First Lite vs Sitka vs Kuiu: Who makes the best hunting gear?
They’re just clothes right? Wrong. When you’re only half way through the day’s hike and your gear is already giving out, you won’t feel that way anymore.
Choosing the wrong gear can be a huge mistake. A mistake that can leave you cold, wet, miserable, and unable to continue your hunt, potentially forcing you to head home empty handed.
While it costs a big more to shell out for high-quality hunting gear, we think it’s worth it. The only question left is: Which hunting clothing brand should you choose?
If you’re having a little trouble answering that question, then we’re here to help. We’ve poured hours of research into this article, and we’ve surveyed hunters who have extensively field tested these pieces of gear all over the country.
Let’s start by comparing some basic information about these brands.
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Editor’s Pick: Sitka
While each brand does a reasonable job, our findings indicate that Sitka simply can’t be beat when it comes to durability and customer service. For us, these are the most important considerations when it comes to hunting gear.
After all, regardless of which brand you go with, you’ll be spending a pretty penny, and we’d prefer to do business with a brand that stands behind their product and makes it easy to get repairs done.
Some hunters have reported that they’ve sent back gear that they’ve used and abused for several years, and Sitka quickly repaired and returned these items to them within two weeks. While some other brands give you the run around, Sitka offers no questions asked replacements and repairs.
However, it’s unlikely that you’ll even need to use your warranty, or their excellent customer service. That’s because pretty much every hunter that we surveyed gave their products a thumbs up when it comes to durability.
Even crawling over rocky terrain or hiking through heavy brush proved no match for their outwear, with it coming through unscathed on nearly every occassion. That’s good news if you’re tough on your hunting gear, and it’s bad news for less hearty clothing brands, like Kuiu.
The real beauty of this brand though is in the details. Every garment in their collection has been meticulously crafted and designed with the hunter in mind. The seldom thought of extras in their collection, like reinforced knife pockets, windproof lining, and even protective knee pads in the pants, make us love this brand even more.
The fit for Sitka’s clothing could be described as a looser athletic fit. While it’s not as restrictive as Kuiu, which is practically a “skinny fit” brand, it’s also not as relaxed as First Lite.
For most people, this will be a great fit, but if you have large thighs, or if you’re on the husky side, you might need to size up here to have a comfortable fit.
So, what’s not to love about Sitka?
Well, if you’re a fan of natural fibers, then you may be disappointed here. Part of the reason why Sitka can offer the incredible durability that they do is because most, if not all, of their products use synthetic or synthetic blend fibers. While there’s nothing wrong with this, if you’re a Merino wool purist, then you’ll likely be happier going with the First Lite brand, at least for your base layer. If you don’t know or care what all the fuss is about when it comes to Merino wool, then you might be happy with the synthetics offered by Sitka.
There’s nothing wrong with going that route, and they can even offer some advantages over natural fibers. The biggest advantage being that synthetics are more durable than wool, which sometimes needs to be babied to avoid damaging it. Synthetics are also better at controlling moisture, but Merino wool comes out on top for scent control, and it can be extremely useful for keeping multi-day hunt funk at bay.
Though the two biggest complaints for Sitka from hunters were, of course, the price tag and the limited camo pattern options available. Honestly, the deer don’t care what camo pattern you’re wearing, and as far as price goes, online shopping can be a great way to pick up pieces for a great price.
We’d recommend shopping at Amazon for your Sitka gear. This is because their price matching algorithm pretty much always delivers the best price. Their site automatically searches the internet, and it changes the pricing to match or beat competitors, even the manufacturer.
Top Rated Sitka Picks
These items were the top rated pieces in Sitka’s catalog from the hunters we surveyed.
Core Lightweight Hoody
While some people believe that First Lite’s quality is not the same as Sitka, that’s not really a fair comparison. You also need to take into account the fact that First Lite’s materials are much different than those used by Sitka, and they are, by nature, less durable.
First Lite uses Merino wool base layers, and it’s simply more delicate than the synthetics used by Sitka. However, it’s far more resilient than the wool used by Kuiu, if Merino wool is something that you’re after. So, if you’d prefer a natural fiber, then we’d go with the First Lite brand.
Merino wool is fantastic at controlling odor, and it’s natural anti-microbial. You can go days without washing it, and you won’t have the multi-day hunt funk that you would with a synthetic blend. Merino wool also tends to be warmer and better at temperature control, and it’s our personal favorite.
