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I’ve been wearing Sitka Gear hunting pants for big game hunting for years. My first Sitka hunting pant was the do-it-all Sitka Mountain Pant and it was a revelation. The fit was so good, I felt like I could cover more ground than ever before. And I could scramble over deadfalls and not worry about getting hung up!
In my experience, choosing the right pant — and fit — for the type of hunting that you do is critical. If your hunting pants are too hot, too light or bind up in all the wrong places, you’re far less likely to hike higher or drop down into deep holes where the animals are. With bad hunting pants, you’ll tire faster, sweat more, and avoid the places you should go for success.
The trouble with Sitka hunting pants is that there are so many different styles that seem similar at first glance. I personally wear the Sitka Mountain, Timberline, Traverse, and Thunderhead pants.
However, that doesn’t mean I made the right choices each time. For instance, for hot weather archery elk hunting, I should have gone with the Apex over the Traverse. Both are lightweight pants, but the Apex has a killer feature that the Traverse does not. I’ll explain why down below so you make the right choice yourself.
So how do you choose the best Sitka hunting pant for you? Let’s get into it.
Sitka has 8 different hunting pant models that are suitable for big game hunting. Sitka also has 6 options with a camo pattern tuned specifically for elevated whitetail hunting from tree stands. You can then add in 6 waterfowl-specific pants and 3 everyday non-camo pants. The sheer number of Sitka pant options can get confusing.
In this Sitka Big Game Pant Comparison Guide, we’re going to focus on the Sitka ‘Big Game’ hunting pants that are offered in the Optifade Subalpine (greenish camo) and the Optifade Open Country (grayish camo) patterns. Choose ‘Subalpine’ for most forest hunting. Choose ‘Open Country’ for most high desert hunting.
No matter which camo pattern you choose, stick to the shadows whenever possible and keep your movements to a minimum when animals might see you. Don’t worry about what Sitka and competitors say about how amazing their camo patterns are, most any camo pattern will be effective if you follow those two basic rules. Still, from first-hand experience, the Optifade Subalpine is versatile and very effective at both near and far distances.
Pay Attention to the ‘Weight’
The biggest decision factor will be choosing the weight of the hunting pants you need. For colder weather hunting, you’ll want thicker, heavier pants. For hotter weather hunting, you’ll want thinner, lighter pants. To change how a pair of pants performs in wildly changing weather patterns, you can layer.
For example, some September elk hunting days in Idaho start out wicked cold — like 35° Fahrenheit. By mid-afternoon, the temperatures can soar to 80 degrees. If I start the morning in just a pair of lightweight Traverse pants, I’ll freeze. If I start that same day out in Timberline pants, I’ll overheat later in the day. So what I sometimes do is wear a base layer of merino wool under Traverse pants, then shed the base layer by 11 a.m. Alternately, I might layer a rain pant over the Traverse pants — and shed the rain pants when it gets hot. Once the daytime temperatures stay under 65 degrees, I tend to simply wear the do-everything Timberline pant.
For reference regarding Sitka’s published weights, Sitka equates all of their pant weights to a size Large, which is about a 34 waist.
Durable Water Repellant (DWR) finishes are basically chemical coatings on the top of fabrics that repel water. However, DWR coatings don’t make fabrics fully waterproof. They’re good for light rain, slightly wet grass and brush. DWR coatings also wear out and weaken over time. You can refresh your DWR with Gear AID Revivex Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Spray, which doesn’t smell after it dries. I usually go through my hunting clothing at the start of each archery elk season and refresh DWR as needed.
Truly waterproof hunting pants usually have breathable waterproof membrane layer fused into a 2.5 or 3-layer fabric. The best is generally a GORE-TEX-based fabric, and Sitka’s waterproof hunting pants and rain pants all use GORE-TEX.
That’s the basics. Let’s get into the pros and cons of each Sitka Big Game Hunting Pant option:
Sitka Mountain Pant Review
The best all-around big game Sitka hunting pant is easily the Mountain Pant. You can safely consider the Sitka Mountain Pant the do-it-all big game hunting pant. I wear it on most archery elk hunting days in September in Idaho — and keep wearing it well into November. (I add a merino wool base layer when I want a bit more warmth.)
