If you’ve ever looked into picking up high quality hunting clothes, Sitka Gear has likely come across your search. You really need a Sitka layering guide to make sure you have the right pieces for your hunt. With so many options, it’s hard to sort through all that Sitka has to offer to find the best layer options for elk/deer, eastern/western style hunting. In fact, it’s a downright daunting task. This review was born from that challenge. For the last two hunting seasons, I field tested some of the top Sitka layering options I could come up with.
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- The Testing – Sitka Layering Guide
- What I Tested: Sitka Layering Guide
- Sitka Camo Sizing: Sitka layering System Review
- How I layered: Sitka Layering System Review
- A Detailed Look At Each Piece: Sitka Layering System
- Sitka Base Layers
- Sitka Heavyweight Layers
- Sitka Jackets: Best Sitka Layering Systems
- Sitka Pants: Sitka Layering Guide
- Sitka Core Lightweight Bottom: Sitka Layering System Review
- Best Uses/Temps
- Sitka Ascent Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
- Best Uses/Temps
- Sitka Apex Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
- Best Uses/Temps
- Sitka Traverse Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
- Best Uses/Temps
- Sitka Mountain Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
- Best Uses/Temps
- Sitka Timberline Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
- Best Uses/Temps
- Sitka Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
- Best Uses/Temps
- Sitka Gloves & Hats
The Testing – Sitka Layering Guide
Over the last two years, I’ve been able to put this Sitka Gear through some abuse in a wide range of temperatures and conditions to really see how it holds up and performs. Everything from training hikes and scouting in Idaho in the summer where the temperatures are in the 90s, to Colorado winter trips where the temps dip to -16 Fahrenheit, gave me a great real-world experience with what Sitka Gear has to offer.
What I Tested: Sitka Layering Guide
For this long and extensive field testing to find the best Sitka layering system for the various conditions we see the most, we used each of the following items to varying degrees depending on the weather and temperature:
- Ascent Shirt
- Core Lighweight Hoody
- Core Midweight Zip-Tee
- Apex Hoody
- Heavyweight Hoody
- Mountain Vest
- Traverse Heavyweight Hoody
- Gradient Hoody
- Kelvin Light Down Jacket
- Jetstream Jacket
- Kelvin Aerolite Jacket
- Core Lightweight Bottom
- Ascent Pants
- Apex Pants
- Traverse Pants
- Mountain Pants
- Timberline Pants
- Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 Pants
Love optics? We certainly do here at Backwoods Pursuit, so make sure to check out our other optics’ reviews, as well as our massive 19 Spotting Scope Review where we lined up 19 of the best spotting scopes on the market and tested them side by side!
Sitka Camo Sizing: Sitka layering System Review
One of the things that can make or break clothing in the backcountry is the fit. Like boots, when clothes aren’t comfortable and don’t fit you properly, it just makes life in the mountains less enjoyable (or even downright miserable). Sitka Gear offers their fit in a couple of different cuts:
PERFORMANCE FIT – Designed for minimal layering. I’ve found the PERFORMANCE FIT to be very snug compared to your favorite pair of jeans, so size up if you like a loose fit and the piece you want is the performance fit cut.
STANDARD FIT – This cut is meant to fit more like those jeans you like, allowing you to layer more underneath, or if you are someone who just doesn’t like an “athletic” fit, this is probably your go-to cut. Unfortunately though, it seems that a majority of Sitka’s big game pieces are not offered in a standard fit.
EXPEDITION FIT – Sitka’s EXPEDITION FIT is designed with plenty of room to layer for those super cold days where layering is an absolute must. When the temperature really drops and you want a bunch of layers, this might very well be the best option.
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Everyone’s body type, shape, and size is going to be very different, but for me, I found myself right in between sizing on many of the shirts and jackets. As for the pants, I couldn’t have been happier with the fit. Those were pretty much perfect all the way around.
On the Sitka jackets I found that everything fit just right in a size large except the armpits, which were too snug and would have caused serious chaffing. I sized up to the XL (which I almost never do with any other jackets I wear), and the arm pits were fine, but the body was a bit big. Not a huge deal, but kind of a bummer that I had to size up only because of the arm pits. It was pretty much like this across the board with all shirts and jackets listed above.
I did, however, decide to stay with the size large on the Core Lightweight Hoody, the Core Midweight Zip-Tee, the Heavyweight Hoody, the Traverse Cold Weather Hoody, and the Gradient Hoody as they all had plenty of stretch to them making them more comfortable and true to size. I could have sized up in them, but given that they are base layers, a more snug fit is generally better.
In the pants, I found the PERFORMANCE FIT to run small. I typically wear a size 33 inch waist, but had to size up to a 34 inch waist so I could breath. I wasn’t sure how I’d like the performance fit and tapered cut, but after using them in the field for two years, I can say I LOVE the tapered performance cut of the pants. They aren’t for everyone, but I love them. All the pants I tried were the PERFORMANCE FIT, save for the Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 pants, which are a STANDARD FIT. They are much more roomy and great for layering as designed.
How I layered: Sitka Layering System Review
Here is how I layered in various temperatures and what I found to be the best Sitka layering system for me.
A Detailed Look At Each Piece: Sitka Layering System
Sitka Base Layers
Let’s start with the base layers as they are the foundation of the Sitka Layering System. There are a lot of combinations you can use, but I found that I typically start with the Core Lightweight Hoody. The only exception to that is when the temperatures drop, and then I jump up to the Core Midweight 1/4 Zip.
