Hunting is a year-round pursuit. For many, when it comes to those cold winter months a decision has to be made on whether to brave the elements or to stay at home in front of the T.V. For those who do venture out, the reward can far exceed the effort. In this article, I will go over how to layer your clothes correctly and give some other tips that you may not have thought of, all of these put together are the key to staying warm on a cold hunt.
Preparation – Wearing the Right Clothes
There is an art to getting dressed when heading out to hunt in cold weather. Many of us will do it without even knowing. This is called Layered clothing. Simply put, it is when you wear lots of layers to insulate the body. This helps to keep you warm by trapping cold air between each item of clothing and warming it up. This is why it is often better to wear lots of thin layers rather than one big layer. It all sounds very simple, but it is something people often get wrong. There are three types of layers to look at.
This layer is referred to as your ‘second skin’. This is because it comes into direct contact with your body. When hunting, this is probably the most important layer because it is the moisture management layer. Basically, it helps to keep you warm when you sweat. Imagine you are tracking a whitetail in the rain. The movements your body makes will cause you to sweat. This is fine when your moving but when you stop that sweat will cool down very quickly and make you cold. Obviously, this is not good. The base layer will act as a second skin, preventing the cold air from cooling down the sweat before it has been absorbed. This prevents you from getting cold. The best material for the base layer is Marino Wool. Marino Wool is a great insulator (keeps you warm) and is fast drying if it gets wet. This is ideal for when you have to sit still. One bad material to use for the base layer is cotton because it is notoriously bad at insulating the body and takes much longer to dry when wet.
As the name suggests, the middle layer is worn over your base layer. The mid-layer is where you should focus all of the main insulating duties. If hunting in heavy rain or snow you should be wearing a thick middle layer which will offer you as much warmth as possible. You could use a windproof vest or a long shirt which can then be used as an outer layer if the weather improves. The last thing you want to do when hunting is restricted arm and shoulder movement so if you find one thick layer is too restrictive you should try 2 or 3 fleeces or long shirts. This will help improve movement without compromising on the insulating properties of the middle layer.
This layer is crucial to keeping the other layers dry. My preference is to go for a waterproof jacket, but this does have its downsides. For one, a waterproof jacket can make a noise that could give away your position. A great alternative is to go for a soft-shell outer layer. This will be stretchy, breathable, and water-resistant. Due to the breathability of a softshell, you can undertake high energy activities and avoid overheating. This is ideal when hunting due to the intense tracking periods followed by sitting and waiting.
Keeping the Head, Hands, and Feet Warm on a Cold Hunt
The key to keeping your head warm is to cover exposed parts of the face. Typically, this is the nose and ears. This can be done by wearing a balaclava or face mask. This will be invaluable when facing into the wind. Many people will have a preference for how to cover their face, personally, I don’t like wearing a hat, so the face mask is ideal for me.
Shooting in gloves is not ideal so it may be worth picking up some hand warmers which you can easily pull out of when you are ready to shoot. Again, the general rule is to say no to cotton. If you can, look for Merino Wool or treated synthetic fabric material gloves.
If you are hunting in the snow it almost seems inevitable that you will get cold feet. However, there are a couple of things you can do which will help. For starters, do not wear cotton socks. Again, cotton is a terrible insulator and will not keep you warm. Once wet, cotton will become your worst enemy as they will not dry. Secondly, ensure you have waterproof boots. This can be done by applying waterproof varnish or liquid to your boots. Finally, this is down to preference but if you are not planning on walking too far try loosening your boots so that your warm blood can easily circulate around your body and to your feet.
What Else to Take With You
We have put together our essential list of things to take with you when hunting. To reiterate a few of those, you need to ensure you have spare gloves, a spare middle layer (in case yours gets wet) and always carry extra socks in case the weather turns extremely cold. Another thing to remember is that when on the hunt you will be burning excess calories. This means that your body needs to refuel. Ensure you take snacks with you so you can recharge and replace those lost calories. This will help your body respond more efficiently to the weather conditions and will help to warm you up.
There are some ‘hi-tec’ optional which may interest you such as rechargeable hand warmers and chemical warmers. These are good options, but you should not rely on them. The rechargeable hand warmers by their very nature will run out and this could be devastating if you are mid-hunt. Also, the chemical warmers are clever but there have been times when these have not worked well for me in the moments, I needed them most. I am always wary of these ‘smart’ options and if you do like them always ensure you have a back-up ready just in case.
The key to staying warm whilst hunting is preparation and common sense. The more you prepare the better equipped you will be to deal with cold or changing conditions. Remember that the base layer is vital for moisture management – especially for situations when you are moving then stopping a lot. The middle layer should be your main isolator and is the layer designed to keep you warm. The Outer layer is there to keep you dry. Following these simple steps will get you out of the house and hunting all year round.
This article is a guest post written by Joe McQuillan. Joe runs a hiking website called Cool Wilderness. Joe is an experienced mountaineer who teaches survival training to hikers who are climbing at high altitude in freezing temperatures.
Thank you for reading my article about staying warm on a cold hunt. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something you didn’t already know. If you like my content, subscribe to my weekly update. If you have any other questions about staying warm on a cold hunt or just want to connect, feel free to email me at Patrick.Long@omegaoutdoors.net.