The range of motion is stellar, first through the construction and second via the fabric. The knees are articulated for better bending, and the crotch is gusseted for long steps and climbing over deadfalls. In the regular size options, you can choose your waist fit in 1″ increments — and in 2″ increments in the tall options. Many competitive hunting pants make you choose from far fewer size options — small, medium, large, etc. — but Sitka delivers a whopping 14 fit options.
The overall fit is spot-on. It’s a bit athletic in nature. Sitka identifies the Mountain Pant fit as their Performance fit, which is designed for minimal layering. I would say that if you order the waist size and length that matches your normal pant size, most everyone will have a good overall fit. (To be sure, use a flexible tape measure, which is always handy to have at home when you buy clothing online.)
For the legs, I have large thighs and the Mountain Pants are trim but give me plenty of room. They taper slightly down to my boots.
In terms of noise, the Mountain Pant is a quiet pant. It’s not the quietest pant that Sitka makes, but I have no issues with it when I’m moving through brush. (For serious spot-and-stalk hunters, consider the quieter Apex below.)
The Sitka Mountain Pant pockets are excellent. Sitka gives you roomy thigh cargo pockets that are covered by a flap with two silent buttons. I usually slip my phone, with OnX Hunt ready to go, in one pocket and then all sorts of odds and ends in the other. Both cargo pockets also have zippered pockets on the outside. I usually place my tags in one of these zippered pockets. After years of busting through Idaho brush, I’ve never had the zippers slide open on their own, nor have I lost anything out of the cargo pockets. (It’s possible, but they’re good pockets.)
The traditional front pockets are also zippered. They have a microfleece lining that’s nice and warm when your hands are cold. There is also one zippered rear pocket that I usually forget exists.
The belt loops are burly and great. They’re compatible with Sitka suspenders if you like suspenders. The interior of the waistband has a rubbery silicone strip that helps keep your waist from sliding down . . . and helps keep your shirts tucked when you’re tucking them in for warmth. It works well.
The Knee Pads Are Game Changers
Years ago, I though the built-in, removable knee pads were gimmicky. They’re not. They’re fantastic. If you need to drop to one knee to mess around with a trailer hitch on a rocky road, no problem. If you need to crawl under a deadfall, no problem. If you need to put the stalk on, no problem. The only downside to the knee pads is that they can get a little warm when it’s hot out. It’s like having a 1/2″ layer of insulation over your knees. Fortunately, if you don’t need or want the knee pads, you can easily remove them.
Key Mountain Pant Specs:
Weight: 26.2 oz.
Fabric: 4-way stretch-woven polyester
Waterproofing: DWR finish
Knee Pads: Removable, included
The Sitka Timberline Pant is very similar to the Mountain Pant. Both use the same basic construction, pockets, and 4-way stretch-woven polyester. The biggest difference between the Timberline and the Mountain is the inclusion of reinforced fabric over the seat and knees.
For the seat and knees, Sitka uses a waterproof nylon ripstop fabric. It’s a nice bonus for those times when you need to sit down in wet grass or snow for a minute or two, but it’s not perfect. In real-world usage, wet grass can touch the seams around the waterproof patch of fabric and leak in there.
Even when I wear the Sitka Timberline Pants, I still carry a small foam seat so I can sit on wet or snow ground with comfort. Check out the ultralight Therm-a-Rest Z Seat. It’s worth its weight.
Sitka also includes removable suspenders with its Timberline Pant.
Why should you buy the Timberline over the Mountain Pant? Choose the Timberline if you want a bit more rugged do-it-all hunting pant. The reinforced knee pads and seat do protect the most-used areas of the pants. In addition, they do increase the wind protection and warmth of the pants just a bit. I occasionally wear them in September on cooler days. By November, they’re my first-choice hunting pant.
All-in-all, I’m a big fan of the Timberline. The comfort is very similar to the Mountain Pant. You can’t go wrong with either.
Key Timberline Pant Specs:
Weight: 29.6 oz.
