by Adam Heggenstaller - Thursday, December 18, 2014
Base Layer: Thermal Zone Stand Hunter 1/2 Zip Top and Bottom
Cabela's says its Thermal Zone Stand Hunter base layer is the warmest the company has ever created. The extremely efficient PolarTec Thermal Pro fabric, which offers warmth without excessive weight, is the key. Both the top and bottom are "body-mapped," meaning heavyweight Thermal Pro covers core heat-loss areas, mid-weight takes care of less critical areas and lightweight fabric wicks moisture in sweat zones.
MSRP: $119.99-$124.99, top; $114.99-$119.99, bottom.
Mid-Layer: Instinct Backcountry Hybrid Pant and Vest
Warmth meets mobility in Cabela's Instinct Backcountry Hybrid garments. Don't let the "Backcountry" name turn you off; this combo will serve you well in cold weather on the back 40, too. The pant has 100-gram PrimaLoft Sport insulation in the core areas and 80-gram PrimaLoft Sport in the knees. Stretch panels prevent the pant from binding when you're climbing into your stand or over blowdowns. The vest features the same dual-zone insulation, along with a soft fleece collar and wind flap.
MSRP: $159.99, pant; $139.99, vest.
Shell: Instinct Backcountry Fannin Soft-Shell Jacket and Glassing Pant
The breathable but windproof Fannin Jacket wards off icy gusts, while the water-repellant treatment of the Glassing Pant keeps you dry when sitting in snow. Additional warmth comes from the jacket's fleece lining, and the pant's articulated knees—complete with removable knee pads—will be welcome when kneeling to survey the creek bottom below you. The Instinct Backcountry shell and mid-layer clothing kept Assistant Editor Jon Draper warm in Wyoming during below-freezing temperatures and 20-30 mph winds.
MSRP: $219.99, jacket; $159.99, pant.
2. L.L. Bean
Mid-Layer: PrimaLoft Jacket
This super lightweight but incredibly warm jacket is quickly becoming my favorite layering piece. It packs into its own pocket, yet offers 100 grams of microfiber PrimaLoft One insulation in the body and 60 grams in the sleeves. The nylon exterior has a slippery quality that allows it to slide under outer layers, which will keep you from feeling like the snowsuit-bound Randy in "A Christmas Story."
MSRP: $119-$129, depending on size.
Shell: Gore-Tex Soft-Shell Jacket and Pant
Neither rain nor sleet nor snow will drive you from the stand when you're wrapped head-to-toe in waterproof Gore-Tex. The L.L. Bean Soft-Shell Jacket and Pant marries the proven membrane to a soft, slightly stretchy exterior that's both quiet and comfortable. A grid-fleece lining helps trap heat. Plenty of pockets with sealed zippers keep gear dry. This isn't early-season rain gear; both the jacket and pants have a heft that speaks to their quality and warmth. The company backs them with its 100 percent satisfaction guarantee—peace of mind considering their expense.
MSRP: $349, jacket; $329, pant.
Base Layer: Merino 2590 1/4 Zip and 190 Bottom
It's tough to beat old-school wool for warmth and wicking, and the soft fleece from the merino sheep may be the ultimate for comfort. Plus, it's breathable and machine-washable. Core4Element uses two weights of merino wool in its 2590 1/4 Zip: 250-gram panels cover the front and arms for warmth, while 190-gram panels make up the underarm and back areas for wicking. The length and fit of the 190 Bottom keeps its cuffs from riding up your leg when you sit in a stand. I've worn this combo on days when the temperature swung from 25 to 75 degrees without getting cold or damp.
MSRP: $89.99, top; $54.99, bottom.
Mid-Layer: Elevation Vest
Treated with DownTek for water resistance, the 700-fill Canada goose down padding the Elevation Vest represents an improvement over one of nature's finest insulating materials. This vest is warm, lightweight and compressible for stowing in your pack, and cleaning it is as easy as throwing it in your washing machine. The Rip Stop polyester exterior is treated with a durable water-resistant coating.
Shell: Element Jacket and Pant
The soft surface of the Element Jacket keeps it quiet, while the stretchy polyester fabric offers free range of motion for drawing a bow or taking a shot behind you. Tapered sleeves and adjustable Velcro cuffs reduce bulk, and an elastic waistband helps keep heat from escaping. Handwarmer pockets are nice for cold sits, and the zippered chest pocket is the perfect place to stow your cell phone. (The Element is not insulated; if you're looking for something warmer, the Elevation Jacket offers the same features as the vest above, only with sleeves.) Wind- and water-resistant, the soft shell of the Element Pant is ideal for still-hunting and stalking. If activity makes you too warm, cool off by unzipping the inner-leg vents. Zippered back and snap cargo pockets provide secure storage for gear. The Pant even comes with removable suspenders and kneepads.
MSRP: $179.99, jacket; $174.99, pant.
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