It’s been said that North America’s worst storms are born off the Pacific Coast of Alaska. Mornings that begin calm and clear can quickly turn ugly. Comfort—even survival—often depends on dressing properly for drastically changing conditions. So, as I thumbed through the worn pages of my Cabela’s catalog prior to my Kodiak adventure, I kept an eye toward the versatile—clothing that would keep me warm and dry, while taking up as little room as possible in my frugal daypack.
Extremities: Comfort begins with warm, dry feet. Here, a thermal blend of wool and polypropylene provides superior moisture wicking, cushioning and warmth. When hunting in extremely cold conditions, I double up by adding thinner liner socks, again a blend of wool and polypropylene. Your boot selection should match the terrain you’re hunting as well as weather conditions. On Kodiak I opted for waterproof, lightly insulated boots with aggressive soles designed for climbing.
Body temperature is quickly lost if your head and hands aren’t protected from the elements. I pack two or three pairs of gloves in various designs and weights. I like a bill cap to keep the sun and rain off my face, but I also carry a wool hat and facemask for when it turns cold.
Undergarments: Maintaining core body warmth and dryness begins with high-quality underwear. The key is finding a blend of materials and weight that match your level of activity. If you plan to do a lot of stop-and-go hunting, I recommend a medium-weight garment that will provide warmth and wicking without overheating you.
Intermediate Layer: I’m a big fan of wool clothing and usually incorporate it as my intermediate or outer layer, depending on weather conditions. Because it absorbs moisture, wool clothing provides superior comfort in both hot and cold weather.
In cold weather, even a little moisture on the skin quickly reduces body temperature. Wool absorbs this moisture, leaving a dry layer of air next the skin, which helps hold in body heat. The absorption/evaporation process works in hot weather to help keep the body cooler. Evaporation of perspiration is the body’s natural cooling device. Wool helps this process along. Its thirsty cells absorb body vapors and help reduce skin temperature. Also, much of the outdoor heat is blocked out because of wool’s insulating barrier of air pockets. This means the body is kept at an even temperature.
First Defense: Cabela’s Exclusive Dry-Plus outerwear was my No. 1 choice for its rain- and wind-stopping capability, and lightweight and whisper-quiet design. It provided a barrier against the worst Kodiak could dish out, and on those rare occasions when the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature climbed, it was easily stashed in my backpack.