Fabric: 4-way stretch-woven polyester with ripstop nylon in seat and knees
Waterproofing: DWR finish
Knee Pads: Removable, included
The Sitka Apex Pant is the pant I should have chosen for hot, early-season archery elk hunts. As it is, I wear the more affordable lightweight Traverse Pant, and when you consider the price difference between the two, the Traverse is still a good choice.
What makes the Sitka Apex Pant so compelling?
First of all, the Sitka Apex Pant is a lightweight pant designed for spot-and-stalk archery hunting. It’s the softest, quietest pant that Sitka makes. The fabric has a polyester face bonded to a light micro-grid fleece interior. The fit is a bit more tapered in the lower legs so that your pant legs don’t rub together and swish as you walk.
You don’t get zippered pockets with the Apex, which is both a drawback and a benefit. The drawback is the lack of security, but the benefit is that you won’t accidentally make noise getting into or out of the pockets. The two cargo pockets are large and seal with a silent snap button. Inside the cargo pockets, Sitka added a smaller pocket within the pocket to help you organize the contents and keep the contents quiet. The smaller pocket is great for your phone, which keeps it from getting lost inside the cargo pocket as you move.
One possible Apex Pant drawback is the lack of color options. It’s only available in the Optifade Subalpine camo color. Some hunters might want an Open Country option. From my perspective, the Subalpine pattern is so versatile I’m not sure it matters.
Compared to the Traverse, the Apex has two main advantages: First, the fabric is quieter for big game archery hunting up close. Second, the Apex has removable knee pads while the Traverse does not have knee pads at all.
Key Apex Specifications:
Weight: 14.7 oz.
Fabric: Polyester face bonded to a light micro-grid fleece lining
Waterproofing: DWR finish
Knee Pads: Removable, included
The Sitka Traverse Pant is an ultralight hunting pant. There are three primary differences compared to the Apex Pant: First, the Traverse fabric is a very motion-friendly 4-way stretch woven polyester spandex blend (90% polyester, 10% spandex). Second, the Traverse doesn’t have knee pads. Third, the Traverse doesn’t include a DWR finish.
The 4-way stretch is a clear benefit for mobility, but it’s not quite as quiet as the Apex pant fabric. The biggest drawback to the Traverse Pant is the lack of knee pad pockets. I wish Sitka included at least knee pad pockets in the Traverse. That way you could choose to add knee pads if you want them.
The Traverse has non-zip front pockets, but you do get a reinforced EDC knife pocket guard that won’t wear out too quickly. Sitka uses zippers for the two cargo pockets. While the cargo pockets are roomy enough for lightweight merino gloves and a phone, they’re too small to overload with much gear. Remember, the Traverse is all about going fast and light.
For the fit, you still get the performance fit. The Traverse is very slightly less tapered from the knee down than the Apex, but it’s nearly identical to the Mountain Pant taper.
In my experience, the Traverse Pants excel in the first half of September in Idaho. They’re lighter, breathe better and are just better whenever the temperatures rise above 65 degrees. The drawback is that on cold mornings, you’re going to get chilly. To avoid that, I’ll wear a merino wool base layer in the morning and shed the base layer later in the day.
Sitka makes base layer options, but I usually wear a soft Icebreaker merino wool base layer that I use for any cold outdoor activity, including skiing. Because I also have Mountain and Timberline pants ready to go on most any hunt, I only choose the Traverse pants for hot days.
If you’re thinking that the Traverse or Apex is the right hunting pant for you, consider KUIU’s Ultra Merino 145 Zip-Off Bottom base layer (or KUIU’s fleece options). While KUIU and Sitka are competitors, every great hunter I know is willing to stray beyond brand loyalty to find the right solution that keeps them out in the field longer. A zip-off base layer bottom lets you quickly drop your pants and remove the base layer without needed to take off your boots. So cool. Note: First-Lite makes a heavyweight zip-off boot top base layer option that ends where your boots start.
Key Traverse Specs:
Weight: 14.55 oz.
