For when you absolutely, positively don’t want to get wet.
In a perfect world, all of our hunting would take place under optimal weather conditions; temperature in the mid 70s, little to no wind, and most of all…dry skies. Well, welcome to real world, where many of the animals we wish to pursue have the perverse tendency to make themselves available to us under the most adverse circumstances. But, while we can’t control the weather, we can control how much it affects us.
Enter Helly Hansen of Norway. HH’s name may be unfamiliar to many of us in the shooting sports, as their primary market focuses are elsewhere (skiing, hiking/camping, and sailing). Within these circles, however their products are widely regarded as the finest protection against extreme elements. (I imagine any company in Norway might know a little about extreme elements, too.)
HH offers a dizzying array of products for a wide variety of protection needs. (I encourage you to browse their web site for a better look at their offerings.) For this article, I focused on a couple products that appeared ideal for hunting in wet (but not particularly cold) weather, as this is what I most often encounter here in the Central California area.
Ekolab North Marker Jacket
The North Marker jacket, from HH’s Ekolab collection, is a slightly oversized jacket with an equally generous hood. It has zippered chest pockets, plus a smaller pocket on the left sleeve that is about the perfect size to hold hunting documents. Inside it has a couple of web nylon pockets, and also features an inner elastic waistband about 6″ above the lower hem of the jacket. The idea here seems to be seal off the wearer’s torso from any upward-slung moisture, while allowing the hem of the jacket to remain loose, and therefore fit over one’s pants. Nice touch.
The North Marker is built of a proprietary laminate fabric that is both highly waterproof and breathable. The seams are double-stitched and then seem to be fused together for a truly watertight junction. Cuffs have an internal flap that deters rain. Pockets are protected by a molded rubber sleeve. The main zipper features a storm flap that is held in place by velcro. One gets the impression that HH treats the subject of waterproofing rather seriously.
The Flare pants are an excellent companion to the North Marker jacket. Made of the same waterproof yet breathable fabric, the pants are light, easily moved in, and comfortable. They also do a marvelous job of keeping moisture out.
The flare pants are very well constructed, and have several thoughtful features. There are two front pockets protected by flap zippers. The seat and knee area of the pants are mesh-insulated. The legs have zipped vents for additional ventilation when needed. The cuffs feature inner gaiters with boot hooks to prevent the elements from sneaking in. Obviously a lot of thought went into these pants.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to take my HH gear hunting, but it did get a fairly stern test during a recent soccer match I was coaching. I was outdoors in a steady rain for a solid two hours, and my HH gear kept me completely dry. Upon returning home, I inspected the inside of the gear and found absolutely zero evidence of even partial moisture penetration. I have no doubt that it would have protected me all day if necessary.
The products reviewed are lightweight, soft and (most importantly for us hunters) quiet. You won’t spook an elk 100 yards away by rubbing fabric while shouldering your rifle. Moreover, as this gear is designed for use while in a variety of positions, you can expect it to perform while you’re standing, walking, crawling or engaging in any other hunting activity.
HH believes in layering, so don’t expect these products to protect you from sub-zero temperatures as-is. For additional protection against cold, you would add something from their baselayer and/or thermal products. I didn’t get a chance to review these, but I have no doubt they perform as advertised.
HH is truly the gold standard for waterproof clothing. They make a wide variety of products for different applications, and I expect to see more hunters using them in the near future. I know I will be.