Are premium hunting apparel companies worth the money?

Apr 10, 2021

If you’ve ever been inside a Cabela’s and taken a look at SITKA gear, you’ve probably wondered who would pay those prices and why. We can’t say we’ve tried them all, or that we’ve got a favorite, but we have noticed differences. Hopefully we’ll uncover some reasons why you should cough up the big bucks or maybe just save it and spend it on arrows and ammo.

Design

The next time you’re in a Cabela’s or Basspro, try on a cheap pair of hunting pants and then try on a pair of SITKA pants. You’re likely to find that the more expensive pair fit better, feel better, and wear better. That’s because they’re probably using better materials and are designed and manufactured better.

If you read posts on any hunting forums, you’ll probably find plenty of people claiming there is no difference in SITKA vs. a $50 pair of RedHead pants, but it’s simply not the case. You’ll find a more thoughtful design with pockets, tall sizes, and a more athletic/active fit in these premium brands.

You’ll also find that premium hunting clothing offers several options, not just in size but also in season and hunting style. Freezing in a tree stand on a cold winter day is a whole different ball game than hunting elk in the backcountry during archery season. They have different mobility needs and different design considerations to go along with those; they work in different climates and have different uses.

Materials

Another difference is in materials used to produce the clothing. Premium gear manufacturers can afford to use expensive materials like merino wool, down, Gore-Tex, and other wind- and water-proof materials. These materials are simply more expensive, so gear costs tend to go up with them. Some of the materials themselves are more expensive, and some of them are licensed materials that require a licensing fee and agreements for a manufacturer to use in their own products.

These materials aren’t just buzzwords – they play a big role in your gear. Of course, if these materials aren’t important to you (and they might not be), it’s not a factor for you.

Here’s the thing though, materials should matter to you. A practice example is Mereno wool – even after absorbing moisture, Merino wool will not feel clammy or wet to the touch, and it keeps you warm even if your layers are wet. Likewise, good insulation (synthetic or down) can make or break a cold and windy hunt. DWR coatings make gear shed light rainwater and stay breathable.

You can layer up and try to stay warm, but the more layers, the less mobility. Climbing a tree with three pair of sweatpants under your hunting pants and drawing a bow with two thermal tops, a sweatshirt, and a thick jacket can make for a less than ideal shot.

Warranty

Warranty is one of the easiest things to compare with these companies, so we’ll just lay them out for you:

SITKA’s warranty

While SITKA Gear is built to be tough, it is not invincible. It will be put to the test, encountering tree limbs, barbed wire, rocks, and other conditions that may harm or damage the gear. We will try to repair damage caused by normal wear and tear or accidents, such as tears or punctures, at a reasonable cost. We will only begin the repair after you have approved the cost.

If the damage is deemed to be caused by a defect in manufacturing, we will, at our discretion, repair or replace the item at no cost to you.

First Lite’s warranty

First Lite takes pride in our products and will stand behind their quality. We will replace any piece that’s performance in the field has been compromised by a manufacturer’s defect for the practical lifespan of the garment.

KUIU’s warranty

This warranty covers any manufacturer workmanship defects in your KUIU gear. This warranty applies to consumer use only and is null and void if the product is used in a manner it is not intended for. This warranty lasts for the lifetime of the product.

Any problem that is caused by abuse, misuse, or an act of nature (fire, flood, moths, etc.) is not covered. Snags, stains, pilling, discoloration, deterioration, burns, or damage from normal wear and tear are not covered by this warranty. Consequential and incidental damages are not recoverable under this warranty. KUIU’s gear is designed and built with a balance of weight, comfort, performance, and durability as the goal. While KUIU products do excel in all of these aspects, it is not indestructible. Sharp rocks, stiff limbs, and unexpected falls can push any fabric or clothing type beyond its limit.

In the event that your gear becomes damaged due to any of the above reasons, please contact Rainy Pass Repair for evaluation and repair options. Rainy Pass Repair can also give a third-party opinion as to whether or not the damage should be covered under warranty.

So what’s the difference here? They all stand behind their gear, but SITKA is willing to repair it if you screw it up in the field. Of course, there’s a cost associated with it, but that’s a hell of a lot better than throwing it out or leaving it in the closet. It’s especially nice, considering everything is so disposable these days – it’s great to see a company willing to repair products due to wear and tear.

KUIU points you to a third-party shop for repair, which is something but not the same policy as SITKA. First Lite doesn’t offer repairs.

You’re not going to find warranties like these with your Walmart hunting gear.

Paying for the name

So are you paying for a name? Absolutely you are. Could all of these companies sell their products cheaper and still be okay? Most likely, yes. Does that mean they’re just being greedy and sitting on piles of cash like Scrooge McDuck? No, it does not.

These companies are coming out with new gear and getting into new segments of product almost every season. That takes investment, and that’s likely where these premiums are going. House brands like Cabela’s and RedHead aren’t solely dependent on the revenue of clothing sales, the store brand itself backs them, and they still don’t innovate at the level of these premium clothing companies.

Is it worth it?

Let’s not kid ourselves, SITKA, First Lite, and KUIU are all expensive. You can easily spend over $1000 getting ready for a full season. Does it make sense to spend that money? Well, you’ll have to be the judge of that, but comfort can keep you on a hunt longer. Was it worth it to spend that much money on your nice rifle if you’re not comfortable while waiting on the game to show up? Worse, what good is that rifle or bow if you’re driving home with freezing body parts because you couldn’t take the cold?

Our advice is to try it and see. If you don’t think it’s worth it, you can always sell that gear and recoup some of your costs… or just wear it out and get your money’s worth.