Two years ago, I began a journey to discover what clothing company would give me the best results when hunting out West and would also function when hunting turkey and whitetails in the East. During that two year span, I knew this article was the end goal and I wanted to produce an unbiased opinion, but also declare a clear winner in order to help other hunters make a decision. Please keep in mind through this review that my goal was to have the most versatile system for out West and at home in the treestand.
Why I chose these two companies
I wanted to run a head to head competition with two of the most popular and best quality lines on the market today. I chose First Lite and Kuiu because, as a consumer, you can find their gear at deeply discounted prices. Most of my purchases were between 25-60% off of retail—putting the price tag close to a lesser quality product off the shelf. This was an important reason for me because I was paying for my own gear and I know that most consumers like myself want to save as much as possible on clothing purchases.
Testing conditions and standards
I put all products through tough environments and long periods of time without washing or changing. During my elk and mule deer hunts, I didn’t change between garments—I kept going to see how long the individual piece could go without taking on foul body odors. During the two turkey seasons, I made it almost all season without a single wash from either companies product. Don’t try that with cotton!
For your reference on sizing, I’m 5’11” and 175lbs. I wear a traditional large shirt and 34×32 pant size.
First Lite Products:
- Corrugate Guide Pant
- Kanab 2.0
- Llano 1/4 zip top
- Aerowool Merino
- Chama Hoody
- Cirrus Puffy
- Sawtooth Jacket (never field tested)
- Sanctuary Bib and Jacket
- Underwear and Socks
- Attack Pant
- Chinook Pant
- 125 Merino Shirt
- 145 Merino 1/4 zip
- Peloton 240 Hoodie
- Super Down Jacket
First Lite Llano and Aerowool
Fit: Both products came with an athletic cut, which I believe is perfect. Unfortunately, the
sizing on each product was drastically different. The Llano came in a medium and fit like a traditional large. I purchased the Aerowool in a large and it fits like a medium, thankfully both purchases worked for my size.
Review: The Llano had a tendency to itch after long-term use and did not hold up as good as the other base layers I tested. The Aerowool, on the other hand, is one of the toughest, yet softest pieces of clothing I’ve ever tried on. Not once did it collect odors, it breathed well and when wet, it would dry fast. This is my favorite First Lite piece of clothing and if you’re in the market for a good lightweight next-to-skin layer, this is a solid choice.
Kuiu 125 and 145 Merino
Fit: Both products also came with an athletic cut and fit perfectly in a size large.
Review: Both products were superior in the durability category compared to the First Lite. Both were also more comfortable than the Llano, but neither were as breathable or comfortable as the Aerowool. Both the 125 and 145 outlasted the Llano in the odor test, but neither beat the Aerowool—both products dried faster than the First Lite products.
Final thoughts: A consumer will not go wrong when purchasing base layers from either company, but I’m going with First Lite on this one.
Winner: First Lite Aerowool
First Lite Corrugate Guide and Kanab 2.0
Fit: I purchased both in size medium and they fit perfectly.
Review: My Kanab’s were very comfortable and were the type of pants I’d love to wear for everyday life. Unfortunately, because they lacked a DWR finish, they were not my favorite to wear in the field and would get soaked when I came in contact with moisture. I could also see they were not durable, but that was expected as they are a merino based pant—I sold these very fast and moved on to the Corrugate’s.
The Corrugate’s were very durable with DWR—this gives you a fast drying pant that can work in a multitude of conditions. The pant also contains a 4-way stretch, which makes bending over and movement more comfortable. The Corrugate’s would also pick up every single one burr I came into contact with, which was highly annoying. The pant is breathable, yet does well in colder conditions. I literally wore these from 30-85 degrees and as an “active” pant they work well in that 32-70 degree temperature range.
Fit: I purchased these in a size 34 and they fit in waist and length.
Attack Pant Review: The first thing you need to know about the Attack pant is the “hip zips.” This is a genius idea and I’m not sure why every company would not use this. If you get hot, unzip the pants at the hip and let the air flow through! The pant repelled water, didn’t get muggy, held up against the wind and didn’t collect burrs. They were also very durable—I probably low crawled 1,000 yards during turkey season and they didn’t even have a loose strand coming up. This pant is as solid of a piece of clothing that has ever been made and I think everyone should own a pair. I used these in the same temperature range as the Guides: 30-85 degrees.
