by Mark Kayser
Here’s the latest in boots and clothing to boost your comfort—and your success—in the elk woods. And since the holidays are approaching, you might find a gift idea, too.
Good clothing design protects you in elk country, while also keeping an eye trained on comfort. Browning’s Pahvant Pro Jacket and Pahvant Pro Pant achieve those goals in spades. The stylish, soft-shell jacket is designed around two-layer polyester fleece with a hard-wearing, wind resistant outer. A DWR coating ensures the jacket sheds moisture. Add in SILVADUR technology for odor control and you have a hunting jacket ready to meet the demands of the backcountry, the whitetail woods or even a night out on the town. Flip up the hood and keep it in place with help from a three-point adjustment system. We all love pockets, and the Pahvant Pro Jacket includes welded chest pockets on the exterior and two chest-zippered pockets for valuable assets like your smartphone on the interior. As you heat up on a steep climb, armpit vents open easily with two-direction zippers. Finally, you can adjust the sleeves with hook-and-loop cuff closures. Worry no more about what to wear on your lower half with the Pahvant Pro Pant. It includes the same features as the jacket, built around a polyester double-weave fabric with soft backing for silence. Wind and water resistant thanks to a tight weave and DWR coating, these pants offer good protection in the worst of weather. SILVADUR technology ensures odor control. Do you like to stuff your pockets full of gear? These pants have plenty of generous front and rear pockets. Five large loops accommodate outdoor belts in case you add bearspray, a sidearm or multitool to your waist. They also flex easily with four-point articulated knees. And unzipping the 13-inch vent cools you down quickly after chasing that bull to the top of the next ridge. Both the jacket and pant are available in Browning OVIX, Carbon Gray and Major Brown. The Pahvant Jacket retails for $179.99 and the Pahvant Pant for $99.99. Give them a closer look at www.browning.com.
Elk hunters need real, high-performance boots, and they can spot a fake as easily as they can differentiate a raghorn from a stately six-point patriarch. LaCrosses’s Lodestar, an addition to the Navigator series, offers all the attributes elk hunters value. Seven inches high and nimble at 2.9 pounds, this crossover boot can handle a variety of terrain without needing a stiff and noisy mountaineering-style sole. The Lodestar’s upper features Nubuck leather trim around an abrasion-resistant synthetic with GORE-TEX underneath, it promises waterproof-yetbreathable home for your feet. You and I know that the toe and heel take extra abuse, so LaCrosse added bumper protection up front with the HexGuard rubber coated toe protector. At the rear you will find the DuraFit rubber heel cup, locking your heel in place for additional rigidity during ascents and descents. Round things out with rugged metal eyelets and open hook lacing, and you have a boot ready to serve you in any environment. The Lodestar is available in both non-insulated and 400-gram insulated models at $230 and $240, respectively. Shop www.lacrossefootwear.com.
Slipping my feet into the Corrie II Hiker quickly changed my mind on its “hiker” designation. This 7-inch-high boot had the feel, stability and traction to handle the toughest elk terrain during scouting and hunting. Sure, I would hike in his featherlight 3.2- pound boot, but I’d also hunt them hard all fall. The Corrie II Hiker is built around a lightweight leather and nylon frame with a “K-strap” design to enhance all-important ankle support. To help protect you from the elements there is a waterproof-yet-breathable Windtex membrane. Like any boot worth its salt, the Corrie II Hiker has tough, protective caps for the toe and heel. Rocks beware. All areas that face increased wear are strengthened with double and triple stitching. Metal eyelets, including an upper hook system to cinch ankles tight, secure the boot to your foot. Grinding terrain is the norm in elk country, but the boot provided comfort akin to a cushy running shoe. Extra support is delivered through a 5 mm nylon midsole that extends the entire length of the footbed. Grip and footing are boosted by the Grapon outer sole with an aggressive tread pattern to ensure each step lands with confidence, regardless of the conditions. My first test with the new hiker brought me to the precipice of a dark north slope I wanted to investigate for elk bedding cover. Loose rocks, slippery pine needles and near-vertical terrain greeted me. But the boot provided all the foundation needed to navigate in and out of the abyss, even with the added weight of a couple decent elk shed antlers. Selling for $300, the Corrie II Hiker has the wherewithal to tackle elk season ahead. See them at www.kenetrek.com.
