My first concern, rather than camo, is fabric performance when I’m in the field. I can be a long way from the truck, and given where I live that means I need to be prepared for everything from 85F to snow on an “early season” September hunt.
Wool can work great…for some things, and depending on the type of wool. Anything made of ‘recycled’ wool is worthless in my opinion (since the recycling process strips wool of much of its benefits). On the other hand, good thick virgin wool is awesome in cold weather, but like Jason points out – wool can get very heavy when wet, and takes a long time to dry. If I’m on a multi-day backcountry trip, I can’t afford to have layers that are still soggy in the morning. Thick wool can also be bulky to pack, if you are doing long days or multi-day trips.
And while I love my old Pendleton wool plaid shirt, hiking up the mountain on a hot September afternoon while wearing it seems like a painful excercise, just to look “traditional.” Later in the season when the weather is much cooler? Sure.
Good merino wool, on the other hand, is the best baselayer (and midlayer) I have ever used. Far superior to any synthetic base/mid layers I’ve come across. The temperature range that it remains comfortable in is truly impressive. While I wouldn’t want my old Pendleton on a hot uphill hike, I’ve done so daily in a lightweight merino layer and been perfectly comfortable. And it deals with body odors far better than any gimmicky “scent-block” garments I’ve seen. I can wear it all day, hang it outside overnight (as I do all my hunting clothing), and it’s good to go in the morning.
And then there are a lot of applications that I think more modern, synthetic layers really do excel at, particularly for backcountry hunts in places with highly variable weather. For early season, warm hunts, a lightweight pair of synthetic pants wins hands-down, imo. Soft-shell layers are great in snow, and don’t absorb moisture like wool does if things warm up and start melting. Rain layers? No choice but some sort of synthetic shell, really.
So, as others have said, choices depend on time of year, anticipated weather, etc. Wool has its virtues, but it isn’t my only choice, and is often mixed in with synthetics as well. While I don’t need all the latest “cutting edge” hunting clothing, I also feel no need to dress “retro” just for the sake of feeling traditional either. I”m guessing that a lot of our trad icons, if they were alive today, would be adopting some of the better synthetic materials available now as well.
To the original question – I’m not opposed to camo (neither was Fred Bear…), though I fully agree that it has been way over-hyped, and that many patterns being sold now are just silly. But simple patterns like ASAT, Vias, etc. work just fine for just about any environment. If I can have good performing clothing for the backcountry, and it happens to come in a decent (non-digi, non-gimmicky) camo pattern, then why not?