Cold Weather Hunting Gear - Must Haves
Living in the Midwest, most of our hunting seasons are during our beloved winters as well. Perhaps we get a few nice days out in the field pushing some birds but come firearm deer season there are very good chances there will be snow on the ground. This is not a deterrent to those that enjoy this great time outdoors, in fact, most of us live in the Midwest because of our winters!
That being said, during my years of hunting I have learnt some ways to stay comfortable out in the field, in the blind, up in a tree or simply walking the woods. Below is what I think are the cold weather hunting gear essentials if you are looking to hunt when the temps drop.
There are certainly battery operated versions of the traditional long johns nowadays but I think layers are more effective. I have always used standard long johns, a thermal fleece lined compression top and a merino wool top. Merino is key as it moves moisture away from the skin to keep the surface area of your skin dry. Even though it might be cold out, if you start to sweat, that later cooling sweat will not be welcome. To top it off you can add some fleece lined shirts and snag resistant bottoms (if you are planning on battling some brush).
In late spring and winter you don't know what weather you might have to endure and thus the correct outerwear is key. Waterproof, breathable, hooded, plenty of pockets and warm should all be aspects you are looking for. Keeping dry is the most important thing when hunting in cold temps and looking for outerwear (top and bottom) that can resist the elements is well worth the investment.
Don't forget about your noggin
Safety first, always. This might come in a form of an orange baseball cap for those warmer days but when it comes to cold weather hunting you will want to opt for a thicker orange beanie and in extreme conditions a balaclava. The balaclava doesn't necessarily need to be orange just as long as you are still using a hat with it. These suggestions will keep the heat in as up to 10% of your skin surface area is on your head.
The extremities (our hands and feet) are the most important to keep warm. Though they might not have the surface area for heat loss, they are the furthest away from the heart and thus more difficult to get warm blood to. As a result of this they are very prone to frostbite and getting cold easily. I'm sure I'm not the only one that as soon as my toes get cold it feels as though my whole body got 15 degrees colder as well as some extreme discomfort.
A few seasons ago I was given some battery operated socks by a hunting buddy who was done hearing me constantly complaining about my toes. I was skeptical at first but pair them with some heavy duty Merino wool (for the same reasons as mentioned above) and you will have warm, dry feet for the entirety of your day. An alternative of this would be hot hands foot warmers but these can become uncomfortable when walking a lot and changing them vs. a battery in the field is no comparison.
This article of clothing I have always struggled to give recommendations for as there really wasn't a perfect solution. That is why I set out to design the SleeveShield™ to give hunters comfort, warmth, function and an alternative to the conventional glove.
The issue with conventional gloves are that the warmest gloves are going to be thick and will inhibit your fingers when you look to pull the trigger. On the other hand (no pun intended) you have gloves that either convert to mittens and can be folded back to expose fingers or simply lighter gloves. Both of these end in an experience of either missing a shot by fiddling with the flap or simply having too cold of fingers to operate a firearm.
The SleeveShield™ allows you to not wear a glove at all on your trigger finger hand and a thicker warm glove on your other supporting hand. It can do this by providing a fleece lined, completely windproof and heated (by optional heat packs in the mesh inner pockets) muff for your hand. This allows your hand to stay warm, protected and on the trigger ready for that bird flushing or deer coming into sight!
So, there you have it, my recommendations for cold weather hunting gear. Hunting in cold weather is all about preparation and I hope the above will help all enjoy the great outdoors even when Mother Nature isn't cooperating. It is always better to be overdressed than to be under dressed as you can always remove layers but there are no outdoor outfitters in the field or in the woods.
SleeveShield™ can be found here.