Stuff that Works - Stay Warm & Dry from Maine to Manitoba - Lacrosse, Nomad, Sitka and Serius
Preface: Over the years, when I’d make a social media posting about some piece of gear or an outdoors tool that had proven reliable, durable, faithful over time, I’d typically get a comment from a Facebook friend down in the Carolinas with a link to an old Guy Clark song called, “Stuff that Works.” The late Ricky Dixon, a guitar picker, green-thumb gardener and I’m sure a lot of other things, used to get in Facebook timeout a fair amount, but he was one of those social media friends that, although you never met face-to-face, you felt you knew. He even mailed me one of his favorite panfish lures after seeing a post on white perch fishing. I’ll miss not getting a "Stuff that Works" link when I share my latest gear commentaries. I wish we had been able to get together to do some fishing. You could have given me a guitar lesson. Rest in Peace old troubadour.
Stay Warm & Dry from Maine to Manitoba - Lacrosse, Nomad, Sitka and Serius
Now, let me tell you about my chest waders, long johns and some other stuff that works. These aren’t some “one and done” samples, but items that have gotten multiple workouts over a year.
My Lacrosse Alpha Agility Select Waders, front-zip models dressed in Mossy Oak Original Bottomland camo and sporting 1600 grams of toe-toasty Thinsulate insulation in the boot, have seen duty from Maine to Manitoba and some frosty late January marsh action in Virginia. As I’ve aged, trying to shoehorn myself in (and out for that matter) of neoprene waders simply isn’t fun or desirable. I like easy-on, easy-off and waders that are comfortable enough when riding in boats or climbing into blinds.
I followed a manufacturer rep’s advice and went up one size from my “street shoes” for the wader boot. The boots slip on easily and the one size up doesn’t leave your foot feeling sloppy loose and lets you wear thick, Merino wool socks. Good Advice! $690. I honestly think these are the best cold-weather waders I’ve ever used. Moving around in them is effortless. And they’re tough. I’m rough on gear and boats, blinds, mud, rocks and more all deliver a beating. I hope I get many more years of wear out of these waders.
Keeping your torso warm and dry is also critical. I got the Nomad 3L3 Wader Jacket at the same time as the waders and it has served on multiple excursions. The jacket has 100-gram PrimaLoft insulation inside the windproof shell. Aramid Fiber reinforce areas of higher wear like forearms and shoulders. Its waterproof rating is 35K, meaning it’ll protect against heavy rain, wet snow and high pressure. Anything over a 20K rating should do that. The breathability rating is 15K, again good for prolonged outdoors exposure in rough weather.
This jacket has a removable insulated liner, which is nice in warmer weather. It has four, comfortable, easily accessible sherpa-lined hand warmer pockets. The front cargo pockets are roomy and can hold lots of stuff, such as shotshells. My only knock is that their flap sometimes doesn’t seem to want to stay in a perfectly closed position. That, and the lack of a drawstring or something that lets you completely snug the three-piece hood closed, were the only flaws I could find with this comfortable, warm hunting jacket. $300.
The waders and jacket got their most severe workout on a coastal Maine sea duck hunt. We encountered rough weather conditions. A stiff wind was blowing as we headed out of the harbor in choppy seas toward the area we wanted to hunt. The salt spray was continually flying over the gunwale and hitting us, so much that I could feel it freezing on my back. But nothing penetrated that Nomad jacket and those Lacrosse waders. Lesser outer garments would’ve ended that trip fast.
Warm gloves were also essential. I used Nomad’s WPI (waterproof insulated) Glove. They have 150 grams of Thinsulate Insulation and a “Precurved” finger construction to ease a more natural grip. The adjustable cuff well covers the wrist area. A cool option is a fleece nose wipe – yes, I did use it a few times on those blustery mornings. $55.
