From a strictly functional point of view, your outerwear is the most important waterfowl equipment you’ll purchase. A base level of comfort brings the clarity you need to operate effectively; without it, none of your other gear matters. Comfort starts with being warm and dry, but those aren’t the only important things to look for when making a significant investment in your new jacket and bibs.

Here’s a quick list of boxes to check when shopping for your new gear set, not just for waterfowl hunting, but everything from ice fishing to bow hunting—or maybe even just shoveling the driveway. We looked at a few different models from WindRider, to provide examples of some of the features you want in your new gear.

What To Look for When Buying Your Next Set Of Waterfowl Gear

Built-in Floatation Foam

None of us plan on ending up in the drink, but it happens. Freezing water, and pockets full of gear, these things are not conducive to swimming. It makes sense to give yourself as much of an advantage as possible. Building flotation into jackets and bibs can be done without impacting functionality and could possibly save your life.

Although something like WindRider’s Hayward or Pro All Weather gear isn’t rated as a personal floatation device (PFD) by the US Coast Guard, the manufacturer claims it will keep a 300 lb. person afloat for 2 hours. The flotation material is in the outer shell of the bibs and jacket, so the inner insulation can be removed without affecting buoyancy.

What To Look for When Buying Your Next Set Of Waterfowl Gear

Versatile for 3 Season Use

Good gear isn’t cheap. Spreading the cost over multiple seasons helps take some of the sting out of it. Choosing gear with multiple configurations provides comfort in a wide range of temperatures and conditions. Look for insulation layers that are easily removable, but also secure enough that once secured in place, moves as one unit.

WindRider has designed its gear for use in three seasons. The inner layer is filled with 3M insulation and is secured using zippers, snaps, and straps. The jacket liner can also be worn as a soft jacket with pockets and D-rings, so it’s fully functional. When buying, look for adaptability.

What To Look for When Buying Your Next Set Of Waterfowl Gear

Stay Dry in Any Condition

It seems pretty obvious, to stay warm and comfortable you need to keep the water on the outside. The problem is if you’re wearing real outdoor gear it’s likely you’re doing something to work up a sweat. It isn’t easy to get moisture out of your gear, while also keeping it from getting in, but it is possible.

You can find gear that is completely waterproof, but that also means it won’t breathe. Products like WindRider’s Hayward and Pro All Weather Gear are made with fabrics with a 10K waterproof rating. If you’re not familiar, a sample of fabric is tested with a column of water. Water is added to the column, when the weight of the water is great enough to push through, the measured height of the column, in millimeters, is the fabric’s rating. A 10K fabric will hold a 10,000mm tall column of water, which is said to be enough to stop heavy rain and snow while allowing moisture inside the garment to evaporate.

Lightweight Yet Durable

We all want products that will stand up to whatever abuse we throw at them. But quite often, heavy-duty can also mean just plain heavy. The key is good materials and reinforcement in the highest wear areas. Spots like knees, the cuffs of the legs, and even the seat of the pants, are all places you can expect to see the most wear.

Looking at a product like WindRider’s Hayward Bibs, the high-wear areas are reinforced with extra Cordura fabric. The high-tech synthetic fabric allows abrasion and cut resistance without adding excessive weight or inhibiting movement.

What To Look for When Buying Your Next Set Of Waterfowl Gear

Variety of Storage Options

If all you needed was the ability to carry stuff, you could throw a bag over your shoulder and call it a day. Yes, you need storage, but you need organization just as much. Look for a variety of sizes in pockets; most of them should have a closure that secures items inside. You also need pockets that have storm flaps over the opening to keep water out. Inside pockets for things like identification and your phone which you won’t need to get to in the blind and will be as dry and secure as possible.

A Hayward jacket has everything listed above, plus fleece-lined hand warmer pockets on the front. And, besides the pockets, it has D-rings on the chest to hang anything from a duck call, ice picks, or maybe even a bottle opener.

Lifetime Protection from Defects

Good gear is rugged and puts up with all your abuse—right until it doesn’t. That’s why you want to check into the manufacturer’s warranty before making your purchase. Some brands are happy to make repairs, at your expense, which is generally quite a bit cheaper than the replacement cost, but still may be an unplanned expense. Many value brands consider their pieces to be consumables requiring replacement every few years. Not only is this more expensive long term, but it’s also not very environmentally friendly.

WindRider knows that zippers and seams, no matter how well-engineered, are going to fail at some point. In the event of a failure of either of those components, or problems with the item’s workmanship, your gear is warrantied for life.

Sponsored by WindRider.