A lot of great hunting companies hail from Salt Lake City and now there’s a great clothing company called Core4Element. I happen to know the guys, and after weeks of persistent badgering and begging, I got my hands on some top-secret prototype pants and shirts. It was just about the time last September when all the deer on my mountain thought I had no more secret weapons. How wrong they were, for I had one final trick up my sleeve. Actually, part of the trick was my sleeve. . .
Assault Base Layer
For warm days or even cooler days when you’re moving around a lot, the Assault Base Layer shirt, $89.99 MSRP, is a really versatile midweight pullover. Mine fits well, and the seams on the shoulders aren’t located right under the straps of my pack like other I’ve used. What’s more, my pack didn’t rub the material against my back into a million little lint balls. There’s a handy, low-profile pocket on the bicep of the left arm, and a zipper that goes halfway down your chest so you won’t get face paint all over the inside as you’re pulling it on and off. Don’t act like you haven’t done that. Camo patterns offered: Mountain Mimicry Camo, Realtree Max 1 (coming soon), Realtree AP.
The Switchback pant, at $149.99 MSRP, would be expensive for a lightweight pair of britches if they were of lesser quality. I’ve noticed other top brands with heftier price tags on comparable garments and the Switchbacks hit the sweetspot when I ran them through my scientific cost/value algorithm. Camo patterns offered: Mountain Mimicry Camo, Realtree Max 1 (coming soon), Realtree AP (coming soon).
When it comes to pants, a lot of hunters don’t realize the importance of proper length for staying comfortable, which is why the Switchbacks are made a little long. Trust me about this — if you take the extra time and/or cost to hem your pants to the right length, you’ll be way better off. Rolling each leg up a few times might seem like a simple solution, but it can lead to misery . . . Some pants have zippers on the bottom that make them easy to remove without taking off your boots — a feature I consider more important on heavy pants, but a liability for lightweight pants. Why? If they’re too long and you need to hem them, suddenly the zippers on the bottom have become a deal-breaker.
Sometimes however it makes sense to roll your pants way up, like when it’s really hot or when you have to cross a river. The Switchbacks can be easily transformed into shorts by securing the excess material with a simple button closure. You can even put some Urkel into your next mule deer stalk by hooking up suspenders to the loops provided (although the Switchbacks don’t actually come with suspenders, as do the heavier, flagship Element pants). I like suspenders, just not with a belt, for obvious fashion reasons . . . For the teenagers out there that’s a straight-across face, bordering on frowny face, as opposed to a blinking smiley face I might text if the Switchbacks did come with suspenders.
Perhaps the coolest feature of the Switchback are the removable, ergonomic knee pads that sit neatly in their own little zippered slots. They’re so light you’ll forget all about them until you kneel down in the sharp rocks while on a stalk that’s immediately blown when your buddy who doesn’t have the knee pads screams out in pain. That’s when you’ll notice them.
If we consider the knee pads to be a “tech” feature, that means I can have another favorite feature in a design category I’ll invent now, called “traditional.” A traditional element of clothing design is something that the product must have; a common fundamental concept that all new designs attempt to change, usually by adding something, like a bell to a bicycle, or knee pads to pants. Bikes don’t require bells, but they must have wheels (exactly two). Pants must fit properly, which perhaps the most fundamental aspect, and has nothing to do with the cost of the garment or quality of the materials. Which is why I’m surprised by ill-fitting hunting clothes that I’ve paid a lot of money for. How could so much money and time be devoted to clothing technology, with so little attention paid to the way these clothes fit? Did they seriously think I would never BEND DOWN while hunting? Or raise my arms above my head? To be fair, I understand that the clothing industry is a tough racket; You have to build a lot of product in different sizes, each season making an educated gamble on the quantities you might sell in each size. It’s impossible to satisfy every body type on the planet. I just want all the companies out there to offer a “Mike O’Reilly” size.
In addition to the lightweight Switchback pants, Core4Element also offers heavier pants, a heavier jacket, a beanie and a really cool belt. And I shouldn’t fail to mention their extensive line of Merino wool thermal layer garments. Even though I haven’t tried them, I do own some ASAT camo shirts made from this unique material and I’ve been very impressed. If the they’re built like the Core4Element stuff I already have — and I’m sure they are — you won’t regret picking up the tops and bottoms. The Merino stuff is offered only in black, but I’m fine with that. I never understood camo long underwear, anyway. If fact the one time I did fling an arrow at a deer while wearing only my underwear, those skivvies happened to be jet black, and I wasn’t in a pop-up blind or in a tree . . . tell you about it later.