Gear Review: Browning Hell’s Canyon

For decades, I did a great deal of hunting in very cold weather and to avoid freezing I dressed in enough wool to clothe a flock of sheep. Once, out of curiosity, I put on all my wool and stepped on a scale. The weight that popped up could have been Dwayne Johnson instead of David Petzal. Also, the parka was so thick that I had to rehearse mounting my rifle in order to navigate its vast bulk. Also, I needed a king-sized rainsuit on hand at all times because once you get wool wet, it’s back to camp you go. Also, if I hunted in thin wool, the wind came through it. But aside from that wool was fine. It was quiet and it was tough, and it worked.

Therefore, when I got a chance to try the redesigned Hell’s Canyon line of clothing from Browning, I was skeptical. No wool in sight. Browning uses all sorts of synthetic fabrics and insulation. There’s a whole slew of Hell’s Canyon items, but the three that I used a lot this fall are the Primaloft Bib, the Soft Shell Pants, and the 4-in 1 Primaloft Parka. They are really, most sincerely: a) quiet, b) windproof, c) waterproof (except for the Soft Shell Pants, which are water resistant) d) amazingly short on weight and bulk, e) well thought out and f) applicable across a broad temperature range.

The Soft Shell Pants are uninsulated, and I found that with a pair of light longjohns underneath, they were fine from the 30s into the 50s. The Bib is insulated, and with light longjohns they were warm in the 20s, and with heavy longhjohns way below that. The Quad Parka can be used four ways, and has lots of the cool little touches that you always see in Browning clothing, such as zipper-closing pockets with magnetic flaps over them so that when you forget to close the zippers your goods don’t fall out, and a truly cool removable hood that fastens to the sides of the collar rather than in front, so you don’t choke yourself.

Wool has its place. If it were not for wool we could not say, “Honest, deputy, I was just helping this sheep through the fence.” But aside from that I’ll take Primaloft.