Hunting in cold conditions can be miserable without the right apparel. There are several great options for cold weather hunting conditions on the market today and we are going to explore some of the best options on the market today. First, we must define cold weather hunting conditions. We all define cold weather differently. If you ask my wife, anything under 60 degrees is cold. However, for the purpose of this article, our baseline will be temperatures at or below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). You might be hunting in Texas or Florida and rarely ever see temperatures drop below freezing. If so, you might want to check out some future articles that are on the horizon.
Understanding the Basics of Cold Weather Hunting
Late-season hunts often produce temperatures below freezing in most areas in the whitetail’s range and finding the perfect clothing options for cold weather hunting starts with understanding the benefits of a layering system. Hunting clothing has evolved through the years from back in the day when you dressed up in heavy, bulky layers. Through trial and error, we’ve developed high-quality layers that enhance the hunting experience.
Choosing the Correct Base Layers for Cold Weather Hunting
There are two main types of base layers that you need to be familiar with, merino wool and synthetic base layers. Defining the best base layer is the best will depend on your budget and needs. Synthetic base layers have several different combinations that make them unique or proprietary to the brand. However, merino wool has a distinct advantage over a synthetic base layer that we will discuss. Merino wool wicks away moisture from the skin better than synthetic materials and it doesn’t stink nearly as bad as synthetic fibers. Moisture wicking is a key ingredient in fighting the cold. I know one avid hunter who changes his base layers after long hikes to the tree stand to combat this issue, but that’s a story for another day.
Synthetic materials have their advantages in some areas. For instance, some (not all) synthetic material is stretchier and more durable than merino wool. You’ll also find that merino wool costs a little bit more than most synthetic fibers. I find myself wearing synthetic materials more than merino wool in the cold but moisture management has been a thorn in my side. Both synthetic and merino wool makes a good base layer and you do not want to overlook this step in cold weather.
The warmest base layer isn’t always your best option. I’ve found that overdressing in this area can lead to a sweaty hunt after a long walk to the ground blind. My preference for cold weather base layers is the Sitka Gear Fanatic Hoody and Sitka Gear Heavyweight Bottoms. Both can get warm and I often hike to the stand in just my base layers. The 1/4 zip length zipper on the Fanatic Hoody allows me to regulate my body temperature when hiking and the hoody decreases the amount of accessories I need during the hunt.
Choosing the Correct Mid-Layers for Cold Weather Hunting
The most-overlooked layer of a cold-weather system is the middle layer. There are several great options for mid-layers on the market, some of which can be used as outer layers during moderately cold conditions. Most hunters find themselves utilizing “puffy” mid-layers for many different reasons. Warmth to weight ratio is phenomenal and they pack up ultra-small when not needed. This allows you to store them in your pack without taking up unnecessary space. There are other great options in the market, such as soft-shell jackets or vests. A good choice for your mid-layer is a wind-proof soft shell vest such as the Sitka Gear Stratus Vest.
Choosing the Correct Outer Layers for Cold Weather Hunting
When temperatures fall below 40 degrees, I break out my cold weather outer layers. When looking for quality cold weather hunting outerwear, the outer shell is the most important part. Look for an outer layer that’s equipped with wind resistance and most of the top manufacturers do, however, water resistance isn’t a staple in every garment. Precipitation comes in several forms, but in the winter it’s called snow. Typically, snow won’t saturate your clothing as fast as rain will but even a little bit of moisture seeping through your pants or jacket can cause severe discomfort when temperatures drop.
In previous years, my outer layer of choice has been the Sitka Gear Fanatic Jacket and Bibs. However, I’m really looking forward to putting the KUIU Proximity Insulated Jacket and Pants to the test this winter. One issue that I’ve had in the past with my Sitka Gear Fanatic Gear is overheating when walking to the stand. This Fanatic line-up is extremely warm but has many custom features for a deer hunter! The Fanatic Jacket and Pants may seem a bit bulky but the weight-warmth ratio is great! Also, Sitka recently updated the exterior fabric to be more burr-resistant and quieter.
The newest option for cold weather outer layers perfectly suited for whitetail deer hunting is the new KUIU Proximity line-up. Deer will have a hard time hearing you draw your bow back thanks to their new silent clothing option that was released recently.
Choosing the Correct Accessories for Cold Weather Hunting
The best cold weather hunting gear that money can buy is useless without the right accessories. For instance, if my feet and hands get really cold, I’m finished. I’m not sure which is worse, cold feet or cold hands. If I can’t maintain my body heat, then it’s hard to stay in the treestand during the harshest conditions of late-season whitetail hunts. Regulating body temperature is also essential to your health and safety when the temperature begins to drop and the right hunting gear can make a difference.
A great choice for accessories during cold weather hunts is the Sitka Fanatic Beanie and Neck Gaiter.
Cold Weather Hunting Tips
It’s a good idea to carry extra gloves in your backpack. Far too many times, I’ve got my gloves wet climbing into the stand or opening the gate during my travels. Also, if you plan to hunt for a long time, carry a battery backup charger for your phone and a few packs of hot hands are great additions to your hunting pack. Avoid placing your skin in direct contact with cold environments. Covering your entire body will help you regulate your body temperature during a late winter hunt.
Socks are an important thing to remember on cold weather hunts. There are several different options on the market and I haven’t tried them all. However, cotton socks are something you should try to avoid. Go with something slightly warmer and more durable such as Smartwool or Darn Tough. Many of the high-end boot companies also have high-quality socks in their line-up but they can get pricey. My number one tip for cold weather hunting is to buy some Arctic Shield Boot Insulators. Boot insulators, combined with Hot Hands, allow me to hunt in the same boot from the start of hunting season to the end, regardless of my location. If you’re only going to buy one new product for cold weather hunting, pick up a pair of Arctic Shield Boot Insulators.
Where is the best place to purchase KUIU or Sitka Gear?
High-quality gear doesn’t come cheap but Hunting Gear Deals does an excellent job in providing you links to discounted hunting items and sales, many of which include Sitka Gear and KUIU. The best time to buy KUIU camo is during one of their big sales events, which you can learn more about here.
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