We all know the famous NZ made hunting clothing brand and how it changed the NZ outdoor industry. But there is a family who has been at the core of the NZ outdoors for nearly 100 years. The Ellis family started out in the outdoors industry with Roland Ellis making some of the very first down filled sleeping bags in the 1920s, they outfitted Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to the top of Everest and saw Edmund Hillary across Antarctica. The Ellis’s have been at the forefront of climbing, tramping and outdoor technology in NZ, also introducing the first internal frame packs to our back country.
Today they continue the tradition with David Ellis and his Family running ‘Earth Sea Sky’. Formed in 1990 ‘Earth Sea Sky’ is committed to quality outdoor gear made here in New Zealand for New Zealand conditions. Recently I was lucky enough to be shown around the ‘Earth Sea Sky’ factory shop in Christchurch by Mike (David’s son). It is quite cool to see how simple things are in the factory, where bulk fabrics are cut to shape by hand and then hand sewn by a few dedicated sewers. No giant Chinese factory and no wastage. Although the factory seems simple the fabrics are not. Mike has a huge depth of fabric and the ‘Earth Sea Sky’ team really know what works for New Zealand. The bulk of high end outdoor gear is designed in Europe or North America and then made in Asia. The biggest problem with this that New Zealand conditions are very different to most other testing grounds and while some fabrics and designs may work great in Wyoming they may also fail miserably in our environment. ‘Earth Sea Sky’ is always looking into new products and I was lucky enough to see a couple of new prototypes the team is currently working on, always looking to improve as new technology becomes available.
In the Field
I got my first pieces of ‘Earth Sea Sky’ (ESS) clothing when I started working on Fox Glacier, ESS outfits uniforms for several guiding companies, DOC rangers, Police forces, Antarctic team and several other high-end users in NZ. I was impressed by the simple and effective designs they used and gear that seemed to last longer than it should, even with every day use. I managed to hold onto a few pieces of gear and over the years have slowly added more to it, I will go over the pieces of gear I have used and found of particular interest to mountain hunting. Although ESS gear is not hunting specific they have several pieces that are very well suited to alpine hunting and outperform some of the best ‘hunting’ gear on the market in both weight, durability and technical performance. I have been fairly slow in writing this review as I like to thoroughly test gear over a long time(1-2 years+) to give an honest view of durability.
Taslan is a simple nylon fabric that is extremely light and durable. It is very wind resistant and dries amazingly fast. Making it the ideal fabric for pants and shorts. Earth Sea Sky make 2 pant styles and a 2 classic NZ stubbie shorts from this fabric. I have used both the ‘Taslan shorts’ and the ‘Taslan longs’ extensively. They have a very simple design with 3 pockets, 2 normal ones and one with a zipper closer which is great for keys etc.
The first thing you notice about these pants is the weight, the pants are 240 grams/8.5oz and the shorts only 145grams/5.1oz!
Despite the thin fabric these pants and shorts are surprisingly tough and handle a fair amount of abuse. I have just ripped the first hole in the knee of the first pair of pants after 2 years of hard use. The pants are also very wind resistant and although it has no ‘warmth’, adding some long johns makes these very versatile and can be used in quite cold weather as they stop any cold wind. The ‘Taslan longs’ and ‘Taslan shorts’ both have a nice wide elastic waist which I think is the best waist to have under heavy pack belts. Earth Sea Sky also make a ‘fast track’ version of the pants and sorts, the main difference being a built-in waist belt and longer cut on the shorts. I prefer the simple elastic waist as it is great under pack straps and fits even scrawny guys like me well. For an all round pant that can be used in the summer and in colder weather with layers I think the Taslan longs are hard to beat, the shorts are a great classic Kiwi style which will suit those who prefer the long john/short combo.
These pants/shorts come in a variety of subtle block colors and I prefer the ‘Graphite’ and ‘Kalamata’ colors to work very well in the alpine environment.
I am always a little dubious of ‘soft shells’ as I find them half way to nowhere, dry too slow, too heavy, too hot to walk in, not water proof etc. But I have been pleasantly surprised by EES ‘Katipo’ pants. I picked these pants up for my later season Tahr hunts(June/July) and have found them be perfect for this type of hunt. Made from XTR Thermolite stretch fabric these pants have a great cut that combined with 4- way stretch offer easy movement and climbing. They are quite light for a soft-shell pant(480grams/17oz) and breath and dry very well. A simple design with two zippered hand pockets and wide belt loops make these a very functional pant.
Although these pants are warm they are not ‘hot’, quite important for an active pant as you will soon be a bucket of sweat in some other soft-shell pants I have used. When the wind is blowing and snow is in the air these are the pants I reach for.
I am very happy with the wear on these pants, considering how much matorgari and Spaniards I push through they seem to show no signs of damage after 2 seasons of use.
EES offers quite a range of waterproof pants from ultra-light weight/highly breathable options to more heavy duty style pants. There is one pant that stands out for the hunter. The Vent-X Overtrou have become of a favorite of both myself and my guides.
EES states “Heavy duty waterproof trousers, Ideal for bush bashing and tramping”.
And that’s exactly what they are. The Vent-X fabric is not a typical breathable membrane fabric but a much more durable coated Nylon fabric. The main down fall of this fabric type is a loss in breathability but a huge gain in durability and waterproofness. For over pants the breathability is not as much of an issue as a jacket and I have not found it be a problem with these pants. An elastic waist and double full-length zippers make these and easy on/off deal which is essential for a rain pant.
The full length zippers allow the pants to come fully apart at the top, this means they can be put on over skis/crampons/boots with out even lifting your feet from the ground. This I think is essential to rain pants, and once you get used to it you will never want to use pants with out them.
I wear rain pants a lot, nearly every day on most hunts, whether it is just for an hour or two to get through the dewy grass or wet scrub these pants are always in my pack. Coming in at 390grams/14oz and with a great price point these pants are a must. Durability wise I have just bought my second pair now after about 2 season of use from my first pair. I think this is pretty good going. Spaniards and matagouri put thousands of tiny holes in rain gear and wear most fabrics out pretty fast, I have seen rain pants of this same weight class shredded after one trip.
Earth Sea Sky is a true New Zealand brand with great core values that are dedicated to making top notch technical garments in New Zealand for New Zealand’s difficult conditions, and at competitive pricing. Although not ‘hunting orientated’ they offer a lot of gear that is transferable to the hunter especially those who are mainly hunting the ‘tops’.
About the Author
Owner/Operator of Hard Yards Hunting. Mountain hunting, especially for Tahr is my true passion and I spend as much time as I can in the hills. When I'm not guiding I am usually hunting for my self or testing gear.