Mossy Oak and Realtree are two of the biggest camouflage companies currently on the market, and distinguishing which is the best for you can get pretty difficult.
The truth is that it takes more than just a quick recommendation to come to a usable conclusion.
If you’ve been wondering which of these companies makes the best companion pieces for your hunt, then you’re in luck as we compare and contrast some of their more famous patterns and the uses for each.
The Purpose of Camouflage
While many people think that the idea of camouflage is to make you invisible, that’s not quite the case.
Instead, camouflage has one primary use: it breaks up the silhouette of a hunter. Most game animals have adapted to hunters, they see a distinctly human outline as an immediate threat.
Different animals have different visual capacities, which can make camouflage more or less essential while you’re in the field. Game birds, for instance, tend to have extremely acute vision and are already prone to flight from any visible threat which makes camouflage that closely matches the surrounding terrain pretty much essential.
On the other hand, deer are mostly colorblind through the majority of the spectrum visible to humans although their vision does extend into the ultraviolet spectrum. Staying still is much more important than camouflage as long as the dyes in the material you’re wearing aren’t UV-reactive.
The takeaway is this: your camouflage needs to break up your outline, not necessarily make you invisible.
Modern camouflage comes in 3D patterns and can get quite complex, which is where brands like Mossy Oak and Real Tree come in. The patterns produced by these companies have a realistic look, including depth of field which is a great way to keep you from being spotted and perceived as a threat even while in motion.
The Right Camouflage for Your Hunt
Picking the right camouflage out isn’t always easy. Different areas, different seasons, and climate can all effect which is the right pattern while you’re hunting.
For instance, an entirely blaze orange suit can actually work well while you’re hunting deer since the color doesn’t stick out for your quarry.
On the other hand, a 3D camouflage pattern which is designated for green forests for early spring hunting is going to stick out like a sore thumb if you’re planning on hunting in the California chaparral for rabbit or quail.
The biggest factor, as long as you have a properly shadowed pattern, is color palettes. Both of these brands have dozens of different patterns to choose from, as you can see from Cabela's Camo Buying Guide, and they really do make some of the best stuff out there.
Your primary colors are browns, grays, and greens. Orange also makes an appearance in some special cases and white is often used in conjunction with brown for hunting in winter where it snows.
Fill-in can actually occur unpredictably. When you fill in, the camouflage you’re using ends up being rendered almost useless. Some of the “better” camouflage we looked at actually fills-in at twenty yards or so, rendering it almost useless for hunting even if it looks great.
This means that careful consideration of where you’re hunting in the woods or plains you frequent is important. If you use tree stands, for instance, you’ll have to consider how things will look against the sky while those who are in the scrub or practicing spot-and-stalk hunting are going to have much different needs.
We’ve picked out some of the best patterns from both brands, and we’ll discuss their usage and which comes out as the best.
Scrubland and Chaparral Hunting
Realtree’s Max-1 XT camouflage is one of the best we’ve seen for hunting in the open. With realistic patterns and extensive shadowing mimicking dry scrub, it stands out for all the right reasons.
It has a muted grey and brown color palette, combined with shadowing to create a 3-D illusion and allow you to blend in while you’re partially hidden in brush and scrub during the late fall season or anywhere it remains dry year-round.
Meanwhile, the Mossy Oak Brush pattern is perfect for sitting out in the open in these areas. It comes with a relatively muted palette of browns and greys, with just a touch of super dark green. It’s a bit less busy than the Max-1 XT camouflage but seems to be more effective in the open.
Our Verdict: Both of these patterns have their uses. The Max-1 XT is better for those who are going to be deeper in the brush, while the Mossy Oak Brush pattern absolutely shines when you’ll be more in the open, such as in the tall grass.
You’ll want to carefully watch where you position yourself with either, however, as neither provides a good break-up pattern against the sky.
Those familiar with scrubland hunting already know it’s usually best to be above their prey but you don’t want to be sitting on top of a hill since you’ll fill in against the sky no matter how much camo you’re wearing.
Springtime Woodland Ground Hunting
You’ll need different camouflage for spot-and-stalk hunting than you would use for hunting from stands and blinds. Your ground patterns in woodlands need to be dominated by browns and greens, as well as maintaining a 3D appearance in order to add depth to the silhouette breaking induced by the camouflage.
