You might think your greatest challenge in the turkey woods is trying to convince a stubborn Tom to make a move on that hen decoy you set up before dawn. But I would argue the most exciting part of the hunt comes second in importance to managing the most obnoxious: fighting off disease-ridden parasites, such as mosquitoes and ticks.
There have been times in my life that the latter challenge got the best of me, and shamefully, made me call it quits early on my hunt. During one particular hunt in western Kentucky, I'd only sat for an hour when I counted nine ticks on me, two of which were lone star ticks. Another instance took place in the Mississippi delta, where a cloud of mosquitoes surrounded my friend and me to the point where we could barely see through the sheer number of bugs.
One hunting apparel company decided to tackle these issues by developing a solution that would integrate directly into the gear that we as hunters wear. Sitka Gear released the Equinox Guard system in early 2022, and the response from hunters since has been outstanding. I spent last year testing it out to find out if the hype was earned or just a product of clever marketing. Here's what I decided
Aesthetically speaking, the entire Equinox Guard system is exactly what you would expect from a company like Sitka: well thought out, technical, hunter-oriented, and simply awesome to look at.
The system features a breathable and lightweight hoodie, durable and moisture-wicking pants, as well as exposed thumb and index finger gloves. This system comes in the Subalpine camo pattern, as well as the Waterfowl Timber, which I"m thankful for as a northern hunter who gets in the turkey woods before the spring green-up.
Like all Sitka products, you can immediately notice thorough research and development. From added features like the built-in face mask on the Equinox Guard hoodie to the finer details such as the gloves' Nylon Cordura finger tips for abrasion resistance, Sitka has long set the standard for technical hunting gear, and they stuck to that standard for this line.
Creating an apparel system that will effectively protect you against such vile creatures is no easy task, and would take some innovation to really produce results. Sitka accomplished this by focusing on three distinct methods of prevention. Limited skin exposure, bite-reduction fabric, and integrated Insect Shield protection within the fabric itself.
One of the ways that Sitka battled the issue of skin exposure with this system, is by developing internal leg gaiters into their Equinox Guard pants. When you tuck these integrated gaiters into your socks, it blocks any chance of ticks and chiggers crawling up your pant leg, and reaching your skin.
The bite-reduction fabric was something that I had to see to believe. As innovative as it sounded, it seemed impossible to do without compromising the breathability of the products. But sure enough, through numerous rounds of testing, they were able to develop a highly breathable fabric that significantly reduced the amount of bites from mosquitoes. With a sample size of 20 mosquitoes, only 1 was able to successfully suck any blood membrane through the fabric, compared to 16 with the leading competitor.
Sitka partnered with Insect Shield on this line, and that immediately got me excited to test it out, because I knew how reputable Insect Shield was, and from experience I know just how effective their product is. Insect Shield uses a proprietary permethrin formula that actually binds directly to the fabric itself. This process and formula is EPA approved and its repellency is effective upwards of 70 washings. Which essentially is the entire lifetime of the product!
In the Turkey Woods
I was first able to test out the Equinox Guard system down in Missouri with a few hunting buddies. Only one of us was able to try out the system, fortunately enough, that was me. Unfortunately for them, they desperately needed it.
The temperature was unusually warm for an early spring hunt in central Missouri. As I rested against a mature oak tree surrounded by Japanese honeysuckle, I was pretty impressed by the breathability of the material, in both my pants and hoodie. The pants also feature zippered leg vents, which was extra convenient for when I needed to cool down once we started to run and gun through the woods.
While the breathability and comfort of the product was great, it wasn't really the main thing I was focused on. I was looking to see just how big of a difference it made on repelling ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. Let me tell you, it was quite incredible. However, it would have been hard to distinguish its efficacy without my friends suffering just a few hundred yards down from me. So I thank them for that, even though they don't appreciate it.
According to them, the mosquitoes wouldn't leave them alone, to the point of one of them even blowing his opportunity at an approaching Tom because he had to swat away several mosquitoes that were congregating near his face. Thankfully, two out of the three of us shot birds, and it was a successful hunt despite heat and humidity. However, there was more to be discovered.
We decided to check for ticks after the hunt like we always do. I figured there was probably still a good chance that at least one broke through the security systems that Sitka had put into place, and I would have been satisfied with one lone survivor. But sure enough, I was clean! I can't, however, say the same for my friends, as one buddy had two ticks on the back of his legs, and the other found four then, and even another one later that evening when we were back at the cabin. Needless to say, they were envious that I was the one wearing the Equinox system.
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The proof is in the pudding when it comes to the new Equinox Guard system by Sitka. The science is as black and white as it can be, and it clearly adds multiple layers of protection to keep you free from ruthless pests such as mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers.
As you might expect, the system isn't cheap, which shouldn't be surprising given the technology as well as Sitka's reputation. The entire system retails for $448, which in my opinion is more than worth it for the peace of mind knowing you won't be feasted upon by forest parasites. Sitka will always be the pioneer, as I expect other brands to follow the trail Sitka has blazed once again. Good luck and stay safe this turkey season!
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