Fall is upon us and the deer are rapidly approaching the peak of the rutting season. The Rocky mountains and the northeastern states have already experienced their first heavy snows of the year, and other areas are experiencing the cold rain that comes as the weather patterns change from the heat of summer to the cold of winter.
If you’re planning on entering the woods to hunt, or are simply going to be out in the elements, you need to make sure that you have the proper gear to keep you warm and dry. To help keep you comfortable, I wrote this review of the Field & Stream Field & Stream hydroProof Ultra outerwear.
I am truly blessed to live in a part of the country that boasts some of the biggest trophy bucks on the record books, but I also live in an area where the weather can go from 70 degrees one day to below freezing the next! Usually that brings some form of precipitation along with it. Having the right outerwear is crucial to a successful hunt, and is just as important as my selection of rifle and ammunition.
Besides some of the best deer hunting land in the country, I have the luxury of being less than an hour away from several fine hunting goods stores. Cabela’s, Bass Pro, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Rogers Sporting Goods are visited quite often, and each has a fine selection of hunting gear. I’m not rich, and I don’t have a television sponsorship so being practical is a strong consideration when selecting gear.
In this article I wanted to share my experiences with the Field & Stream hydroProof Ultra outerwear. This outerwear is a lightweight camouflage rain gear, and I selected mine in the Realtree AP camouflage pattern. Where I’m from there are few evergreen trees so the heavier brown colors, and tree bark patterns, fit in very well with my surroundings in the field. Field & Stream also offers this set in the original Mossy Oak pattern as well, which has a much greener appearance.
I found this gear at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and timed my selection with their annual fall sales. I was able to pick up a jacket and pants combination for under $100. In comparison, I’ve seen similar combination sets go for nearly $200. Since then I have added the coverall bibs, which I picked up for about $60, to complete the set.
The set is made of a quiet material similar to microfiber on couches and chairs. It has an almost light furry feel to it that helps keep noise to a minimum when moving. The jacket and pants are completely lined, and the bibs have a slightly heavier quilted type lining to them.
The Field & Stream hydroProof Ultra set comes in sizes S-XXXL, but that later is much harder to find in stock.
The jacket has a roll-up hood that can be zipped up into a storage compartment at the base of the neck, or top of the back of the jacket. The hood has an elastic band going through the front, outer edge, that can be tightened and locked into place by a push-button release spring-operated lock. The hood is shaped to have a larger overhang in the front for added protection from the elements.
The jacket has both zipper and snap enclosures on the front. The zipper is a nice YKK model that has an elongated and textured pull handle for ease of operation. If the user only uses the zipper there are camouflage flaps on both sides to help cover the black zipper. The snaps are BTN 595 snaps that are covered by a flap of the outer material. When sealed the snaps create a camouflaged rain seal over the zipper. A nice feature is that camouflage flaps are folded over very slightly and sewn down in four different positions going up the flap. This helps prevent the flap from getting in the way of the zipper, making zipping easy and carefree.
The jacket has two exterior pockets on the front that can be zippered shut with a YKK zipper having the same elongated and textured pull handle as the front zipper. There is a camouflaged flap that covers the zipper hiding the pocket’s opening in what appears to be a seamless transition of the camouflage pattern. The pockets are slightly angled with the top of the pocket leaning towards the center of the jacket to allow easier access to the pockets. The pockets are lined with a microfiber-like material and are deep enough to get my entire hand inside with no problems.
On the back of the jacket, between the shoulder blades, there is a 4.5” flap of camouflaged material that has two riveted holes. These holes are perfect for attaching scented wafers. The flap could also allow the jacket to be easily hung from a coat rack.
The arms of the jacket give plenty of room to move around, and have a nice elastic band at the wrist. To accommodate the hunter’s preference their is a velcro strap on the outside that will allow for a tighter or looser fit at the wrist.
The bottom of the jacket also has an elastic band for snug fitting. The hunter has the option of tightening this fit by using two elastic draw strings with push-button, spring- operated release locks. The strings and releases are located on either side on the inside of the jacket.
