June 09, 2008
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
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.