Dressing for Warmth to Stay Outside Longer
- 14 Oct, 2020
Unpopular opinion: I love cold weather hunts. In the Midwest whitetail woods, late season frigid weather and cold fronts ramps up the activity of hungry deer hitting standing corn and other food sources during daylight hours. Last year, a mid-November snow event caused my bibs to freeze to the wooden stand I was sitting in and make way too much noise every time I stood up. Cold fronts cause animals to move, and if you want to get out after them, you want to be comfortable—or, at least, less miserable. Here is some tried and true knowledge about dressing for warmth, as well as some of my personal favorite tips for staying warm longer.
The Classic Dressing-for-Warmth Rules
The number one key to staying warm is staying dry. This goes for both staying dry from the elements outside and sweat inside your clothes. You want your base layer to have some moisture wicking ability to keep sweat away from the skin. Synthetic base layers dry quickly, but they retain scent and can get smelly quickly. Wool base layers are more expensive and don’t dry as quickly as synthetic material, but natural wool such as merino has antimicrobial properties in it that reduces odor in the fabric. The merino base layers I use are incredibly soft and quiet, and are great for multi-day hunts when you don’t have the time or ability to do laundry frequently. My favorite synthetic base layer is a brushed waffle-like texture that allows the fabric to trap warm air against my body while wicking away sweat.
In addition to your base layers, you want various insulating layers depending on the climate you’re hunting and the level of activity you will exert. Down is an excellent insulating layer that helps trap body heat. I love a down vest because it adds extra warmth to your core without restricting movement in your arms when you already have multiple layers covering your arms. You can use a combination of different midlayers, which gives you flexibility as your activity level and temperature changes throughout the day.
External layers need to keep you dry. If there’s no precipitation, a soft shell coat will work as long as it sufficiently blocks the wind from forcing cold air through the material. In the snow or rain, however, you will want to choose an external layer that keeps off the moisture. It doesn’t have to be heavy as long as the rest of your midlayers keep you sufficiently warm, but it does need to keep out water.
Covering Exposed Skin and Keeping Your Hands and Feet Warm
Little patches of skin exposed to cold air play a surprising role in making your entire body cold. This includes your neck and wrists. A neck gaiter does wonders for keeping you warm by blocking cold air from going down the front of your jacket as well as on your neck in general. It can also double as a face covering to keep even more skin protected.
The wrists are another area of the body that can become easily exposed to cold air and let wind go up sleeves, adding to the chill. Gloves with long gauntlets are great for keeping out wind and snow. You can also wear large mittens over your gloves for added warmth. For long sits in a tree stand, I use a hand muff that buckles around your waist. Inside, I keep four different hand warmers and rotate between them as they grow cold. Air exposure helps reactivate hand warmers, so I keep two in pockets open to the air and the others in my hand muff.
As for keeping your feet warm, you need to consider your activity level and the type of terrain you will be experiencing. Heavy, warm boots that are great for tree stand sits won’t be comfortable hiking long distances. A pac boot with a wool liner that can be removed, dried, and switched out, are a favorite of many hunters. I prefer one pair of wool socks inside a heavily insulated neoprene or rubber boot like LaCrosse or Muck boots. Layering four pairs of socks sounds like it would add warmth, but in reality it restricts air flow and can make your feet hurt even faster than a single pair of warm socks with wiggle room.
Personal Tips and Preferences for Cold Weather Prep
- Hands-down, the best cold weather hack I have learned involves the sticky “foot warmers” you can buy. Instead of putting it on your feet, stick them to your back (not directly to your skin, but to your first or second base layer). Then finish dressing with your other layers. The amount of added warmth all day is amazing.
- Use heat wraps for muscle pain from the drug store. They provide warmth similar to the foot-warmer-on-the-back trick.
- If you’re walking to a setup location where you’ll be sitting still the rest of the day, bring your heavy layers with you in a pack to reduce sweating on your hike in, then put them on when you’re ready for to be stationary.
- As simple as it sounds, a steady supply of snacks works wonders for helping you keep warm. Break out the Little Debbies (although my personal favorite is a box of ginger snap cookies)!
Everyone who has hunted late in the season has developed their own tricks for staying warm. Please share yours in the comments!
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