minus33 options were lighter weight, and I wore them on a couple afternoons and around camp with my sneakers. My feet were never cold.
Those Irish Setter boots became my go-to option during late deer season in Virginia -- any day or afternoon when the temperature and wind chill fell below 40 degrees.
Packable Rain Gear
In Newfoundland, you will get wet. If it’s not from rain, it’s from the pervasive morning dew that usually soaks you as you clamber up hillsides while small spruce trees readily shed their overnight water collection when you brush against them.
For 2021’s hunt, I wanted a couple of options: lightweight for days when temps were a little warmer and substantial rain wasn’t on the way, and a little heavier option for rainy morning climbing through the spruce. The heavier option also added additional wind prevention and warmth when sitting in a stand.
So, I packed two sets. The first was a set of new garments by FORLOH, which I’m told means “For Love of Hunting.” This new company out of Montana makes incredibly lightweight “technical” gear that, honestly, sheds water better than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s almost like a windshield that’s been liberally coated with Rain-X. The water just balls up and rolls off.
I had a set of Airalite 3L Jacket and Pants to try. The clothing is a 50-percent lighter extension of the company’s award-winning AllClima collection and designed with, as the company says, the most advanced waterproof, breathable technology to date. This rain gear packs so tight and light that you don’t even know you’re carrying it. The fabric used to make the garments weighs under 4 ounces per square meter of material! While I didn’t want to risk it against any spruce snags, the FORLOH rain gear should hold up alongside any comparable lightweight stuff since it’s made with a 30-denier military grade rip-stop nylon construction. This is paired with an ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) membrane and a lightweight 20-denier tricot backer. The jacket design also incorporates an innovative, horizontal, zippered back vent to allow excess heat to escape while still offering protection.
You know what else is cool -- these garments have RECCO technology built into them. This reflective technology is detectable by radar signals, helping rescuers pinpoint the wearer’s location.
I mentioned the water beads and rolls right off. Here’s where it gets technical. FORLOH uses something they call Airadigm™ Pulse Plasma technology, which pairs exceptional waterproofness (up to 35k +/mm) with incredibly high breathability ratings (up to 35k MTVR or moisture vapor transmission rate). Breathability is gauged by measuring the quantity of water vapor that seeps through it over a 24-hour period in laboratory tests. The higher the figure, the greater the breathability and 35K is incredibly high. In rating waterproofness, anything over 20,000 mm+ means the garment is rainproof and waterproof under very high pressure, including heavy rain and wet snow.
Many of us have used various sprays to improve water repellent capabilities on various garments. FORLOH, though, applies a DWR (durable water repellent) treatment in trace amounts
using a vacuum chamber and an electrical charge that forces the treatment to bond to the fabric’s fibers. I’m not sure if this is akin to what we now call “nanotechnology,” but it is a technique done on the molecular level and it permeates every structure of the fabric’s fibers. This, according to FORLOH, means less DWR treatment is needed, which results in the fabric’s pores remaining more open and breathable. It’s heady stuff.
I was bound to torture test the gear before taking it. I suited up and was subjected to the high-pressure garden hose treatment for several minutes. A few drops of water did get though where the zipper closures on my thighs and arms were tucked under a small flap of fabric. Other than that, I was completely dry. And, I surmised, wearing the garments in a hunting situation in an elevated stand or a boat or simply walking wouldn’t give me the high-pressure, sideways deluge treatment I designed at home.
How’d it work? I wore the FORLOH gear twice on the hunt and it was superb. The light to moderate rains rolled off me like water off a duck. I never did get to try them in multi-day conditions involving heavy downpours. The astounding feature and - to me - the incredible selling point, is how much protection this give gives relative to its weight.
The clothing is pricey. But many other premium rain gear brands (Sitka, KUIU, etc.) are also expensive. The jacket is $359 and the pants are $349. I had the Deep Cover camo pattern, which has an interesting look and does well concealing in a variety of habitats with green and brown.
All I know is this, when I am again venturing anywhere where rain can ruin my experience, this rain gear is going in the pack.
I also brought what I perceived to be a heavier duty rain jacket – just in case. It was a Frogg Togs Pilot II Guide Jacket in Mossy Oak Bottomland. Apparently, the company isn’t making them anymore, although the pants for the set seem to still be available in places. This jacket was nowhere as light as the FORLOH product, but it was multilayered and added some warmth in addition to protection against getting wet. I wore it one morning when overnight rains that extended into the morning meant a potential drenching getting to the hunting area.
Many years (prior to the late 1990s) of little to no hearing protection has taken a toll on me. My hearing is bad – so bad on the left side that a recent test by audiologist Dr. Bill Dickinson of Tetra Hearing couldn’t even register a few frequencies. Whether you’re at the range or hunting, being able to simultaneously hear normal sounds, such as conversations or spoken commands, and protect against loud noises that can damage your hearing is essential. In Newfoundland, it’s also nice to be able to hear timber snapping and bull moose grunting as they come to the call.
Dickinson used my test results to program a set of Tetra’s Multi-Pursuit Alpha Shields protection and amplification devices. There are “in-ear” devices – not muffs, somewhat reminiscent of hearing aids but not custom molded for you ear – although the company makes those, too. Positioned properly, the devices stay well-situated in your ears.
These lightweight, battery-operated tools have subtle program settings that offer optimal hearing across a variety of hunting scenarios, isolating and accentuating certain frequencies such as the gobble of a male turkey. They call the technology Specialized Target Optimization. Mine has settings called big game, upland, waterfowl, turkey, range and clearcom, which is the setting used for normal day-to-day activities.
The first time you use these, especially if your hearing is as bad as mine, you’ll likely be startled at how loud “normal” hearing is supposed to be. Your brain forgets. After wearing the devices for a couple days, though, your brain adjusts to the “new normal.”
Tetra Hearing is a new company, founded in 2019 and selling direct to consumers.
I have worn a variety of muffs and hearing amplification devices for at least the last quarter century. These new devices are neither the most expensive or inexpensive of the models I’ve tried, but I’m finding them invaluable in hunting situations. Importantly, they don’t interfere with shouldering a rifle or shotgun and once you’re used to them, you forget they are there. I wore them on both the 2021 Newfoundland hunt and an African hunt a couple months earlier.
Whatever you do, protect your hearing. There are many products on the market ranging from foam ear plugs to high-end hearing aids. Find something that works and never fire a shot again unprotected – no matter your age. Hearing damage is cumulative over time and you never know which shooting volley is going to trigger permanent loss or tinnitus.
Other Stuff - Base Layers, Wind Protection, Backpacks
This isn’t a plug for specific brands but for gear you should ensure is in your bag. First, bring a lightweight, but windproof balaclava. You’ll be glad when you’re motoring in a boat on a cold morning or sitting high on a windy hillside glassing for moose.
For a base layer, I wore Under Armour ColdGear 3.0 tops and bottoms on the cold days. I’ve had these for years and they’re warm and durable. I also used, on warmer days, basic lightweight nylon tops and bottoms that use silver technology to control odor caused by bacteria.
Above the base layer, my go-to garment was an old Cabela’s Windstopper sweater, still my favorite for its breathability, wool construction and ability to serve as an outer garment under certain conditions. That item isn’t carried anymore by Cabela’s, but the RedHead Windproof Wool Sweater (70% wool/30% acrylic body construction) is a close cousin.
For a backpack, both my guide Tony Caines and I used Alps Outdoorz Extreme X products. The key here is to get a pack that fits you well, with excellent, adjustable shoulder straps that let you carry the pack in the proper position on your bag. Also essential for Newfoundland is a waterproof covering for the pack. Alps Extreme packs include rain covers.