Beneath it all was a new base layer by Serius, long known for their gloves but now making the athletic-fit – tight but stretchy - Men’s Heatwave Mapped Base Layer, both tops and leggings ($129.99 and $119.99, respectively). This base layer uses the same technology as the company’s glove liners and targets warmth to key areas such as the lower back and kidneys. It also has odor control properties designed in. You can find many inexpensive base layer options, but so far these have done a super job with keeping me warm and wicking away any perspiration. I wear the leggings directly beneath the waders – warm and comfortable.
Sitka Gear - Lightweight, Comfortable
Starting with the 2023 spring turkey season, I had an opportunity to try a suite of newer Sitka Gear offerings. I must admit, each has become my new favorite relative to their particular style of garment.
First, tickborne illnesses seem to be expanding at an alarming rate. New diseases that can transmit very shortly after a tick bites you are emerging. Anyone spending time outdoors must guard against these persistent, pervasive bloodsuckers. Sitka, like several other companies, is incorporating “Insect Shield” protection in the garment, a technology that impregnates tick, chigger, mosquito and other biting insect repellent in the fabric and holds up across many washings.
During cool mornings while turkey hunting in northern Idaho, I used Sitka’s Equinox Guard Lightweight Hunting Hoody ($149) as my torso base layer. I loved the way the hood snugly covered my head and neck and had a built-in mesh face shield for concealment. It was so comfortable and breathable and had enough length that it well-tucked into the matching Equinox Guard Pant, ($249) ensuring that no matter how I shifted or squirmed while sitting on the ground, my backside was always covered and protected. Besides the Insect Shield treatment, the stretchy “high gauge” fabric of both garments is also designed to ward off biting insects.
The pants feature zippered leg vents that help expel heat, nice when you’re hunting on the go. Additional protection comes from internal leg gaiters that snug your ankles and guard against ticks, chiggers and other pests crawling up your legs when worn under socks. There is also a small knife pocket and hidden suspender attachment points, if you’re inclined to use them.
But wait, there’s more! These garments are also designed with a sun protecting UPF 50+ protection rating and treated with something Sitka calls Polygiene® Odor Control Technology. Best of all, they are so lightweight. The pants weigh just 13.5 ounces. The hoody is a mere 6.5 ounces! The Optifade Subalpine was a great camo pattern for spring hunting.
To layer up as needed, I pulled on The Ambient Hoody (279). Another incredibly lightweight and eminently packable (just 13 ounces) garment, the half-zip pullover hoody is exceptionally warm and comfortable. While I stayed warm, I never sweated in this garment. The material is 20-denier ripstop nylon fabric, with stretch panels that flex with your movement. The insulation is 100 grams of post-consumer-recycled, low-bulk PrimaLoft.
I loved the hood, which snugged type and kept me warm. The hoody isn’t waterproof but is treated to be water resistant. It dried quickly whenever light sprinkles fell.
Finally, to further layer up, I added Sitka’s 3-layer GORE-TEX Dew Point Jacket, ($349) another exceptionally lightweight (just 12.5 ounces) garment that not only protects against heavy rain but also blocks the wind. It’s 20-denier nylon ripstop face is paired with a soft GORE® C-KNIT® backer. Seams are micro-taped for additional water protection. It has zippered pockets, something preferred for protecting stuff you don’t want to lose. The armpits are also zippered to enable your body to shed heat and moisture during periods of activity. The hood fits and snugs well, with ample space for a ball-cap or warm hat.
This rain jacket is now my “go to” item whenever I’m traveling and might encounter wet weather. It packs so easily into any kind of gear bag or case. I gave the Ambient Hoody and the Dew Point Jacket extensive workouts this year, not only on hunting trips, but also fishing expeditions, including cold, wet, early spring outings on Lakes Erie, Ontario and Champlain and the Niagara River. The Equinox lightweight hoody and guard pants are excellent options anytime you’re heading afield spring, summer or fall.
So, there you have it. Stuff that works. Yes, the good stuff often comes with a heftier price point, but I can assert, having been on a couple hunts where my gear wasn’t up to snuff for the conditions, that comfort and protection mean everything when you are facing nasty weather and things that fly, slither, creep and bite.
Have a great time outdoors this year!