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June 09, 2008

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Out Cold

Aye, lads, it's cold outside
Colder than the edge of an ice-bound pool;
Colder than the tip of an Eskimo's tool.
Aye, lads, it's a wee bit chilly
But not as cold as my boy Willy
He's dead--f**k him.

--Korean-War-era poem which I either heard in the Army or got from a book; it's hard to remember what's real and what isn't.

As hunters, it's part of our lot in life to be cold. The idea that you can be comfortable at all temperatures, no matter what you're doing, is a crock. Having frozen in various outdoor pursuits for 50 years or so, I can boil (no pun intended) the subject down to two great truths:

1) If you get wet, either from sweat, rain, or snow, you're in trouble.
2) If you can't keep the wind off, you're in trouble.

All else is advertising copy.

Here are some more truths:

Wind goes through wool, period. If you have a wool coat, you better have something windproof to wear underneath.

If you really work hard, your "moisture-permeable membrane" which "allows sweat to escape" will parboil you.

Down will do the same. On two occasions, I've seen condensed sweat roll out of the inside of a down jacket like rain off a roof.

But neither will leave you drenched and steaming like oiled cotton, which is beloved of the British and yuppie sporting clays shooters.

Some people can take a lot more cold than others. So if you are sensitive to cold, follow Gresham's Laws (Grits', not Sir Thomas') which states:

If you don't bring it, you can't wear it.
If I don't bring it, it's because I don't own it.

The most useful item of cold-weather clothing that no one seems to sell: Back in the 60s, ski shops used to carry wool fishnet undershirts from Scandinavia that kept the sweat off your hide and did not stink. They seem to have vanished. There are poly versions around, but after two days like this you will reek like a cage filled with baboons.


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Hehe, one advantage of being FAT! All I have to do is walk a few yards to warm up! Me and the boy (thin, athletic, jock-type) were hunting in around zero (F) a few years ago and I was trying to keep up with him, he was verging on hypothermia and I was sweating buckets with both of us dressed equally in layers! Ended up having to head home early, me to change into dry clothes and him a Hot shower to warm up.
I usually wear a pair of sweat pants under my camo pants, if it is gonna be below zero and windy I will wear my insulated pants. Got to have thinsulate boots, last year I wore non-insulated boots and after loosing touch with my feet after a few hours walking in snow I had to go home. Not a good thing.
Top gets a long sleeve cotton Tshirt, sweatshirt, insulated vest, nylon jacket, and long parka.
Head gets one of several different knit hats and a GI Helmet Liner if it gets really cold and windy, if you have never worn one you don't know what your missing, really great for cold windy days.


Try Boot Blankets too keep the feet warm while on satnd.
You carry them in to your stand and then slip them right over your boots. I have not had a cold toe since I started using them.
Only drawback I can think of it is just one more thing you need to carry in.


Boot Blankets



Go get yourself a wool Stormy Kromer cap or one of the Filson hunting hats, the kind that fold down into a hood. That's my go-to cold weather gear.

paul Wilke

Keep your head, hands and feet warm and every thing else is a picnic.
Jeep cap and hooded sweatshirt for the head.
Silk gloves for the hands(ask at a funeral parlor),covered with wool gloves and toped with leather gloves or leather mittens(called choppers up north).
Dress socks(top of calf) covered with wool socks(big thick wool socks) and a pair of leather boots that fit.
Top that with a military gore-tex parka/with hood!
Got it made!


Here in the Pacific Northwest we are still having snow in higher elevations! Ski resorts are loving this Global Warming!

Hunting out here is mostly about keeping dry so rain gear is indespensible!

I was not a hunter when I lived in West Virginia but I worked outside year round -- including sub-zero winter. Similar to Grisham's Law, we would say, "You can always take it off if you brought it; but you can't put it on if you didn't!"


Polypro long underwear all the way in cold weather. With that on underneath, almost anything with loft and wind resistance that you put on over it will keep you warm.

