Although its one of my favorite times of the year to hunt it can be downright miserable if you're not dressed for the cold weather. After years of hunting the frozen tundra of Minnesota as a kid and now spending countless days from dark to dark hunting in December I've come up with some pretty creative yet efficient ways to stay warm on stand.
1. Thermacare Back Wrap -- You can find these in the pharmacy department at any Walmart or your nearest pharmacy. ThermaCare is a medically designed heated back wrap that can be placed on your skin or put outside your first layer. Once opened, these wraps will produce a consistent heat for 10-12 hours. These wraps have a wide elastic band that goes around your stomach and secures in the front. The heated part is then securely positioned on your lower back right against your kidney area. The reason I like these is if your kidneys are kept warm, your entire body will benefit. Your kidneys circulate your blood throughout your body, so if you can keep them warm you're going to last much longer in the cold. Unlike your usual hand or foot warmers, these produce a constant heat and never heat up or burn your skin. Regardless of how cold it is, this is one product I'm always wearing if the temps are below 40. They cost around $3 and allow you to cut down on layers and keep you on stand longer.
2. HotMocs Neck Gaitor -- I love wearing a neck gaitor because it not only keeps my neck warm and keeps heat from escaping but when the wind gets tough you can also pull it up to protect your face. The HotMocs neck gaitor also comes with an added pouch where you can drop in a disposable heat pack to keep your neck and upper back toasty all day.
3. One Piece Thermal Base Layer -- I wear this one-piece suit all season as my first layer because it's thin, doesn't bulk up and keeps you incredibly warm. It's made using a cold-weather fleece material that is stretchy and really comfortable. Most base layers are extremely tight and constricting, but this suit gives you full range of motion.
4. Hand Muff -- I really hate wearing gloves when I shoot. The one way I get around it is by using a hand muff. You can simply clip it around your waist like a belt, drop a couple hot hands heaters in and keep your hands toasty until game time. If you're someone who doesn't mind using gloves, you can still keep your hands extra warm during the most frigid conditions by keeping this hand muff around your waist, and maybe even get away with a little lighter glove than normal.
5. Beanies -- I'm sure everyone is well aware of the fact that when temps drop, one necessity is a good stocking cap -- or beanie, tuque, toboggan or whatever you like to call it -- on your head to keep your heat in. Believe it or not, there is one hat that is actually better than the others. HotMocs came out with a stocking cap that actually has a strategically placed pouch for disposable heat packs that drop down behind your head and rest on your neck for extreme warmth.
6. Boot Covers -- If you've sat on stand for any period of time in the cold, you know your hands and feet are usually the first to freeze up. Well, now that you have your hand muff, you need to do everything you can to keep your feet from freezing as well. I've tried buying boots with 2,000 grams of Thinsulate, a variety of foot warmers that make your feet sweat on the way out and die half way through your sit, but I finally found one thing that will keep your feet warm all day. I keep HotMocs heated boot covers clipped to my back pack for a guaranteed toasty warm sit for my feet regardless of which boots I've decided to wear. The boot covers are simple to get on and off, fold up small and there are no batteries required. Simply drop in a couple hand warmers to the innovative pocket that keeps the heat placed directly over your toes. Designed to wear over your boots, they trap in all the heat and will actually keep your feet warm from dark to dark.
7. Wool Long Sleeve Shirt -- If you're anything like me, you probably cringe at the thought of putting on wool. It's one of the warmest pieces of clothing you could ever layer, but is usually too itchy for my taste. Several years ago at a sport show, I found a sweater that is a wool blend that gives you the warmth of wool without making you uncomfortable; in fact, it's actually soft. It's made from 69 percent wool, 29 percent polyester and 2 percent elastane blend. I love wearing this sweater over my one-piece suit, but many people complain that it's actually too hot and carry it in their pack until they get on stand. Either way, it's a warm layering system that I wear on a daily basis late season.
8. Use Your Hood -- Almost every jacket you have comes with a hood, so use it! It keeps the snow and rain from going down your neck, keeps your heat in and it's already connected to your jacket so there is no added cost or shopping needed. My only suggestion: Practice drawing and shooting with your hood on before you get on stand. I've shot several animals while bowhunting with my hood up, but you want to ensure that your hood doesn't slide over your face or get in the way of your release when you come to full draw.
9. Rain Gear in Wind -- If you're looking at the weather forecast and see some extreme cold temps mixed with wind coming up, you may want to pull out your rain gear. I've found that rain gear really helps cut the wind and keeps your heat contained. You can layer up as normal, but put a quiet raincoat over your existing layers to seal in the heat and keep the wind out.
10. Heater Body Suit -- Unfortunately, there are certain temps that no amount of layering can prepare you for. Last year, I sat out for eight hours in an ice storm mixed with high winds and below zero temps. I was actually quite comfortable thanks to one item, my Heater Body Suit. This is a must-have for any hunter who plans on spending time hunting late season. It's a simple, one-step solution to keep you warm in any weather; in fact, they guarantee it or your money back. It's made of a windproof and water resistant material weighting only six to seven pounds. The Heater Body Suit rolls up and can be carried on your back out to the stand. Once you're set up, you simply unroll, step in, zip up and you'll stay toasty for as long as you care to sit. Once an animal finally comes in, you can unzip it from the inside and you're ready for the shot.
Staying warm isn't just about comfort, it is about increasing your odds as a bowhunter. We all know the more time on stand, the higher your chances of success, so do what you need to stay warm and hunt those frigid late season days.