Sitka Ascent Shirt: Sitka base Layers
The Sitka Ascent shirt is the lightest weight shirt I tested for this Sitka layering system review. This is a warm weather shirt designed to keep you cool on those warm summer scouting trips or early season hunts when the temps still tend to get up there during the day. Weighing in at just 4.7 oz for a size large, this thing truly defines a lightweight base layer.
Like the Ascent pants that we’ll talk about later, it’s not the quietest shirt in their lineup, but certainly not too loud for archery season when stalking mule deer or chasing bulls in the high country. Even though the material is so thin you’d think it would shred at the first sign of brush, it’s very durable.
The Ascent shirt doesn’t provide much warmth, but it’s not supposed to. Its design and purpose is to keep you cool, breathe well, and be that go-to, early season shirt. It also features (like most of the Sitka lineup) their Polygiene Odor Control Technology to keep you from stinking on those hot days hiking around the mountains. I tested this Polygiene technology thoroughly for 2 years and can attest that it is legit. In fact, it performed better for me than merino blend shirts that I’d been using for years prior. On several occasions I hunted in the same shirt for 6 straight days during early season archery without any odor issues. Pretty impressive!
The fit of the Ascent shirt is consistent with the rest of the Sitka base layers, with the exception of the arms being a bit more snug and tapered. This aids in layering and keeps the sleeves out of the way when bow hunting, but some folks don’t like the tighter fit around the forearms. If you have particularly large forearms, you may not like the fit either.
Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody: Sitka Layering Guide
The Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody is one of my favorite pieces! I tested this piece for a solid two years, and it is still going strong. In fact, it is the ONLY base layer I’ve used over the last two years. No matter if I’ve been out for a short day hunt or a week long trip, I use only this base layer. The most impressive thing is that it’s never once started to stink on me. I really expected it to, as even the Merino base layers I’d used prior to this eventually started to stink. But not the Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody.
I also noticed that it breathes considerably better and is noticeably cooler to wear on warmer days than even the lightest weight Merino I had been using. On one trip, I took both this Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody and my First Lite Aerowool long sleeve hoody to compare. I instantly noticed how much cooler the Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody was and was impressed.
Unfortunately, the fit of the Sitka Core Lightweight Hoody isn’t the best for me though. I decided to stick with a large, but it simply didn’t fit perfectly. It wasn’t bad, but being a little tight in the arm pits and shoulders wasn’t ideal. The Core Lightweight Hoody is an incredible 6.6 oz, so it’s truly a lightweight shirt. It also comes with an integrated face mask in the hood, which I found to be super useful for concealment during archery season, and to keep the hot sun off my neck when hiking.
- Weight: 6.6 oz
- Best uses:
- Next-to-skin base layer
- Early season / mid season base layer
Sitka Core Midweight Zip-T: Sitka base Layers
The next piece I tested in the Sitka Layering System over the last two years was the Sitka Core Midweight Zip-T. This was another one of those pieces that pretty much always got used. In fact, I don’t believe I ever left it behind, no matter the temperature. I usually use it as my 2nd layer, but once temps dropped, it becomes my next-to-skin base layer.
Thanks to Sitka’s Polygiene technology, like the Core Lightweight Hoody, it never once started to smell on me- EVER. Not even after 7 straight days of use without being washed. That’s pretty impressive in my book! And it far outperformed Merino in that department (and I’m a fan of Merino).
The Sitka Core Midweight Zip-T is a little light to be called a “mid-weight” shirt in my opinion. It feels more like most other companies’ “lightweight” model, and as such, it’s not terribly warm for a mid-weight shirt. Thus, the reason it turned into my next-to-skin layer when the temps drop, and I know I am going to be layering to stay warm.
As for the fit, it seems to be a little more generously cut than the Core Lightweight Hoody. As such, a size large was just right for me.
- Weight: 10 oz
- Best uses:
- 2nd layer / base layer
- Early season / mid season base layer
- Mid-Late season next-to-skin layer
Sitka Mountain Vest: Sitka Layering Guide
Next up in this Sitka Layering System review is the Sitka Mountain vest. Admittedly, I’ve not typically been a huge vest person, but this one was recommended to me, so I gave it a fair shake. When I pulled it out the first time to use it, I thought There’s no way this thing is warm. It felt more like a thin, soft shell vest. However, I was very surprised just how much it helped, particularly in the wind. The Mountain Vest is billed primary as a windstopper with its Gore-Tex Infinium and WINDSTOPPER technology, and it does just that.
Sure, it’s no down vest and certainly isn’t as warm as one, but it does a great job of being a windbreaker of sorts and pairs really well with other layers that don’t have the Gore-Tex Infinium built in. It maximizes the warmth of the pieces it’s used with and adds some extra warmth of its own. As we all know, if the wind is cutting through your clothes, you’ll chill fast.
The Sitka Mountain vest is an athletic fit. It’s meant to not add bulk to your Sitka Layering system, but add wind protection and a bit of warmth.
- Weight: 9.1 oz
- Best uses:
- Over base layers, under outer layers/jackets
- Early season extra warmth & wind protection
Sitka Heavyweight Layers
Sitka Heavyweight Hoody: Sitka Layering Guide
Another critical piece in the Sitka layering system is the Sitka Heavyweight Hoody. This piece is one of my favorites as well, as it’s that perfect piece to throw on for a little extra warmth during early archery season when you are sitting, and it doesn’t add bulk or noise. Like the Core Lightweight and Core Midweight, it’s dead silent. I also found it to be a go-to piece for my mid to late season hunts when temperatures drop and you need substantial layers. I found that layering this over the Core Mid-weight for a base layer combination was the perfect foundation.
