First Lite Labrador Merino Wool Sweater

First Lite Labrador

The First Lite Labrador is a discontinued full zip sweater that has been unavailable for several years. We stocked up and still have one kicking around. Outer layer? Insulating mid-layer? Where does it go and how does the First Lite Labrador compare to current offerings from high end camo companies? Read our review to see how it has fared us over the years as West Virginia whitetail hunters.

First Lite Labrador Specs

The First Lite Labrador Sweater is a full zip heavyweight merino sweater. It was designed as an outer layer, intended to be worn over your Llano or Chama merino wool base layer. As the temperatures dropped, it could transition to an insulating layer.

The full zip sweater is constructed with 400 grams per inch Superfine Merino Wool. The First Lite Furnace Baselayers are the most comparable current offerings. They are also an expedition weight merino wool garment but are constructed with 350 grams per inch Merino X.

The Labrador came in a variety of solid colors and camo patterns including: ASAT Camo, Mossy Oak Infinity, Realtree Max 1, First Lite Fusion or Dry Earth.

The First Lite Labrador full zip sweater runs large. The fit is anything but true to size. This wasn’t surprising because a lot of older First Lite camo ran big. Interestingly enough, a medium Sanctuary jacket fit me just as well as the XL Sitka Incinerator jacket I had.

If you plan on buying a used one, make sure to size down. All of my First Lite merino base layers are larges but the Labrador sweater was still roomy in a size medium. Because it’s been discontinued, eBay or various hunting forums are your best bet for finding First Lite camo for sale.

First Lite Labrador ASAT

first Lite Labrador Uses

This heavyweight merino wool sweater was a bit of a head scratcher. We love ASAT camo for hunting in West Virginia and First Lite has some of the best offerings in that camo pattern. Because of that, we were instantly drawn to the Labrador sweater.

We love our ASAT Llano and Chama merino wool base layers. This seemed like a perfect addition to the mix.

However, we found that it didn’t quite pull its weight. Literally. The full zip sweater, made of 400 gram per square inch merino wool is physically heavy. It’s also not very warm.

For the weight of the garment you would expect it to keep you warmer. It was about the same as your average hooded sweatshirt, not quite what you’d expect from something that costs roughly 10 times as much.

Not only that, but over the years we have found merino wool outer layers to be too fragile for the thick brush that constitutes the majority of our hunting areas. Thorns absolutely destroy wool. If you are hunting more open terrain it may be a suitable option but it wasn’t for us.

Additionally, there is only one chest pocket. You will need to keep all the easy to access items in your pants pockets if you are planning to use it as a jacket. Not a deal breaker by any means but it might take some getting used to.

The full zip sweater does breathe well. So if your style of hunting consists of more hiking than sitting and you aren’t concerned about its durability then it may be a solid option for you.

In our opinion, if you are planning on covering up your wool base layers with something a little more substantial and it needs to be in ASAT camo, the First Lite Halstead would be a better choice.

The grid fleece is more durable than merino wool. It can stand up to the abuse of hunting and hiking through the woods. The warmth between the two pieces is nearly the same so there’s minimal benefit to the First Lite Labrador for midwest Whitetail Deer.

First Lite ASAT Labrador

Final Thoughts

In my quest for having all things First Lite ASAT, I ended up with four First Lite Labrador sweaters. I’ve pared down the excess and now only two remain.

One interesting thing to note is that they were all different. Remember, First Lite was still a smaller company when they produced the Labrador sweater. Steven Rinella hadn’t purchased it and made it part of the Meateater mega giant.

I can only guess that they were being made in batches yearly prior to hunting season and then shipped to distributors. Remember being able to buy First Lite camo in stores? Hard to imagine right? This could have led to inconsistencies in production and really who would have four of them to compare side by side? My favorite was most likely the oldest version which had strange stretchy cuffs and piping around the bottom hem. It fit the best, but also was the itchiest merino wool out of the bunch.

First Lite Labrador Sweater

Unfortunately, I just don’t use this piece very much when hunting. And if you’re primarily a whitetail deer hunter like me, chances are neither will you. Like I mentioned it’s just really too fragile for the thick brush that I typically hunt in West Virginia.

I’ll wear it occasionally hiking or scouting but only if I know it’s not going to get torn to shreds. The Labrador sweater needs babied or it will end up ruined. Not exactly what I want to happen to something with an original MSRP of $200.

Because of this, there are just better items out there in my gear closet that do the same thing and are more durable. However, I keep this around because of the novelty and of course – the pattern. First Lite ASAT camo > all.

If you need something that will keep you warm when wet for days on end, the First Lite Labrador might fit the bill. But if you don’t run the risk of being stranded and developing hypothermia, there are less expensive and less fragile options available these days. If you’re still using your First Lite Labrador full zip sweater let us know your thoughts. It’s a nice piece of high end camo, but it just wasn’t for us.

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