Review by Dan A. Nelson
The apparel brand, Kuiu, grew out of one man’s (and his family’s) love of backcountry hunting. Jason Hairston launched Kuiu after a long professional journey that led through the creation, development, and ultimate sale of his first apparel brand. After that commercial success, he wanted to develop a new product line focused on ultralight mountain hunting gear, sold under a different business model: Direct to Consumers.
We’ve spent the last couple of months beating up some Kuiu gear. I enlisted a retired game warden and outstanding hunter to test the gear in the sports for which it was designed. I, meanwhile, tested it as a hiker, fly fisher, and outdoor photographer.
Here’s our take on this gear offered by this young brand.
Kuiu Guide DCS jacket
This softshell jacket features an athletic cut that rides close to the body – which reduced snagging and rubbing against the vegetation, making it easier to move quietly through the forest and brush. Jim praised that feature. But he initially thought the cut was a little snug – later he noted he had gotten used to a slightly oversized jacket, and the Guide DCS fit actually worked well, with no restrictions on movement or action. The trim fit does minimize the amount of layering you can do underneath it, but this is a jacket for active adventures, so that wasn’t a problem. A base layer and modest mid-layer proved adequate for all but the coldest days. The jacket does feature a microfleece inner face for added warmth and comfort.
The Guide’s Toray Primeflex softshell breathes incredibly well, and generous pit-zips provide additional ventilation when you need to push out excess heat. Yet the jacket also sheds light rain and snow with ease and blocks even the strongest winds. The Guide DCS sports a generous hood with good adjustment, a gusseted shoulders and elbows for restriction-free movement, and a nice array of security pockets.
Jim used Kuiu’s Verde camo pattern with good success with jump-shooting waterfowl along the banks of the lower Snake River. The only knocks we could come up with for the jacket: Jim would prefer elastic cuffs instead of Velcro closures (I disagree with him on that) and he’d love to see a blaze-orange option for upland bird hunters.
The Kuiu Guide DCS is an ideal jacket for active hunters – whether they are hunting with shotguns, rifles, bows, or cameras. $249. Buy now.
Kutana Stretch Woven Pant
When I first started as a freelance outdoor photographer (late-1980s), the best technical pants on the market were army surplus wool trousers. Through the years since I’ve field tested and reviewed a LOT of technical pants. Some were designed for climbers, some for hikers, others for backcountry skiers, and even some for hunters and anglers.
The Kuiu Kutana Pant is my new all-time favorite pant for outdoor activities of all kinds.
The Kutana employs a tough Primeflex nylon softshell and features articulated knees and a gusseted crotch for great freedom of movement. I’ve worn these hiking off-trail through some of the worst devil’s club brambles you could imagine, with nary a scratch. I’ve worn them while rowing my fly-fishing raft and watched the water run off without even wetting the fabric. I’ve layered them under thin Gore-Tex pants for snowshoeing adventures and had great freedom of movement. One of my favorite features, though, is the hip-vent. Zippered vents —backed by mesh panels — on each side, allow you to bleed off excess heat when sweating uphill.
I’ve enjoyed other softshell pants over the years, but the Kuiu Katana Stretch Woven Pants are exceptionally well made. They are stretchy and allow for an impressive range of motion. They are quiet when moving through the brush – important if you want to get a great shot of a skittish turkey – or when trying to bring down a tasty elk. They are breathable, water-resistant, and incredibly fast drying. And they are seemingly bombproof. After all my hours of wear, they still look new! $169. Buy Now