Final thoughts: The First Lite product, in my opinion, is a great product. The Kuiu Attack’s are simply a more versatile pant—I wish I could wear a pair every day and I haven’t had anything that compares.
Winner: Kuiu Attack
First Lite Chama
Fit: I purchased the Chama in a medium and it almost fit like an XL, I purchased the Sawtooth in a large and it fit true to size.
Chama Review: The Chama Hoody is very versatile, wicks sweat and water fast. It’s not a thick garment, nor will it repel water, but for an active shirt, it works extremely well. There is not much warmth to it, but if you are going to be hiking in the mountains or chasing turkey’s—this shirt is very comfortable for a multitude of conditions. Honestly, this shirt could fall into the next-to-skin category and generally did for my use. This shirt by itself is a great piece of gear, but I was looking for more of a second layer and it really didn’t fit that category.
Peloton 240 Hoodie
Fit: I purchased it in a large and it fit true to size with an athletic fit.
Review: The shirt has a durable finish that repelled a moderate amount of wind and water, the inner lining is fleece. It worked well as a lightweight treestand jacket and also provides warmth walking up a mountain as a true second layer. It offers warmth and protection in different environments and is very comfortable. This is exactly what I was looking for as a versatile piece of gear from the mountain to the treestand.
Final thoughts: If you want an active mid-layer the First Lite options are great. The Peloton is a more versatile piece of clothing.
First Lite Cirrus
Fit: I purchased this in a medium and it was the smallest First Lite item I’ve ever purchased. It fit more like a small with an athletic cut.
Review: This jacket is meant for active wear and is not offer much in
the way of keeping your warm when stationary. It does provide warmth when walking and insulation, but there is no way I would want to depend on this piece to keep me warm while glassing on a cold mountainside. One huge positive on this jacket: It rolls up into its own pocket and fits in your cargo pocket—Really cool feature.
Kuiu Super Down
Fit: I purchased a large and it fit perfectly.
Review: Look, I bought a puffy to keep me warm when I’m stationary. That is what this jacket does—keeps you warm. I would not want to walk up a mountain wearing this thing, I’d wear the Peloton for that and keep this in my pack. This jacket also rolls up and will fit nicely in the pack.
Comments: If you are active and need a puffy, First Lite is the way to go. The Super Down has been my goto insulation piece. First Lite also makes the Uncompahgre that could compete with the Kuiu, but I haven’t tested it.
Both companies have gone to a “direct to consumer” model. I’m not sure where First Lite’s pricing will fall, but I’m sure they are going to compete with Kuiu here.
Suggestions for both companies
First Lite: The way you size your products is not great. I understand that layers will fit differently than outerwear, but even that logic doesn’t work for you, as I’ve had outerwear that fit smaller than the base layers. Also, consider options like Kuiu when it comes to hip-zips and removable base layers.
Kuiu: Your merino wool offering is an okay product, but if you improved on that one piece your activewear would be perfect. And if you offered a line for the whitetail hunter—you wouldn’t be able to handle the business!
If you want a system for hunting in the mountains only—you might pick Kuiu. The one drawback I have with them, is they do not have a whitetail offering. So, if you want to have one complete system for a clothing company, you will not be able to pull it off with the Kuiu line unless you hunt out West exclusively.
First Lite, on the other hand, offers the Sanctuary bibs and jacket for whitetail hunters. This system is very warm and offers features that whitetail hunters want. You will not go wrong spending your money there. So, if you choose your system right, you could have one complete system with First Lite.
Personally, I’ve decided to do both. I chose to run all Kuiu for my western adventures (even my Merino) and when the temperature drops below 40, I’ll have on my Sanctuary clothing on top of some of my Kuiu gear. I’m of the opinion this is almost the perfect treestand setup. You walk in with your moisture-wicking mountain gear, carry the Sanctuary on your back. Once you’re in the stand, throw on the Sanctuary and you are all set.