The Best Material for Hunting Clothing

We have all been there. You shiver out of your sleeping bag and pile on layer after layer of clothing. You sling your backpack over your shoulders, place your weapon or bow somewhere stable, and look up at the elevation you must reach to reach your vantage point. Then you start climbing.

Sometime after the first 15 minutes, the first drop of sweat trickles down your spine. Another leaks out from under your hat through your temple. A third and a fourth accumulate in each armpit. Those singular beads eventually multiply, and before you know it, you’ve reached your crystallization point and an irreversible level of soaking. The first and second gusts of wind feel good. The third makes you tremble again.

A principle of outdoor recreation on land is truly universal. It covers all interests, levels, ages and regions. It even extends to some water activities. Say it with me, folks: staying dry means staying out. But you might be surprised to learn that some of the best pieces aren’t the ones that keep you protected from the elements around you. Instead, they protect you from the conditions your body creates from within.

That’s why First Lite partnered with 37.5 Performance Enhancing Materials in 2013. Now, most of First Lite’s products feature 37.5 technology, from Merino-blended base layers to rugged outerwear, from gloves to leggings. But what does that technology actually do? Here’s everything you need to know about the best hunting textile upgrade to date.

origin story

First Lite came to life in 2007 after founders Scott Robinson and Kenton Carruth grew tired of hunting all fall and winter in brightly colored Merino wool ski outfits. They weren’t willing to sacrifice Merino’s well-documented warmth, odor evaporation, and moisture wicking capabilities for lesser quality camouflage gear, and no one had yet figured out how to apply camouflage to Merino products. So they did it themselves.

They eventually progressed to Merino wool with a mineral enhancement that had recently become popular: activated charcoal. Hunting equipment companies found that adding activated carbon molecules to clothing fibers helped remove moisture and odor from the body at a rapid rate. So First Lite teamed up with 37.5 by Cocona, now 37.5 Performance Enhancing Materials, to take their Merino products to the next level.

“While it’s a synthetic-based technology because it has active mineral fibers, those fibers work with the merino wool instead of against it,” said Gregg Farrell, First Lite’s white glue product line manager. “Merino does a very good job of regulating body temperature, but when you put something on top of it, you create a kind of layer around it. Where a synthetic technology might limit Merino’s ability to do its job, 37.5 accentuates it.”

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These pieces are made for layering. By stacking a few garments on top of each other, each one works to draw sweat from the layer below, channeling it to a point where evaporation is much easier. Or, if you find yourself in colder weather or on a less mobile hunt, they also work to insulate and retain your body heat by reflecting it back to you. Either way, the ultimate goal of 37.5 technology is to keep your body at 37.5% relative humidity and 37.5 degrees Celsius, the ideal level of external humidity and warmth for maximum outdoor comfort.

Lifeless comfort

A common complaint with mineral-enhanced hunting clothing is that the minerals eventually wear off or wash away. Other brands use external treatments to add enhancements to their products, but those treatments come with a clock. The 37.5 First Lite pieces work a little differently.

“Charcoal and charcoal in the linings of other jackets and pants would wash out over time, whereas this is spun at a molecular level into the fabric. You can’t wash it off,” said Logan Williamson, waterfowl product line manager for First Lite. “These carbon molecules are attached to the fibers of the fabric. So you never have to worry about diminishing returns over the life of the garment.”

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Logan noted that washing these pieces actually recharges their mineral molecules by breaking the bond between the molecules and sweat, oil, dirt, or odor. The molecular matrix can become clogged with the standard by-products of a good hunt, so washing the 37.5 gear is highly recommended to restore the garment to its original state.

According to Gregg, the most reliable way to wash Merino gear with 37.5 is in cold water and then hung to dry. Find an odorless detergent, too, not only because perfumes will send white tails running down the hills, but because even those perfumes will bind to mineral fibers and clog them up again. Instead, save the textile’s capacity for your own…uh…perfume.

something for everyone

Ultimately, First Lite’s 37.5 line of technology is designed to help all hunters in one way or another. Its thermoregulatory ability aids Western big game hunters as they clamor across the mountains and rack up sweat just before hitting a peak and a strong wind. Its odor removal capabilities keep Whitetail Nuts nearly untraceable in Midwestern woods and field edges and insulates them during a long day in the stall or saddle. And for waterfowl lovers facing a constant battle between external water repellency and internal breathability, the 37.5 technology could end up being the next big thing if wicked moisture can find channels to the outermost layer.

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Therefore, trust in the power of minerals. The next time you put on the Wick Hoodie, Catalyst Soft Shell Jacket and Pants, Brambler Leggings, or just about any other piece of First Lite stashed away in your garage, know that those tiny bits of lava rock woven into your clothing they are on your side.

“It goes back to the origin of First Lite,” said Gregg. “Scott and Kenton were great backcountry skiers, they both rode mountain bikes, they both rode road bikes, they both did all these western recreational activities and they wore Merino wool to do it. Then the hunting season came and they put on the synthetics and after a day they smelled so bad they couldn’t stand it. With the Merino base so good, 37.5 is the synthetic component that complements what Merino can do. It’s a match made in heaven.”