Kuiu has carved out a name in the flooded market of outdoor products as a company to tame the extremes of high-mountain big game hunting. For serious elk hunters searching for clothing and gear that excels, the Axis Hybrid collection delivers. First in line is the Axis Hybrid Hooded Jacket. It covers the entire spectrum of conditions but surpasses the standard, bulky offerings for late season hunting with a less restrictive design. It accomplishes this with its new Toray high-stretch fabric backed with cozy fleece that thwarts wind while shedding water via hybrid waterproof panels in the hood, shoulders and arms. All while being vapor-permeable to release any perspiration you create during the rigors of long climbs. And while you’re at it, why not invite the Axis Hybrid Pant to the party? Taking a lesson from the jacket, the pant takes all-weather protection even more seriously since it guards your bum from a damp world. Waterproof paneling strategically placed across the seat and lower leg protect when called upon. The pant also allows for layering in the cold with the same Toray, high-stretch, fleece-backed fabric to work wonders when the snow flies. The Axis Hybrid Hooded Jacket sells for $299 and is available in six colors including three Kuiu camouflage patterns, while the Axis Hybrid Pant is available in five colors for $229. Shop at www.kuiu.com.
I still use the first pair of Schnee’s boots I received in 1985 as a Christmas gift from my future bride. Resoled on several occasions, the tall, packer-style boot continues to deliver after nearly four decades of rough-country abuse. Handcrafted in Italy with that same mission of reliability, the uninsulated Beartooth 0g offers hunters a boot for years of service. Hiking into the alpine or hunting cross-country over the prairie, the Beartooth 0g provides comfort no matter the terrain. Top-grain, 2.3 mm leather spans the 9-inch uppers, protected by a tough rubber rand that runs toe to heel. Schnee’s Flex-2 chassis protects your ankles in the backcountry, while each step is cushioned by a dual density midsole. Schnee’s knows you will encounter snow, rain and creek crossings, so it comes with a waterproof-yet-breathable Sympatex membrane. And last but not least, a Vibram Tsavo outsole ensures traction to scramble scree, but still offers grace in the grass. The Beartooth 0g weighs 3.9 pounds and retails for $469. Learn more at www.schnees.com.
Under Armour signifies a commitment to agile gear that meets the demands of any sport. New to their hunting lineup is the Men’s UA Charged Raider Mid Waterproof hunting boot. With the look of an aggressive athletic shoe, the Raider’s performance begins with a lightweight frame protected by a rugged, rubber toe and vamp. The upper includes a waterproof-yet-breathable membrane that maintains a dry environment for your feet. The Raider stays snug via speed-lacing eyelets with an easy-to-use lace hook system. The soles of your feet will appreciate the cushioned midsole boosted with a hardened foam plate that supports your weight even in the steepest of terrain. The Vibram LiteBase Megagrip outsoles come ready to grab hold of mud, snow, logs and rocks. Best of all, at $180, a pair of Raiders doesn’t require a bank loan. See them and more at www.underarmour.com.
Taking the step to hunting game larger than deer also requires another big change when showcasing the fruits of your successful hunts. Fortunately, the experts in elegantly displaying European mounts, Skull Hooker, also provide classy hardware to mount those weighty wall trophies, such as elk or moose, safely and securely. The Large Shoulder Mount then mates up with the back facing of your shoulder mount simply and easily. Power-coated steel adds a rustic, yet refined look to any trophy room. Best of all, the single, 8-inch swing arm swivels 180 degrees so you can display or view your mount from any angle you choose. The system supports mounts of up to 150 pounds and retails for $99.99. Shop for your next trophy display at www.skullhooker.com.
Known for high quality sport optics, Leupold’s Performance Eyewear line offers the perfect stocking stuffer with two new models, the Bridger and the Sentinel. Since aesthetic tastes, adventures and weather vary, each model includes options with multiple lens and frame combinations. Besides a classy look, the Bridger and Sentinel series are built to perform with lightweight, ballistic-rated materials and scratch-resistant polarized lenses. While the Bridger is rugged and shatterproof, the Sentinel takes toughness a step further with a frame that meets MIL-PRF-32432A impact standards. Your eyes are guarded with shatterproof, special laser-safe, military- and law enforcement-grade lenses you can swap depending on conditions. Both fit like a glove and protect your eyes from outside dangers while maintaining a fashionable appearance. The Bridger retails for $159.99 and the Sentinel starts at $189.99. Tell Santa to visit www.leupold.com.
First Lite ranks first for may elk hunting enthusiasts, and their Omen Stormshelter System, jacket and pant, give a taste of why. This combo is built to shield you from the worst Mother Nature serves up. First Lite’s proprietary construction includes a bicomponent laminate fabric that grinds through the worst cover without a problem. The 4.5-layer structure teams with an eco-friendly non-polyfluorinated DWR exterior treatment to render each garment waterproof. The Omen Stormshelter System caters to mid- and late-season hunting, be it in snow, freezing rain or icy wind. The jacket and pant each sell for $390, and you can choose from two of First Lite’s camouflage patterns or two earth tone colors. Visit www.firstlite.com.