Fabric: 4-way stretch woven polyester with 10% spandex
Knee Pads: None
The Sitka Ascent Pant is an ulralight mountain-focused softshell hunting pant. At just 12 oz, it’s even lighter than the Traverse — and it comes with mesh knee pad pockets (but the actual pads aren’t included). It is basically a highly breathable fantastic pant for hot-weather hunts and lots of movement.
So is the Ascent a worthy replacement for the Traverse or Apex? Not so fast. The Ascent has several benefits but also one drawback. First, what is the Ascent Pant designed for?
The aptly-named Ascent Pant is aimed at high-country hunts above the timberline — but it’s also good for high desert hunts. Consequently, it has a different fabric construction that delivers improved abrasion resistance. Sitka uses a stretch CORDURA nylon woven blend that’s 60% CORDURA, 30% Nylon and 10% Spandex.
So the key benefit is improved durability in a lightweight pant. The drawback, however, is that it’s not as quiet as the Apex or Traverse. That’s not to say that it’s a loud pant, but if you’re going to be moving in close on an elk in brushy country, it might not be your first choice — unless you know what you’re doing and want the improved durability.
If you want a lightweight pant with excellent overall abrasion resistance and aren’t worried about a little pant swish when you get close to your quarry, the Ascent is for you.
Key Sitka Ascent Specs:
Weight: 12.0 oz.
Fabric: Stretch CORDURA nylon woven blend of 60% CORDURA, 30% Nylon, 10% Spandex
Knee Pads: Pockets built-in, knee pads extra (or swappable from other Sitka pants)
Sitka has three versions of its GORE-TEX-based big game waterproof hunting pants: Dew Point, Thunderhead, and Stormfront. Because this is rain gear, Sitka also offers matching rain jackets for each of these pant options.
Let’s take a closer look.
Sitka Dew Point Pant Review
The Sitka Dew Point Pants are the company’s lightweight, packable rain pants. They’re made for hunters who don’t usually spend entire hunts in the rain and don’t want to pack heavy rain gear. However, when the rain clouds roll in, the Dew Point pants are for hunters who pull the rain gear out of their packs and keep hunting.
The fabric is a light 20-denier 3-layer GORE-TEX with a ripstop nylon face for durability. I’ve tested, reviewed, and used a lot of 2.5 and 3-layer GORE-TEX rain jackets and ski shells over the years, and it’s all been excellent. Competing waterproof, breathable fabric systems from other reputable companies usually work well, but in my experience, GORE-TEX usually retains a slight edge in wet weather performance when it comes to breathability. So what I’m saying is, I trust most any gear made with GORE-TEX.
One drawback to the Dew Point pants is that they don’t have any pockets, which means you need to consider them as a rain paint that is best used over the top of other hunting pants. To access under-layer pant pockets, you can use the 7/8-length side zippers to create an opening. These two-way side zippers are also good for letting you dump heat when you use them like hip vents.
Another usability benefit is the built-in adjustable nylon web belt.
Key Dew Point Specs:
Weight: 10.5 oz.
Fabric: GORE-TEX 3-layer, 20-denier fabric with ripstop nylon face
Waterproofing: Yes, completely waterproof with taped seams and waterproof side zippers
The Sitka Thunderhead Pants were my go-to pants on a rainy morning elk hunt last September. We had to climb about 1,500 feet in elevation, in the rain before light, to get to the elk. The Thunderhead Pant did its job and we got within 40 yards of a shooter bull — but we got busted by a curious cow while my hunting buddy and the bull were raking. Overall, the Thunderhead is a great quiet rain pant, but it does have some pros and cons.
The Sitka Thunderhead Pant uses a 3-layer GORE-TEX fabric, but in this pant, Sitka adds a brushed polyester knit face fabric on the outside. Why a soft face fabric? Noise reduction. Sitka designed the Thunderhead to be its quietest rain pant. Is it quiet? Yes, it’s very good. As a reference, it’s not as quiet as the Mountain Pant, but the Mountain Pant isn’t waterproof. If noise is a priority for your wet weather hunting, the Sitka Thunderhead Pants might be your best Sitka choice.
