Monday, March 10, 2014
By BOB HUMPHREY
It's not over yet. Folks in roughly the southern half of the state still have a week of muzzleloader and expanded archery hunting for deer to try and fill the larder with some organic protein. There's still hope, but it's going to be cold out there. Are you prepared? Here are a few suggestions on how to withstand the winter chill.
Feet are often the leading source of cold-weather discomfort. In drier terrain, I wear L.L. Bean Technical Big-Game Boots. Being lazy, I appreciate the BOA stainless-steel lacing system. Just turn the knob and the laces tighten to your personal fit. The waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex lining lets personal moisture out but prevents environmental moisture from getting in, and 400-gram PrimaLoft insulation helps keep my feet warm.
In wetter conditions, I prefer knee-high waterproof boots. For most Mainers, that used to mean rubber Lacrosse Burleys. Rubber was later replaced by warmer, more durable neoprene in the AlphaBurley. Their new Aerohead retains the neoprene sock inside a much more durable polyurethane boot rated to minus 40 or 60, depending on which thickness you select.
Inside your boots, don't wear cotton socks. They'll soak up and retain moisture generated when your feet sweat while you're going to and from your stand. Start with a lightweight synthetic sock liner to wick moisture away from your feet. Over that, wear an insulating sock made of synthetic material, such as SmartWool or natural wool.
In deep cold, add foot warmers. You can buy air-activated warmers that last several hours for just a few dollars. Or, ThermaCell heated insoles are re-chargeable and can be turned on and off with a handy remote control, allowing you to regulate the temperature as needed.
Layering is another key to cold-weather comfort, and it begins with a moisture-wicking, synthetic base layer. It's also not a bad idea to pick one with odor-suppressing capability. Under Armour's new Scent Control technology is treated with silver antimicrobials, which inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria, and zeolite, which captures odor molecules.
Over this, add a middle, insulating layer of fleece or wool. Both trap warm air while allowing moisture to pass through. Finally, there's the outer, protective layer. Again, fleece or wool are warm, and just as important, quiet in the woods. In wet conditions, you may opt for something with a waterproof-breathable laminate layer like Gore-Tex.
For super cold weather, Russell Outdoors' Chill Blocker jacket and pants contain PrimaLoft Infinity, a high-loft, extremely lightweight continuous filament insulation with 20 percent more compressibility than similar insulations, and Zeroloft gel panels strategically placed in critical core areas and high compression zones.
Now for the extremities. Hands need gloves. Here, too, I go with a layering system that begins with a thin, synthetic glove. Over those go heavier insulated gloves. If you're concerned about dexterity, you can stick with the light gloves and tuck air-activated hand warmers in on the back of your hands, or use a muff.
Finally we get to the head. Here again, fleece or wool provide a good combination of insulation, breathability and quiet. If it's really cold, options range from a facemask of lightweight polyester all the way up to a fleece balaclava.
We're not done yet. You're going to be sitting, and nothing sucks warmth from your body like a steel treestand seat or an icy tree stump. That calls for a seat cushion. In the old days, it was a thin plastic shell full of little Styrofoam beads. In addition to being noisy, the plastic became brittle in extreme cold and would break. You ended up leaving a trail of little white beads wherever you went, like Hansel and Gretel.
Today there are much better options. A simple closed-cell foam pad will suffice as far as warmth, but doesn't offer as much in the way of comfort. I use a thicker Hunt Comfort cushion, which contains double-density foam and Intelligel -- the same stuff used in hospital beds -- so it conforms to my assets.
None of the above will guarantee success, but it will allow you to spend more time in reasonable comfort, which can help tip the odds your way.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: