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Ditch the Cotton, Merino Wool Is Where It’s At!

The start of elk archery season is just around the corner in many western states.  This has many eager hunters vigorously exercising, shooting their bow and pulling out the prior year’s gear in anticipation of that first bugle.  While some folks are interested in the newest gadgets, the latest camo patterns, or one of the thousands of scent control/cover products that are available, I highly advise you to take a look at some gear that is typically overlooked until late season; your base layers.

One item any elk hunter knows is you cannot fool; an elk’s nose.  You can get away with a little natural noise, and at times even a little movement, but if an elk smells you… he’s gone.  To complicate this matter, elk live in some demanding terrain that often makes strenuous, sweaty hiking a requirement for the job.   Even stand hunting can have you perspiring getting to and into the stand.  This would be less of an issue if one could easily wash their clothes (or carry the added weight of an extra set), but this is often is not an option in the places elk call home.

This is where the benefits of merino wool start to shine:  Not only does the moisture-wicking properties of merino keeps you cool in the summer and insulates in the cold, the natural antimicrobial properties inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria.  When most people think of wool clothing they imagine the thick, itchy and heavy sweaters from their childhood.  However, merino wool is incredibly soft, comfortable and lightweight, another added plus when every ounce counts.  The folks at Sitka Gear offer a superb line of quality merino next-to-skin layers in solid colors as well as their amazing camo patterns.  Once I don my Sitka Merino Core Crew Long Sleeve, Merino Core Boxers and Merino Core Bottoms at the start of the season, I wear them every time I hunt until the last frigid days of whitetail season.  I would put the fit and feel of these under-layers up against my favorite t-shirt any day.  To complete the merino ensemble, DarnTough offers a bulletproof pair of merino socks that offer the same antimicrobial properties in a package designed to keep your feet dry and blister-free.Not to mention they offer a lifetime warranty…but I haven’t had a need for it.

While I will always encourage others to try new products, the one material that should be avoided at all costs; cotton.  If replacing your full base-layer system isn’t in the budget for this year, by all means don’t feel like you should hunt without gear you see as necessary just because it’s made of cotton.  However, as soon as financially feasible you should make arrangements to donate your cotton gear to a local charity.  Main reason for this is that cotton gets wet and stays wet; a potentially dangerous situation in certain climates/situations.  In addition, this wet environment is a perfect breeding ground for odor causing bacteria in sweaty conditions.
Even the best merino gear will start to smell of camp odors after a few days.  A tool I love using to keep my gear scent-free on extended hunts is Carbon Synergy.  
 Brett Bueltel has a great instructional video on how to easily use Carbon Synergy to de-scent smelly hunting gear and clothing.  This lightweight and fail proof solution is so simple and effective to use, passes the cut to make it into my pack every season.  Click here to go directly to the video.

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