Sitka’s commitment to excellence in gear isn’t limited to hunting. Their apparel has a feel and fit that’s at home on the slopes or just simply headed to the supermarket. The redesigned Jetstream jacket and Jetstream vest incorporate Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper technology for wind-blocking protection. Upgrades include a more relaxed fit and cozy micro-grid fleece backer. This optimizes mobility and room for layering. The addition of skived and taped seams delivers more weather protection without bulkiness. Of course, you do not throw out the baby with the bathwater, so Sitka retained the DWR finish as a moisture guard as well as pit zips to shed body heat. Women’s and men’s jackets are priced at $379, vests at $279. Available in GORE OPTIFADE and a collection of solid colors. Let your eyes roam at www.sitkagear.com.
Boot gaiters earn their keep and then some when you dive into the rough stuff. Stone Glacier’s SQ2 Alpine boot gaiters stand out as a top contender to armor your way through brush and blowdown. Lightweight, but not dainty, the upper portion of the 11.5-ounce gaiters incorporates a three-layer Ripstop Hydrashield fabric, teamed with the X-Pac lower to create a waterproof safeguard that won’t tearin the shintangle. On many gaiters, the strap that connects gaiter to boot is the weak link, but Stone Glacier meets that challenge with the patent pending Contrail Bootstrap. Created with Dyneema rope and fully replaceable, you’ll marvel at the simple ruggedness. Find a great pair of gaiters for $129 at www.stoneglacier.com.
Some hunts require a tad more boot to overcome the cold and craggy terrain. Thorogood’s Infinity FD series tames those beasts with the 9-inch Drakar waterproof, insulated outdoor boot. This all-leather, reinforced boot includes Flex-drive technology for the most flexible in toe and heel comfort, plus stability to keep you pushing forward through the worst. Toe and heel caps provide the ruggedness you relish. Hike longer with the anti-fatigue energy return system that cushions each footstep in your march toward hunting success. Waterproofing combines with 400 grams of Thinsulate to keep your feet warm. Prices start at $244.95. View the Drakar at www.thorogoodusa.com.
Updated for 2022, the Lowa Camino GTX FG is back with upgrades to ease the access into any difficult elk terrain. Full-grain leather and robust toe and heel caps brush off any ground obstacles, and Lowa’s renowned lacing system erases pressure points, while thoroughly securing the boot. Lowa also added more ankle flex when pushing uphill and a stiffer sole for increased stability. And since we all feel a long day of pounding in our heels and the balls of our feet, Lowa increased the cushioning in these vital zones. Waterproof breathability is achieved with GORE-TEX. When the rubber meets the road, the Vibram Apptrail II ensures you never slide from the trail. The Camino GTX FG sells for $369. Go to www.lowaboots.com for more details.
Even with a great boot, your feet may need the extra loving care of custom orthotics. An orthotic insole keeps everything from your ankles to your knees to your back in proper alignment, referred to as a kinetic chain. SheepFeet sends you a kit with impression foam to secure an exact replica of your foot. Using high-strength composite plastic, SheepFeet then molds an insert for an exact fit, finished with heel stabilizer, XC cushion and Dura Covers. Not only will you walk with purpose, but the custom orthotics also extend boot life since they help you maintain a proper stride. The full-length custom orthotics retail for $240. Start hiking stronger and happier today at www.sheepfeetoutdoors.com.
Meindl stands out as a tough and reliable choice for elk country. Their German-made Comfort Fit Extreme Hunting Boot continues that tradition. The 11-inch-tall boot begins with waxed nubuck leather uppers to provide stability and wrap-around comfort. Meindl understands the rigors elk hunters encounter and employs a full rubber rand to guard your boots against bumps and scrapes. Inside lies a layer of GORE-TEX for waterproof defense. Meindl’s lacing system is legendary for its secure fit. A fleece-covered cork footbed cradles your foot along with MFS (memory foam system) Vakuum panels for a tailored fit. Your confidence will swell with each step as the Vibram sole claws its way through the steepest and roughest terrain. The Comfort Fit Extreme Hunting Boot retails for $375. Sizing and more particulars can be found at www.meindlusa.com.
After a long day in the mountains, your feet want a break. Whether at the cabin, wall tent or a motel in town, remove your heavyweight hunting boot and replace them with a Muck Boot like the new Outscape. You can don these waterproof slip-on shoes while performing camp chores, gardening at home or summer fishing by the pond with the grandchildren. The Outscape is constructed of Muckskin flexible neoprene and protected from abrasions by a rugged rubber coating. Toes and heels receive added protection from Guardian rubber caps. A breathable mesh lining accentuates air flow, and your feet will ride in comfort atop a memory foam footbed. An insert minimizes odor and controls moisture. A tough nylon shank supports the foot when it is time to dig a hole and the self-cleaning sole guarantees traction from camp to the outhouse. With a retail price of $110, look for the Outscape at www.muckbootcompany.com.