Expanding on new options for our upland hunting world with the First Lite Sawbuck Pant.
Most hardcore chukar hunters would say that a true brush pant really isn’t necessary. Apart from brushing against rimrock there isn’t a lot in the chukar hills that we have to bust through to chase our birds. While I consider myself a hardcore chukar hunter first and foremost, I do spend a lot of time chasing other species in varied terrain across the West. This means that I need a pant that will do it all: protection from brush and briars, but also one that’s comfortable to wear for long hikes and one that doesn’t make me overheat (I run hot).
One look at the current brush pant options on the market today and it’s obvious that this simple yet incredibly important piece of upland gear is in dire need of an upgrade. Previous incarnations of the brush pant are boxy, heavy, and use outdated materials and construction, so where does that leave me?
Those of you thinking of chaps, forget it. They are hot, restrict movement, and I do not hunt on horseback. What I am after however is a pair of pants that looks good, performs in the field and lasts!
I know many hunters who opt for the wax cotton offerings from Filson due to their good looks and fabled durability. The issue with the Filson pants is that they are actually overbuilt and are just too hot for the type of high intensity hunting I do. This led me to trying the Orvis Pro LT pant last season. While they are a decent looking pant with some interesting features, I won’t be reaching for them before every hunt. They were fairly comfortable in short stints but I did have some chafing issues from their seams on longer hikes. In addition to not being the most comfortable, they also offered absolutely zero brush protection, not the one stop shop I was looking for. I was back to square one . . . that is, until First Lite announced their new Sawbuck pant.
With the need for brush pant innovation obvious, it may come as a surprise that First Lite, a company known for creating high quality gear for big game pursuits, were the ones to seize the opportunity to reinvent this upland classic. While there isn’t actually an ‘upland’ category on their online store (one can dream) they are clearly made for busting through thick brush in pursuit of game.
I’ve had the opportunity to test their new brush pants since the summer, putting in a lot of miles through training, scouting, hiking and hunting. Since opener, I have followed my German wirehaired pointer in five states and bagged Himalayan snowcock, chukar, valley quail, mountain quail, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, white-tailed ptarmigan, blue grouse and sage grouse in them. The fact that I’ve not once had to think about them is a very good sign.
The design process was well thought out and perfecting the construction of the pant has clearly been a priority for First Lite as they are incredibly comfortable to wear. There’s 4-way stretch fabric in all the right places and the legs are articulated, offering a more natural fit that looks tailored but without restricting movement. While they are not waterproof, a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating keeps the dew and light rain at bay, all while keeping them breathable. Like all gear we take into the uplands, durability is key. The Sawbuck has reinforced nylon panels to defend against brush and briars and triple-stitched seams that lie flush and don’t chafe.
I beat on these pants pretty hard. Throughout all the miles I’ve walked and all the cover I’ve pushed through, there’s only very minor pulling on the stretchy material and the seams are holding strong. Only time will tell, but it looks like they will stand up to whatever you throw at them. They have a few color options but the conifer colorway ditches the usual two-tone construction that we’re so used to seeing, making the transition from the uplands to the bar for a post hunt cold one totally seamless.
My only major criticism so far is that there’s no women’s version of the pant. Women’s options in this category are incredibly slim and from what I’ve seen the fit of the pants currently offered are not that great. I’ve heard very good feedback about First Lite’s other women’s pants so hopefully they have a women’s Sawbuck in the works so our ladies can enjoy the same comfort in the uplands as we now will.
Overall I am incredibly impressed with First Lite’s initial offering to the upland community and I hope there’s more to come. While most of us are staunch traditionalists, there’s no doubt that much of the equipment offered in the upland market needs modern updates. I’m optimistic that this small but important innovation will be the first of many. Those of you who enjoy the ‘brush worn’ look will have to work extra hard with these pants as they are built to last! They are an item that I reach for before every hunt, no matter where it is or what game I’m pursuing.
Matt Hardinge is a 3rd generation upland hunter who learnt his trade in the driven shoots of England. He now chases all upland and waterfowl species in the Western United States with his German Wirehaired pointer, Cederberg. He's an avid conservationist and takes pride in introducing new people to the sport.