When I first started hunting about 13 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 buck 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
Fuse Crew Top and Kiln Long Jane Bottoms in Sage Green
The top layers consist of the Fuse Crew Top and Kiln Hoody, and the bottom layers consist of the Kiln Long Jane Bottoms and 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 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 Kiln Hoody can be worn as a base layer top, or over the Fuse Crew top as a mid layer.
Kiln Hoody with Fuse Crew Top underneath, and Syringa Shorts
Sizing and Fit
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 Kiln Long Jane Bottoms and the Syringa Short, and a Small in both the Fuse Crew Top & Kiln Hoody. I originally ordered an XS in the Fuse Crew top but it was just a little smaller than what I like so I ordered a small instead and it fit perfect.
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.
There are 3 solid colors available (Black, Conifer and Sage Green) and 2 camo patterns (First Lite Cipher and First Lite Fusion). I ordered my base layers in Sage Green and the Kiln Hoody in the First Lite Fusion camo pattern.
Kiln Hoody in First Lite Fusion
First Lite Accessories
There are several other First Lite apparel items that have became my hunting staples, the Talus Fingerless Merino Gloves, the Mountain Athlete Cold Weather Sock and the Merino 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.
Merino Beanie and Fuse Crew
Success in the Field
The First Lite Women’s Base Layers have played a crucial role in my hunting success. 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!
Pheasant Hunting: I wore the Fuse Crew & Kiln Hoody
Rifle season doe: I wore the First Lite Fuse Crew top, Kiln Bottoms & Talus Fingerless Gloves
Duck Hunting: I wore the Fuse Crew, Kiln Hoody and Kiln Bottoms