If you’re anything like me, a total gear junkie, then you have closets jammed full of hunting clothes and gear. To be exact, I have three walk-ins with almost nothing but camouflage clothes and ancillary “stuff,” and the garage has at least two standing metal shelving units stacked with various hunting footwear.
My collection spans the gamut, with every brand, every technical fiber, and every camo pattern that’s pretty much ever been created represented, from the original Treebark (www.treebark.com) pattern on up to the digital Optifade (www.optifade.com) design Sitka Gear (www.sitkagear.com) and GORE-TEX (www.gore-tex.com) released this year. I can dove hunt in Virginia when it’s ninety degrees, duck hunt in Louisiana, when the temps hover in the forties, elk hunt in Colorado when the first snow falls, and tag a big randy whitetail in Canada, when it’s waaaaay below zero. In short, I’m covered. But all this protection cost money—a lot of money. Here’s how I keep this part of my hunting gear investment working for me year after year.
1. Bag It—For years I’ve used the scent-proof clothing bag from Hunter’s Specialties (www.huntersspecialties.com) to keep my deer hunting camo in between hunts. I have no idea whether it actually keeps things scent-free or not (though if it does, it can’t hurt), but what this bag does do is keep my camo in the dark and away from the light that fades it.
2. In The Closet—What garments I don’t keep in a Hunter’s Specialties bag or two are kept in closets that don’t see much use other than for storage. Again, this keeps light away, but also common household odors, including bathroom soap scents, cooking odors, and the like. In essence, the clothes are isolated from constant contact and unnecessary exposure to things that age them and dilute their productivity.
3. Think Inside The Box—Don’t have a spare closet? Get a couple or three wardrobe moving boxes to store your camo in, when it’s not in regular daily use. I like these better than big plastic storage containers, because I can easily open the top of the box and see exactly what’s hanging inside; with the containers, I always had to pull out what was on top to get to the stuff on the bottom (yeah, it’s a little thing, but when you’ve got as much gear as I have, every efficiency helps). Store the boxes in a place where, again, unwanted odors can’t get to them. In other words, if your garage actually houses your SUV or serves as the fix-it shop for your buddies’ trucks, then you don’t want your camo wardrobe stored where it can absorb exhaust, motor oil, and other garage smells.
4. Go Cold—Hot in the laundry is the killer of all things camo. Nothing will fade your colors and patterns faster. So go cold. At least one major detergent maker, Tide, has recently begun marketing a detergent specifically for use in cold water, and there may be others following in its footsteps. I recommend you give such soaps a try. As for the dryer, skip it if you can and line dry, preferably in a dark garage or laundry room and not in the sun, which will fade your camo faster than you can say “clothespin.” No time to line dry? Put your dryer on the lowest setting that’s actually still warm and run it twice if necessary to get your clothes wearable the next morning.
5. Minimal Clean—Unless you dumped a plate of spaghetti in your lap and dribbled mustard down your parka front, don’t wash your camo unless you absolutely have to. The less laundering, the less fading.
Inside Out—When you do have to wash your duds, turn them inside out for both the washer and dryer cycles.
7. Cover Up—Dressing game, whether and deer or a duck, is a messy affair. You’re bound to get blood, guts, feathers, and fur all over your expensive camo. One preventive measure you can take is to pull on one of those disposable painter’s or janitor’s jumpsuits over your camo. When you’re done cleaning your kill and the meat’s in the cooler, all you have to do is step out of the cover-up and throw it away.
8. More Than Once—It has been a fascinating thing to watch camouflage for hunting purposes evolve over the years. But get this through your head—the stuff you bought ten years ago still works just fine. Sure, the latest and greatest is always cool, but it doesn’t mean it’s really any better. If your camo from yesteryear isn’t terribly faded and the pattern still has a definition, use it. Camouflage only helps you stay hidden from the game. As everyone knows, it’s a movement that will give you away faster than the wrong camo. Or even the right camo. You can be dressed to look every bit like the pine tree you’re seated next to, but lift a hand to scratch your nose at the wrong time and you’re going to look like a human, no ifs, ends, or buts about it.
9. Out Of Uniform—This flies in the face of convention, but I say mix your camo up. Put a Realtree pattern on the bottom and a Mossy Oak design of similar colorings and foliage presentation on top. The point of camo is to break up your noticeably human shape, and to that end, it is possible to be too uniform. Look at your hunting setting—there’s a bush next to a tree next to a deadfall next to a field edge next to a weedy stream bank next to … well, you get the point. It’s all mixed up out there, so why should you be one single, upright 6’4” hunk of one pattern, when the world around you is otherwise? Oh, and by the way, if you can change your mindset about going single-patterned, you’ll have an easier time shopping the post holiday and post hunting season sales that are bound to confound you with a lack of complete outfits in your size.
10. Fade Out—Old camo doesn’t have to be turned into dust rags. Keep some of your slightly faded camouflage for use in the late season, when everything’s gone gray, and for use on foggy, rainy, snowy, or otherwise dreary days. When everything around you is dulled, you’ll blend in better wearing something that’s lost its edge a bit than you will if you’re covered head to toe in a bright and highly defined pattern.
One other bit of food for thought. L.L. Bean and Filson have sold boatloads of hunting clothes that don’t begin to camouflage a hunter. Bean’s famous red plaid Maine Guide Parka is one example, and I have Wool Packer Coat lined with sheepskin and made by Filson, that I’ve spent many a deer hunt wearing—and was thankful I did. I’m also here to tell you that game was killed while wearing that coat. In fact, I’ve managed to bag dinner often, while wearing all sorts of hunting garments that were minus leaf-and-branch graphics. The point is that camouflage can certainly be an advantage, but it is not the be-all-end-all of your hunting tricks and it will not fix a lack of outdoor knowledge. Remember that the next time you take a look at your hunting wardrobe (and maybe your empty freezer), and think it needs an upgrade.