What Is The Hunter’s Most Important Item Of Clothing?

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From your boot's first step into the woods to the rain falling on your hood as you sit in the tree stand, your clothes are participating in your hunt from start to finish. So what is the hunter's most important item of clothing? It's definitely hard to narrow it down to just one, but after much debate, the staff of Deer Hunting Guide have decided on the answer.

Daylight Fluorescent Orange (Blaze Orange) Outerwear And Hat

Hunter Wearing Blaze Orange Jacket And Hat

The bright, fluorescent orange color called "Blaze Orange" or "Safety Orange" is a necessary part of any hunter's gear. In fact, many states require you to wear it during certain hunting seasons, usually rifle season.

The purpose behind Blaze Orange is safety. It's easy for other people to see and pretty easy to distinguish from the surrounding landscape, so another hunter won't mistake your movements for game and shoot you.

While your local regulations may vary, we recommend getting Blaze Orange outerwear and a hat. As for outerwear, many manufacturers offer their camo jackets and other outer layers with Blaze Orange detailing and accents. You can also get separate lightweight Blaze Orange vests that you can easily fit over other gear. 

The hat is a bit more complicated, but depending on the weather in your area, there are caps, beanies and balaclavas all available in Blaze Orange.

Can Deer See Blaze Orange?

Author And His Daughter Wearing Blaze Orange On A Hunt

Deer cannot see Blaze Orange. This is why it works to alert human hunters to your presence but still keeps you hidden from game.

Like most mammals, deer are color blind. While humans have three types of cone cells in their eyes, deer only have two(1). The result is that they're red-green color blind. It's not that they can't see any colors, but they can't differentiate red wavelengths from green, meaning that Blaze Orange blends in seamlessly with the brownish-green landscape of hunting season.

Deer actually have poor vision in general, at least compared to humans, and rely more on movement and patterns than color. It's much more important to hide from their ears and nose. Meanwhile, Blaze Orange could save your life and keep you from becoming a hunting accident statistic.  

Other Essential Items Of Clothing For Hunters

It's hard to say exactly what the most important item of clothing is for hunters. It all comes together to form a hunting outfit that addresses every aspect of the hunt. The following items are the most essential pieces of clothing that every hunter should have.

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Base Layers

Merino Wool Base Layer

For most of the whitetail range, hunting season means cold or at least variable weather. A base layer provides a basic layer of warmth and insulation that's close to skin. At the same time, it wicks away moisture and is breathable so you don't overheat either. 

Layering is essential for regulating your body temperature based on your activity level and the weather. The base layer is what holds it all together.

RELATED: Best Base Layer For Hunting

Mid Layers

A mid layer gives you extra insulation that you can easily remove if you start to overheat. It's usually made of fleece or down and is definitely a good idea if you hunt at dusk or dawn when temperatures change or if you have to hike a long way to get to your tree stand. 

Jacket

Hunter In Camouflage Hunting Clothes

Every hunter needs a hunting jacket. On top of keeping you warm, it protects you from the elements like wind and rain. Additionally, it should feature a camouflage pattern that blends into your local surroundings. In some cases you can find a jacket with Blaze Orange detailing so you don't have to get a separate vest.

Jackets can also help you carry gear. We recommend a jacket with plenty of cargo pockets for storing accessories like a knife, rangefinder or bow release. 

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Pants

Gore-Tex Hunting Pants

Pants are certainly one of the most important items of clothing for hunters. After all, have you ever seen someone hunting in shorts?

Pants represent the outer layer for your legs. They keep you warm but also protect you from rain and wind. 

Huntings pants vary widely with regards to features, but there are a few that we consider essential at Deer Hunting Guide. Like your jacket, you want plenty of pockets for carrying gear. Ideally, these pockets should fasten closed with a waterproof zipper in case it rains.

Additionally, a waist with a built-in belt allows you to adjust the pants so that they're snug but comfortable. This way you can hike through the woods and climb into your tree stand while staying warm and protected from the weather.

Finally, the best hunting pants include side zippers. Side zippers on the thighs let you open up the pants for airflow in case you start to overheat. More importantly, zippers on the lower leg let you open up the ankle so you can slip the pants on and off over knee high rubber hunting boots

RELATED: Best Hunting Bibs

Rain Gear

Hunters wearing Sitka Gear In The Pouring Rain

Unless you're hunting in the Sahara Desert, chances are you're going to encounter rain at some point during the hunting season. In fact, for most of the US, whitetail hunting season is especially wet, rainy, snowy and windy. Rain gear to protect you from these elements is essential to your hunting setup.

At the most basic, all the other gear we've listed should be waterproof. You can find waterproof jackets and pants made out of materials like Gore-Tex, not to mention waterproof boots and gloves.

On top of all this waterproof clothing, a camo poncho is always a good idea for supplemental kit. It's an inexpensive item that doesn't take up much space or weigh you down, but you'll certainly be glad you packed it if a sudden thunderstorm comes on.

Finally, look for a waterproof rucksack. If this isn't feasible, you can also get dedicated dry bags to hold sensitive equipment that could be damaged by water such as your cell phone or electronic rangefinder. You can stuff this down into your normal rucksack for extra protection.

