By: Josh Shaffer
(Note: December 2015 update at bottom of page)
This summer I finally committed to purchasing quality early to mid season pant/jacket combo that fits the bill for September elk in the west as well as November whitetails in the east. After much deliberation and research, I landed squarely on the KUIU Chinook pants and jacket in the Verde Camo pattern.
I made my choice based on independent research, contacting KUIU directly, and browsing a few blog sites like thewilltohunt.com (thanks for the feedback Will). I was torn between the Guide Pants & Jacket and the Chinook Pants & Jacket combo, but I ended up deciding on the Chinook based on the following criteria:
1. No hood on Chinook Jacket: I rarely use a hood because of the limitations on peripheral vision (hoods drive me crazy). Even when I have a jacket with a hood, I will RARELY use it. The Chinook has NO hood and weighs in at a paltry 18.7 ounces.
2. Target season: My typical use for this gear combo would be Colorado in September and October/November in PA and Ohio. Temperature ranges from the 20s to the 70s can be comfortably handled with the Chinook series (the Guide series is made for slightly cooler or windier conditions). I verified the details between the two series via KUIU customer service and found them to be very helpful.
3. Features and flexibility: The Chinook Pants offer up flexible knee pads, hip zips for dumping heat, 2-way stretch fabric, and double zip cargo pockets on the legs that tip the scales at a mere 17.5 ounces.
So after returning from Colorado elk camp here is my assessment of the KUIU set so far:
The Chinook combo is a solid choice that perfectly meets my requirements. It's light enough to allow mobility in the high country for September elk season, but still robust enough for sits in a tree stand for eastern whitetails in the fall (currently in further field testing as we speak). For added warmth, a layer underneath consisting of KUIU merino wool (145 g/m2) and it's a combination that can't be beat.
One of the features that I did not expect to be so surprised by were the vent zips (pit zips on jacket and hip zips on pants) on the two pieces. Every morning while climbing mountains, I'd start heating up and then I'd remember I had vent zips! Upon opening these, the heat would pour out and provide instant temperature regulation! Its also safe to say that the Chinook pants/jacket breath really well while still providing adequate warmth. This allows you to regulate body temperatures very well and avoid sweating as I've experienced in the past.
Furthermore, the set is treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellant) that holds up to anything less than a down pour. I found that my set held up nicely and only once during my trip did I end up soaking through and that was mainly because I over-exposed myself on the mountain while chasing a bugling bull. I will admit that it would have been nice that morning during the hard rains to have a hood to keep my neck dry, however I will still take my Chinook (personal preference) as I really don't care for a hood 95% of my time afield.
Another feature worth a mention is the knee pads that are built into the pants. At first I was skeptical of this feature, but I found them to pretty handy at times. Many times throughout the day, I'd hunker down and take a knee to dig through my day pack and although not essential the knee pads are a nice addition. Furthermore, you don't even notice them while walking through the timber. Speaking of walking, the 2-way stretch fabric that these pants are constructed out of really gives you a lot of mobility. The ability for the fabric to flex and stretch when going over and under downed timber proved to be very good and considerably better than any pants I've ever had in the past. It helped on conserving energy as I wasn't fighting bunched up pants while covering deep and nasty elk haunts.
Admittedly I hit the ground running on the first day at camp in a futile effort to search for elk. This trip ended up taking me and a hunting partner into a dead end of elk timber and through a large rocky talus slope. While traipsing across this boulder field I managed to get a small tear in the right pant leg (Yes: time to insert sad face). Unfortunately the KUIU gear does not come with a warranty for mistakes like this one, but the tear was easy to patch with a sewing kit back at basecamp: No big deal.
The above information is probably evidence enough, but I've turned into a fan of the KUIU line. I'll continue to be a future customer as long as the company continues to push the limits of design and affordability. As an aside, I'm convinced that the Chinook set paired up with the KUIU 145 Merino base layers is a combo that is hard to beat. I'm working on a separate blog post about the Merino base layers as I have some interestingly good things to say about them. If you are in the market for quality gear at a reasonable price you should check this set out. Remember this gear is NOT sold at retail locations so you have to order by phone or on-line. You can call them directly at 1-855-367-5848 or check them out at KUIU.com.
December 2015 Update: Just a quick update on this post. I used the Chinook set during all of the archery season in PA and OH in October and November. I was comfortable most of the time while in the tree stand. There were a few days that were windy that I was wishing the wind shearing in the set would have been better, but a proper under layer alleviated the issue. I also hunted the PA rifle season in the set (the season was mild) and experienced good results. So all that being said, my only note on the set is that for cold windy mornings, the set is a bit on the light side however I faired well in all kinds of weather over the last 4 months.
Disclosure Statement: This is an independent gear review and contains my own assessment. This is not a sponsored post by KUIU: I'm just a new fan of their gear. Kudos!