As for fit, the Heavyweight Hoody was oddly generous in the cut compared to the Core Lightweight and Core Midweight, but I’m assuming that was done intentionally as it is a layering piece. Even though it is the same PERFORMANCE FIT as the other two, it gives substantially more room in the cut. I also found that the Heavyweight Hoody was longer in the torso. A bit odd compared to the Core Lightweight and Core Midweight, but I love the length, especially for a layer that I used at times as an outer layer, and as a 2nd or 3rd layer at other times. I absolutely LOVE the fit of the Heavyweight Hoody!
Again, I don’t know that I would classify this as a “heavyweight” piece compared to other “heavyweight” shirts I’ve used, but I suppose it could be considered a heavyweight piece within the “base layer” category.
- Weight: 14.8 oz
- Best uses:
- 3rd layer (early season cool mornings) or 2nd layer for mid-late season
- Early season warmth / mid-late season 2nd layer
Sitka Gradient Hoody: Sitka Layering Guide
Next up is this Sitka Layering System review is the Gradient Hoody. Really, the Gradient Hoody is in the waterfowl category for Sitka, but it certainly can be used for big game if you know its limitations. It’s not a lightweight piece at 25.8 ounces, so if that’s what you are going for, this isn’t the best warmth to weight ratio you can get. However, it’s a great piece if you do a lot of sitting and glassing.
The Gradient Hoody doesn’t breathe that well, so you won’t want to do a lot of hiking in it, but it is very warm and a great addition to the layering system for those long sits in the duck blind or on the ridge glassing.
The Gradient Hoody is the PERFORMANCE FIT, and I found it to fit a bit more snug than among the other PERFORMANCE FIT pieces I tested. I still went with a large in this one, but again could have sized up. I simply didn’t want the extra bulk that getting a larger size would have given me. A large did just fine.
The high loft berber fleece interior is super soft and warm and just asks you to put it on. You won’t be sad you did as this thing is an oven for a hoody. Best of all, if you go with one of the Hunt Solid colors (as I did) you can pull it out all winter long and use it as your favorite hoody around the house or out around town during the colder months. The Gradient Hoody also features a DWR finish to help shed light rain.
- Weight: 25.8 oz
- Best uses:
- Over base layers, under outer layers/jackets
- Mid-season extra warmth / late-season layer
- For sedentary use – doesn’t breathe well
- Wear in a duck blind, on a mountain top, or around town
Sitka Traverse Cold Weather Hoody: Sitka Layering Guide
Next up in this Sitka Layering System review is the Sitka Traverse Cold Weather Hoody. At first glance you might wonder how it’s different than the Gradient Hoody, but the Traverse Heavyweight Hoody features a full zipper to allow you to use this piece as a super warm, heavyweight hoody or as an outer layer jacket. Keep in mind that the Traverse Heavyweight Hoody is only water resistant with its DWR (durable water repellent), so don’t count on this piece to shed any kind of heavy rain.
Like the Gradient Hoody, the Traverse Cold Weather Hoody also features a high loft Berber fleece that is super warm and extremely comfortable. You also get a very nice hood and a built-in face mask for extra concealment and/or extra warmth. This is just one of those pieces that I found myself grabbing time and time again because it is so warm, yet very versatile as well.
Like the Gradient, the Traverse Cold Weather Hoody also does not breathe well, so it’s not a piece you will want to do much hiking in. However, I found it to work very well as an outer layer for those cool mornings during early archery season, as well as a fantastic 3rd layer under a puffy jacket when the temperatures really drop. I even found myself using this Traverse Cold Weather Hoody as a jacket or outer layer at times. This is even a fantastic piece to sleep in to stretch the lower limits of your sleeping bag. It’s just so soft and comfortable, you won’t want to take it off.
The Sitka Traverse Cold Weather Hoody is an athletic fit and falls into the PERFORMANCE FIT category by Sitka. It is a great addition to your Sitka Layering System as either a layer or an occasional outer layer. Determining what size you get depends on how you plan to use this piece. If you want to layer a bunch underneath it, definitely size up. If you plan to use it as a 3rd layer or a “jacket” over your base layers, you should be fine staying with your typical shirt size. I almost always wear a large in shirts, and went with a large in this piece, and the fit was great for me.
- Weight: 27.17 oz
- Best uses:
- Over base layers, under outer layers/jackets, and as an outer layer
- Early season – jacket/outer layer
- Mid-late season – 3rd layer
- Late season – layer under jacket
Sitka Jackets: Best Sitka Layering Systems
Moving on to Sitka jackets now, we’ll get into the insulation aspect. In my opinion, your insulation layer is one of the most important pieces, and I pretty much always take an insulation layer with me, even if the temps aren’t expected to get that cold. I look at it as a safety net in the event that things go sideways, and I have to stay the night out. At least I’d have an insulation layer to throw on for warmth. Plus, Sitka jackets usually have a great warmth to weight ratio.
Sitka Jetstream Jacket: Sitka Layering Guide
The Sitka Jetstream Jacket is one of the most popular Sitka jackets, and for good reason. I’ll have to admit, prior to testing out this Jetstream jacket, I’d not been much of a softshell jacket fan. In fact, I typically avoided them due to their weight and inferior warmth. However, I gave the Jetstream jacket a fair shake and came away with a different tune. The previous Jetstream jacket (the one I tested the most) is on the loud side, but not a big deal for rifle hunting, and it could even work for early season archery although it’s not ideal. It is a little noisy, but not terrible.
However, when the new Sitka Jetstream came out, I was excited to see what they upgraded. The new face fabric is much different and EXTREMELY quiet! While I question if it will be as durable as the previous model (time will tell), I love that I can now use this during archery season without any concern about noise.
