March 06, 2019
By Jace Bauserman
From the snow-capped Rockies to the hardwoods of the Midwest, one doesn’t have to look hard to find bowhunters wearing Sitka apparel. Sitka Nation has never been stronger, and thanks to the manufacturer’s dedication to providing products constructed with advanced fabrics that boost comfort and in-the-field functionality, new members join daily.
I’m a Sitka fan. I’ve used the company’s attire and packs in a variety of terrains and for a variety of purposes. The gear is functional and durable, and it melts into the various backdrops it was designed to disappear in.
My favorite option for treestand hunting is Sitka’s Whitetail Series in the Elevated II camo pattern. This pattern has been fine-tuned by Sitka designers to better handle the changing seasons by incorporating both macro and micro patterns that reduce the amount of foliage and increase the amount of sky, allowing Elevated II to be worn in the treetops from season opener to close.
Sitka’s Whitetail line has a number of garments engineered to function in warm, cool and cold conditions. Plus, the gear works as a system that makes layering simple and effective, and Sitka clothing wicks moisture away and helps keeps human stink under control.
The Fanatic line—specifically the Fanatic Hoody, Lite Bib and Lite Jacket—has been my go-to choice over the past few years. For 2019, this system got a facelift, and for the past two weeks I’ve been testing, tinkering and speaking with acoustical engineer James Black. Why an acoustical engineer? Because the new Fanatic System was designed to cut the audible engagement distance in half for treestand hunters, and Black was the consultant Sitka hired to conduct a wide array of tests.
“Have you ever had a deer in close and had a rock tumble in the distance or stick crack?” asked Black. “We freak out, but the deer often pays the sound no mind. Sure, they hear it, but their ears, because of their design, are engineered to detect subtle sounds like your garment brushing up against a tree or the unwrapping of a candy bar package. You and I actually hear that rock tumbling and stick breaking a little better than they do. A buck won’t pay that hedge apple that tumbled out of the tree next to you or those squirrels stirring in the dead leaves much attention, but scrape your sleeve against the bark of a tree when you’re reaching for your bow, and he will snap his head right up at you. His ears are trained to detect danger sounds, and because of the frequencies in which he hears, these sounds really stand out to him. We wanted to help hunters stay quieter and get deer in closer.
“We built an advanced whisper room and brought in our old Fanatic items and our new Fanatic items. We brought the trunk of a tree into the room and set it up. Then we did a bunch of different movements: drawing back a bow, reaching for a rangefinder and hanging up a pack, to name a few. We did these with the old Fanatic items and with the new Fanatic items. We discovered that our new fabric design created, roughly, a six-decibel difference. When there is a six-decibel reduction, deer must be that much closer to you to detect a specific noise. That deer getting that much closer very well may be the difference between you getting a shot or not.”
I’ve logged some hours in the stand over the past few weeks testing Sitka’s new Fanatic Bib and Pack. My November stand sites still have deer streaming by, and I took advantage of being able to conduct an in-the-field test.
The bib is warm and allows for great body movement. Ultra-quiet GORE-TEX INFINIUM with WINDSTOPPER traps heat inside, providing up to 20 percent more warmth while reducing noise. Temperatures during my three-hour on-stand vigil fluctuated between 12 and 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and the north wind blew at an average speed of 13 mph. I was completely comfortable. Full-length YKK Vislon zippers make for easy on and off, and silent snaps make getting in and out of pockets super quiet.
High-loft Berber fleece cloaks the bib’s front and back, extending farther down the back to cover the seat area and roughly halfway down the thighs. This high-loft fleece improves the clarity of the Elevated II pattern and adds an additional element of quiet to areas that routinely contact the stand and tree. I also appreciated that the fleece didn’t come down on the front or back of the legs. This body-mapping design keeps the garment from picking up burrs and other clingy vegetation. The upper hand-warmer pockets are a win, as is the low-profile no-buckle suspenders and adjustable waistband.
The Fanatic Pack looks and feels like a pillow on your back. It’s quiet in the stand and provides adequate storage for all of your gear. I loved the fact that the pack has no buckles and that zipper use is limited to a pair of internal zips incorporated into the lid. Instead of buckles, zippers and snaps, the Fanatic Pack uses a Silent Closure System with nylon tabs that slide into nylon loops. It’s super quiet.
The inside of the pack is spacious and features a divided main compartment, four side pockets and a pair of zippered pockets in the lid. On the outside, the pack showcases a trio of pockets, as well as adjustable winged compression straps designed to hold excess gear like coats, rattling horns and your bow.
Tree-hanger loops can be found inside and out, and, as on the bib, the Berber fleece helps the Elevated II pattern stand out. The pack’s bottom, straps and sides have no fleece to keep vegetation from sticking to it.
When I had deer in close, I purposefully tested the fabric by rubbing up against the cottonwood. The buck never lifted his head or broke stride. It took me standing, grabbing my pack and raking it hard against the tree to merit a head turn. Later in the morning, after covering my bibs with my standard Fanatic Lite Jacket, I spooked a doe and fawn by simply rubbing my sleeve against the tree. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Other garments in the new Fanatic Series include the Fanatic Jacket and Fanatic Vest. I can’t wait to give them a go in the fall woods.