The pants are made of the same material as the jacket with the same style of liner. One of the reasons that I chose the Field & Stream package was because the pants have pockets. I have another set of rain gear in the Mossy Oak pattern from Bass Pro. That set does not have pockets, and I’ve found that I really appreciate having them on the Field & Stream set. There are traditional front pockets on both sides, that are lined with the microfiber like material just like the jacket pockets. The pockets are deep enough that I can fit my hands several inches past the wrist into each pocket. The pockets do not have a zipper or snap enclosure, however when wearing the jacket the pockets will be covered by the jacket.
In addition to the front pockets, these pants have two cargo pockets on the outside of each thigh. These pockets are 7 inches deep by 7” wide, so provide a great deal of storage space for calls, scents, ammunition, snacks, or whatever the hunter desires. I have found these pockets to be great additions to my outerwear for ease of access and the availability to more gear.
Another outstanding feature of these pockets is that they close by use of a single magnet in the center of the flap and the top center of the pocket. This is an incredible advancement to traditional button-style or even velcro pocket enclosures, as the pocket can be opened or secured in near silence. I have other outerwear that uses velcro
enclosures and I cringe every time I need to go to that pocket in the field, because it seems that every tearing of the velcro is sending out an alarm announcement to the deer I’m hoping to harvest.
The pants are slide on pants with no zipper or button in the front. I think I would prefer to have a traditional button and zipper opening system in the front for those times that nature calls while in the field. Other than that minor inconvenience I really appreciate these pants.
There is an elastic band around the waist of the pants, and the hunter can further secure the pants by use of an elastic draw string with push button, spring-operated locking mechanism.
Outwear is exactly that – the gear we wear on the outside of other clothing. As such it is not uncommon for hunters to have on layered clothing underneath the outerwear. Trying to put on or take off outerwear that has traditional pant legs can be cumbersome or darn near impossible. A great feature of these pants, and a feature that has become very common in hunting and outdoors gear, is the addition of a zippered leg. Both legs have a 15 inch zipper on the outside of the leg. The zipper has the camouflage flap to cover the black zipper and make the camouflage pattern appear seamless. There is also a BTN 525 snap enclosure at the bottom of the zipper to further secure and protect the zipper.
Having the zippered legs allows hunters to take off these pants without taking off their boots. This is great for meal breaks or restroom breaks where sitting is more appropriate. When ready, the hunter can easily slip these pants back on without having their boots get impossibly caught up in the leg of the pants. Once that is accomplished a simple zip and a snap and the hunter is ready to go back into the fields.
The pants are loose fitting to accommodate layered clothing underneath and to allow ease of movement in the field. I have no complaints about the fit or comfort.
The Overall Bibs
Sitting in an exposed tree stand in sub-freezing temperatures is not always pleasant. And being in a part of the country that can sometimes experience high winds I found out that the more insulation I had the better. As mentioned, the jacket can be drawn tight by the bottom draw strings. This should help alleviate wind seepage, but to add some extra protection I’ll opt for the bibs, if I suspect that the temperatures are going to be freezing or windy.
The overall bibs are made of the same materials as the jacket and pants, although they have a quilted lining that appears to have a slightly higher insulation factor. The bibs ride the shoulders on elastic straps that are a comfortable 1.5” wide. The straps criss-cross in the back to prevent the straps from sliding off the shoulders. The straps attach to the bibs with a click and snap lock in the front, and have adjustments slides so the hunter can fit them to their desire. The elastic straps provide for greater mobility than fixed straps.
The cut of the bibs provides cover to the upper chest area on the front and to just below the shoulder blades on the back. The front of the bibs has a YKK zipper that goes from the top of the bibs just below the waist line. There is also a camouflaged flap that can be snapped down over the zipper. The snaps are different than the snaps on the pants but work as intended. On the sides the bibs are lower cut, but still rest higher than traditional pants – about lower rib level. The sides also have elastic bands to allow for a more comfortable fit and greater mobility.