However, there’s more to love about First Lite than just wool. They actually have a great product selection, and camo patterns that many hunters prefer. First Lite also has a better selection of women’s clothing by the way.
Though, even if you’re a guy, you might enjoy First Lite’s offering for the fits that they have available. While Sitka offers looser fitting articles than Kuiu, they are still an athletic fit. So, if you have large thighs, or even a little extra around the middle, the fits might not be your preferred style.
First Lite tends to cut their clothing in a way that it provides a baggier fit that many hunters prefer. That gives you a ton of space for both comfort and layering, and if you’d prefer a very relaxed fit for your hunting clothes, then First Lite is likely the way to go. They even have some big and tall sizes available if you find that hunting pants often become capris on you.
So, now for the bad news. We already talked about how Merino wool is delicate, but even after that’s accounted for, Sitka still has a little bit higher standards for quality. While First Lite does the job and saves you a couple of bucks, their customer service is not quite as good, and your purchases might not last quite as long as if you’d went with Sitka.
Some of our surveyed hunters have also complained about the fact that First Lite’s sizing is not always consistent. That means you’ll need to check the sizing chart carefully before you order anything to avoid any hassles with returns and poorly sized garments.
Again, you can get the best deal on this gear by shopping on Amazon. They routinely have the best sales, and they outmatch even the manufacturer’s website thanks to price matching. Plus, returns with Amazon are easy and no questions asked if you get something you don’t like.
Top Rated First Lite Picks
These items were the top rated pieces in First Lite’s catalog from the hunters we surveyed.
Furnace Long John
Uncompahgre Puffy Jacket
Obsidian Merino Pants
Alright, we’ve finally come to KUIU. This brand has an interesting history with the hunting community, and you’ll likely either love or hate the brand based on that drama, but we’re not going to talk about that. Instead, let’s talk about what to expect from KUIU.
The first thing to realize is that this is an ultralight brand. As such, it is much, much more delicate than other hunting brands, and if you buy it thinking that you will be able to barrel through brush and barbed wire, then you’re going to be very dissappointed.
This gear needs to be babied, and a lot of hunters dislike it for that reason. If you’re not careful with your gear, then this is a poor choice for you, and you should go with Sitka. Sitka’s stuff is far more resilient and better for people who are rough on gear.
However, many hunters we surveyed claimed that KUIU had some of the most comfortable gear that they’ve ever warn, likely because of how lightweight it is. Its also favored by hunters who are tall and very lean, because it has a very slender fit. So, if every other brand’s hunting clothes are falling off of you, then this could be a good pick.
On the flip side, if you’re not super thin, then we’d recommend one of the other brands with a more forgiving fit. Some hunters we surveyed that are on the husky side claimed that they had to drastically size up for this brand, going from an XL to a 3-4X! So, keep that in mind, and be sure to check the size charts carefully if you go with KUIU.
The brand has also had some reported issues with quality assurance and customer support. A few hunters complained of early “pilling” on the fabric, a sure sign it will quickly wear through, and defects in some of the seams, like the armpits of the shirts. KUIU also seems to be pickier about their returns, and a few hunters complained about how long it took to get their items back when sent in for repairs.
It should also be noted that KUIU is missing something very important, wind proofing. So far, Sitka is the only one of the three brands which offers that. With other brands simply offering “wind resistance”, but no wind stopper or gortex. This could be a huge issue in many climates, and it’s something that you should be aware of.
In short, we can’t really justify recommending KUIU, especially when most of their gear matches or exceeds the price of Sitka but offers much less in quality and durability. Though, they may be appealing if you desire a very slim fit and are very careful with your hunting gear. For most people, we’d recommend you to go with Sitka if you want quality gear that will last.
Top Rated KUIU Picks
These items were the top rated pieces in KUIU’s catalog from the hunters we surveyed.
Chugach Rain Jacket
In closing, when it comes to the First Lite vs Sitka vs Kuiu debate, a lot of it is a matter of prefernce. However, an even bigger part of it is knowing how to pick the right gear for the right hunt, because even the best gear will perform poorly in the wrong situation.
We’ve done our best to offer some guidance here, but you’ll need to take your local weather, preferred hunting terrain, and personal usage into account when making a decision. Everybody’s situation is different, and taking some time to consider yours carefully will give you better results.