Another benefit of the Thunderhead is that Sitka coats the pants with a DWR finish. Out of the box, this helps shed a lot of rain before it even gets near the GORE-TEX membrane. But the quiet polyester face fabric also has some drawbacks. If the DWR coating on the face fabric wears out over time, the face fabric can “wet out.” When this happens, the soft fabric becomes saturated with water. This doesn’t mean that your rain jacket will leak! What it does mean is that the breathability will be compromised. Moisture produced by your body won’t easily escape through the membrane. Essentially, moisture gets locked between your body and the pant and you can end up a sweaty mess — even though your rain gear didn’t technically leak.
Is this a major drawback? Not really. It’s just something you should be aware of — and be willing to refresh your DWR with something like Gear AID Revivex Durable Water Repellent Spray before each season. If understanding how DWR and quiet-face fabrics work is too much hassle, you pretty much need to stick with stiffer rainproof fabrics that won’t be as quiet.
But wait, there are more considerations here. One drawback of quiet rain pants and jackets is that even when the DWR is working well, they can still hold some water on the outside after hours of rain. With stiffer rain jackets and pants, you can give them a hard shake to dry them off, but a shake-to-dry motion with the Thunderhead pants doesn’t work all that well. This means that it might take longer to thoroughly dry the pants overnight. But, it is soft and quiet. We have one hunting buddy that almost exclusively wears the Thunderhead pants — with just a base layer — in all his late-season rifle hunts.
When it comes to fit, in my experience, the Thunderhead runs a half-size small and a little short. Granted, Sitka says the Thunderhead has a Performance fit, which isn’t designed for a lot of layering. And, in fact, you can wear the Thunderhead without a base layer underneath because the interior fabric feels pretty good against bare skin. Still, part of my impression on the fit comes from the lack of stretch. All my other Sitka pants have a bit of stretch built into them, but the Thunderhead has little-to-no stretch. If you’re a borderline case, I recommend that you size up. And if you want to wear the Thunderhead Pants over any other Sitka hunting pant — or even a heavy base layer — I would size up. The built-in belt will help you take up any slack around the waist.
Oh, one more thing: The Thunderhead Pant has one reasonably sized zippered pocket. For storage, you can stuff the pants into its own pocket and zip it shut.
Key Thunderhead Specs:
Weight: 22.45 oz
Fabric: GORE-TEX 3-layer fabric with brushed polyester knit face and backer
Waterproofing: Yes, completely waterproof with DWR coating
Sitka updated its Stormfront rain gear in 2019, and it’s aimed at guides who spend weeks out in the rain. The biggest upgrade from the previous Stormfront Pants is the inclusion of abrasion-resistant overlays at the knees. This means that hunters who wear Sitka pants with knee pads can still crawl around when they wear the Stormfront pant over the top and not worry about scraping through their rain gear.
For the Stormfront, Sitka uses a GORE-TEX Pro 3-layer fabric with a polyester face, which makes the Stormfront Sitka’s most durable rain pant. In comparison, it’s a lot heavier than the Sitka Dew Point. Compared to the Thunderhead, the Stormfront Pant is stiffer, tougher, and louder. Remember shaking to dry your rain gear? You can shake the Stormfront to good effect.
Sitka rates the fit as a Standard fit, which means it’s sized slightly looser for layering underneath.
The Sitka Stormfront Pant has waterproof zippered hand pockets and snap cargo pockets with zippered security organization inside. Plus, Sitka uses full-length waterproof side zippers. You can zip the leg zippers down to dump heat or to access pockets on your pants underneath. Of course, the full-length zippers make it easy to put the Stormfront pants on and take them off out in the field without needing to remove your boots.
Last of all, Sitka includes suspenders, in addition to the built-in belt. Nice.
There is, however, one big drawback to the Sitka Stormfront Pants: Price. At $549, they are expensive. Are they worth it? If you spend many days out in extreme environments — and can afford the investment — they’re probably worth it. Similarly, if you’re heading to Alaska on the hunt of a lifetime, a Sitka Stormfront system might be critical to the success and safety of your adventure. On the other hand, if your gear budget only gives you a choice between upgrading your hunting bow and buying the Stormfront pants and jacket, well, let’s just say we understand the dilemma.