Socks

Wool Socks

Socks are simple yet highly functional pieces of clothing, and they can make a big difference when hunting, especially if you hunt in more extreme conditions and terrain. In addition to insulating your feet and keeping them warm, your socks should encourage blood flow to your feet so they stay responsive and agile. They should also provide a comfortable but stable layer between your feet and your boots.

To achieve all this, you need hunting socks made of a high-quality material like Merino wool. Merino wool is very warm, but it's also breathable so sweat doesn't build up. Foot sweat easily produces odor that deer can pick up with their powerful noses, so this is a big plus.

Additionally, Merino wool is a superior fabric because it works even when wet. If a storm comes in or you step in a puddle, it will continue to keep your feet warm while providing padding between your skin and boots but a good grip.

Now, there are a lot of synthetic fabrics that also work well for hunting socks. Just make sure they're going to keep you warm without overheating, and that they're tough enough to take on mile after mile.

RELATED: Best Heated Socks For Hunting

Boots

Hunter walking in hunting boots

The importance of good hunting boots cannot be overstated. At the same time, the quality of boots available on the market varies dramatically from cheap models that start falling apart immediately to impressive pieces of footwear that can last a lifetime.

The most fundamental function of your boots is to help you walk through rough, wild hunting terrain. To do this, they need a non-slip outsole that gives you traction on the ground, whether it's loose pebbles or gooey mud. You also want ankle support to keep your lower leg stable regardless of how uneven the ground is. This will all make hiking to your tree stand faster and more comfortable, but more importantly, it will allow you to take stable, deliberate steps without stumbling and making noise that will scare off game.

You must also remember that your boots are your outer layer for your feet. They should provide breathable insulation that keeps your feet warm without causing overheating and sweat when you're hiking. They should also have a waterproof membrane in case it rains or you have to walk through standing water.

RELATED: Warmest Hunting Boots

Finally, we can't emphasize enough the importance of durability. Look for quality materials like leather uppers and full rubber outsoles. The stitching and craftsmanship is a big deal too, so look for features like a Goodyear Welt that reflect a boot that can hold up to extreme conditions season after season. A high-quality boot is a big investment, but if it lasts a long time, it will save you money in the long run.

RELATED: Best Lightweight Hunting Boots

Gloves

Hunter Wearing Gloves In The Cold

As extremities with little body fat, your hands get cold easily, yet they're the body parts you need to stay warm and functional to draw your bow, shoot your rifle, or manipulate accessories like calls and rangefinders. At the same time, though, you can't do all these things if you're wearing thick gloves that get in the way.

At Deer Hunting Guide, most of us solve this problem with layering. We wear thin gloves of synthetic material or wool with cut-off fingers. Then we wear thick hunting gloves over them. You can go with normal hunting gloves and just take them off when you need to shoot, but a more convenient option that can also cut down on excess noise is a convertible mitten with a finger flap. This way you can just open the flap and use your bare fingers to shoot.

When considering a hunting glove or mitten, you should look for waterproofing. Another good feature is hand-warmer pockets.

RELATED: Hunting Clothes Storage

Hat

Hunting hats come in a wide range of forms from balaclavas to simple caps. To a large extent, you should calibrate this to the weather conditions and overall climate where you'll be hunting, but once again, we recommend layering. For extremely cold climates or late weather hunting, a balaclava is a good base layer that you can complement with a hunting hat on top. Ideally, the hunting hat should have ear flaps that you can turn up or remove.

Keeping your head warm is an important step to staying warm while hunting.

Hood

A hood adds another layer for your head. Though you can find jackets with insulated hoods that are helpful in especially cold climates, the main purpose of a hood is to protect you from the elements. It should be waterproof and provide protection from the rain and wind.

A nice feature to look for in a hood is removability. If you know the weather will be nice, you can leave the hood at home and avoid it accidentally catching on something and making noise.

Face Covering

Hunter Wearing A Face Covering

A face covering adds an extra level of warmth that you'll likely find necessary in the late season when temperatures drop. If it's really cold, we recommend a balaclava, but this is admittedly harder to take off than a neck gaiter. You can easily pull down a neck gaiter to get some fresh air on your face while still keeping your neck warm.

As a bonus, get your face covering in camo. This way, every last inch of you is hidden. 

Final Thoughts

So, What is the hunter's most important item of clothing?

While we consider Blaze Orange outerwear to be the most important item of clothing overall, each piece serves a different purpose that you should consider seriously.

RELATED: Is Sitka Gear Worth It? Why Is It So Expensive?

Combining all your clothing to create a functional hunting outfit is a huge part of a successful hunt. It's more than just picking the right jacket or pair of boots. It's considering the needs of your local terrain and hunting style and dressing accordingly.

Resources:

1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261825937_A_Review_of_Color_Vision_in_White-Tailed_Deer

Photo of author

John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the managing editor here at DeerHuntingGuide.net. He oversees a team of editors, writers and pro staff that are subject matter experts in hunting and hunting gear. John's expertise includes thoroughly testing all types of hunting gear, as well as hunting all over the U.S. and Canada. While his hunting expertise includes game birds, small game and large game, his favorite game animal is the whitetail deer and he loves to share the knowledge that he has gained over 40 years of chasing the wily whitetail with both archery gear and firearms. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

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