Early Season Hunting Jackets

Shoppers in the market for a lightweight, high-performance early season hunting jacket will want to see these options on your shelves.

Early Season Hunting Jackets

There’s nothing quite like early season big game hunts. After long months of waiting for the deer or elk opener to finally roll around, hunters find themselves ready to hit the woods, prairies or mountains and get back to what they love to do most. But early seasons often produce somewhat of a clothing dilemma.

In my home state of Oklahoma, I’m often faced with unpredictable early season weather. It might be in the low or mid-30s in the morning when I hike to my stand. But by the time afternoon rolls around, the temperature might have climbed into the 70s or even low 80s. What’s a hunter to do?

A good, packable, lightweight early season hunting jacket can make answering that question much easier. Fortunately for hunters and retailers, a number of companies manufacture them in a wide range of prices. Incidentally, these same early season jackets are also great for spring turkey hunts, when the same types of weather conditions and temperature swings are common.

Before we look at three different jackets to offer customers, let’s quickly explore what many hunters look for in an early season hunting jacket.

Because hunters will likely be putting on and removing their jacket frequently as weather changes during the day, a full-zip jacket is much handier than a jacket with only a partial zipper or a pullover with no zipper at all. Also, since a lot of early season outings involve bowhunting, a jacket that allows plenty of range of motion is critical. If a hunter’s jacket makes it difficult to pull back a bow at that moment of truth, he or she might as well have stayed in camp.

Another handy feature in early season jackets is quiet material on the outside, helping to alleviate the swish-swish of some other outer materials. Jackets with breathable materials that not only keep moisture outside but allow perspiration to exit are also preferred. The ability to fold or roll down into an easily packable form is another good attribute, and a selection of pockets is handy for carrying gear that hunters don’t want to constantly remove from their packs and put back in. Lastly, a durable jacket that can stand up to lots of hard use is likely to sell better than one that looks like it might fall to pieces after only a few hunts.

Of course, which early season hunting jackets you choose to carry in your inventory will be highly dependent on your location. If you’re somewhere in the South, ultralight jackets are going to be more popular, while northern retailers or those in the high country might find that even early season hunters need a little heavier jacket to stay warm on those chilly mornings and evenings.


Sitka Gear

For those early season big game hunters who want the best and aren’t concerned with the price tag, look no further than the Sitka Kelvin Active Jacket. At just under $300 ($289), it has all the features hunters are looking for, plus a few that make it even more special.

This jacket is a versatile tool for backcountry pursuits. Featuring 8-gram Polartec Alpha insulation, the jacket can serve as a great, quiet outer layer in early season and can double as an insulating layer later on when temperatures fall. Polartec Alpha Active is a non-migrating lofted fleece insulation that offers excellent breathability and moisture management.

The full-zip jacket also features a 20-Denier nylon ripstop shell and has a breathable mesh lining for wicking away moisture. The zippered chest pocket secures your necessities and doubles as a stuff sack, and the hand-warmer pockets are lined with brushed fleece for added warmth.

The neck and chin are lined with a brushed tricot to prevent chafing and add warmth, and Polygiene Odor Control Technology safely neutralizes odor caused by perspiration. Lastly, at only 13.77 ounces, the jacket stuffs down to a very small, packable footprint when not in use.

The Sitka Kelvin Active Jacket is available in the company’s popular Optifade Subalpine camo pattern, which was designed specifically for stalking and ambushing ungulates from ground level in vegetated terrain and is optimized for engagement ranges of 50 yards and less.


Under Armour

Shoppers looking for a high-quality jacket at about half the price of the Sitka jacket are likely to think highly of the Under Armour Ridge Reaper Raider Jacket ($180). Under Armour has a great reputation in the hunting industry, and I think that reputation is well-deserved. This jacket was built for comfort and warmth, and features UA’s Storm technology to repel water, which keeps the wearer dry from the outside and within.

The Raider’s ultra-durable, lightweight fabric gives hunters just the right protection without sacrificing breathability. Quiet construction prevents fabric from rustling, helping hunters stay silent when game animals get up close and personal. And the jacket’s durable outer will guarantee several seasons of use, even under harsh conditions.

A very important aspect for bowhunters is the jacket’s four-way stretch fabrication paired with an encased elastic bi-swing, which provides full, unrestricted mobility through the chest and shoulders. It is made from 91% polyester and 9% spandex and is machine washable for convenient cleanup.

The Under Armour Ridge Reaper Raider Jacket comes in the company’s Barren camouflage. With its swirls and splotches of greens, browns and grays against a light-gray background, Barren was designed with the Western hunter in mind, but it blends in equally well in the whitetail woods.



Budget-minded early season hunters might find Rocky’s Camo Insulated Packable Jacket ($84.94) more to their liking. At about half the price of the Under Armour jacket, this offering puts a major focus on stealth — an important aspect of successful bowhunting.

The material used in the jacket is Rocky’s burr-resistant fabric, which is touted to leave the underbrush in the woods where it belongs, not on hunters’ clothes and, subsequently, in their tent or cabin. The rugged outer material has been treated with Rocky’s DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating.

For added comfort on those chilly mornings, Rocky made the jacket with 100 grams of Primaloft insulation, which will keep the chill away without being heavy or bulky. And for additional comfort and convenience, the jacket features a drawstring hood and drawcord waist.

Three zip pockets give hunters plenty of places to securely store a few valuable items like knives, spare cartridges, maps and cell phones. And Rocky’s Scent IQ Atomic system helps control human scent at the microbial level.

The Rocky Camo Insulated Packable Jacket also compacts very well to easily stash in a pack when not in use. It features Realtree Edge camouflage, a very versatile camo with natural elements arranged in a way to disrupt the human form.


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