Key Stormfront Specs:
Weight: 24.1 oz
Fabric: GORE-TEX Pro 3-layer fabric with polyester face
Waterproofing: Yes, completely waterproof
One of the most important hunting pant decision factors is fit. If your pants don’t fit well, you won’t be able to cover ground effectively. Because everyone has different body types, not everyone will experience a hunting pant the same as another hunter. For instance, I once tried out the well-regarded KUIU Attack Pants, but for me, I couldn’t get a great fit. The waist, the hips, my monster thighs, and inseams . . . they were too tight or too loose and sometimes both at the same time. But for other guys? They might be fantastic.
What often happens with hunting clothing choices is that hunters pick a garment, like it, and then build on it so that their camo patterns match. For this reason, I have a lot of Sitka in Subalpine. And my Mystery Ranch Sawtooth 45 hunting pack is also in the Sitka Subalpine camo pattern. Of course, you don’t technically have to match your camo, especially if you can stick to the shadows and move slowly.
Meanwhile, there is another benefit to going with Sitka: Availability. You can find Sitka gear in many brick-and-mortar retail locations, as well as online. So when you need to add or explore new gear, you have a lot of options.
Still, I’m a Sitka fan but not a Sitka snob. I can easily recommend all of the Sitka pants in this guide — but like I said, you might get a better fit somewhere else. Here are several Sitka alternatives to consider:
KUIU Attack Pant — The Attack Pant is KUIU’s do-it-all hunting pant. Like the Sitka Mountain Pant, the KUIU Attack Pant has 4-way stretch, a gusseted crotch, and articulated knees, making it an agile option. Personally, I like the Sitka pockets quite a bit better, but the Attack Pant has mesh hip vents, which is a darn good idea when the temps ramp up.
First Lite Corrugate Guide Pant — Remember the abrasion-resistance of the lightweight nylon-based Sitka Ascent Pant? The First Lite Corrugate Guide Pant also uses an abrasion-resistant stretch nylon fabric. The Corrugate Guide Pant is a bit heavier than the Ascent, though, weighing in at 17 oz. If you want something lighter like the Ascent, try the Guide Lite Pant, which weighs in at just 11.8 oz.
Under Armour UA Ridge Reaper GORE-TEX Pro Shell Pants — At $200 less than the Sitka Stormfront Pant, the UA Ridge Reaper GORE-TEX Pro Shell Pants are a reasonable competitor. They use the excellent GORE-TEX Pro fabric, so you’re going to get very similar waterproofing and breathability characteristics. The biggest drawback to the UA Ridge Reaper Shell Pants, however, is the lack of abrasion-resistant overlays for your knees. (Note: We have a pair in the office that we intend to more fully test and review this year. First impressions are good.)
Cabela’s Space Rain Pants — What if you want a lightweight camouflage rain pant (and jacket) option at a price point that won’t break your budget? What if you will likely only need it a few times per hunting season? Do you still need to pay a premium for rain gear? Maybe not. It depends on where you hunt and what the weather is like, of course; however, I can say that the Cabela’s Space Rain Pants are lightweight, reasonably breathable, and are an outstanding deal. Same goes for the Space Rain Full-Zip Jacket. In fact, the Cabela’s Space Rain Jacket and Pants are the best inexpensive camouflage rain gear I’ve ever tested.
Is Sitka Gear Worth It?
So are Sitka hunting pants worth it? For me, Sitka hunting pants are definitely worth the investment — but I also tend to cover a lot of ground on foot when I hunt. Part of Sitka’s mission was to turn hunting clothing into gear, and when it comes to hunting pants, Sitka has most definitely succeeded. Sitka makes excellent hunting pants that are available in a wide range of sizes, which means you have a great chance of finding a size that fits your body type.
In addition, once you understand the differences between each Sitka big game hunting pant style, you can also likely find the right type of pant for your hunting areas, quarry, and weather.
Finally, the overall fit-and-finish of Sitka hunting pants is excellent. The quality is always very very high.