I don't think there's a more daunting gear list than trying to prepare a reliable mid-season system. Hunting in late October to mid November here in Montana brings wild temperature fluctuations and weather patterns that come and go in nanoseconds. During these storm fronts and heat waves, deer and elk behavior will also change, so you have to be ready to cover ground, or spend some serious time behind glass. The only way to be prepared is with a layer system you can trust.
A high functioning system starts with the pieces directly next to your skin. These are the pieces that you're relying on to regulate your temperature and wick away moisture. I don't think there are better base layers in the world than what Duckworth offers.
- Duckworth Vapor Brief - I wish they made this in their Comet fabric, just to add a little extra warmth. But all-in-all I just don't go into the mountains without these on.
- Duckworth Polaris Henley - Probably my favorite shirt ever made. Beyond having an insane warmth to weight ratio, I don't think there's a shirt on the market that does a better job of regulating body heat.
- Duckworth Comet Legging - If I know it's going to be above 30F, I would probably swap these out with the Vapor Leggings, but these just add extra warmth while still doing a great job at wicking moisture if it warms up and they're unbeatable in cold weather.
To be completely honest I struggle with mid-layers. I run hot and sit cold, so these usually end up staying in my pack unless it really gets cold or I'm going to spend some time behind glass.
- Duckworth Comet LS Crew - This shirt kind of fluctuates between a base layer and mid layer depending on the weather, but the Polaris is so light I don't mind packing in both.
- Duckworth Woolcloud Jacket - Warm as down, not quite as packable, but I'm not screwed if this gets wet. This jacket always comes with me on every hunt.
These are the pieces I'm relying on to block weather, namely the wind. Wool is a great insulator but it doesn't do diddly to stop wind.
- Sitka Mountain Jacket - The Windstopper® and lack of hood are my favorite aspects of this jacket. I can control my temperature with my other layers, and block the weather with this jacket.
- Sitka Timberline Pant - My go to pants. The DWR finish on the knees and seat are great on frosty mornings and once we have snow. The only other pants I'll wear are the Mackinaw Pant, but I'll know if I need those before I start packing.
- Sitka Vapor Shake Dry Jacket - This is really a "just in case" item. It's so light and packable I don't mind bringing it and dang glad to have it if there's a wet snow storm.
If I'm carrying my camp on my back, then I'm going to make a call on what kind of temperatures I'll be facing and taking one or the other. But if I'm car camping or taking horses in, I'm definitely bringing both just to be safe.
- Schnee's Timberline - My feet run hot so I run uninsulated boots until it gets really cold, really anything below 20F is when I just switch to Pac Boots.
- Schnee's 13" Hunter II - The best boots for hunting in cold conditions in my opinion. I go with the 13" so I can tuck my pants in easily, or wear my wool pants over the boots. I always bring an extra set of liners to have a warm pair each day.
These pieces can add weight quickly if you're living out of your backpack, so I usually assess the weather and leave some of them at base camp if I can afford to. But if a storm rolls in then I'm always glad I have them.
- Sitka Stormfront Gaiter - If I'm wearing my Timberlines I always run these. It's not uncommon at all to be hiking through deep snow on a sunny 40F day so in my opinion they're a must for staying dry and comfortable. Plus they're relatively light and semi-packable so it's not a huge task to bring them just in case.
- Duckworth Knit Rigger Hat - Just a great hat. It stretches enough to wear over a cap without feeling too tight, it's insanely warm, and super soft for a wool beanie.
- Sitka Blizzard GTX Mitten - I'm a mittens over gloves guy. I usually only wear them glassing and don't mind taking them off if I need to use my hands.
- Duckworth Comet Neck Gaiter - I just love this fabric, and if it's cold I usually have one on all day in case the wind picks up.
- Schnee's Medium Trekking Socks - This is my favorite sock that we make. I don't typically like wearing OTC socks unless i'm wearing a 3/4 legging. I always bring 2 pairs so I can make sure I have a warm, dry pair the next day.
And there you have it. Sounds like a lot, but considering you'll be wearing most of it and/or leaving some stuff behind in camp, it's a pretty feasible system that can cover a massive range of temperatures and weather conditions. In short, my mid-season system is really nothing but a blend of what I use strictly for early and late season hunting. You just have to find that happy middle ground with versatile gear that can perform in a number of settings.