GRAY’S BEST 2020

APPAREL

BY RUSS LUMPKIN

FILSON THREE LAYER FIELD JACKET

Often, I have an idea before I test a garment whether or not it’s going to win Gray’s Best. Originally, I didn’t think this coat would be tough enough. But after only a few wearings in the field, I learned to feel almost bombproof in Filson’s 3-Layer Field Jacket ($395). The outer shell is a heavy nylon that has shed everything it’s come in contact with, including briars. The membrane is crafted of Rain Cloth, a waterproof fabric that is proprietary to Filson. Rain Cloth is also breathable, which helps maintain comfort in either cold or warm weather. The backing is a brushed tricot, so the jacket just slides on and take off. For the field, the garment includes shotshell rings in the lower pockets and even a game pouch that’s roomier than it appears. In fact, all the pockets are nice and roomy, and the pouches on the front are big enough for fly boxes. That’s right. Even though the name of the garment includes “field,” it’s perfect on the water. It’s a little longer than typical wading jackets, but the pockets include drain holes and the shoulders are roomy enough for fly casting. You’ll appreciate the jacket most, however, when the wind and rain are assaulting your progress. At such times, if you’re wearing the jacket, you’ll be practically impervious. On top of all that, it’s a goodlooking coat for anytime you need protection from the elements. www.filson.com


L.L. BEAN RIDGE RUNNER RUBBER BOOTS

Last December during deer camp, a heavy rain turned a dusty landscape into a slippery quagmire. One of our guests had arrived with only lightweight hiking boots. I let him borrow my L.L.Bean Ridge Runner rubber boots ($150). When I handed them to him, I told him, “They’re really comfortable.” Later that day, when we all gathered for the evening, I asked his opinion. “You are right; they’re really comfy, like a running shoe.”

Plenty of rubber boots can keep your feet dry, but few can cushion your feet and provide ample arch support the way the Ridge Runners do. The innersole is cushioned and sits on a bed of Aerofoam, which helps soften your steps. In addition to comfort, these boots are constructed for the circumstances of hunting. That same Aerofoam also creates a pocket of air between your feet and the cold ground. A neoprene lining augmented with PrimaLoft helps keeps your feet warm in winter and an anti-odor treatment helps you remain undetected. The top of the boots are secure but will allow some heat to escape, which prevents moisture from building up around the toes. So whether you’re tracking the deer of a lifetime through swampy terrain or sitting on a frigid morning waiting for it, these boots will help keep you comfortable. www.llbean.com


AVEDON AND COLBY ALL-TERRAIN FIELD PANT

In terms of protection from stickers and plants that grab hold, the All-Terrain Field Pant ($199) from Avedon & Colby falls where many other brush pants fall: somewhere between khakis and tincloth chaps. Generally, such pants provide mid-level protection and tend to retain heat. This offering from Avedon & Colby separates itself from the competition by offering good looks, breathability, and incredible comfort. The business side of the pants is constructed of a 10-ounce canvas that is wound so tightly that it’s water resistant. Its tolerances, however, are not so narrow that it holds perspiration. In Big Sky Country, high up in Hun habitat, on a warm late summer day, wind is a welcome visitor through the All-Terrain Pant. The back side is a 7-ounce canvas that makes this a lightweight garment that won’t weigh you down as the steps increase and the altitude rises and falls. Check the Avedon & Colby website for all the features of these pants—corrosion-resistant zippers, pockets and pockets within pockets, articulated knees, and so on—but better yet, try on a pair. Function, comfort, and style are sewn into every seam. In short, the All-Terrain Pant keeps you comfortable front to back, head to toe— and moving forward. www.avedoncolby.com


SITKA GEAR DELTA ZIP WADER

When I put on the Delta Zip Wader ($949) for the first time, three things stood out: the comfort of the boot, the no-frills front face, and the sturdy kneepad. Unlike any other pair of boot-foot waders I’d worn, these boots, made by LaCrosse of insulating AeroForm, are snug on my feet instead of being way too wide in the insole and much too tall in the toe box. The good fit is enhanced by the width of the sole and gives the impression of being buttressed, similar to a spreading cypress trunk—a design that yields a good sense of security when wading through muck. The front has generous hand-warming pockets, but other than that, only two slim pockets. At first, it seemed odd—most waders of any kind have pouches for holding bulky items and pockets hidden on the inside. On really cold days, however, all the usual add-ons are buried by a parka—it’s addition by subtraction. The kneepad protects your lower legs from underwater snags and protrusions, and when busting through ice. The pad also protects the wader itself, which has a tough shell fronting three inner layers: the backing, Gore-Tex, and a polymer that helps prevent pinholes. The entire construction is built for durability, but if the waders sustain damage, these are 100 percent serviceable—meaning you can return them to Sitka for repairs at a reasonable price. The front zipper is also a great feature—especially on frigid mornings after an extra cup of coffee. www.sitkagear.com