Now to the main event; three things that get coldest when you are on stand are your head, your feet, and your butt. All my hoods make noise when I turn my head in them, so I like a neck cover and separate hat, and wear a mask only if it is really, really cold. Boots, you need thick pacs, LaCrosse or Sorrels, etc. with lofty wool socks on your feet. Tie the laces tight when you walk and loosen them when you get squared away on your stand; your feet will stay warmer with a little more room for circulation. And an insulated, waterproof sitting pad is a good thing for your backside. Keep these three parts warm and the rest of you will be fine. Don't forget that you are out there to hunt; if you have clothes on that keep you warm but make noise every time you move, you are wasting your time. Wool's real advantage is that it can be made to be quiet.

suburban bushwacker

Great point Jack
"The quickest way to figure out how to deal with all that is to go to the nearest construction site nearest to the area you want to hunt and see what the guys who are out in it all day long trying to do their job wear. It's not that different from the needs for hunting. They work, they sweat. They can't quit and run home every time they step in a puddle, get sweaty or it rains a little."
That has the clarity of the Elusive Obvious!

WA Mtnhunter


As we used to say in the Navy: "A blinding glimpse of the obvious"!


All too many spoke of wearing cotton. That is a no-no in cold weather!Polypropelene base then fleece and/or wool top and bottomsI'm 72; learned 2000 gram insulated leather not up to felt boots in rubber/leather boots. a muff with 2 small air activated warmers with silk gloves. Try a British army wool sweater--cheap! Chemical warmers in boots work! I have diabetes keeping warm for 12 hours on stand lets me advise others as to what works

Dr. Ralph

Ahhhh but the real trick is walking an hour with climbing treestand on your back, weapon, flashlights, and not sweating in the process while still having the necessary clothing to stay 30 feet in the air staying completely motionless from 5 to 5... ATV's are loud and smell and I'm just not going to use one on general purposes. That's where my ethics draw the line in the sand.


Here's my two cents worth if anyone cares.
As a kid, I put on enough cotton clothing to stock the local K. Wolens for a winter. I sweated all the way to the stand and immediately froze!
I've tried all kinds of tricks. Electric socks worked very well but walking on the little wires hurt like blue blazes! Wool makes me itch! Silk feels slimely to me!
For my area of Oklahoma, I wear a tee shirt with some type heavy shirt (flannel, wool) over that. Jeans on the bottom and plain ol' cotton, athletic type cotton socks on the feet. A set of insulated bibs and an insulated coat (with hood) top off my ensemble! A good insulated cap with a sock hat to cover the ears is always in a pocket when needed along with some insulated gloves.
My feet get cold, but until they absolutely go numb, I can deal with it!
Wet weather? Once I get cold, I'm okay, working to keep body heat up. If I ever go back in a warm up, I don't (can't!) go back out for the rest of the day!


Rocky Mtn Hunter

No cotton for me period. Our season begins in mid Nov adn it usually in the low 20's. I wear wool long johns, top and bottom, wool shirt, wool pants. Bought a coat from LL Beam that the outter shell is Nylon adn 330 Polyster lining. I have a Vest of same material. Wear both if necessary. AS for boots, bought dozens of pairs, feet still groze. The I got a pair of Lowa l0" boots and cold feet problem stopped with a paur of wool socks. Always carry a rain slicker, both for rain, snow or just plain old wind. If can keep thE wind out, I can maKE IT ok. i ALSO HAVE A old (3o or more yrs) Sears Ski suit that is nylon outter and down lined. You will not get cold in that suit, but its a tad clumbsy to wear as is very thick adn have a little trouble getting teh gun butt in correct position when shoot, but will keep you warm. I do use teh heat packs at times in my gloves and shoes. Always wear a hat or tobaggan. Hunted in MT a few ys back, was l3 deg below o when we pulled in to our park place. Being disabled/handicapped,I do get much colder than the average active guy. I either have to stand hunt or can walk a few steps and sit on my stool. After lst few days of l00+ deg. ready for the cold days of Nov. when season opens. Excited about this season as got one of the new MArlin XL7's in 270 and want to see if will do as well as my Rem CDL 700 in o6 or my 700 25-06 on deer. HAd planned on a western trip but never drew in 3 states. Thought would be no problem this year with the ecomony so bad,but decided us hunting nuts gonna go hunting regardless. Hopefully will draw in fall and I;m around to go. Good-hunting guys, shoot straight and often

Jim in Mo.