As with most soft shell jackets, it simply is not that warm, but you don’t buy the Jetstream as an insualtion piece. What I love about it is the protection from wind that the Gore-Tex Infinium gives you, along with the light fleece interior for some warmth. It’s a durable outerwear piece that can go over just about any of your layers, and helps your other layers perform to their maximum potential by keeping out the wind. That is critical as the wind can severely reduce the effectiveness of any layer.
I found this jacket to be the best I’ve ever used in keeping wind at bay, and I was surprised how much it made a difference in making this jacket seem warmer than it actually is when it keeps the wind from cutting into your layering system.
Another feature I ended up using a TON on this Sitka Jetstream Jacket were the pit zips. I found that I could unzip them during a hike to get to a glassing point and not overheat, then zip them back up once I got there to keep the heat in and not have to add or shed layers through the process. The pit zips are a game changer if you haven’t used them before.
I wanted to test just how waterproof this jacket is as well, so on multiple occasions I took it as my “rain jacket” on some rainy, dreary days. One day in particular pushed it past its limits, as after about 4 hours of consistent rain, I was started to notice that the layer under this jacket had started soaking through. Not too bad for a jacket that is not really a rain jacket.
The main downside to the Sitka Jetstream Jacket is the weight. At 26 oz it is by no means lightweight, but it’s a jacket that I found myself coming back to time and time again for a lot of different situations. For me, it’s become a critical piece of my Sitka layering system.
- Weight: 26 oz
- Best uses:
- Early, mid, or late season outer layer
- Early season jacket & wind protection
- Mid-to-late outer layer
Sitka Kelvin Aerolite Jacket: Sitka Layering Guide
Next up in this Sitka Layering System review is the Sitka Kelvin Aerolite Jacket. The Kelvin Aerolite Jacket replaced the Kelvin Lite Hoody and shaved a few ounces as well. This new Aerolite Jacket features synthetic PrimaLoft Gold Insulation with Cross Core technology, which simulates the compressability and warmth of down, while being able to maintain its ability to keep you warm when wet which down doesn’t do.
One of the first things I noticed while testing the Kelvin Aerolite Jacket is how light it feels but how warm it is for its weight. When you pick it up, you question how warm it will be, but it is warmer than it feels. After using the previous Kelvin Lite Hoody for a couple of years and then testing the Aerolite, I like the fit and weight better of the Aerolite, but I also feel like it gives up a little in warmth vs. the Kelvin Lite Hoody. If you want something a bit warmer, you could step up to the Kelvin Lite Down Jacket or the Kelvin Down WS Hoody for more warmth and/or more wind protection.
The Sitka Kelvin Aerolite Jacket does help protect from the wind, but it does not feature Sitka’s Gore-Tex Infinium, which is awesome at keeping wind out. If you need really good wind protection, you’d be wise to add in the Mountain Vest or step up to the Kelvin Down WS Hoody.
The Sitka Kelvin Aerolite Jacket is a STANDARD FIT, so it’s meant to have layers underneath. It is perfect for this. I was in between sizing on the Aerolite Jacket, so I went with an XL, and I’m glad I did. I found myself using this piece as an outer layer for late season hunts on top of 3 or 4 other layers, and it is great for that. It also works wonderfully during early season archery as my outer layer when temps cool down.
I found that the Aerolite Jacket is not quite as silent as the Kelvin Lite Hoody, but it’s still very quiet. It’s a bit of a bummer that it isn’t as quiet as its predecessor, but I’m guessing that is where some of the weight savings came from as well.
- Weight: 16 oz
- Best uses:
- Early season insulation layer or outer layer
- Early season extra warmth & wind protection
- Mid-to-late season insulation or outer layer
Sitka Kelvin Lite Down Jacket: Sitka Layering Guide
Next up in this Sitka Layering System review is the Sitka Kelvin Lite Down Jacket. The Kelvin Lite Down Jacket steps up the warmth over the Kelvin Aerolite, but doesn’t add weight because of the high quality, 900 fill PrimaLoft Gold down blend insulation. This insulation is extremely lightweight, with this jacket weighing in at just 17 oz for the size large which is nearly identical to the Kelvin Aerolight .
As you can probably tell in the pictures, it is certainly more bulky or “puffy” than the Kelvin Aerolight, so it’s not quite as good for archery use. The Sitka Kelvin Lite Down jacket is also substantially louder than the Aerolight, so if noise is a concern, this is not your best option.
One of the first things I noticed while testing the Kelvin Lite Down Jacket is how light it feels, but how incredibly warm it is, particularly for its weight. When you pick it up, you know you are dealing with a high quality, high loft down jacket that is excellent for cold days.
The Sitka Kelvin Lite Down Jacket does help protect you from the wind, but it does not feature Sitka’s Gore-Tex Infinium, which is awesome at keeping wind out. If you need really good wind protection, you’d be wise to add in the Mountain Vest under this jacket, or step up to the Kelvin Down WS Hoody which does have the Gore-Tex Infinium wind stop (and is much warmer).
The Sitka Kelvin Lite Down Jacket is a STANDARD FIT, so it’s meant to have layers underneath. It is perfect for this. The Kelvin Lite Down Jacket is still on the smaller side of a size large, but the large still fit me well. I found myself using this piece as an outer layer for late season hunts on top of 1-3 other layers, and it is great for that.
As I mentioned above, I found the Kelvin Lite Down Jacket to be pretty loud. For the archery application, this jacket is simply too loud for me, but for late season rifle, it’s not a big deal at all. It’s a bit of a bummer that it isn’t quiet, but that is where some of the weight savings comes from in the lightweight outer shell material.
