"If I'm not freezing walking in, I'm freezing on stand."
While most hunters grasp, as well as practice the basic principals of "layering" and manage to the reduction of moisture buildup in their clothing system, I've only met a handful that firmly understand the critical difference between "moisture reduction" and "moisture elimination" and how critical this difference is to staying warm during extended sits.
Unfortunately, when it comes to staying warm, there is no "sliding scale" of moisture buildup versus comfort level. This isn't a scenario where "the wetter you - the colder you are". It's basically as simple as - "get wet at all and you are soon to be cold and likely be heading home". If you are having trouble staying warm on stand, you most likely need to take your clothing system and approach to the next level.
The good news is that finding and managing to this "next level" isn't a difficult task. Finding "the next level" does however take discipline, a little extra effort and a little extra time / patience (it's the time / patience part I struggle with the most). Rather than go on and on with paragraph after paragraph of drawn out advise, here is my shortlist of the basic rules that work extremely well for me:
- Wear as little as is remotely possible walking in, pack in the rest
- The colder it is, the more critical light gear is while walking in
- Slow down - "sweat happens" in activity regardless of temperature- sweat is your #1 enemy
- Cool down before you climb, be patient- it's a long day
- Add bottom layers at close range to the stand and all bottoms go on before you climb, period.
- Add top layers as needed as cold creeps in. Proper use of safety gear is critical when adding tops on stand
- "Error on the side of air" - outer clothing, layers and accessories with air trapping abilities are critical
- Feet go first- change / add socks out at close range to your stand. I often switch to secondary boots and socks 100 yds out. Wear whatever it takes but ensure your system is dry.
- Hands are next – having BOTH light and heavy hand wear is a must. Chemical hand warmers are a Godsend
- Proper headwear and hoods are critical to maintaining body heat.
Once you are cold, its difficult to get out of this "well". Through many many years (decades actually) of literally freezing on stand, I've slowly learned that it's entirely possible to stay warm on stand in even the coldest of temps. I can honestly say that in the 2021 season, I did not get even remotely cold on stand one single time. We never got hit with the 10 and 20 below type temps that I've come to love to hunt in but I did sit many full days in lower single digits (sometimes in heavy winds) last fall and winter. I'm not bragging here and my point is that it can be done and it's not really that hard. I've undoubtedly confirmed that I'm only as good as the "weakest link in my system" however. But as long as I put the effort in and follow the basics and work hard to ELIMINATE moisture, I'm way more effective in the cold than I ever thought possible.