Oh, when the weather outside is frightful, but the tree stand is so delightful… For most all of us, it doesn’t really matter what the weather is doing, we’re going to go hunting regardless. This includes when the temperature drops down into frigid levels. What do we do? We gear up and go! SOmetimes the weather catches us off guard and we have to regroup a little. No worries, just remember these five cold-weather hunting gear pieces every hunter absolutely needs to enjoy the hunting season to its fullest.
Editor’s Pick – Base layers
It’s kind of funny. Before the hunting community got all technical, base layers were just referred to as long underwear. The thing is, base layers have become far more technical than your plain, old long underwear. Comfort levels have increased, as have warmth and scent prevention. After all, your layer of clothing closest to your skin is your first line of defense against odor.
The true reason you simply must have a good base layer is warmth. A good base layer helps retain body heat better than anything else and can make your hunt more enjoyable when the temperature drops. Having your set ready to go during any hunt, because the weather can change in an instant. One of our favorites around here is the ScentLok AMP base layer. They are heavy enough for cold weather and help absorb scent. The best thing with base layers is that you can wear them under your regular hunting clothing for slightly cold weather, or under your heavy-duty insulated stuff for much colder weather.
If you didn’t already know, you lose a lot of body heat through your head. You should always have a proper winter beanie-style cap with you. I keep a Carhartt Greenfield reversible cap in my truck during the hunting months. It’s reversible, with a bright orange side, and a dark side. This makes it great for hunting from a ground blind. You can walk out with a bright, visible orange hat, and then switch to a darker version when you’re in the blind. I keep mine in a zip-lock style bag to help keep the scent down. The important thing here is that you have something to cover your head to help keep you warm. I like to wear a hooded jacket so I can add an extra layer of warmth to my head when it gets really cold. If you’ve ever sat in a treestand in late December, in one of the northern states, you know cold. This is when extra layers to your head are extremely important.
I was at an event where the temperature dropped overnight. The next morning, folks who weren’t used to the cold were breaking out the disposable heat packs and sticking them all over in an effort to warm up. I already had a couple going. The little packs, which use a chemical reaction to create heat, can be a lifesaver when the temperature plummets during hunting season. Here’s a couple of tips to keep in mind. The reaction comes when you break the airtight seal of the packaging. The little pouch contains slightly moist iron power and salt. Adding air, which goes through the breathable membrane of the pouch, causes a rust to form and that exothermic reaction gives off heat. That is why you have to put the pouch in a spot that gets air. I like to have one in my hat, but be careful that it doesn’t get too hot. I also slip one inside the back of each glove.
Pro Tip: Break the seal and let them warm up for a little while before you use them. I get them going before I leave to go hunting, and then they are nice and toasty when I get there. Also, if something comes up and you’re done early, you can always put them in a ziplock bag and get all the air out. This actually stops the reaction.
Heavy socks seem like a no-brainer for serious cold-weather hunting gear, but you can actually do more harm than good if you pick the wrong socks. Your feet perspire more than you think. If you don’t believe me, pick up your son’s sneakers and take a whiff. You absolutely must have socks with a wicking element to them. This helps draw moisture out and away from your feet and allows more warmth to stay by your skin. Socks, like Smartwool Hunt Socks, that have a blend of merino wool and nylon work great for keeping your feet warm, supporting your foot while you’re wearing them, and keeping the moisture away from your skin. Good socks should also have ample room in the toe area, so your feet can breathe.
If you can’t stand thick socks, then you better get some super-warm boots. For the coldest adventures, try the Thorogood Endeavor Extreme boots. They have 2,400g of Thinsulate and are completely waterproof. They’re very comfortable, too.
Okay, maybe not exactly coffee, but something hot to drink is a must have for me. I know you may expect me to have gloves on this list, and that’s a great option you should have. But I can always find a way to keep my hands warm, especially with the chemical heat packs we already discussed. A nice, hot thermos of coffee makes a cold morning hunt 1,000% more enjoyable to me.
I currently use a Pelican 32oz. Bottle that keeps stuff hot for up to 12 hours and it is magnificent. During those cold morning waterfowl hunts where you get the decoys set and then sit in the blind for a while waiting for the birds to show, I fill it up full of strong coffee – like expresso strong. My father-in-law once said my hunting season coffee is so strong, it hurts your teeth when you drink it. The Pelican keeps it pretty hot, too, although it says it’ll keep it hot for 12 hours and I’ve yet to let my coffee sit that long to try it out. I’ve usually pounded through it all before the first flock shows up.
Pro Tip: Lighter coffee roasts have more caffeine than dark roasts. I currently drink a lot of Maxwell House Morning Boost, a light to medium roast with added caffeine goodness.
What are some of your favorite cold weather hunting gear essentials?
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