Winter is coming. No I’m not talking about the Game of Thrones TV series which I’ve still not watched any of. I’m talking about the change of seasons. It seems almost overnight the trees have become bare, with their leaves now carpeting the woodland floor, whilst temperatures have started to dip further.
Recently there was a post on the NFAS Facebook site about suitable clothing for cold weather and that got me thinking and revisiting an article I wrote a few years back on the subject of staying warm in the winter months. I thought I would update it now, but focus a bit more on the base layers we have been using for a few years and a few other bits that might prove useful or even early Christmas gifts.
Being cold can really distract from your enjoyment of shooting, whether you are out hunting for your Christmas turkey or in our case at a field shoot. Cold hands make having an effective release hard, wet feet makes the body feel cold and day long. So here are a few tips and clothing advice we’ve found useful over the years.
Layer up – Merino wool base layers have served Sharon and I for years and I do mean years. Whether we are out shooting, hiking or skiing they are what we reach for to keep us warm. Ok, so ours are getting a bit worn now, but when you consider the number of years we’ve worn them I think they have been well worth the money.
Ours are Icebreakers and come in two weights 200 and a heavier 260. They work by keeping you warm when you need to be and doesn’t develop that synthetic feel other base layers do. The 260 weight have thumb holes and long sleeves that work really well for archery and for that matter skiing too as they keep your wrist warm. I think they are now sold at a 280 weight.
So what is Merino wool and why does it make it so well?
Here is a link to Icebreakers website and goes http://uk.icebreaker.com/en/why-icebreaker-merino/what-is-icebreaker-merino.html
I tend to avoid synthetic base layers as I find whilst they do keep you warm, then tend to hold body odours and result in getting a bit smelly quickly.
Don’t get too hot. This may sound strange when talking about shooting in cold weather, but if you get too warm you start to sweat. If this sweat doesn’t wick away from your body, you can very easily get cold when you stop moving round and that can in turn lead to hypothermia. You don’t have to out in in 3 ft snow to catch hypothermia, it can set in at just above freezing point as it is based on your body temperature dropping. So please take care.
Billy Connolly once said on one of his TV shows “there is no such thing as bad weather just wrong clothing”
Disposable hand warmer are useful to carry in a pocket to warm you up and they are quite inexpensive, if like us you buy them in bulk on-line.
There are various reusable ones that use charcoal sticks or lighter fuel too, but I don’t have any personal experience of the latter. The charcoal ones are a bit of a pain to get started and stay warm so we stick with the disposable ones. I know some people find the lighter fuel ones very useful. The disposable ones last for a few hours and I tend to have a few spare in the car or back pocket when skiing and hiking. One thing I have learnt is that they need air / oxygen to work so if they are buried under lots of layers they don’t work that well.
Decent waterproof boots are essential, wet feet equal cold feet, cold feet makes for uncomfortable day. You can read a review of mine here. I’m not a fan of wellington books as don’t find them that warm
Survivor Man – Les Stroud tweeted dry feet = happy feet
and he is so right there. I also keep a change of shoes in the car that will be dry and warm to change into after shooting, along a towel to dry your bow and you if you get wet. There are a few blankets in the car just in case. While talking about feet it is worth spending a bit more on decent socks too or to have a spare pair in the car to change into.
Decent windproof / water proof jacket. Ideally a breathable gore-tex jacket that you can move and shoot in. Finding one you can shoot in is a lot harder than you might think though, as the biggest problem is finding one that doesn’t have baggy sleeves to catch on the bow string. Fleece shirt and body warmer (Ideally windproof) which just acts as another layer is a good addition. You have to be careful that you don’t end up so restricted in moving due to heavy coats etc that you can’t move.
Keeping your legs warm. Again we have some Merino wool base layer leggings for when it is really cold. We never wear jeans. If jeans get wet, body warmth will leach out of you as jeans take an eternity to dry.
I use a pair of Craghopper Kiwi lined trousers and have for several years. They dry pretty quickly and keep you warm. The only downside I have found to them is don’t get too close to naked flame as they are synthetic. They do have a couple of zip pockets that means keeping keys safe is easy.
I do have some breathable waterproof over trousers too by Northface which I can put on if the weather turns wet. They can work well as an extra layer over lighter trousers like the Bear Grylls one I reviewed a while back on this site.
Warm hat and neck scarf or ideally neck buff will keep you warm. One thing I’ve not mentioned yet are gloves. It can be hard to find suitable gloves when shooting, especially if you are using a tab. Flip over mittens can work well. Sharon uses a pair and has for a couple years. Hers are fingerless gloves with a loop of fabric that fits over the fingers so making them into mittens when needs it.
Snacks energy bars and liquid – ideally a warm drink in a small thermos flask will serve you well. I tend to have a mug flask with hot fruit cordial on my belt and a flask of spicy soup in the car. The advantage of having a fruit cordial is if it goes cold its still drinkable. Thermal mug by Lifeventure http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/lifeventure-thermal-mug-d3432028 have worked well for us for a few years and keep the drink warm for a few hours.
Last thing is to consider of how you are getting home. I’ve been to a few of shoots over the years, where the biggest challenge wasn’t the course but getting off the car park, field or track. The fields and tracks had been churned up by all the archers’ cars or snow has changed to hard packed ice. The resulting quagmire or skating rink makes getting home a challenge.
For this reason I carry a tow rope, small spade, length of old carpet and jump leads just in case and I’ve used them all at shoots. A relative recent addition have been plastic tracks, sometimes called mud tracks or grips. They are about 6 inches wide and 12 inches long, made of a deep honeycomb structure and allow the tyres to gain a grip on the soft ground. These have proved really useful and helped more than a few people who have become stuck.
Ok, so all this may sound a little over the top but better to be prepared than cold.
Hope you find this useful and thanks for reading.