Why your hunting pants may be your most vital piece of outdoor gear.
Have you given much thought to your hunting pants lately? If you're like most of us, probably not. I'll admit it's often an afterthought for me. In fact, a lot of my hunting clothing is the same way.
Many hunters are good with whatever pair of camo pants is cheapest on the rack.
But your pants are a vital piece of hunting gear, influence comfort, and really shouldn't be overlooked. Here's what to look for in your next pair.
What pants to wear hunting
We really wish there was one perfect pair of camo hunting pants that fit every single hunting scenario we could come up with. Sadly, that just isn't the case. The pants you wear while waterfowl hunting in late November are likely going to be dramatically different than what you wear while pursuing a big early season bull elk through the Colorado Rockies in September.
Before you settle on what to buy, you really must consider the type of hunting you'll be doing and the environment you'll be using them in. If you're archery hunting warm temperatures for dry, high desert mule deer in Arizona where it hardly ever rains, it makes no sense to spend money on something that is water resistant or insulated for cold weather.
Similarly, you don't really need to spend a ton of money on wader pants or major scent control brands like Scent Lok and Scent Blocker if you're primarily a turkey hunter. You'll be wanting to hide from the prying eyes of an ol' Tom turkey more so than curious noses. Focus instead on a quality camo pattern that matches your surroundings.
You'll also want to consider things like belt loops and pockets. Do you have a lot of small hunting gadgets, extra ammo and tools? You'll want good pockets to keep everything close and organized.
Do you carry a sidearm while hunting? Your pants should have good belt loops to keep a strong gun belt for carrying holsters and your handgun safely and securely.
What to look for in lightweight pants
If you don't hunt extreme temperatures, you're likely going to be looking at a pair of lightweight hunting pants. It's a good idea to consider whether you are going to be spending most of your time sitting in treestands or walking around stalking prey.
You can get away with using lighter and less durable materials if you're going to be sitting for long periods. If you're doing spot and stalks or following a hunting dog around in search of upland game birds, you will want something more durable that can hold up to briars, thorns and thick brush.
Many pairs of hunting pants now come with reinforced knee areas like these Instinct stalking pants from Cabela's. The reinforced knee sections are made with nylon and Kevlar, so they should hold up while you crawl that last hundred yards to get within bow range.
If you're looking for extreme durability, anything with ripstop fabrics is going to be worthwhile. However, keep in mind you might sacrifice some comfort in the process.
Finding a good pair of hunting pants is about finding the right balance. Keep in mind ripstop fabrics also tend to make for good rain pants. They shed water well.
For extreme comfort, I'd recommend something from 5.11 Tactical, even though these aren't hunting pants specifically. Sure, they don't come in a Mossy Oak camo pattern, but the pair of 5.11s I own are my favorite pants right now. And there are plenty of tests and experiments that show you don't necessarily need a camo pattern to hunt.
Khaki-colored pants like this are used in Africa all the time with success, so don't be afraid to look outside the box.
Another brand to keep in mind is Sitka. Their pants aren't usually cheap, but like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
These nylon pants are durable and comfortable. Many say they're perfect for a hunt that's going to involve a lot of hiking and climbing over logs and large boulders to reach your prey. They'll last you a long time.
Most pants now have either zippers or some sort of snap to keep the stuff in your pocket secure. It's something to think about if you're pursuing a tough species like bighorn sheep, which like to hang out at high elevations in some of the nastiest terrain. These Lookout fleece pants from Cabela's feature zippers.
They also carry a 4.4 star rating out of five on the site across 58 reviews. Not bad at all.
One last thing to keep in mind is noise. My dad had a pair of cheap camo pants that made this awful swishing sound as he walked. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where George's suit made noise? It sounded just like that. You don't want that in your hunting pants.
Give them a serious sound test before you hit the field and if they're noisy, send them back.
What to look for in cold weather hunting pants
If you live in a northern climate like I do, one of your biggest concerns is probably warmth. Nothing ruins a hunt faster than shivering in your blind or treestand. So, a good pair of hunting pants as outerwear are your first defense against the cold.
Let's talk materials. If you didn't already know this, you're going to want to avoid cotton. Yes, it's lighter and more comfortable, but it's terrible for heat retention. If you want to endure the coldest temperatures for that big buck, look at down, fleece or wool.
What's the difference between these materials? Well, it's quite simple. Down and wool are natural materials from animals, while fleece is basically a synthetic version of the same.
So, what's the best for hunting? Well, that's largely a matter of opinion and we'd say choose carefully based on what conditions you hunt.
You'll find a lot of pants that use down, like these Cabela's Instinct pants.
Depending on who you talk to, some people will tell you down is warmer than wool. The differences are probably very subtle.
These Cabela's Berber Fleece Series pants are very highly rated on their website and are touted as being very breathable and lightweight.
Keep in mind that fleece can lose some of its warming qualities if it gets wet. If you're hunting in rainy or snowy conditions on a regular basis, fleece may not be for you.
Although, it's worth noting that many manufacturers are now making their fleece pants with a waterproof or water resistant coating like these heavyweight soft shell pants from Huntsworth. Amazon reviews say these are very warm with just a couple of base layers.
When it comes to wool, you'll often times hear the term "Merino wool" thrown around. Merino are a specialized breed of sheep that is said to have the warmest, lightest and most water resistant wool out there. The downside is, you're going to pay a pretty penny for this type of wool. But a bonus to hunters is that Merino is an odor-absorbing type of wool. that's important if you're hunting animals that rely on their noses like whitetails and mule deer.
If you're set on Merino wool, you might find options in hunting pants are bit limited. I did find this pair of First Lite Obsidian pants on Amazon. These have gotten great reviews from all over, including this site.
At around $180-200 a pair, they aren't cheap, but they should last a while and keep you in the woods longer.
For hunters looking for something other than fleece, down or wool, there are many other synthetic insulations on the market. These pants from Ridge Hunter have a type of synthetic insulation called ThermoLite in them.
When it comes to selecting a pair of hunting pants for cold weather, it's not a bad idea to think about buying a size larger. Sometimes you've got to brave the elements if you want that big buck and that means layering up with base layers from Under Armour, Columbia or any number of different mid layer manufacturers.
Hunting pants can also sometimes be oddly-sized. If you're ordering online, make sure you read the reviews ahead of time. Usually someone will point out any weird quirks in sizing there.
Some final thoughts
If you like to hunt a variety of game species across many different seasons, you will probably find you'll need multiple pairs of hunting pants. One type really doesn't always fit every season and need. Take your time, do your research of reviews and really put some thought into your hunting pants this season.
Because the more comfortable you are while hunting, the longer you will be able to stay out in the woods. The longer you're afield, the better your odds of finding success this season!