Best Base Layer for Deer Hunting
Wearing the right clothing is one of our top 25 deer hunting tips and a good base layer should be one of your very first purchases when you beginning hunting.
It will keep you warm when wet and is capable of pulling moisture away from your body when you’re hot.
For most of us when we are hunting deer, this moisture comes about due to two main influences. The weather sneaking in through outer layers of our hunting gear when it’s wet.
Or you have been sweating up a storm and the heat and moisture your body is creating can’t escape fast enough. In either scenario, if we are inadequately dressed and not wearing a good base layer.
Warm Your Core With A Good Base Layer For Hunting
There are two main products on the market today that stand out. One of these for a very long time has been a favorite of hunters and hikers alike.
Synthetic Base layers have in the past and continue today, to lead the base layer market. It’s cheap and effective at locking in heat while being able to wick moisture away from the body. The thicker the material the warmer these will keep you.
The downside is that it’s not as breathable as other fibers so if you doing any hunting which requires you to be out for multiple days at a time It will begin to smell.
There is a lot of talk about which is better, Merino wool Or synthetic base layers. The answer to this question, unfortunately, is not so straightforward. Each of these performs differently depending on the environment your hunting and because of this, there are some clear pros and cons to each which we will touch on.
Merino Wool Hunting Base Layers
It’s no secrete when we sweat, we produce a warm moist environment for bacteria to grow. A Merino wool base layer has an advantage here as it is naturally resistant to bacteria growth and because of this, it is far less likely to pick up odors.
This is a huge consideration for multiple day hunting where you are likely to be using the same hunting clothes day in and day out.
Retains Its Warmth Even When Wet
The other great thing is, once merino wool gets damp or wet it retains its ability to keep you warm.
This is not just important in cold conditions.
In situations where your hunting adventure has you heading into the backcountry or climbing high, your base layer will be wicking moisture away from your body as you heat up. As a result, it becomes damp.
When stopping for a break or to glass new country it won’t take much of a breeze for you to quickly notice the benefits of a merino wool base that keeps you warm even when it’s wet.
Merino Wool Hunting Base Layers
I can’t deny that or me merino is a favorite and this is largely because of the conditions I hunt. There are however some clear disadvantages to Merino wool base layers.
Merino wool is a natural fiber which has passed through many hands on its way to becoming that beautiful piece of hunting gear.
Because of this, the first thing you will notice is the price point. Merino wool is expensive compared to polyester.
Even though it provides superior warmth once wet.If you have grand plans of being able to hang it out overnight and be able to put it on in the morning dry you will be disappointed. In cold wet environments, its slow drying and can take days to dry out.
As long as I have a warm change of gear for sleeping I’m not so worried about wearing my damp merino hunting for the benefits it offers.
Heavier Than Synthetic
Merino wool is going to be heavier than your standard polyester base layer but offers superior warmth. A polyester equivalent would need to be a heavier fabric to offer the same level of warmth.
Not As Durable
If your wearing clothing over top of your base layer then it’s not such a consideration. It is well known that merino wool does have a tendency to be less durable as the fibers catch easily and create holes in the garment.
Synthetic Base Layers For Deer Hunting
Synthetic Base Layers Are Cheaper
Polyester fiber is man-made (synthetic) and is widely available globally. It is not affected by world demand and as a result, pricing does not fluctuate like merino wool.
All these factors and the fact that Polyester base layers are often mass-produced allows for pricing of these products to be much cheaper than any natural fiber available. If cost is your main consideration, a synthetic base layer is going to be your starting point.
Synthetic Base Layers Are Lighter
As a product, synthetic base layers are generally a lighter product compared to similar base layers that are produced using natural fibers. The synthetic fiber is thinner and the weave is often tighter allowing producers to create a lighter weight base layer.
Synthetic Base Layers Dry Faster
Merino wool has a much thicker fiber to Polyester and when agitated by a pack strap over the shoulder or clothes rubbing between the layers it will allow the wool fiber to open and absorb moisture and hold it.
Polyester, on the other hand, pulls the moisture to the outside of the garment and like wool when agitated will absorb moisture within the fiber itself, however, because it a thinner fiber it drys much faster than wool.
Synthetic Base Layers Are More Durable Than Merino Wool
Another benefit of polyester base layers is they are much more durable a than merino wool base layers.
For example, if you tear a hole in a knee of a polyester thermal it won’t pull like merino wool and the hole won’t keep getting bigger every time the fiber gets caught.
Synthetic Base Layers For Deer Hunting
Synthetic Base Layers Are Less Breathable
In situations where the weather may be a little warmer or your climbing high on your search for that prised Trophy buck. It’s harder for heat to escape when you’re wearing synthetic base layers.
These are far less breathable and often struggle to keep up with the heat your body produces. As a side effect, your body works even harder to cool you down and you will notice that you tend to sweat far more.
This means you will need to manage your hydration levels when under high exertion.
Odor Build Up
It goes without saying, but the more you sweat the better the environment for bacteria to grow. Unlike wool, Polyester offers no natural fight against bacteria.
To work around this, producers of synthetic base layers treat the fiber which is effective for the first few washes but after that, it slowly becomes less and less effective.
You can expect on multi-day hunts for your synthetic base layers to begin to hold your odor and begin to smell.
Not As Warm For Their Weight
In order for your polyester base layer to offer the same level of warmth as a merino base layer, you would need a much heavier fabric than you would in merino wool equivalent.
Which Is Better Polyester or Merino Base Layers?
If your day hunting where you’re looking to hunt ultralight or you’re venturing into cold but dry environments. I’d run with a synthetic base layer with weight being my main consideration.
Here are our top synthetic base layer picks:
For multi-day hunting expeditions where it’s likely that I’ll get wet. I’ll generally hunt with the same merino base layer day in and day out and have a dry replacement for sleeping in.
This keeps you warm even if it gets wet and you won’t start stinking two days into a week-long hunt. The one and only downside are on those cold mornings having to slip into a damp base layer.