If you get out in your stand and start getting cold, you’re not going to enjoy staying out there very long. Here are a few tips for your cold weather clothing so you won’t be tempted to get down out of the tree when it starts to get cold.
We’ve come a long way from the days of bundling up in a half dozen layers of worn out clothing that don’t dry once you sweat in them. Gore-Tex is here and is battery heated clothing. Let’s take a look at a more up-to-date gear setup.
Head – A lot of heat escapes through your head. I wear a facemask rolled into a beanie to cover two needs with one piece of kit. If you get chilly at all, you can pull it down covering your face and neck. Very efficient. I also like a thick hood on my jacket just in case I need it.
If it is very cold out I’ll wear another beanie over top of the facemask. I shoot traditional so I stay away from the ball cap style beanies. They in the way of my normal draw. Another useful piece of headgear that has nothing to do with heat is a small LED headlamp. They’re invaluable when it comes to cleaning and packing out your animal at the end of the day and beat chomping down on a Maglite.
Torso – Keeping your core warm is the key to staying comfortable. I always like to have one wicking garment like an under armor against my skin, and then a looser thermal underwear layer over that. Overtop of this, a vest works great without bulking out the movement of your arms.
Since wind chill is the big deal. You need a wind barrier. Any waterproof shell over your thermal layer works great but under arm and side torso zippers are a bonus for heat regulation. It will buffer the wind and keep you dry for the early fall hunts. After that when it gets colder, I like a waterproof insulated jacket that traps air.
Pants – If it’s fall without snow on the ground, I have a water-resistant set of Alpine pants from Black Diamond that has a very thin insulating layer. They have a large zipper for venting if they get too warm. They’re great for hunting in the mountains because the weather can change quickly and get damp or rainy without much notice. I still get the wind and water protection without the noise while walking that you get with full on rain gear.
A lot of guys like the outer layer to be one piece to keep the midriff from being exposed. I agree but prefer the bib style as opposed to overalls because when I’m sitting in coveralls, the material around my upper body and shoulders gets tight. This compresses the natural air buffer layer and I get colder faster than with a lower layer bib that allows my top layer to stay fluffy.
Gloves – I shoot traditional and have my finger protectors on when I hunt. Because of this in extreme cold weather, I wear arctic mitts with the finger protectors underneath. In fall to mild winter, I wear Gore-Tex Helly Hansen snowboarding gloves that have patches of exterior leather right where I need them. Cabelas puts out electrically heated gloves that will last several hours. I see the value and someday I will cave and try them, but I hate using anything that needs to be charged up to be of use. Especially in an area with no electrical outlets.
Socks and Boots – My feet sweat a lot so I wear wool poly socks to start. I also wear my sneakers for the drive out and keep the truck cool so I don’t start the day with sweaty feet. The biggest thing for me is to keep toe wiggle room in the boot after you get on your sock layers. Depending on the temperature I go with either an insulated Gore-Tex Danner boot with only a wicking sock for fall temperatures. This lets me crush through the first layer of snow and into those hidden puddles without worry. When it gets really chilly I use more of a polar boot style. There are many types of hunting boots to choose from, you can’t get wrong if you go with any of these or these.
During the really cold weather a “one size too large” arctic boot with a three socks system has been key. I personally use Mukluk arctic boots. While still leaving room in the boot, wear only the first sock wicking layer on the walk into the stand. Then put on the lightweight wool sock and lastly the medium to heavy wool sock once you settled in.
Overall, this system keeps me pretty warm all season. The only way to mess it up is to fall in a creek or sweat on the way in. Make sure you stay a little chilly for the walk and wear a windproof outer layer even on the face mask. The fleece is great until the wind starts whipping through it.
Enjoy your hunt.