In Part 1 of Our Guide to ‘Staying Warm In The Michigan Whitetail Woods’ we covered keeping your hands and feet warm. Now let’s take a look at layering systems to keep the rest of your body warm.
I’m not going to go too in-depth on pants, shirts, and outerwear here, but we’ll cover the basics broken down by category. For more on the subject, check out this article I wrote a few months back. The overarching rule here is that under no circumstances should you wear anything cotton if you can avoid it.
- Base Layers – The first layer of clothing next to your skin is a base layer. Stick with either merino, synthetic, or a blend of the two. You want this layer to be able to wick any sweat away from your body where it will make you cold. With merino or a merino/synthetic blend, it will still insulate you even if it gets wet. Base layers range from lightweight to heavyweight in thickness and warmth. A lightweight baselayer works for me until we start to get below 35 degrees, but everyone is different.
- Mid Layers – Mid-layers will be your light pants, jacket, or hoodies. They go between the base layer and the outer layer. The main job of a mid-layer is to add insulation and breathe. They shouldn’t be waterproof as you need them to facilitate the movement of heat from your base layer to your outerwear. I tend to choose synthetic mid-layers to help facilitate wicking. Grid fleece is a great choice for a mid-layer as is synthetic down puffy materials. The grid fleece usually gets me to the end of October and then the puffy gets added in when snow hits the ground.
- Outer Layers – This is your last line of defense between you and the elements. If you are going to be in rain or a very wet environment, you will want the bombproof protection of a hard shell made of Goretex or a similar material. If you are hunting on a dry day then a softshell can work well. Any outer piece should be breathable to maintain the system you have established with your base layer and mid-layer. I run a couple of different sets of bibs, pants, and jackets depending on the temperature and weather. Bibs are my preferred bottoms for outerwear when it gets cold. A good variety would be non-insulated Goretex pants and jacket for early season when it’s raining, a softshell system for colder weather before the frigid temps set in, and a thick well-insulated set for the heart of winter.
The name of the game with layering is to think of your clothing as a system. The base layer needs to be able to breathe and insulate. As you heat up during activity this will draw the sweat away from your body. The mid-layer should be breathable and wicking to keep the heat and condensation moving away from your skin. Finally, the outer layer needs to keep you warm, insulated, and protected from wind while also letting excess heat and moisture vent out. This is the key to staying warm: wearing a system that breathes, insulates, and allows you to shed or add layers when necessary.
We have covered a lot of information here and it can be kind of daunting—especially thinking of all the components you need to buy to have a good system to keep you warm. It is easy for us to justify a $1000 rifle or bow, but much harder to spend that money on clothing. However, you must remember that to be a successful hunter means you need to stay in the field. Often the days with the worst weather are some of the best times to be in your treestand. Investing in the right gear will ensure that you stay safe, comfortable, and are ready to take the shot when the moment presents itself.