Women’s First Lite Merino Wool Base Layers Review

Women’s First Lite Merino Wool Base Layers Review

By EvoOutdoors team member Andrea Haas

Original Post: Huntress View

When I first started hunting about 10 years ago, my hunting attire consisted of bulky men’s camo over a couple pairs of long johns as base layers, depending on the weather. Needless to say, that system just didn’t work for me and I was happy to see that soon women’s hunting apparel companies started to appear, like SHE Outdoor Apparel and Prois. But one thing was still lacking for me: good quality women’s base layers.

Base layers are crucial when the temperatures really start to drop in the winter and can either make or break a hunt. I spend hours in the tree stand and need to be able to withstand the elements, rather than being forced to pack up and head home at prime time because I’m too cold. This happened to me last season and cost me a very nice 9 point with my bow.

Thankfully in 2015 First Lite came out with new Merino Wool base layers specifically for women and I was able to put them to the test. Over the years I have tried a few other brands of base layers but I feel none of them performed as well as the First Lite base layers did in regards to thermoregulation, scent control and moisture wicking ability, which is exactly what Merino Wool is known for. They were soft and comfortable without any itching like what you may think of when you hear the word “wool”. Not only did they perform well in the cold, they did just as well in temperatures over 80 degrees by wicking away moisture; I didn’t sweat at all while walking to my tree stand. I was extremely impressed!

Base Layer Options

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Lupine Crew Top and Larkspur Full Length Bottoms in Sage Green

The Syringa Shorts can be worn underneath your full length bottoms as undergarments, or can be worn alone as a base layer in warmer weather under your outer layer pants.The top layers consist of the Lupine Crew Top and Artemis Hoody, and the bottom layers consist of the Larkspur Full Length Bottomsand the Syringa Short. If you are considering purchasing the base layers, I would at the very least, recommend the Lupine Crew and Larkspur Bottoms.

The Artemis Hoody can be worn as a base layer top, or over the Lupine Crew top as a mid layer.

Artemis Hoody with Lupine Crew Top underneath, and Syringa Shorts

Artemis Hoody with Lupine Crew Top underneath, and Syringa Shorts

I used the sizing chart on the First Lite website to determine what size I needed based on my measurements. I am 5’3”, 110 pounds and I went with an XS in the Larkspur Full Length Bottoms and the Syringa Short, and a Small in both the Lupine Crew Top & Artemis Hoody. I originally ordered an XS in the Lupine Crew top but it was just a little smaller than what I like so I ordered a small instead and it fit perfect.

Sizing/Fit

I found that the bottoms fit best when I went down a size smaller than what I would normally wear, and that the tops fit best when I went up a size larger. The bottoms seemed to stretch out just a tad after being worn a time or two, but shrink back to normal after being washed. I love that the waistband on the bottoms stretches with you and does not dig in too tight on your hips or mid section, creating the dreaded “muffin top”. Both of the tops have thumb holes in the arm cuffs for added warmth and concealment, and helps keep them from rolling up whenever you put on your outer layers.

These are available in sizes XS to XL.

Color Options

There are 3 solid colors available (Black, Golden and Sage Green) and 4 camo patterns (ASAT, RealTree Xtra, RealTree Max-1 and First Lite Fusion). I ordered my base layers in Sage Green and the Artemis Hoody in the new First Lite Fusion camo pattern.

Artemis Hoody in First Lite Fusion

Artemis Hoody in First Lite Fusion

First Lite Accessories

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Talus Fingerless Merino Glove in Dry Earth

There are several other First Lite apparel items that have became my hunting staples, the Talus Fingerless Merino Gloves, theMountain AthleteCold Weather Sock and the First Lite Beanie. The gloves have open fingers, which I prefer for bow hunting, and have worked great for me all season long. In late season when it gets colder, I recommend either a full glove, or adding a hand muff for added warmth. The socks work great to wick away sweat which is great for both warm and cold temperatures. The beanie is fairly lightweight & what I like to wear during early bow season when it is still pretty warm.

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First Lite Beanie and Lupine Crew

The First Lite Women’s Base Layers have played a crucial role in my hunting success this season. I’ve been able to hunt more comfortably in both the cold and the heat, and have even noticed a big decrease in the amount of times I have been winded by deer thanks to the merino wool’s natural resistance to odor. I highly recommend these for any female hunter looking to extend their time in the field!