The overall bibs have two front pockets that are identical to the front pockets of the pants. There are no cargo pockets (which I wish they had), but there is a back pocket on the right hip. This rear pocket has a YKK zipper with a fabric pull extension for ease of operation.
There is a slightly larger YKK zipper on the outside of both legs to allow the hunter to get the bibs on and off without taking boots off. The legs zippers do not have an extended pull handle, which would have been a better option. The snaps on the camouflage flap covering the leg zippers are also different than the pant snaps. They work just fine, but I prefer the style of snaps on the pants over the bib snaps.
Exposure to Weather
Field & Stream advertises the hydroProof Ultra as being “waterproof” and “breathable”, both features that are important to a hunter in the field for long durations. Just this last week I was in a tree stand bow hunting in wet weather. For those of you who think deer don’t move in the rain, you’re wrong! Perhaps a heavy rain will send the deer to bedding, but I saw four deer moving and grazing in light to medium rain.
Sitting in a tree stand under such conditions is precarious to say the least, but to be up there getting wet and cold would be intolerable. I was in the weather for nearly three hours. When I got to my truck I was a little worried that my gear had failed as I felt a little colder on my shoulders and my thighs. And I do emphasize a “little” colder. My gear was soaked on the outside to the point that the camouflage pattern had changed to dark brown. However, when I took the Field & Stream hydroProof Ultra gear off I was completely dry underneath.
I figured out that the reason that I had felt a colder sensation on my shoulders and thighs was simply due to those areas being exposed to the brunt of the weather. It would be like getting all geared out and then placing an ice cold beverage on your leg. Eventually the cold would radiate through and make that area feel colder than other areas. The same thing applies if it was a hot thermos of coffee. Needless to say I was very pleased with the performance, and I can confirm that the “waterproof” claim of this Field & Stream product holds true.
I used this gear last season as well, even using it during extreme cold conditions. Having a proper layering system underneath, the hydroProof Ultra gear provided a great wind breaker system that did not become cumbersome like some heavier duty outwear can be. It is definitely an option for those hunters that don’t want to have a multitude of outfits to meet every possible weather condition.
During some of last season I was in snowy conditions. Trekking through woods and fields can actually burn a lot of calories so proper layering is crucial. I did notice that when I came out of the field I had built up enough heat to cause some perspiration. When I took my jacket off the inside was wet, and not from my perspiration, which had not penetrated the outer layers of my under clothing. What I found was that I was radiating enough heat that when it hit the cold air there was some condensation occurring. Although this was not a great finding, it did prove that the hydroProof Ultra gear was living up to its claim to be “breathable”. The problem was that this meeting of hot and cold was occurring on the inside of the jacket. Being wet in the field is never good, especially when the weather is freezing. A hunter can quickly go from being hot to suffering from bone chilling cold.
To solve this problem I now pace myself when entering and exiting the field. Instead of making one long movement to and from, I try to only move 50-100 yards at a time, before taking a short break. This has actually helped me be more stealthy in my field movements as it allows me to re-examine my surroundings and listen for signs of movement. Doing things this way has virtually eliminated the problem of condensation. I have also found that my body temperature is regulated very quickly doing this process, so I don’t arrive at my tree stand hot and sweaty and feeling like I just ran a 5K. If I do find that I’ve over-exerted myself I can simply unzip and open my jacket to allow the dry, cool air to evaporate the moisture. Then I can re-zip, and my layering keeps me warm.
To be fair, I have had similar problems with other outerwear products, especially the heavier insulated versions. I think that anytime you are layered up for cold insulation, and then go and perform heavy activity, you are going to experience some condensation from the hot and cold air exchange. The good thing is that the hydroProof Ultra gear does breathe to allow the body’s temperature to get regulated. Once that happens, the proper layering will keep the body warm, while the outer layer protects from wind and water.
As I have mentioned, I have used this lighter weight outerwear even in extreme cold conditions, with the proper layering underneath. I find that it allows greater mobility than many heavier insulated products, and still protects from wind and water. I am very pleased with this gear and would recommend its use. I think you will find it’s affordability and quality construction to be a great addition to your hunting needs.