Kuiu has disrupted the camouflage market in recent years, making technical outdoors clothing that's not just radically high-performance, but which also looks cool while obscuring the human silhouette across diverse environments.
What Is It?
California-based Kuiu has made a name for itself through its philosophy of "Ultralight Hunting;" adapting the approach of cutting edge, technical outdoors apparel to the hunting market, then going further with proprietary fabrics, robust features and uncompromised performance. The result is probably the best high-performance gear for hunting out there, with the ability to keep you warm, dry and performing through multi-dray trips in the worst weather Alaska or northern Canada can throw at you.
But, the ability to deal with driving rain and sub-zero temperatures while going after Dall sheep or whatever is overkill for most people operating within range of a car or cabin in the lower 48. And no compromises never means low cost. Enter this new Teton range, which adapts general outdoors apparel practices to bring prices considerably lower.
The entire Teton layering system -- base layers, puffy jacket, outerwear and lightweight rain shells -- can be had for $1,050 total. That's a very good price for the total setup. But, most people will already have a few all-purpose items that can be mixed and matched with camouflage outers, either saving you money, giving you more specific performance attributes, or both. So, for a Pronghorn hunt in Wyoming over the weekend, I bought the Teton pants, hat and soft-shell jacket, pairing them with stuff already in my closet that I felt performed better than the stuff they offer. I'll walk you through how I made those decisions as we walk through this review.
I've used Mechanix Original gloves outdoors and around the house and garage for years. They're cheaper than most options out there (including Kuiu's) and more than get the job done. The one-piece synthetic undersides grip well, don't bunch up, provide excellent tactility and last a long time. These might not match the Vias pattern, but do a good job concealing your hands anyways.
Who's It For?
Hunters and other outdoorsmen who want to be comfortable across a wide range of non-extreme conditions while moving fast and light and without being seen. This isn't stuff you'll want to wear across 7-days of blizzard in the Brooks Range, but it is stuff that will keep you warm, dry and comfortable in persistent rain, snow and cold weather, but which can also work in milder conditions.
Don't let the low price points confuse you. Kuiu's direct-to-consumers sales model cuts out retailer markup, bringing you quality, high-performance apparel at lower prices than than lower-quality, lower-performance gear from competitors. Most camo apparel just totally sucks when it comes to performance, Teton very much does not.
Get antelope all over your stuff and all of a sudden your dogs have no problem coming when called. This is as standard as a standard soft shell jacket can get, but it's cut well and works great. All you need for about 90% of conditions you'll find outdoors in the spring or fall.
You'll be curious about this "Vias" pattern. It's a macro design, compared to the micro you'll be used to from Real Tree, Mossy Oak, et al. The basic idea is that those micro patterns just turn you into a lumpy blob that's roughly woods-coloured at distance, whereas a macro pattern like the one you see here actively works to disguise the human silhouette. To do that, it works with the natural patterns of shadows and foliage and terrain you'll find outdoors.
Think of the animal you're hunting or the predators who naturally prey on them. Are they tiny little patterns mimicking sticks and leaves or are they large swaths of earth tones? Now think of how difficult it can be to spot, say, a deer or cougar if it's holding still. You and I both know that's not only nearly impossible, but remains true whether those animals are in an open field, dense woodland or on a rocky slope.
Photo: Allan Hopkins
Kuiu's Vias pattern was specifically inspired by the African wild dog (above), probably the most successful predator on that continent.
Plus, it looks cool.
These pants are wonderful. Generous, zipped pockets, complete freedom of movement, rugged materials and strong stitching.
I wore this gear on an antelope hunt in Wyoming this weekend. The day started off in the 40s, with rain sprinkles, and slowly progressed to sunny and 25+ degrees. I picked out my buck and then stalked it 4.2 miles through the sage brush. There was a lot of holding still and slow movement, but some running too, in order to move into position as the animal was on the other side of a hill.
Starting off the day while glassing, I was a bit chilly with just a base layer and thin button-down shirt on underneath. The two-layer, fleece-backed, woven-polyester soft shell jacket does a good job at cutting the wind and keeping mild rain at bay, but while it provides some insulation, it's not very much. You'll definitely want to layer with a puffy in colder conditions.
A basic 200-weight merino balaclava from Icebreaker (discontinued) is cool enough when it's warm out that you can still wear it comfortably, while adding appreciable warmth when it's cold. Wrong pattern, but it's the best way to conceal your face and neck -- comfortably -- I've found. Thin enough to fit under any headwear unobtrusively.
The woven polyester, DWR-treated pants are likewise wind and water resistant, but provide no insulation, so will need to be used with a mid-layer like fleece sweatpants if you're going out closer to freezing or plan to spend a day sitting in a tree stand or blind.
As the day warmed up and I started to move, sometimes at a run, the jacket began to prove too-warm, but the pants remained pretty much perfect. You'll want a Vias-pattern shirt underneath as you begin to shed layers.
That pattern did a good job of disappearing into the exposed environment of the rolling, sage and grass covered hills, working the the natural texture of the land and the dappled shadows of passing clouds.
The materials also proved very resilient to stains. They picked up no marks from laying on the ground or crawling across it and the inevitable blood spatters and wipes from field dressing are hardly visible, and I haven't even cleaned this stuff yet. You can machine wash everything here, just make sure you do that with a no-scent, no-UV brightener, hunting-specific detergent.
Patagonia's new Merino Air base layers are quickly proving to be a favourite. Woven kinda like a thin, tight-fitting sweater, they provide the next-to-skin comfort of merino, wicking ability of synthetic (they're a blend of the two) and are simultaneously the warmest base layers I've worn, while retaining good temperature variability. You'll be warm in a 72-degree room, but not overly hot. These are expensive, but worth it.
I really like the Vias pattern. It's smart and effective, not only looking way less Bubba than rival patterns like Real Tree or Mossy Oak, but working better across more diverse environments and weathers too.
Kuiu's stuff is also cut for guys who are in shape and active, flattering and fitting slim waists, long legs and wide shoulders rather than the beer belly cuts most stuff you'll find at Cabela's is biased towards. The pants, in particular, fit my 32 waist, 34 inseam perfectly, with enough extra length that they cover my boots even while sitting or kneeling.
The pants have four zippered pockets -- rear and cargo -- and deep side pockets. You won't lose stuff you put in them and they're all generously sized. The jacket has a deep, zipped Napoleon pocket that will easily take a phablet or similar.
Everything moves just about silently and is adequately stretchy and/or cut right to avoid restricting your movement at all. The pants, for instance, have shaped knees and a crotch gusset.
The Tiburon ball cap is made from a highly breathable material that wears cooly and doesn't absorb sweat or water. It doesn't keep your head warm as a result and is designed more for mild weather.
Some of the logos are a bit large and the reputation of the ram's skull in the pattern is overkill. No one's confused about who makes this gear, it doesn't need to be rammed home like that.
The side handwarmer pockets in the jacket aren't zippered, so you can't keep stuff in them.
The Teton base layers are cheap synthetic and the puffy jacket is synthetic. You'll be better off using stuff you have already or buying items made with higher performance materials.
Should You Buy It?
This isn't just the coolest-looking camo I've worn (although that was a big motivation in the purchase), but some of the most effective outerwear I've used outdoors too. The jacket is exactly what you'd expect from a normal, fleece-backed soft-shell of the kind that's been on the market for a decade or longer, but is at least priced to reflect that and proven technology still works well. The pants are even better, fitting, moving, breathing and shielding better than any others in my arsenal of outerwear. Be smart about what you pair them with and you've got yourself a real bargain that really performs.