Several key questions, is it warm enough? Too warm? Breathable? Is it windproof? Waterproof? Quiet?

Now if you think about it, many of those qualities are trade-offs. I used to stay warm by layering (which is what everyone says is best). Wisconsin late season runs to New Years and it can get well below zero before that. When it got really cold, I started with cotton long johns, insulated wind pants, turtle neck on top with a boiled wool mountain climbing sweater. I added ski bibs and a down jacket, then I finished with an insulated woodland camo jacket and woodland charcoal lined pants. Did I stay warm? Even with only the 1/4 mile walk to my stand, I was so bundled, I had to sweat. There were so many layers that I couldn't take them all off. There is a comfort curve moving from way too hot to shivering. I kept shuffling layers and by the time I was fully clothed, I could hardly draw my bow. Often just trying to draw I found I couldn't see my sights and my arrows would go off because of over dressing.


The reality is that the more layers, the more difficult to manage all your clothes. I wore the Predator bibs out in a damp 40 degree fog. I thought I would overhead because their generous Ultra 200 insulation was much more than I needed. I had almost a mile walk though a pretty dry swamp. Much of the grass was chest high. The bibs unzip up the sides of the legs so they are almost like shorts while you walk. Though I expected to be drenched in sweat given the high humidity, warm clothes and difficult walk, I never really overheated. If I would have had many layers, I couldn't have opened up so easily. I also found that warmth without weight significantly reduces overheating. The most important trade off, temperature control is solved by the Predator bib and parka system. Clearly better than camo over ski gear (or any other camo suit I've tried).


How About Quiet?

I compared the Predator Stealthtex lined with Comfortmax IB with the Cabela's Polarfleece lined with Gortex and found the Stealthtex much much quieter. The few Gortex lined garments I have owned all seemed to make crunchy sounds. In addition, I found the polarfleece much stiffer than the Stealthtex. Putting on the Cabela's Whitetail parka and zipping it up completely changes my anchor point enough to move arrows 5-6" to the left at 20 yards. I used to move my rest 15 clicks to the right to compensate every time I put on the Cabela's coat. These may seem like little things, but you can spend the $200 like I did to try the coat or take my word for it. (and they don't offer Fall Gray this year).



I've worn the Predator parka in some pretty stiff rain and stayed dry. The Comfortmax lining is very waterproof, but as I explain in the product copy, the stitching perforates the lining. I'm still looking for enough of a rain to get through it, but I can't say that it is completely waterproof, only that it has kept me dry and warm in the worst weather I could find. If there is a tradeoff between completely waterproof and this kind of water resistance, I'll take this and quiet (which matters even on sunny days). Comfortmax is also completely windproof, great in the treetops.

I've talked with Marc Barger (who designed Predator) about why he uses each material. He hasn't just come up with a pretty pattern, he watches all the details. This is the finest camo I've seen. We should note however that he is working on a new line of wool products in Fall Gray. They can be seen on some of the great pro staff of North American Outfitters.



This is probably the most difficult for me to assess since most of my camo is relatively new. I have learned a few things however. One is that almost all of the photo realistic style camo is printed on the fabric. Predator is vat dyed. This means that the cloth is immersed rather than surface colored. If you've seen hunters in what used to be realistic patterns you know how quickly high-detail can wear off.

The Stealthtex feels so soft, I didn't expect it to hold up very well. On my second trip I had to crawl under a barbed wire fence. I don't get as low as I used to... and I heard a sickening scrape. This was sharp new barbed wire and I was sure I'd ripped it to shreds. I took the parka off and it was still perfect. About a week later I needed to pin my license on the back. Its a big pin, but I expected it to poke right through like it did on all my other garments. I needed to twist it back and forth several times. Stealthtex is 100% polyester, whatever that means, it is extremely surprisingly tough.