Camouflage has come a long way over the years. New brands seemingly appear every day, offering the latest and greatest technology and patterns available. While some newer brands on the list have proven their place in today’s hunting world, some of the best camo brand icons still have lasted the test of time and still provide some of the best camouflage you can get.
Camouflage is one of the essential pieces of gear you need to be a successful hunter, and with so many brands out there, deciding which route to take can feel overwhelming. Here are some of our favorite camouflages based on the pattern and the useful features that the gear provides.
Mossy Oak Obsession has become an iconic pattern in the Spring turkey woods. It is undoubtedly one the most versatile patterns for brightly colored surroundings, like you would see chasing thunder chickens in the spring and going after whitetails in the early part of the season. Obsession is so popular and effective that the National Wild Turkey Federation adopted it as their official camouflage.
If we were only talking about camouflage patterns, it would be hard to find many things wrong with Mossy Oak. But they license their patterns to other apparel companies, so they aren’t the ones in control of what’s made, and how it’s created. That means there’s usually a bit less technical pieces, at least until another brand comes along and applies the Mossy Oak patterns to their gear. It’s a slightly different way to go about it, but it still means you’re going to see Mossy Oak in every corner of the hunting community.
Realtree is another brand that has been around for several decades and is possibly one of the most-worn camouflages. They’ve designed their camo to mimic the woods hunters will be in and made it even more accurate with their Xtra pattern. This camo has become so successful that you can find the licensing on most hunting products today, from bows to guns to cases. You’ll be hard-pressed to walk into an outdoor store without seeing Realtree at every angle. As iconic and tried-and-true as their patterns are, the old-school model around the brand has kept them from expanding their gear technology and adding more technical features. The design is excellent, but I want my gear to perform at the highest level when I’m in the whitetail and turkey woods.
KUIU was founded in 2011 by the late Jason Hairston. Since then, it has become a staple for technical hunting apparel for the western mountain hunter, while more recently adopting more whitetail-influenced designs. KUIU is perhaps the most “gear” oriented camo brand today, with technology such as Quix Down, Primeflex, Dermizax, and more. KUIU has proven to give hunters every tool to get through their adventure, integrated into their apparel. Like some other brands, KUIU is currently operating on a direct-to-consumer model, so you’ll have to check them out on their website. It involves high prices, but you’re getting high quality.
I have been fortunate enough to go on several backcountry hunts while wearing KUIU products, and it’s clear that they hold themselves to a high standard of quality. From stalking through rough grounds chasing mule deer to Montana’s thick pines trying to ambush a bull elk, these products will hold up to almost anything. I’m excited to see the future of KUIU, and I hope I can experience some of their newer products with a more eastern hunter in mind.
SITKA Gear is perhaps the biggest name in western hunting apparel and is making considerable strides in whitetail hunting and waterfowl. One of the most extraordinary things about SITKA was its acquisition by Gore, the maker of GORE-TEX, in 2009. A partnership like that meant the gear would be taken to a whole new level of technical features, breathable, and warm fabrics, innovations to combat harsh elements such as Infinium Windstopper, and of course, the impressively waterproof GORE-TEX, which is featured in multiple SITKA systems.
While their gear is top-notch, consumers often complain about the lack of affordability, making much of the apparel out of reach for many hunters. This has been a formidable barrier to entry for the brand. With the technology and innovation they bring to the table and the research and development they practice year-round. It’s easy to see why their products come with a heftier price tag.
First Lite has made a name for itself in the past few years, known for its incredible merino wool products, unique pursuit patterns, and the acquisition of Steven Rinella’s MeatEater. Located and founded in Central Idaho, First Lite initially set out to design functional and technical gear for big game hunting. Over the years, the company has expanded into different pursuits such as whitetail, and even their brand new waterfowl camo, Typha. First Lite is also a direct-to-consumer business model, focusing solely on online sales and their flagship store in Hailey, Idaho. First Lite boasts an impressive pro staff list of people such as Mark Kenyon, Clay Newcomb, Levi Morgan, and more.
First Lite makes some incredible hunting products, and it’s clear that they have one of the best marketing teams behind them to promote them. However, their product list isn’t quite as deep as most brands on the market. The brand hasn’t put a heavy emphasis on packs, which is a crucial product for the type of hunters they market to, I’d argue their whitetail line is relatively thin for hunters in a colder climate, and they are just now expanding into the waterfowl space. I believe First Lite will continue to be successful for a very long time. However, I think it would be advantageous for them to spend more time and resources on expanding their gear list. Nowadays, it’s not as much about camo patterns as it is about incorporating clothing into practical gear.
The camo you decide to use will ultimately come down to personal preference and what feels the most comfortable and provides your history of success. This is one of the reasons there are so many loyalists with each brand. While each brand has advantages and disadvantages, most provide quality products with gear-oriented hunters in mind. I have found that researching a company’s mission statement and aligning that with your own is one of the best ways to determine which camo might be the right pick for you. Mossy Oak, Realtree, KUIU, SITKA, and First Lite all set out to change how we utilize camouflage to stay better hidden and become more successful hunters.
This article was originally published on June 15, 2017.