Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

Veteran elk guru, Zach Bowhay, put multiple Kryptek & Kuiu clothing items to the test in the elk woods last fall. All garments tested-true, and will make excellent additions to any bowhunters fall apparel arsenal.

by Zach Bowhay

Anyone who knows me knows that I have worn an awful lot of Kuiu over the years. In 2013, I went on a moose hunt that was self-filmed for a TV show, and Kuiu was the sponsor. I didn’t know much about the company then, but the gear fit me better than any I had worn in the past.

For ten years, I wore Kuiu gear almost exclusively. Full disclosure, I still plan to wear it a lot going forward.

Last fall, though, I had an idea to wear a camo set from a different company for each of the four weeks in September when bowhunting elk.

In this article, I will cover Kuiu and Kryptek. In my next article, I will cover Sitka and Browning. For each, I chose gear suitable for typical September hunts. I didn’t review base layer bottoms, but I included pants, shirts, a jacket, a vest, and a down jacket from each company.

I evaluated the fit, comfort, durability, what I liked, and what I thought could be improved or changed. Each products specs are not listed; you can follow the link if you want to view specs. Instead, I provided my honest thoughts about fit and functionality.


As an Idaho-based, veteran-owned company, Kryptek has always intrigued me. Initially, their camo patterns didn’t captivate me. However, as I spent more time in their gear, the pattern grew on me, and I now find it quite appealing.

The altitude pattern blended seamlessly into the timber where I was hunting elk. If I were to venture into more open country, I could easily opt for one of the manufacturer’s other lighter tone patterns. The gear, in general, is impressively well-built and durable, and all garments still function as if they were new, giving me confidence in their quality.

When I ordered the products, I informed the companies that I wear XXL tops and 38-inch bottoms in most technical hunting apparel. I mentioned that if the fit were on the small side, I prefer to size up rather than have the clothing be too tight.

The Tora Pant ($150) Men’s Tora Hunting Pant is touted as Kryptek’s best mid-weight pants. Made from premium Schoeller Dryskin, this fabric is highly durable and breathable. They are also treated with Schoeller DWR NanoSphere to repel water. These pants fit true to my waist size and are comfortable to wear. They don’t taper as much as many technical pants. While I don’t want skinny jeans, I like pants that fit well enough to avoid snagging. I didn’t have this issue with these, but I wouldn’t mind a bit more taper.

The pants have leg zips at the bottom, which I find unnecessary. I prefer hip zippers to dump heat instead. The zippered side pockets are for venting, but this makes storing gloves and other items impractical. However, the small, unzippered pockets on each leg are handy for holding my wind checker and a call, helping me stay more organized.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

I often call from my knees during elk setups, and knee pads can be a game-changer. However, I’ve found most knee pads uncomfortable and usually remove them. The knee pads on these pants are the best I’ve used, and I never felt the need to remove them. These are excellent pants for elk season, though I wouldn’t recommend them for an early-season hunt in August. With a couple of tweaks, they could be even better.

I have become a fan of lightweight, hooded shirts over the past few years, and the Sonora Shirt ($99.99) Sonora Hooded Hunting Shirt fits the bill. Like many of its styles, this shirt doesn’t have quite as athletic a fit as some modern hunting shirts. I don’t have a bodybuilder’s physique, and even if I did, I wouldn’t like skin-tight shirts. The Sonora fits true to size and is comfortable, lightweight, and breathable. This shirt is a great early-season option and one of my favorite non-merino shirts.

The other shirt I have is the ($89.99) Dallol Short Sleeve Rugby Shirt. I had never heard of a “rugby collar” before getting this shirt. It’s like the Sonora but is short-sleeved and has no hood. I don’t wear short sleeves often, but I enjoy this shirt on warm days.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

The Arma Fleece Hoodie ($150) Arma Camo Hunting Hoodie is interesting. Made from 88 percent polyester and 9 percent merino wool, this jacket is very comfortable. I found it an ideal insulating layer for September. The highly breathable grid fleece pattern is warm enough for chilly mornings and evenings but not so hot that it can’t be worn while actively hunting. This jacket doesn’t have pit zips, which I am a massive fan of, but it has an ultra-light underarm panel that helps dump heat. It’s also whisper quiet, which is perfect for bowhunting scenarios.Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

I have always been a vest guy, and the ($150)  Men’s Bora Camo Hunting Vest is awesome. September mornings can be too chilly for just a base layer shirt but too warm for a jacket. I like vests in these scenarios, but usually find many vests too heavy and warm. This isn’t the case with the Bora. It’s thin but provides warmth. It also features Schoeller C-Change fabric technology, making it windproof and water-resistant. This vest is one of the best vests I’ve worn over the years, and I’ve worn many.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

