When you think high performance hunting clothing there is a short list of companies that come to mind, Sitka being one of them. I have experimented with several brands and was presented with the opportunity to give the Fanatic Series a test this fall hunting whitetails here in Illinois. I have had my eye on their gear for a while and once I found out they had a series targeting stand hunting for deer I couldn’t resist. I’ve tried it all and can say that up to this point I’ve managed, but haven’t come across an article or set of clothing that really impressed me. That is until now. Most of my previous investments were simply targeted at keeping me warm during long montionless sits perched high above the forest floor. When hunting from an elevated stand you are completely exposed to all elements and to tell you there are several times I’ve simply been miserable. Even when I’ve managed to stay warm there just always seemed to be something that just wasn’t right about the fit or features. The team at Sitka really listened to whitetail hunters and absolutely nailed the fanatic series to meet the needs and conditions of hunting out of tree stand.
The outerwear material is a thick fleece with a soft brushed lining. The fit is “sporty” but by no means restrictive. One of the first things I noticed with the bibs was the shoulder straps had strips of a rubber material that prevented them from sliding down. Just one of the many small aspects of the detail put into this clothing that makes it truly built for the hunter. The base layers had a waffle type knit and fit snug, but not tight, as to easily allow for layering over them. Out of the box I couldn’t wait to get these into the field.
I specifically tested the Core Heavy Weight Bottom in Optifade Elevate along with the Fanatic Hoody in Optifade Elevate. I’m 6′ 175 lbs and the size large bottoms were a perfect fit. I went with the XL in the top and have no complaints in the fit either. I may have been able to get away with a large but certainly wasn’t impaired or unhappy with the XL. One thing to note is the use of Polygiene odor control technology in these garments. The technology behind Polygiene is to prevent the odor causing bacteria and fungi created when sweat meets fabric. If you’ve bow hunted whitetails then you know the importance of staying as scent free as possible. This is also a good quality to have during extended back country hunts if for nothing else so you don’t gag yourself each morning putting them on after day one of the hunt! Another benefit of these base layers is you can use them for your wintertime training as well. I ran in mine several times and they were certainly build for perfmance on many levels.
They have a very soft and comfortable waffle knit type lining and are very flexible and easily move with your body. The hoody really impressed me with some of the built in features that I didn’t even realize came with them. The sleeves have a thumbhole opening and a unique option of flipping a portion of the sleeve turning them into mittens. A very welcome option when attempting to keep your phalanges warm. The hood has a built in facemask to keep the biting wind at bay and also camoflauge your face for those close encounters. Lastly, it has a handwarmer pocket in the event you want to wear it as an outer layer in more mild temps but may have trouble keeping you hands warm.
The articles I wore were the Fanatic Jacket in Optifade Elevated and the Fanatic Bib in Optifade Elevated. The fleece material was silent and the size larges I wore fit perfectly. They allowed me to move and layer underneath without being bulky and unruly when attempting to be covert. The only thing I feel I should tell you about it that the fleece attacts any and all types of burrs. Not a show stopper by any means and certainly one of the traits of any fleece type material.
As I stated earlier, the rubber coating on the bibs shoulder straps was perfect for keeping them in place. I actually prefer to wear bibs when sitting in a stand to give my core and kidneys some extra insulation to keep warm blood flowing to my extremeties. They also keep the draft out in the event my shirt or jacket rides up in the back. The bibs had a full length side zipper so I could easily slip them on over my boots and under layers after reaching my destination. The pockets are located on the thighs so they can easily be accessed from a sitting position and the team at Sitka even when a step further and placed a more durable patch of material on the inside of the legs about calf high where you boots often rub when walking.
The jacket is another work of art as far as hunting clothing goes. The zipper is actually cross body which does two things in my opinion. First and foremost it allows for the extremely convenient hand warmer pocket. It seems no matter what I did I couldn’t keep my hands warm. I tried glow mitts but even with hand warmers on extreme days they still didn’t cut it. I got a muff to wear around my waste which did keep my hands warm but always seemed to be in the way. The built in handwarmer to the jacket is exactly what the warm hands doctor ordered. The second benefit of having the cross body zipper is it keeps the jacket from bunching up in the front where it would become an issue when shooting your bow. The other really great feature I want to point out is the two pockets in the chest area of the coat. They are perfect for my grunt call and rangefinder which other than my wind indicator powder are the two things I use when bowhunting whitetails. It just seems so simple to put them where Sitka did, I’m just mad I didn’t think of it first! One last treat is the opening in the back of the jacket to slip your fall protection lanyard through. How annoying is it to have it come out of your collar and either keep you from putting your hood up or pulling at your neck?
I used all four items during late season bowhunting and muzzleloader season in Illinois. Temps were in the teens on several days I was out and I can say I actually stayed toasty warm on all occasions. Not only warm but comfortable with the total fit and feel of the system. If you are going to be doing any moving around though I will warn that you’ll heat up pretty quick. The Primaloft and GORE Windstopper technology is apparently worth it’s weight in gold if you want to stay warm while on stand.
The Optifade Elevated was perfect for being up in tree. Never once was I detected and it has a nice mix of shades including some brighter colors to help match up with the skyline. As far as using it on the ground, it’s just as good in my opinion. I was sitting with my back to a tree during muzzleloader season and had a misfire with my muzzleloader. While the deer were alarmed with the sound and knew the direction it came from they never could pick me out and eventually went on with their business.
I’ve spent a lifetime of gathering gear to keep me warm and comfortable while offering the features to allow me to hunt effectively. While I found some great items none of it ever put all the pieces together. Sitka did their homework and invested in the right materials to come out with the Fanatic Series. Honestly, it blows everything thing else out of the water in my opinion. I can’t speak highly enough of this system for whitetail hunting or any situations where you’ll be stationary for long periods of time and need to stay warm. You can keep buying lackluster equipment but if you invest in Sitka I believe you will save yourself a lot of hassle and hard aches.
Disclaimer: I received the clothing in this review at no charge for an honest and unbiased review. I did my best to inform you of my thoughts and experiences. Bottom line, this stuff is amazing. I receive no additional compensation if you choose to purchase any Sitka products but you’d be silly not to.