- Weight: 17 oz (size LG)
- Best use: Late season insulation/outer layer
- Temp range: 30 degrees and below, depending on layers
Sitka Pants: Sitka Layering Guide
Now that we’ve covered a good number of shirts and jackets, let’s move on to the pants portion of our Sitka Layering system review. I’d heard that Sitka pants are awesome, but it wasn’t until I got a lot of miles and time hiking in the mountains that I really learned how they perform. I was fortunate enough to test out most of the Sitka Pants in their big game lineup, and I’m sure glad I did! Let’s dive in to how each pair performed. We’ll start with the lightest weight and work our way up to the cold weather pants.
Sitka Core Lightweight Bottom: Sitka Layering System Review
Let’s start with the most simple of the base layer pants: the Sitka Core Lightweight bottoms. These are one of those pieces that usually come with me from early season all the way through late season. They are made of quick-dry, comfort stretch knit that’s nice and soft. I mostly use these as long johns for sleeping in, but they also double as extra warmth under my pants when we hit late season. They feature Polygiene, so they also help with odor control. These are a must have as part of the Sitka layering system.
At just 4.6 oz for a size large, they are great for sleeping in as well as for a second layer under your pants during the cold season. I definitely use them both ways. The low profile elastic band is nice when layering under your pants so you don’t get a hot spot when wearing a pack.
The Sitka Core Lightweight bottoms are a PERFORMANCE FIT making them fit pretty snug, but not as snug as something like Under Armor. I found that a size large was perfect- not so loose that they bunched up, but not too tight either.
- Weight: 4.6 oz
- Best use: Early-late season (base layer or sleeping pants)
Sitka Ascent Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
First up in our Sitka pants section of this Sitka Layering system review are the Ascent Pants. These are Sitka’s lightest weight big game pants, and weigh in at a mere 12 oz for a size large. These are the ultimate warm weather pants, and I found them awesome for summer scouting and early September hunting. They are a stretch CORDURA Nylon Woven Blend (60% CORDURA, 30% Nylon, 10% Spandex) that really articulates well with your movements. This makes them SUPER comfortable, breathe very well, and keep you cool on warm days.
As you’d expect, they are not very warm, but they aren’t supposed to be, and they still give you their Polygiene Odor Control Technology, which is exactly what you want in a warm weather pant. You get mesh pockets to aid in their breath-ability and comfort. All in all, these are some incredibly comfortable pants that stretch well, breathe well, and are extremely durable, especially for such a lightweight pant.
One thing you don’t get with the Sitka Ascent Pants are any rear pockets. This is a bit of a bummer, but at the end of the day, not a big deal to me. I typically don’t carry anything in my rear pockets when hiking, but if you do, these might not be the pants for you. They also feature knee pad pockets, so if you are someone who spends a lot of time stalking game on all fours, those knee pads make a real difference for your knees.
I did notice that the Sitka Ascent Pants are the noisiest pants in the Sitka Big Game pants lineup, which is also a bit of a bummer since you’d primarily be using them for archery season. I didn’t find them so noisy that it would be an issue, but they weren’t as quiet as the Apex Pants. In all fairness, the Apex is advertised as dead silent with a 5 out of 5 for quietness per Sitka’s rating system, and the Ascent is rated at 1 out of 5 per Sitka’s rating system, but they are still a great early season archery pant.
The Sitka Ascent Pants are a PERFORMANCE FIT with tapered legs, so you don’t have a lot of extra material there to add that “swooshing” sound you can get when pants have too much material to brush up against itself. With that being said, if you don’t like a tapered leg, you may not love the cut of these pants. They are not a skinny jean type of cut, but they are certainly tapered and a bit more snug. I sized up one size from my standard jean size (from a 33 to a 34) in the Ascent pants as they are simply cut on the smaller side.
- Weight: 12 oz
- Best use: Summer scouting & early season hunting
- Temps: Not ideal for below the mid 40s
Sitka Apex Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
Next in the Sitka pants lineup are the Sitka Apex Pants. These are Sitka’s 2nd lightest weight, big game pants coming in at just 14.7 oz for a size large. Still crazy lightweight, but significantly warmer than the Ascent Pants. Because the Apex pants are made of a super soft micro fleece on the inside bonded to a polyester face material, these things are absolutely dead quite. These are the ultimate archery pants. They are the perfect balance of warmth for nearly every temperature possible during the month of September (below freezing and up to the 80s), and I also found them to breathe extremely well.
While not quite as durable as the Ascent or other pants in the Sitka Pant lineup, they are the pants I kept grabbing all throughout archery season here in Idaho. They come with removable knee pads, articulate extremely well, and the interior is so soft (but not overly warm) that you can easily wear them to bed if you need the extra warmth on a cold night and still be extremely comfortable.
Sitka offers suspenders for their pants, and if you like suspenders, they are great! Personally, I prefer a belt (if I have to wear something to hold up my pants), and have fallen in love with the Argali Kodiak Belt after testing it this fall. It’s a belt and knife sharpener in one! It’s pretty sweet and doesn’t cause a problem when wearing your pack either.
The Sitka Apex Pants are the quietest pants in the Sitka Big Game pants lineup that I tested, which is exactly what you are looking for in a pair of pants for archery. As with all Sitka Pants, you also get their quiet-close buttons which are super nice.
The Sitka Apex Pants are a PERFORMANCE FIT with tapered legs, so you don’t have a lot of extra material there, but the cut didn’t seem to be quite as tapered as the Ascent pants. They fit just a little more relaxed (to me) but are still very tapered.
I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d like the tapered leg in a hunting pant, but I have really come to prefer that cut now. Less material to get snagged, bunched u and twisted, and less overall weight. I went up one size from my standard jean size (from a 33 to a 34) in the Apex pants as they are simply cut on the smaller side. The 34s fit me great, though.
