HOW TO BEAT THE COLD WHILE HUNTING
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Don’t let bitter conditions ruin your hunt. Having the right gear will let you survive the elements in comfort.
During January of 2014, a polar vortex brought below-zero temperatures to the Midwest, and that deep freeze coincided with Ohio’s late muzzleloader season. While most of us (myself included) were hiding from the cold close to a raging fire, some hunters, like Chad McKibben, were out in the elements in search of deer. And, in McKibben’s case, braving the elements paid handsomely. He managed to tag a huge whitetail buck in the early morning hours with temperatures of -6 degrees Fahrenheit, and he was the only hunter in the woods.
Some of the best hunting occurs on the tail of passing cold fronts, but to hunt in those conditions you need to have the right gear. Here’s a step-by-step plan to help you manage to stay comfortable in cold environments, a key to success when hunting in winter.
Staying warm in cold weather starts with your base layer. Companies like Under Armour offer a wide selection of base layers that fit comfortably on the body, yet keep valuable body heat close to the source.
The base layer should be always be low-bulk layer, which allows you to avoid really large, heavy, outwear that limits your movement. All base layers should also be breathable to allow moisture to escape while keeping heat trapped close to the body.
If conditions are really cold, you’ll probably also need a mid-layer between your base layer and outer layer. Mid-layer items are important to keep the maximum amount of body heat trapped inside.
Finally, consider the purpose for your outer layer. Your outer layer, while it helps trap body heat, also serves as protection from the elements. Parkas like Browning’s Hell’s Canyon Blended Down Jacket are great for keeping body heat in and cold out.
Moisture saps body heat, so you need to stay dry. This is why good waterproof clothing is essential—cold rain on a 40-degree day can ruin your hunt—or worse cause hypothermia, so even mild temperatures require waterproof clothing. Pack rain gear that you can put on in a hurry and avoid plastic materials that are noisy and will give your position away as you move. Core 4 Element’s Torrent jackets and pants are ultra-light and quiet, and they keep you dry and comfortable on rainy days.
FEET, HANDS, AND HEAT
A good pair of waterproof boots is a must during hunting season, and you’ll want to match insulation levels with the exterior temperature. On mild days, I wear low-cut waterproof boots with 400 grams of Thinsulate, and wicking socks to keep moisture off my feet. In cold temps, I switch to a more insulated boot, something with 1000 or 1200 grams of Thinsulate for maximum protection from the cold. I find that ThermaCELL’sheated insoles offer an additional level of protection and I always have a pair when conditions turn cold. Good socks are also important. If you’re going to layer socks, use a light pair of wicking socks on the inside and heavier cold-weather socks on top.
A great deal of heat is lost through the head, so wear a hat that covers your ears. Again, I like a wicking design like those from Under Armour that cover my nose, mouth, and ears as well as my head and allow moisture to escape. In the coldest conditions, an additional wool hat is a good option. Don’t ignore your hands—you’ll need manual dexterity to fire your bow or gun and your fingers won’t work properly if they’re too cold. In addition, I like to carry an additional heat source in my pockets to keep my hands extra warm and comfortable. ThermaCELL’s new Heat Packs are innovative rechargeable heaters that fit in your pocket and provide up to six hours of warmth from a single charge.