I dress similar to you but a little bit better since it can get a little colder here. But I don't put it on till at stand or blind cause I may not need it. Especially my socks/boots, thats always been my downfall. And its true that if you sweat gettin there, you'll freeze once your there.


Sorry, guys, but as long as you can get back to the truck, 4X or cabin/house you can't be talking cold survival wear. Cold uncomfortable wear, yes.
Read Stefansson or Fruechen re: cold weather survival clothing - and this goes back a long, long way.
still warm,

Richard G.

I can remember the Boy Scout meeting with the parents. They were worried about Junior going camping in the winter. I would tell them, "The only way to learn how to stay warm, is to get cold and the only way to learn how to stay dry, is to get wet!"

Lots of sage advice from a bunch of guys who have obviously frozen their asses off!

It's the same thing as, I've never been lost. If someone says they've never been cold, they simply have not been in cold weather!

How many of you have had hypothermia? Where, When, What were you doing, what did you do?

For me Backpacking in the Smokies, Fall, backpacking, it rained and my Gortex failed badly, cut down a tree (a no no, but I was shaking so hard I could stop it) and built a nice fire.

Richard G.
Troy, NC



You say your first deer hunt was in February in Alabama?!! I hope you are a youth or someone who accompanied a youth(GOD Bless you) on the first weekend and went duck hunting or hog hunting instead! Let me give you a heads up. Deer season ends Jan 31st. More sage advise, don't go bowhunting the first week of October in AL it won't start till the 15th. Youth deer gun hunts are the weekend before gun season starts. Youth duck hunts are the first weekend in Feb. Hogs can be hunted year round.


sounds good but that same attitude almost got me killed a bunch of years ago.
I grew up in Nebraska, where back in the 50's &60's (my formative years) it could get a mite chilly.
I forgot to plug in the block heater on night, it was -35 F real temp, weatherman claimed -80 F windchill. My dad made me go plug it in. I never forgot to plug it in ever again.
Forward a bunch of years, probably early 90's, I was going deer hunting Last day of season in Oklahoma and not only did I not get my deer, I fell into a bar ditch up to my crotch in very cold water. But My truck was in my visual field when I went down and the water wasn't frozen so I walked back to my truck. In my fanny pack, I had a survival kit, with 5 ways to start a fire, but I knew the truck could heat me up faster than building a fire or changing clothes(it was too much trouble)
As I pulled out of the area I was hunting in (northern OKlahoma) I figured it would take me an hour &1/2 to drive a little more than 100 miles South. No sweat.I thought.
Now,You would think a guy who spent four years in the early 70's playing around in funny green uniforms shooting guns and blowing things up and playing SAR would remember that thing called SURVIVAL SCHOOL and the basics that we were taught.
But, no, I had now been to UNIVERSITY and was working in Emergency Rooms where I saw people every day who were doing dumb things to get themselves killed. I was TOO smart to get hurt here.
The thermostat blew in my truck so all I was getting was cold air blowing on me, no heater at all, Then a snow-ice storm blew in. High winds, no visibilty as I got on I35 at mile 211 there at the Love's and drove south, with the road so slick my truck would fishtail if I got above 35mph.
Then I came upon an accident I got out to see what I could do and immediately lost a whole lot of body heat with 30 40 mph winds, maybe more. Nobody had a cell phone, I made sure everyone was as safe as my fuzzed over brain could let me and I got in my truck and drove to the nearest town, found a restaurant on the highway, a phone, and there was no 911 there,I called the operator and told her what happened. she called the OHP. A waitress looked at me and asked if was OK, I said something got a very bad cup of coffee and pulled out on the highway to go home.
It took me 3 hours to drive 110 miles, I began to hallucinate that deer were in the road in front of me, several cars around me became deer, as they lost control as they passed me on I35. Other than that I remember very little about the trip home.
When I did get home, how I don't know, I was shaking like a leaf in a tornado and my body temp wouldn't register on the oral thermometer we had in the house. My wife did get me to take some hot soup and some hot chocolate and then I went to bed under an electric blanket and an electric heating pad. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I had worked the night before, I got off a 4:00 AM so I could go hunting. I should be dead just from this incident alone. (yes I've had others)
I have survived only by the grace of God, and by having some outstanding guardian angels. I'll talk about them at a later date.
So you need to always think survival.If you don't you may be a casualty.

