December 16, 2013
Late-Season Hunting: 3 Pieces of Gear to Keep You Warm
By Phil Bourjaily
I love late-season hunting best of all, but I get cold. Goose hunting in windy, single digit (plus and minus) temperatures this last week has been miserable. I have learned that two hats are much warmer than one. I have been going through chemical handwarmers like potato chips and have also been wearing three pieces of gear that are helping me stay out in the field. Here they are, from affordable to way expensive. Put them on your Christmas list:
1) Heat Holder socks
Nothing keeps my feet warm. Seriously, nothing. I don’t care how many grams of thinsulate you cram into a boot, it’s not enough. Heat Holder socks, however, stave off the inevitable numb toes longer than anything else I’ve tried. They have extra-long looped, super fuzzy pile inside, and you can feel your feet get warmer the minute you put them on. They have a TOG (thermal overall grade; it’s a British standard of a textile’s thermal properties) of 2.34 compared to the average thermal sock’s .89.
They wick moisture well, too, so your feet don’t get sweaty. The first morning I wore them it was 0,* with a good 20-25 mile northwest wind, and I didn’t notice my feet were cold until 2 ½ hours into the hunt, which may be a personal record. So far Heat Holders are too good to be true.
What I can’t tell you is how well they retain their fuzziness and loft with age and repeated washings because I just started wearing mine. But, at 15.99 a pair you could afford to replace them often if need be.
2) Cabela’s Heated Performance Vest
This fleece vest contains microwire heat pads between your shoulder blades and chest. A rechargeable battery plugs into the vest in one of the pockets. It has four heat settings ranging from low, which lasts for eight hours, to high, which is very warm but only lasts for two.
There is also a coat, but the vest is the ticket, because the best way to wear this is over one layer of long underwear and under a heavier outer layer. For an afternoon goose hunt I can set it to Level 3 and keep my core warmed for a three-hour vigil.
A warmer core means there’s more blood available to circulate to your fingers and toes. 169.99; cabelas.com
3) Sitka Boreal Bib
Scott Bestul recently enthused about the Sitka Fanatic bowhunting jacket and bibs, and while I have spent enough time deer hunting to know there is no place colder than 10 feet off the ground in a tree in the upper Midwest, waterfowl hunting can be very cold, too.
Sitka’s Boreal Bib/Pant (and they really are more high-backed pants than bibs) are insulated with duck down and Primaloft faced with a tough Gore-Tex nylon shell. They are surprisingly un-bulky and easy to move around in, and they have some nice touches like cargo pockets on the front of your of your thighs where you can actually get into them easily when you’re on your back in a layout blind, as well as very long leg zippers so you can slide them over boots. They are very warm, but they should be, since they list for $589. Perhaps if you have been exceptionally good you’ll find them under the tree.
*I know temperatures are colder out west, but we have cold, humidity, and a lot of wind where I live. It’s miserable. I’ve had a couple of people from Alaska tell me they have never been so cold in their lives until they moved to Iowa.