Success In The Field

Pheasant Hunting: I wore the Lupine Crew & Artemis Hoody

Pheasant Hunting: I wore the Lupine Crew & Artemis Hoody

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Rifle season doe: I wore the First Lite Lupine Crew top, Larkspur Bottoms & Talus Fingerless Gloves

Duck Hunting: I wore the Lupine Crew, Artemis Hoody and Larkspur Bottoms

Duck Hunting: I wore the Lupine Crew, Artemis Hoody and Larkspur Bottoms

First Lite products available at EvoOutdoors.

Get to know team member Andrea Haas via her hunting blog and Facebook page called Huntress View where she shares her hunting stories and gives hunting tips and advice. “I feel that more women will become involved in hunting and the outdoors if they are able to learn about it from other women.” -Andrea Haas

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Healthy Living: The Effects of Western Hunting on a Southern Girl

In Louisiana most whitetail deer hunting is done on private land. You can ride an ATV up to any spot, throw a lock up in a tree and sit for hours. Do not get me wrong, many south Louisiana hunters put in a great effort working on the land, sometimes walking through waist deep water. Tackling the swamp while being mauled by mosquitoes for hours on end. However, it is very easy to get complacent in ones physical health, clothing/gear choices and still be able to perform the tasks required to hunt down here.

My eyes were opened to a new world of hunting necessities when I set out on a new (to me) adventure of elk hunting in the public hunting land of Colorado. 

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Heading out west, I had no clue what to expect nor had I ever seen mountains before.

I studied articles and videos to prepare myself for what was to come however, nothing prepared me for the way it would change how I thought about myself. The mountains showed me that although I was physically fit enough to be able conquer the hikes we took from the base camp, I was in no way fit enough to accomplish a pack in hike. My dream was to be able to hike in for miles with a heavy pack and sleep in the wilderness away from everything. To hike further and higher everyday than I had on that first trip. I knew doing this would take months of preparation to ensure that I was fit enough to do not only the long hike in but to also recover quickly in preparation for the following days hikes.

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As hunting season in Louisiana wrapped up, I decided to buckle down and start living a healthier life. My first step was to build a raised garden bed in my tiny back yard. Growing up, my parents and grandparents always grew a beautiful garden therefore I knew with the knowledge I had gained from watching them over the years I could grow my own veggies. It was a huge money saver. A few dollars spent on seeds translated into many meals and even some vegetables preserved to be enjoyed all year. As every hunter knows there is a sort of “slump” that sets in after season ends. My garden kept me physically and mentally active.

I quickly found working in the garden to be very therapeutic, rewarding, and a huge confidence booster to see the tiny seed that I planted flourish into a huge plant.

I decided I needed to do more than integrate a few vegetables in my diet so I joined in on an “accountability group” 9D144EC0-0EA2-49BE-8C1A-06003E9DCC9B_zpsdef38gtsthrough work.  This forced me to weigh in weekly. The fact that I was doing it with coworkers forced me to stay focused. I didn’t want a simple diet where I was omitting a certain type of food completely; I wanted a lifestyle change that would change my way of eating forever. I worked on portion control, which I have always struggled with, by weighing and measuring everything until I had a better idea what a serving size actually looked like. In addition, being creative with my wild game, seafood, and fresh vegetables, I recreated my favorite dishes into a new healthier version of its previous self. I used seasoning and spices to give food more flavor so it was more filling. By making these simple changes to my diet, I began seeing a change on the scale.

858DB16B-58B1-4135-AE06-1E2F126229B7_zps9hvnk1qhI quickly realized that in addition to eating correctly, I needed to start a workout regiment for myself to be able to get stronger and gain muscle. I started off slowly by walking around the local university. Slowly it progressed into a walk/run and further distances.  I incorporated various weight lifting workout videos I found online. After I felt that I was strong enough, I decided to start working on building “mountain muscles”. I started off with a fifty pound sack of deer corn in my backpack I planned on using for my Colorado hunt. I walked to the university stadium and did the bleachers, then I walked a lap around the campus. Over time, I slowly added more and more weight until it was time to leave for the hunt.  Not only was this building muscles but it helped me get my pack adjusted correctly with heavy weight. By adding these additional exercises to my daily routine, I was able to drop weight even quicker and I was seeing a big boost in my energy levels.