Dave Petzal

To Dickgun: What are the titles of the two books? I'd like very much to read them.

WA Mtnhunter


Good catch! Another self-confessed perp or B.S.'er caught in the act.

There were 2 bozo's in my son's store bragging about spring turkey success and how they bagged a couple of grouse, too. All well and good until the game warden listening to their tale from down the aisle followed them out to their truck and wrote citations for out of season grouse and having loaded weapons in their vehicle.


WA Mtnhunter


Good catch! Another self-confessed perp or B.S.'er caught in the act.

There were 2 bozo's in my son's store bragging about spring turkey success and how they bagged a couple of grouse, too. All well and good until the game warden listening to their tale from down the aisle followed them out to their truck and wrote citations for out of season grouse and having loaded weapons in their vehicle.


Rusty In Missouri

I live in northern MO and we have our share of cold and wind so it pays to know how to dress. Great points about clothing to keep you warm but one thing not mentioned is shooting with all the additional gear on.
I have found that you need to do some practice with additional clothing on. It will make shouldering the weapon very different than just wearing one shirt.


You know, I'm really glad you mentioned it, Dave, because the best combination I have ever had was a wind breaker outer shell, and simply and only, thinsulate on the inside. Nowdays, they have to dress it up with all them damn infernal "mem brains", which aren't worth a half brain, except as a raincoat, in which case they are fine..... Any or all of those membranes you're going to sweat under, if you even half work at it....

Clay Cooper

By golly Ol’eyeball just about said it, polypropylene is one of the best materials I know of. Keeping dry and comfortable without overexertion is the key to an all out day in the most frigid conditions. In Alaska ATVing in minus -35 degrees, polypropylene long johns, Military BDU pants, Military cold weather brown wool sweater, BDU Shirt next size larger or so to accommodate the Wool sweater, Winter BDU jacket and fat boy pants and a good pair of Sorel® Caribou Boots is my #1 pick. Or a pair of Danners. Any how looks like everything has been said, See yall later! By the way, once your on your stand, make sure the snow is off your boots top of your toe!


Dave Petzal,
These are the books I was referring to: "My Life with the Eskimos" by Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
A read will show that Stefansson lived quite fully with the Eskimos, although the results of his co-habitation are not revealed in the book they are quite well known by followers of his history. Upon the return from this expedition he held for to his NYC audience that they lived on nothing but meat. He was roundly denounced, as the 'experts' knew it was impossible to live on nothing but meat. Whereupon he undertook a program to live for one year under medical supervision on nothing but meat. At the end of the year he proved healthier than most!!!
"My Life in the Frozen Arctic" by Peter Freuchen.
Relates his early living in northern Greenland, above Thule, along with Knud Rassmussen. Both were Danes.
Also see: "Arctic Survial" by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. To quote, "This Manual was written for the Air Corps of the United States Army, but the reasons for it go back to civilian flying, indeed to the first job of ordinary commercial air transport between North America and Asia. They go back also to Alaska's first Arctic airplane tragedy." (This being the crash and death of Carl Ben Eielson while attempting to haul furs from the vessel Nanuk which had been caught in ice and forced to over-winter near North Cape on the easter Siberan coast of the Bering Sea, to market in Nome.)
Read and enjoy!!

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