By Dale R. Larson
Last November, while perched in a treestand overlooking the Missouri River just downstream from the confluence of the Yellowstone River, I was daydreaming about the hardships Lewis and Clark must have faced, specifically Mother Nature’s severe weather. It was below zero that morning, but it was still hard for me to relate to just how tough those men really were. I was dressed in all the latest high-tech clothing: undergarments with moisture-wicking capabilities; middle garments with wind-stopping and insulated layers; and outerwear that was windproof and waterproof, with additional insulation.
Bowhunting, being a waiting game with minimal movement for long periods of time, can be miserable, if not dangerous, in cold and/or wet conditions. With the latest technology of fabrics, added membranes, coatings and finishes available, we have it considerably easier than the hunters of Lewis and Clark’s day.
In using all this technology, the basic concept is a layering system that consists of base, middle and outer layers. And any of these layers can consist of multiple layers within themselves.
This first layer has to manage or control perspiration to keep you dry, wicking away the moisture and allowing it to escape. If you don’t get this layer right, you will be cold and uncomfortable even with the best middle or outer layer.
The middle layer is the insulating layer tailored to your current or expected weather conditions and activity. Typically, these are the extra layers carried in your pack, which have the ability to breath, allowing moisture to escape.
Outer Protective Layer
This last layer does just what it implies. It protects your other layers from the elements. The best outer layer will breathe and be lightweight and packable.
While layering your body, don’t forget to protect your extremities. As much as 50 percent of your body heat reduction can come from your head, hands and feet.
Know your tolerance to cold and manage your time so you spend less time sitting in the stand. Be aware of the optimum times of deer movement. Wait to access your stand at first light instead of in the dark. This will allow for a much quieter entrance, since the colder it is, the noisier your approach.
Stalking your treestand will make you go slow and keep you from perspiring. When sitting in the stand, add layers when you first feel cold. If you wait until your body is shivering, you might not regain lost heat since it’s easier for the layers to maintain heat rather than restore it.
Buy all layers in different insulating factors. Purchase quiet clothing that doesn’t make noise between layers or on the outside. Finding the most lightweight clothing available makes packing extra layers a snap. Middle and outer layers should have pockets, including slash pockets to allow easy access for your hands, and chest pockets for hand warmers. Middle and outer layers should be long cut to cover the kidney area, which will reduce heat loss.
Proper care of your clothing will extend its life and maintain its designed capabilities. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Always use low heat when drying, and beware of fabric softeners, which plug the voids in the fabric that allow it to breathe. Clean fabrics work as intended, but built-up dirt or fabric products can impede performance.
Bulky clothing can restrict movement when climbing and can create a dangerous situation, so make sure that all climbing devices and treestands will work with the extra clothing. You also might need a chest protector and/or arm guard to keep clothing from interfering with your draw or aim. Practice shooting with all your clothing to detect potential problems.
Technology has improved in the area of supplemental heating devices, as well. They’ve been compacted and reshaped to fit even our bowhunting arena. Heat packs for the feet, hands and body can extend time in the field. If your clothing has adequate pockets in the right places, heat packs work well. In extreme cold, try medical heat pads for the lower back. They will be a pleasant surprise.
If you exert enough energy to break a sweat in reaching your stand, immediately start a cool-down sequence. Uncover your head and hands, using them as heat vents. If necessary, open your shirt or jacket. When you first feel the cold, cover up; don’t wait too long. I keep lightweight head nets and gloves to wear during this cool down. They allow heat to escape while still keeping me camouflaged. Different type coverings with varying degrees of insulating properties work well to regulate core body temperatures.
Staying comfortable in the cold is as simple as moisture management and the ability to insulate. Controlling perspiration and Mother Nature’s precipitation, while trapping heat, allows the bowhunter the opportunity to be successful.
This article was published in the December 2004 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.