The next part of my “elk ready” process was to re-access my gear and clothing choices. I knew we would be doing a pack in hike so I worked to find lighter alternatives to the supplies I had and reduced the amount of unnecessary supplies. I planned to bring dehydrated meals, vacuum sealed “harvest kits” containing such items as game bags. I planned out how to stuff all of these items into my pack. I weighed each item and then the pack as a whole to be sure that I could easily carry everything I needed. When I went to access my new choices of clothing, I tried to pinpoint problems I saw in my previous gear and worked along with EvoOutdoors CamoConcierge service to find products that would best solve these problems.

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aProblem 1: Stretch and maneuverability in durable pants. I quickly realized that my previous clothing was actually working against me while hiking because of its lack of stretch, especially in the pants. I decided to get a pair of the FirstLite Kanab 2.0 pants and the Corrugate Guide pants. Both offered a unique fit that was looser in the hips and thighs but more fitted in the lower half. This fit allowed for full range of motion. Both have high waisted fits and can be worn with suspenders, preventing them from riding down over time with a heavy pack and impeding maneuverability.  The Kanab 2.0 pants are made of ultra light merino wool with body stretch 1441587702159-1927885061nylon and also feature a rip stop pattern making them perfectly silent for a spot and stalk while being durable. The Corrugate Guide pants are made of a lightweight, durable, breathable nylon fabric that makes them nearly bombproof against all but the most extreme weather. While they aren’t as silent as the Kanab’s, they truly proved themselves to me in the rain we endured on an almost daily basis while in the Colorado mountains.  Not only were they somewhat water resistant, but when it came to getting drenched in the downpours, they dried very quickly making it possible to wear them again day after day. First Lite also features a “shooters cut” on their shirts (see problem 2) that have specially designed shoulders to allow full range of movement and fitted lower sleeve to prevent bow string interference.

Problem 2: Odor control after days of continued use. Knowing we would be in the back country for a number of days1430188149902-2353460841430071241262694008033a with limited ability to wash clothing, I needed clothing that would naturally neutralize odors, even after days of continued use. It was suggested that I use a merino wool based product because wool naturally wicks away moisture (as much as 30% of its weight) and releases it into the air. By doing this the moisture doesn’t remain on the skins surface, allowing bacteria and therefore odors to be created. First Lite created a women’s line of merino wool base layers that fit my needs perfectly. The set of the Lupine crew shirt and Larkspur bottoms created naturally odor resistant base layer that I topped with the Artemis hoody and finished it off with a pair of their Mountain Athlete Compression socks. Even after days of wear, these products remained relatively odor free (except for the socks, but I blame the waterlogged boots). Minus 33 has a line of merino based underwear that I also used and highly suggest.

Problem3: Reusable gear. Lets face it, I am a tight with my money so I wanted gear that not only worked well in the mountains but would also be good for hunting at home so I needed something that could span from the heat of 14301875240601376827267Louisiana early season but could stand up to a cool Colorado mountain archery season morning. I also wanted a pattern of camo that would work for both areas. First Lite accomplished these as well. Another 1409588562924-768062539great attribute of merino wool is because of its extreme moisture wicking abilities, it helps maintain the body’s natural micro-climate by removing the excess moisture in the air between the skin and clothing. This makes the wearer cooler in the heat and warmer in the winter. Previously, I was using a well known popular brand of camo that blended well in some locations but not in others. The fusion camo is a unique pattern described as “crackalature” by First Lite is designed to distort the hunter’s silhouette while avoiding “color blobbing” that has truly14398583972051093645653proven to blend in with everything from the rocks to the swamp. It uses large and small shape disruption to cause distortion of not only the general shape but of “texture” and depth also. Their website truly has some very interesting literature on this subject, but I can tell you from first hand knowledge that it is easy to lose someone sitting only a couple feet away from you in the fusion camo.

 

With these changes to myself and my gear, I headed west again with confidence and the ability to conquer whatever mother nature could physically throw at me. After a little over a ten mile hike, uphill, in the pouring rain into our designated camping spot and spending nearly a week in the back country, I could not conjure a single negative statement about the First Lite gear that had been suggested to me. As for my physical fitness, I had advanced leaps and bounds over what I would have been able to accomplish had I stayed on the path I was traveling.  I am no miracle worker or extraordinary case.

If I can change my life for something I am passionate about, just about any one can if they put in the time and effort.

Sarah Fromenthal, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Sarah Fromenthal was born and raised in South Louisiana. Sarah has a strong passion for hunting, fishing, the outdoors, and cooking what she catches/kills flowing throw her veins. She believes archery is a sport you can never completely master and is always reading, listening, and observing to become the best archer she can be, but she also loves to share the knowledge she does have with others.