Merino wool makes for remarkably warm, quiet, and stink-free apparel. The brand First Lite uses it in hunting pants and jackets. We tested a kit from the brand during four weeks of Colorado elk hunting and were impressed.
I was about three miles and 3,000 vertical feet from the car when the rain started to pour down. My breath floated like a tiny cloud through dark timber. I pressed forward silently, eyes scanning for elk.
Quite frankly, the weather sucked. It was cold, wet, and windy. But my clothing—all made by the brand First Lite—did a great job keeping me comfortable.
First Lite sent me Obsidian Merino Pants, Chama Merino Quarter Zip, and Llano Merino Quarter Zip for testing. I used them hard for a month of Rocky Mountain elk and deer hunting.
In short: First Lite’s merino wool layering system, including pants and jackets, are comfortable and silent. They bring many benefits hunters will appreciate, including natural anti-stink properties. However, they come at a high price, and hunters who thrash through thorns or face other sharp obstacles may want to look for more protective fabrics.
Review: First Lite Obsidian Pants
The Obsidian Pants replace the brand’s popular Kanab pants. For hunters who stalk big game in moderate-to-cool temps, these are a great choice.
Made with a ripstop nylon/merino wool blend, the Obsidian pant is light and thin. It feels like the weight of a light khaki pant. Body-mapped stretch fabrics give the wearer great mobility.
I was surprised they didn’t feel particularly hot while climbing up mountain faces in the midday sun but were warm enough to sit still for a couple hours as temps fell into the high 40s during the evenings.
The pants certainly performed as expected from wool, keeping me warm even when saturated by rain and wet grass. That said, on cooler days and in rain, I added a pair of long underwear to keep warm. The fit for me was loose, so they allow plenty of room to add layers.
They come with suspenders, which are nice for those who don’t want to wear a belt. I used them and was somewhat ambivalent toward them after a month. I’d likely take them off in the future and just use a belt, as they seemed to make a slight noise when shifting around on stand.
The pants have large, plentiful pockets, including two hip pockets, four upper-thigh pockets, and two front-thigh pockets secured by quiet zippers. I found them just right to carry a walkie-talkie, rangefinder, cell phone, and a Buff, all within easy and quick access.
A nice touch, the pants roll up to a button closure to become calf-high shorts. I used them this way a few times when hot, and I appreciated it.
Overall, these are sweet pants, but they’re not for serious bushwhacking. I never had a problem with snags or tears in the high Rockies, but I was stalking quietly and cautiously most of the time through grass, pine trees, and aspen.
Bird hunters who thrash through heavy brush, or those who hunt through lots of briars or thorns, will want to look for a more robust fabric. I think these are plenty durable for most big game hunting, but the abuse of crashing through thickets might be too much.
Those who want to move like smoke through the forest, these are your pants.
Merino Hunting Shirts: Chama And Wilkin Quarter Zip Tops
I’ll go into less detail about these, but they’re simply nice, soft, quiet merino layers.
These two are pretty similar. The company uses what it calls Aerowool for the tops, and it’s nice stuff. It’s fine merino wool treated with 37.5 activated carbon. The carbon helps it dry faster and resist microbes, thus scent.
Both have a quarter zip, and the Wilkin (more of a base layer) has thumb holes. The zippers are brand-name YKK models and function quietly.
The Chama 230G Merino Quarter Zip sells for $120. The Wilkin Half Zip Aerowool top sells for $115. They’re fairly similar and make a nice layering combination for varied temps. While not cheap, they hit a very fair price point for merino wool, which is simply an expensive material to source.
First Lite Camo Patterns
First Lite also makes a few proprietary camo patterns. And while I’m only partially a believer in camouflage for big game hunting (I’ve watched plenty of animals walk by unaware of my presence while wearing full blaze orange), with a bow, I’ll take every advantage I can get.
I used the Cipher pattern, and it made me all but invisible in typical high mountain terrain. My buddy said he stared at the spot where I stood trying to pick me out. But, before I moved, he’d convinced himself that I was just a bunch of tree branches.
I had a few deer stare right at me without busting and go right back to feeding.
However, as with most things hunting, movement will still give your position away. An elk spotted me at 600 yards when I moved slowly while sitting in a blind to reach for a viewfinder. So camo definitely isn’t foolproof.
First Lite Hunting Apparel
Overall, I loved the First Lite apparel I had the chance to test this September. These clothes fit high alpine fall hunting very well, and could stretch into warmer or slightly cooler seasons and regions.
The brand makes several styles of clothing fit for colder weather, too. From my first uses, I’d guess its hunt-specific designs and quality materials will serve you well across lines, and you’ll look forward to seeing new models as they come out in the future.