- Weight: 14.7 oz
- Best use: Summer scouting & early – mid season hunting
- Temps: 30s-80s were comfortable; ideal for 40s – 70s
Sitka Traverse Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
Next up in our Sitka layering system review is Sitka’s most basic pants, the Traverse Pants. With that said, these are anything but a basic pair of pants. They are nearly as quiet as the Apex pants with about the same warmth, are more durable, and I’d say slightly more wind resistant. The Sitka Traverse pants are closer to the Mountain Pant (up next) than the Apex in their build and design, but they fit the bill for an all-around pant that can be used for everything from early to late season outdoor adventures (with some layers).
Made of 4-way stretch woven Polyester (90% Polyester, 10% Spandex), they are extremely comfortable and move with your very well. I used these pants for an entire season, from early season archery in the beginning of September to rifle deer hunting at the end of October, and they were fantastic. You don’t get a few of the bells and whistles as with some of the other pants Sitka offers, but they are a fantastic pant!
You don’t get Sitka’s quiet-close buttons on the thigh pockets, but you do have zippered pockets that are low-profile and not bulky. The legs are not as tapered as the Apex and Ascent, so if a more traditional cut is more your style, you’ll like the fit of the Traverse as they have more of a generous leg cut and less taper down the leg. The other “extra” you give up with the Traverse Pants is knee pad pockets. For me this isn’t a big deal, but if you love the knee pads, then it’s a bummer.
The Sitka Traverse Pants are nearly dead quiet with a quiet rating from Sitka of 4 out of 5. They have a reinforced knife anchor pocket, which is nice if you like to slide an EDC knife in your front pocket.
- Weight: 14.7 oz
- Best use: Summer scouting & early – mid season hunting
- Temps: Comfortable down to mid 30s
Sitka Mountain Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
Once you get into temperatures that dip below freezing, you’ll want to move to a little heavier, warmer pant than the ones discussed above (unless you run hot). The Sitka Mountain Pants are some of Sitka’s most popular pants, and for good reason. While they are really built for mid to late season hunts, I’ve used them during early season archery without excessive overheating. Sure, they are a little on the warm side, but at the same time, it can be nice to have them during those cool September mornings.
Made of DWR treated 4-Way Stretch-Woven Polyester, you get a super durable, super quiet, crazy versatile pant that really is the cats meow of a do-it-all pant from Sitka. If you can only buy one pair of Sitka Pants, but need to use them for everything from early season archery to late season rifle, these are the pants for you!
The Sitka Mountain Pants feature an articulated fit that is super comfortable with removable knee pads. As an early season pant they are a little on the heavy side at 26.2 oz, but are still significantly lighter than the Timberline Pants that are geared for late season hunts. The Sitka Mountain Pants aren’t quite as quiet as the three previous pants we’ve discussed, but they offer better wind and water protection while still maintaining reasonably good breath-ability. Best of all, these pants are bomb proof and can take a serious beating. I put these pants through all kinds of abuse, but they came out unscathed.
The Sitka Mountain Pants are designed to be paired with their suspenders if you want, or a belt if need be. The Mountain Pants aren’t the quietest of the Sitka Pants, but they are still fairly soundless (much quieter than the Ascent, but not as quiet as the Apex). They are still a great pant in the noise department for your hunting season. You also get Sitka’s quiet-close buttons and removable knee pads with the Mountain Pants, making them good for just about every hunting trip. Large, but not bulky, cargo pockets are perfect for stuffing your gloves or beanie in when you’re not using them.
The Sitka Mountain Pants are a PERFORMANCE FIT with tapered legs, but I found the cut to be a bit more relaxed than the Apex as they aren’t as tapered. I found them to be cut very comfortably, and they work great when worn by themselves as well as when adding some merino leggings, Core Lightweight or Core Heavyweight base layers underneath.
- Weight: 26.2 oz
- Best use: Mid-Late season hunting
- Temps: Comfortable down to the 20s
Sitka Timberline Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
When the temperatures really start to drop, it’s time to grab the Sitka Timberline Pants. These are Sitkas cold weather pant, and the ones I repeatedly grab when heading out for some late season deer and elk hunting in November and December. The Timberline pants are a soft shell pant that are super durable and warm. As you’d expect, the Sitka Timberline pants are the heaviest in their big game lineup coming in at 29.6 oz, but you get extra warmth and some unique features noted below.
Some of the features unique to the Timberline pants are the reinforced knee and seat area that are a waterproof, ripstop nylon material to keep you dry when sitting on snowy or wet ground or when crawling on all fours on a stalk. I found this to be a very useful feature, especially the waterproof knees, when I was setting up my Seek Outside Cimarron hot tent during late season. Getting this tent set up requires a little bit of kneeling down, and when the ground is snowy or wet, those waterproof knees are really nice.
As noted above, the knees and seat are waterproof, ripstop nylon, but the rest of the pants are 4-way stretch woven polyester shell, giving you amazing comfort. They are a lined pant to add warmth, but the lining isn’t bulky or excessive at all. In fact, I wear these pants comfortably in temps ranging from 50 degrees down to single digits without getting cold.
The Sitka Timberline pants are also DWR treated to help keep you dry, which is a must when temperatures are well below freezing. While they certainly aren’t a waterproof pant, they do a very good job of repelling rain and snow. I used these pants in some very wet conditions and stayed dry and comfortable with the exception of below the knee (when not using gators). Use them with gators and you’ll keep the lower part of the pants dry, which is really the only part that I had completely soak through.