Mossy Oak’s Obsession was our favorite. The pattern is brown and green, with a grey backdrop reminiscent of bark. The dominant green patterns allow for blending in while you’re not against a tree provided that you’re careful about where you’re moving.
For any kind of woodland hunting in the early season this is simply one of the best patterns available, however, it doesn’t perform well in areas which are exceptionally flat due to a complete inability to blend in with the sky.
Realtree X-Tra Green offers the same dominant color patterns with an emphasis on the brown side of things. If you’re hunting in heavily wooded areas where the chances of being backed up against the sky are low it’s perfect for spring hunting.
Our Verdict: Obsession is the better of the two in our opinion for most areas. If the woodlands you’re hunting in are mostly devoid of ground cover then Realtree X-tra Green might edge it out due to the emphasis.
The truth is for spot-and-stalk hunting your technique and skill is always going to be more valuable than camouflage, which is mostly there to cover up for mistakes made and neither will prevent the error of silhouetting against the sky which is the most devastating mistake you can make.
Bowhunting from treestands is one of the most common forms of hunting for larger game like whitetail deer. If you’re planning on snagging a big buck in the coming seasons then some thought towards the pattern of camouflage you use is a good idea.
Mossy Oak Treestand camouflage is designed specifically for these situations. It includes open spaces and realistic details of branches with a predominantly brown and grey pattern. With the right positioning, you’ll be in good hands while using it.
Oddly enough, however, we found their Break-Up pattern to be much more effective, especially at realistic distances. It has a muted color pattern which is spread across the spectrum of useful camouflage colors and does a good job at breaking the silhouette through a wide variety of distances.
Realtree has a clear advantage here with their Advantage Timber pattern, however, particularly in those areas where leaves are still present.
Our Verdict: The Advantage Timber pattern is absolutely one of the best we’ve seen when you’re hunting from the trees. Realtree’s stand hunting patterns are better thought out overall, but don’t discount Mossy Oak if you prefer the look and have quite a bit of experience placing your tree.
Overall, it’s hard to recommend just one company when it comes to camouflage. The more important factor is always going to be up to your own expertise.
Mossy Oak seems to produce much better patterns for hunting in the open, while Realtree’s patterns tend to have a serious advantage when it comes to more densely wooded areas.
Both companies produce high-quality patterns for just about every situation and your skill at matching your camouflage to the environment you’re hunting in is one of the biggest factors in determining how well you perform in the field.
What Gear Should Be Camouflaged?
While the advertisements for camouflage always shows someone cloaked from head to toe in a single pattern, many of us find this impractical in the field. It gets expensive buying a whole new set for each season and use, after all.
As a general rule, your torso and face are the most important pieces of the puzzle. Ignoring the face is something which many novices make a mistake on, but it’s also one of the most easily recognizable pieces of human anatomy.
Remember that most game animals have developed a healthy fear of humans. Our eyes are positioned directly facing forwards, marking our profile as that of a predator and keeping your face hidden is rather important. Hats and a face mask, combined with a torso covering are enough for most hunters.
The second most important piece is your weapon. This is especially important with bows and crossbows, which present a wide profile instead of just the barrel of the firearm. Rifles and shotguns can be easily modified for different seasons, it’s prohibitively expensive to buy them in all patterns.
Once again it all boils down to breaking up the profile.
Following these vital pieces, you’ll next want to disguise your legs, hands, and feet. Gloves and boots are available in many patterns.
Finally, your backpack and other gear can be modified. For stationary hunting methods this isn’t quite as important since you’re likely to set the pack down somewhere but for more mobile forms of hunting, it’s a good idea to make sure that everything blends in.
Don’t be afraid to mix patterns, as it can cause further silhouette breaking.
Picking your camouflage from either Realtree or Mossy Oak will largely boil down to personal choice and the environment you’re hunting in, but as long as you broadly match your color palettes with the environment you’re hunting in then you’ll have an advantage over the game animals you’re hunting.
Either way, you’re looking at a solid investment, just make sure that you prioritize your gear properly and keep working on your own skills and you’re going to be in good hands.