Last September was warm, so I had few chances to wear down layers on my elk hunts. However, I did wear them throughout the fall on later hunts and put the ($175) Ghar Camouflage Hunting Jacket through its paces during an Idaho rifle deer hunt in October. I spent a long, cold day on a wind-swept open ridge. This jacket did great. It is one of the softer down-style jackets I’ve used. It’s hard to explain but it has a velvety and exceptionally comfortable feel. It’s cut a little bigger, so it easily layers over mid and base layers. It also seems durable for a down jacket.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

I was impressed with all the Kryptek clothing. They all fit true to size, and I never felt cramped in them. They have been durable and seem well-built. The layers all worked together as an excellent layering system, which, for me, is always a huge factor considering the varying conditions I face on fall hunts in the West. This is a review, so we get nitpicky. Of course, there are small things I would like to see done differently, but that doesn’t mean my opinion is correct. This company has come a long way, and I feel anyone who gives their gear an honest try will be impressed.


I have extensive experience with Kuiu gear. Or, as my brother likes to say, “I own more Kuiu than any Kuiu employee.” Before this review, I knew what the company was about and that they create great products. However, I thought it was essential to wear them for a week near the same time I wore the other gear to ensure it was an accurate comparison.

Although Attack Pants are likely my all-time favorite for hunting or everyday wear, the Tiburon Pants ($149) have earned my respect. As mentioned earlier, I am a big fan of layering systems. It’s often hot in September, and I can’t stand my legs hot and sweaty. Therefore, I love the ultralightweight build of the Tiburon Pants. On chilly mornings, I wear a base layer I can peel off when the temperature rises. It’s hard to convey just how light these pants are. The two-way stretch and perfect cut make them some of the best on the market.

My only complaint is that they aren’t quite as durable as some other pants, and I sometimes tear them on stubs or logs. However, they are always a staple in my kit.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

One of my all-time favorite pieces of Kuiu gear is the Gila LS Hoodie ($79). This top is designed to fit looser than most Kuiu garments, allowing air to flow in hot weather. Be aware of this when buying to ensure the proper fit. Although this shirt is built for extremely hot days, I love it for my September elk hunts. I layer an Ultra Merino 120 LT LS Crew-T ($89) underneath on cold mornings. This ultralight merino shirt is excellent as a base layer or standalone shirt. It’s highly breathable and quick drying.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

The Guide DCS Jacket ($249) has been a long-time favorite, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon unless the new Guide Pro swoops in and takes its place. Finding a jacket with as good a cut might be possible, but finding a better one would be tough. The Guide is lightweight and warm, and the K-DWR treatment ensures it is water- and wind-resistant. Pocketing is nice, and the pit zips are great for dumping heat when hiking and climbing.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

I had never worn a synthetic down layer until a few seasons ago when my buddy Sheldon mentioned how much he loved his Kenai jacket. So, of course, I had to try them out. I agree with Sheldon. They are awesome, but I am particularly fond of the Kenai Vest ($159). This vest weighs 10 ounces but provides great warmth when layered under a jacket. It also serves me well with just a base layer underneath on chilly mornings. Body mapping puts warmth where needed and allows for heat dump in spots where we warm up. The Kenai garments are also extremely quiet and soft; perfect for up-close elk encounters.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

At $319, the Super Down LT Hooded Jacket is a significant investment. However, I appreciate having a good insulating layer in my pack when it gets cold in September. This jacket is incredibly light at just 9.6 ounces. Plus, Kuiu down jackets are designed to fit over a base and mid-layer yet still fit comfortably under rain gear. I have always found them to be a bit more snug than other garments from the same company in the same size. So, if you are between sizes, I recommend sizing up if you prefer a looser fit. The only drawback I see with the Super Down LT is that it can tear somewhat easily. This isn’t an issue when worn under another jacket, as I generally do, but it’s something to be mindful of.

Elk Woods Tested: Kryptek & Kuiu

Kuiu has done a remarkable job ensuring that all their gear works harmoniously to create a top-notch layering system. Their clothing is well thought out, adequately sized, comfortable, and lightweight. If you haven’t tried their gear and have always wanted to, I would guess you would be happy with a purchase if you made one. Follow their sizing guides when ordering; if something doesn’t fit, their customer service is excellent about getting you switched out.


I am impressed with both of these companies. Each makes excellent products and has been great to deal with on the customer service side. After wearing only Kuiu for years, trying out some other companies has been fun and eye-opening, highlighting how far some other brands have come. Check back in a few weeks for my reviews of two more heavy hitters in the hunting apparel arena.

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