The Timberline pants give you the full gamut of pockets with one zippered rear pocket, two zippered front pockets, and two quiet-close cargo pockets to store your extra gloves or beanie. There is plenty of storage with the Timberline pants without excessive bulk.
The Timberline Pants more than quiet enough for both late season rifle or archery. While Sitka gives them a ranking of 2 out of 5 on their website for quietness, I really feel like they are closer to 3.5 or 4 out of 5 in the quietness department. They are significantly more quiet than the Ascent Pant, and perhaps even a little more quiet than the Mountain Pant and Traverse, but very close to those two. Either way, they are amazing for most of your hunting situations.
The Sitka Timberline Pants are a PERFORMANCE FIT, but I found them more roomy than the Ascent Pant and similar in cut to the Mountain Pant. They don’t have as much room in the legs as the Traverse Pants, though. They are somewhere between the traditional cut of the Traverse and the articulated and tapered cut of the Ascent. I sized up one size from my standard jean size (from a 33 to a 34) in the Timberline pants as all of these Sitka Pants seem cut a bit on the smaller side.
- Weight: 29.6oz
- Best use: Mid-late season hunting
- Temps: Below mid single digits started getting cool
Sitka Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 Pants: Sitka Pants Comparison
To finish the pants section of our Sitka Layering System guide, we are going to look at a super unique, and a little bit quirky insulation piece in the Sitka Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 pants. Like me, you may look at these pants and think they are just a fashion piece, or just too goofy to even consider. Well, my tune quickly changed when I used them in sub-zero temps. They are truly a great piece of gear to have!
The Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 length pants are designed to be used with gators as they are only 3/4 length. Why on earth would they make them only 3/4 length, you might ask? Well, the shell material used for puffy pants isn’t exactly durable, so making them shorter and designing them to be used with gators (which you most likely are going be using anyway during late season) makes perfect sense. You won’t shred your puffy pants this way, and they save weight and bulk as well.
Some of the features unique to the Kelvin Lite Down Pants are the type of insulation they are built with. The 60 grams of Primaloft Gold down blend work to give you the best of both worlds: the pack-ability of down and the ability to insulate when wet that synthetic insulation gives you. Other unique features include a built-in nylon belt to make sure the fit is just right and 7/8 length, 2-way side zippers on each leg that allow you to take them off and on easily without removing your boots. Those 2-way zippers also allow you access to your pants’ pockets when needed.
The 2-way stretch, nylon material used for the face does provide you some flex, but not as much as some of the other pants we’ve touched on here. This material is a bit on the noisy side, however, so if you need something super quiet, I’d look elsewhere. The Sitka Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 pants are also DWR treated to help keep you dry, which is a must when temperatures are well below freezing.
Admittedly, I don’t typically need a puffy pant, even for late season, but I did find myself in some situations during last year’s Colorado mule deer hunt where temperatures for the week were below zero for most of the trip, and even dipped to -16 degrees Fahrenheit. Man, was I glad to have these pants for that trip! I found myself routinely wearing them, particularly when sitting and glassing for any length of time.
They are super easy to put on and take off without removing your gators/boots which makes using them really convenient. I did do a little hiking in them at one point, but as you can imagine, I heated up pretty quickly and had to stop to shed them, even in below zero temps. When not in use, they compress very well, and given the warmth you get out these things, they are super lightweight at just 14 ounces. Definitely worth the weight in frigid temperatures!
True to their lightweight form, the Sitka Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 pants don’t have any pockets, but you really don’t need any as you likely won’t be hiking in these pants, and you still have access to your front pant’s pockets through the zipper.The Sitka Kelvin Lite Down 3/4 pants are a STANDARD FIT, so you’ve got plenty of room to layer under them. I typically wear a size 33 in the waist, and went with the size large in these pants, and they are plenty roomy.
- Weight: 14 oz
- Best use: Late season/cold weather hunting
- Temps: Single digits and under
Sitka Gloves & Hats
Sitka Ascent Gloves
The Sitka Ascent Gloves are ultra lightweight, early season gloves that are designed to keep the early season chill off your hands, while giving you good suede palms and fingers for gripping your bow or rifle. They don’t offer a lot of warmth, but give you the concealment you need while not interfering with using your release or shooting your rifle.
The Ascent Gloves aren’t really meant to use as a layer under something like the Stormfront or Mountain Gloves, but I suppose you could. They are a very snug fit, meant to fit tight to your hand and not provide any extra bulk. This is exactly what you want in an early season archery hunting glove. In the cool mornings, holding your bow can chill your hands, so having that suede palm is nice because it grips well and provides that insulation from the bow handle.
- Weight: 1.25 oz
- Best use: Early season hunting
- Temps: Under 40+ degrees or active hunting
Sitka Traverse Gloves
Next let’s look at the Sitka Traverse Gloves. I use the Traverse Gloves a TON, especially during archery season. They are crazy lightweight at just 2.4 oz, yet surprisingly warm. These are my go-to gloves even into late October when temperatures drop below 20 degrees.
The Traverse Gloves are a little thick to layer underneath other gloves as a liner, but I did try them with the Mountain Glove, and it was a bit snug. Really they are a lightweight, super soft, but pretty warm little glove. Now, they don’t repel water at all, so if you need protection from rain or snow, these are not going to be your best option.
- Weight: 2.4 oz
- Best use: Early to mid season hunting
- Temps: Under 20 degrees got cool
Sitka Mountain WS Gloves
Next, let’s look at the Sitka Mountain WS Gloves. These are an interesting glove to me in that they really aren’t very warm. In fact, I thought the Traverse gloves were warmer than these Mountain gloves. However, their purposes are very different. The Mountain glove features a full leather palm and fingers with light fleece backing on the interior. They can be used not only when temperatures are on the cool side, but are also super useful for gathering fire wood for the Seek Outside Cimarron hot tent when backpacking in late season.
