The FirstLite Chama 230g Quarter Zip Hoody is perhaps one of the lightest and most effective midlayers I’ve ever used. This year I procured a Mountain Hardwear Monkeyman Gridded fleece and a FirstLite Chama Hoody to test. Here I review the latter. After three weeks and going into my fourth of hard hunting, I can say that the Chama is living up to its reputation.
The Chama hoody is 100% merino wool, which means that it is odor resistant, warm for its weight, and warm when wet. At 230g of merino I can afford to ditch the liner on my Cabela’s 3 in one parka that I use for winter big game hunting on days over 45 degrees or on days where I’m going to be on the move. In fact, I may just do that next year with the heavier weight mock neck option also from FirstLite. The Cabela’s liner is made of nylon and is loud in the crisp mornings when I’m just trying to stay quiet before sunup.
This hoody is designed for layering, and goes well over a tight baselayer, but I’ve found I can wear this as my base if I’m overheating. The quarter zipper is quiet and has not bound up during the testing I’ve done. The hood, as mentioned in other reviews is tight to the face similar to other brands that focus on climbers. This is relatively new to the hunting realm, but I found that I like the close fit. Speaking of fit, you might want to order a size down from your normal sizing if you want a nice snug fit. Otherwise the fit was somewhat baggy for me — likely to account for more layers underneath. Because of the tighter hood fitment the wind doesn’t catch the hood like a sail, and it keeps cold air from going down my neck. You can still hear plenty well with the hood up, and you can throw a ball cap over it if your orange requirements in your state require you to have some blaze headgear. Tuck the hood while not in use to avoid tears or snags though. While moving through thickets grouse and deer hunting in NW PA I had an issue with the hood snagging and it produced a small hole. Nothing a little forethought can’t prevent though.
Many many other reviewers have commented negatively on the durability of the hoody. Bear in mind that it is constructed of 100% merino wool. Ask someone if they’d walk their merino wool sweater through a patch of briars, and you’ll likely see a look of sheer terror come across their face. It’s kind of like that. This is not really designed to be a piece of outerwear that you go busting through brush with, giving the spin move to a patch of multi-flora rose. This is, however, a superior baselayer to cotton, and stinks far less than my UnderArmor after being worn for nearly a month straight.
The arms have thumb holes so that the layer doesn’t get lost when you put on your coat, a feature I wish more hunting clothing would adopt. The left arm has a small zippered pocket I’ve yet to figure out what the hell goes in it. I suppose I could put my license in PA there since I’ve always been wearing the hoody during the season, but I feel like it was likely designed for something like a folded map.
Overall this is a solid buy, if a little pricey for something not made in the United States, a personal pet peeve of mine. You do, however, get what you pay for. The hoody is something I’ll continue to keep in my hunting arsenal for a long time. I intend on buying more pieces from FirstLite.