This is a subject that’s particularly close to my heart because there are few things worse to me than sitting in a tree all day and just simply freezing. The bad news is that it’s very easy to get cold in your stand. The good news is that you can do plenty to stay warm too.
This should all come with a warning: on the coldest days, there’s only so much you can do to stay warm while you’re not moving. You may get too cold and decide to pack it in. That’s ok. Don’t let hunting get in the way of basic safety.
Why do you get cold in a tree stand? Often you’re walking a decent distance into woods or your field toward your stand. When you’re layered up, that’s enough to get your heart beating fast enough to maybe even let you break a light sweat.
As soon as you stop moving, all of that sweat starts to cool your body temp from the outside. Many hunters recommend leaving your jacket off until you get into your stand to help prevent heating up too quickly.
One of the hardest parts of deer hunting is another reason why you stay cold: you can’t move much. When you can’t do anything to keep your blood pumping, you start to cool down.
It all starts with a good base layer. Find something that wicks sweat or moisture away from you. Over your base layer look for something a little heavier that’s looser than your base. Button-down or pullover, it’s your choice.
Air between layers helps add insulation. Wool works best here, but synthetics do a fine job as well. Depending on just how cold it is, you may wear as many as three layers or more. Start small and go heavier on the way up.
This is age-old wisdom but avoid cotton at all costs. It soaks up moisture—whether sweat or rain or snow—and ensures that you chill much, much faster.
The same is true for your lower half, too. Start with thermal underwear, then layer up with some kind of fleece leggings or tights. Over those, a pair of hunting pants.
Keeping Your Core Warm
After you’ve got your base layers down, think about your outermost layer. Some hunters prefer coveralls, while others lean toward bibs and an insulated jacket. The latter helps if your temperatures might be swinging and you need to easily lose a layer. Otherwise, it’s a hunter’s choice.
Head and Face
Of course, you know this already because of elementary science classes: up to 80 percent of your body heat is lost via your head. A good hat helps keep that warmth in. Just like the rest of your body, layering up on your head doesn’t hurt anything. A balaclava, which also wraps the bulk of your face, as well as a jacket or sweatshirt with a hood can both help in extreme temps.
The more layers over your ears, the more difficult it can be hear light-footed deer sneaking up around you, but when you’re warmer you’ll have an easier time staying vigilant otherwise.
Hands and Feet
I’m just going to say this outright: when you’re sitting immobile in a tree stand, very few things will help keep your extremities warm. Your hands and feet are both warmed due to movement—getting the blood pumping all the way down to the farthest reaches of your body. Sitting still doesn’t do this. That said, there are a few things you can do to help.
For your feet, wool socks are an absolute must. Resist the temptation to wear more than one layer of socks: added layers of tight clothes like socks actually restrict blood flow, meaning your little piggies get colder all the faster.
Over your wool socks go a good pair of hunting boots with as much insulation as you can get in them. Some have removable liners that help reflect heat back inward. Chemical toe-warmers are a great addition too, but two things to keep in mind: first, if there’s not much room in your boot, the warmers won’t work; second, warmers don’t always work in extremely cold temperatures.
For your hands, mittens over gloves every time. Your fingers help keep one another warm when they’re all grouped together, which gloves don’t allow. I understand that you’ve got to keep a trigger finger easily available, though, which is why pop-top gloves are the best of both worlds. Ideally, your gloves will have a pocket for a chemical hand-warmers.
Just to reiterate, on really cold days nothing will keep you warm except for moving around. If you start to feel yourself losing feeling in any part of your body, make the sacrifice and get up and move.
Ready to get cold? Check out Gander’s full range of hunting gear.