The Mountain WS gloves are super durable and feature GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ with WINDSTOPPER for total protection from the wind. They may not be that warm, but when wind is a factor or your hands just don’t get that cold, these are a great option. For the extra durability, DWR treatment, and windstop you get with these gloves, the 4.9 oz weight is still considerably light. You still maintain pretty good dexterity with the Mountain Gloves, but they are definitely more bulky than the Traverse gloves.
- Weight: 5.6 oz (size XL)
- Best use: Mid season hunting
- Temps: Comfortable into the 30s
Sitka Stormfront Gloves
The last pair of gloves I tested for the Sitka layering system review was the Sitka Stormfront GTX Gloves. These are the gloves you want for rain, snow, and sleet. With the 3 layer Gore-Tex taped shell, they will keep you dry when the storm hits.
One of the cool things about the Stormfront GTX Gloves is that they feature a fleece liner that is removable. You can use the gloves with or without the liner, add a super thin liner under both of these, or put whatever liner you prefer to add or subtract thermal efficiency for whatever temps you are in. You can use just the shell for super wet weather during early season as well, so you are covered for pretty much all seasons.
The Stormfront GTX gloves are super durable, but a little on the bulky side as you can imagine. You lose some dexterity vs. the Traverse and Mountain Gloves, but that kind of goes with the territory as you add warmth. They are still considerably light weight at just 7.1 oz.
- Weight: 7.1oz (size XL)
- Best use: Mid to late season hunting
- Temps: Comfortable into the 20s
Sitka Blizzard Mittens
The Sitka Blizzard Mittens are what you will reach for when the temperatures really drop and the weather turns for the worse in a big way. While they are certainly not a glove you’ll want to grab if you need dexterity, they do keep you dry and warm for those situations when mittens are called for.
With ther Gore-Tex shell combined with the Primaloft Gold insulation, they are incredibly warm. I also found them very useful when doing late season hunts when a 4 wheeler is involved. The mittens keep your hands toasty warm while riding through the frigid temps of late December.
I also really like how they are sized so that you can either wear them as they come (with the Primaloft Gold Insulation liner), or if temperatures are stupid cold, you can even wear additional layers under them (like the Traverse gloves or your favorite merino liner). You also have the option of removing the insulation liner if you choose, and just use the Gore-Tex shell.
- Weight: 7.9 oz (size XL)
- Best use: Late season hunting / ATV riding
- Temps: Sub 10 degrees Fahrenheit
Sitka Jetstream Beanie
The first beanie I tested for the Sitka layering system review was the Sitka Jetstream Beanie. Thought not the lightest weight beanie in Sitka’s lineup (that would be the Sitka Beanie), the Jetstream Beanie is a nice ultralight, micro-grid, fleece-lined beanie with built in Gore-Tex Infinium with WINDSTOPPER. In my field testing, all of the products with the Infinium WINDSTOPPER did a fantastic job of keeping out the cold wind, and this was no exception.
At just 1.6 ounces, this is the kind of beanie that should almost always be in your pack just in case. It proved to be plenty warm for me even down into the teens on some cold mornings.
The Jestream Beanie isn’t bulky either, so if you want to pull your hood over this beanie, it works well as a layering piece on super cold days.
- Weight: 1.6 oz
- Best use: Mid to late season hunting
- Temps: Comfortable down to 15 degrees
Sitka Stratus Beanie
The Sitka Stratus Beanie is not your ordinary beanie. This little gem features Gore-Tex Windstopper to keep the cold winter draft off your head. It is a micro fleece shell, so it’s extremely soft and dead silent. I found it to be a fantastic all-around beanie that I use during October mule deer hunts, as well as on early spring hikes.
The unique 4-way stretch ear band has cutouts in the fabric that allow you to hear like you have no beanie on at all. I was skeptical at first, as I’ve tried other beanies that claim to do this same thing, but this Sitka Stratus Beanie is the first one I’ve tried that actually works. I could hear almost exactly the same with or without the beanie on. That can be super useful when sitting and calling elk on a cold September day, or those times when you really need to hear, but the temperatures are cold enough to want a beanie.
It is much warmer than it looks, and at just 1.79 oz and not even remotely bulky, it’s one you can stash in your pack in case it gets cold, and you won’t even know it’s there.
- Weight: 1.79 oz
- Best use: Mid to Late season hunting
- Temps: Use around 30 degrees and under
Sitka Blizzard Beanie
Last, but certainly not least in this Sitka Layering System review is the Blizzard Beanie. This is the beanie you want when the temps really plunge and keeping your dome warm is critical to keeping the rest of you warm. Like the Jetstream Beanie, the Blizzard Beanie features Gore-Tex Infinium with WINDSTOPPER, but also gives you two layers of high-loft fleece rather than one layer of micro-grid fleece. This thing is WARM! It’s like wrapping your head in your favorite fleece blanket while sitting around the fire at home.
I didn’t need to pull this beanie out too many times, but when I did, I was sure glad to have it. For me, I really didn’t need the Blizzard Beanie until the temperatures dropped into the low teens, but some may opt to pull it out sooner. It is significantly more bulky than the Jetstream Beanie due to the two layers of high-loft fleece, and a little more than double the weight at 3.5 oz.
It’s a bit more cumbersome to pull your jacket hood over this beanie, but is still doable.
- Weight: 3.5 oz
- Best use: Late season hunting
- Temps: Use around 15 degrees and under
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