Hunting apparel has come a long way in the 16 years since I started bowhunting. I can still remember heading out into the freezing cold northern Illinois winter for some late season hunts with my dad wearing his hand-me-down Trebark apparel that was little more than a cotton pair of pants and zip-up jacket. Underneath was my standard-issue cotton long johns, some wool socks, and my Sorel boots with removable wool/felt liner. A pair of brown jersey gloves tucked into my pockets did little more than prevent me from getting frostbite and to be honest, I have no idea how I ever sat still in those miserable conditions!
Now more than two decades later we have more hunting apparel to choose from than most of us can sort through in our buying decisions. One of the most popular lines of hunting-specific apparel over the past several years has been ScentBlocker from Robinson Outdoors. I'll admit that I first took notice of the Scent Blocker clothing when I saw them on the Drury Outdoors DVDs and subsequent TV show. Since then, Scent Blocker has been worn by many hunting "celebrities" including the immensely popular Michael Waddell of Realtree Roadtrips fame. With his new show "Bone Collector" coming out this season, Robinson Outdoors has released a full line of Bone Collector ScentBlocker apparel. This gear was designed with the input of Waddell as well as his two co-hosts, Nick Mundt (who my wife think is "hot" by the way) and Travis "T-Bone" Turner. These guys hunt hard and designed this apparel to meet their needs, which can be easily seen in the way this apparel is put together.
The first item that caught my eye at this year's ATA show is the "Freak Nasty" jacket and pants. Both garments feature ScentBlocker's SPF 50 activated carbon technology to trap scent combined with their S3 antimicrobial technology to prevent scent before it starts. These garments are lightweight and perfect for early and mid season hunts before the temperatures start to drop. However, you won't have to put them away come November. The Freak Nasty Jacket accepts a zip-in fleece vest for additional warmth when needed. The vest does not have activated carbon, but does have WindBlocker protection.
One great feature of these garments that I really liked was the Silent Wrist Ratchet cuffs. Instead of a noisey velcro closure, this rubber cuff is silent and allows for adjustment of the wrist cuff. The jacket also features a slit in the back for your safety harness tether, which will save me from having to do it myself. If you like a lot of pockets, you'll certainly like this jacket! It has 6 zippered pockets on the front of the jacket and 2 on the rear for plenty of storage for your license, calls, gloves, cell phones, gameboys, pop-tarts, or whatever else you like to take into the stand with you. The last feature I'll mention on this jacket is an adjustable/removable arm guard that can be used by both right or left handed shooters.
The new Freak Nasty jacket from Robinson Outdoors. A garment that not only looks good, but is functional as well!
The Freak Nasty vest can be zippered into the jacket for added warmth on those cool fall days.
The Freak Nasty pants have 2 front slash pockets, 2 zipped leg pockets, and 2 zippered rear pockets in case you couldn't fit everything in your jacket. They also have 20" leg zippers which I really like, and will help in getting your boots on and off. Both garments are available in sizes M-2XL in Realtree AP camo.
The Freak Nasty pants - a perfect pair with the jacket and vest.
Also available in the Bone Collector line is the Brotherhood collection of fleece apparel. This jacket, pants, and fleece head cover all feature SPF 50 activated carbon and S3 antimicrobial technology. The Brotherhood jacket is a little more on the simple side compared to the Freak Nasty jacket with only two front zippered pockets and a safety harness slit in the back. The pants are much the same with two front slash pockets, 2 side and 2 rear pockets with button closures. Unfortunately the pants do not have leg zippers.
The Brotherhood jacket is quiet and warm, I just wished the hood was removable. Personally, I'm not a fan of hoods on my hunting gear. I much prefer a stocking cap to keep my head/ears warm and find that a hood just seems to get in the way.
The Brotherhood fleece pants. I think they'd be better with leg zippers!!
The fleece all-season head cover can be worn three ways including as a neck gaiter, 1/2 mask, or full head cover. It is treated with DWR (durable water repellent) so it withstands some moisture, but not a complete downpour. It also has a rear adjustment point for a snug fit and hooded ear openings so you can hear approaching animals. I have that feature on a few of my other head covers and while it's a good idea, I've never felt that it works as well as I hoped it would. This head cover is available in both Realtree AP and Mossy Oak Treestand camo patterns.
If you're looking for a more traditional garment, the Bone Collector Tactical gear might be what your'e after. These garments are made of a breathable cotton with S3 antimicrobial technology. The 7-button shirt has mesh side panels to keep you cool during warm temperatures or long walks to your stand, articulated elbows for ease of movement. Pockets in the chest and arms are designed for easy access and again give you plenty of space to keep your gear close at hand. The coolest feature of the Tactical shirt is the elastic loops on the right sleeve that can be used to hold a grunt call, wind checker, or anything else you may need close at hand in the field. For me, that might be my Blackberry so I can play Scrabble when deer movement is slow!
The S3 Tactical pants have 11, yes ELEVEN, pockets on them. From looking at the diagrams in the ScentBlocker catalog I can only find 9 of them which are 2 slash pockets on the front, 2 pockets on each leg above the knee, one pocket on the right leg below the knee, and two on the rear of the packets. I'm not quite sure where they squeezed the other two in, but I'm sure they're there. These pants also have an articulated knee and reinforced seat (aka "butt") and knees for added durability.
There is also an S3 longsleeve shirt that's a very basic shirt in Realtree AP with mesh accents for breathability.
But where are the base layers, you ask? Right here, friends! The Black Widow line consists of an XLT shirt, XLT pant, knit cap, and wool liner glove. All garments are completely black and according to the catalog are "perfect for hunting in ground blinds". Only the shirt and pants feature activated carbon, SPF 40 to be exact. The knit cap and gloves only feature S3 antimicrobial technology. The jacket also features a 1/4 zip front with BodyLock collar and wrist cuffs. The pants also feature BodyLock technology with a single rear pocket in case you feel the need to keep something in your underwear.
Last but not least we have the S3 Bamboo shirt and pants. Both garments feature 4 Direction Stretch, which is actually really nice. I have a set of the current S3 base layers with the stretch fabric and it not only fits great, but feels great too. The Bamboo garments are designed to wick moisture away from your skin and have mesh stretch panels to allow air to escape. The best part, in my opinion, about this base layer is that it's available in camo as well as black. I know last year on some warm afternoons I wanted to walk to my stand in just my S3 shirt, but didn't want to look like a black bear prowling the Illinois countryside. The shirt, as well as the pants, are both available in Realtree AP with black accents, as well as black with camo accents depending on your preference. While I can see the need for the shirt in camo, I'm not sure many people are wearing their man-tights around without anything over them so the camo bottoms probably aren't quite as necessary.
One additional thing I do like about these base layers is that they have a thumb hole sewn in the sleeves. At first glance I wondered exactly what it was for - after all, the hunting industry isn't exactly full of guyliner-wearing kids in skinny jeans and shirts with thumbholes in them. However, the nice lady at the ScentBlocker booth informed me that the thumb holes are used to prevent the sleeves from riding up your arms when pulling additional garments on over them. Once you're all layered up, you can then remove your thumbs so your hunting buddies don't make fun of you. Ingenius, I say!
The S3 Bamboo shirt in Realtree AP camo, the perfect shirt for hiking into your stand on for an afternoon hunt.
Camo underwear, for those of you who don't feel like wearing pants at home, or in the field!
All in all, I think the Bone Collector line of ScentBlocker gear looks like some really nice stuff. I will most definitely be hunting out of the Freak Nasty jacket and pants during the early season, and will most likely own a set of Bamboo base layers as well.