How to Prepare for (& Stay Warm During) a Hunting Trip
Winter is coming, and with it, one of the best times for hunting all year. As temperatures dip, animals like whitetail deer will be moving around more, leaving footprints in the snow that are easy to track. Less foliage makes it harder for animals to conceal themselves, and water scarcity in the deep freeze months means more elusive animals will come out of their hiding spots.
While winter is a prime time to rack up some amazing game, you need to keep yourself warm during the hunt. In this article, we’ll explore various strategies for keeping yourself warm during a hunting trip, from preventing hypothermia to a rundown of the various gear you’ll need.
One of the main risks of hunting in the wintertime is the possibility of developing hypothermia. This dangerous condition is caused by your body temperature dropping to an abnormally low level, typically below 95°F.
When you remain outside in the cold for long periods without adequate clothing, food, or heating, you’re putting yourself at risk for hypothermia. If you’re out hunting by yourself, this can quickly become deadly. Here are the symptoms of hypothermia to look out for:
- Excessive shivering that eventually stops
- Exhaustion or drowsiness
- Confusion or irrational behavior
- Slurred speech
- Memory loss
- Lack of coordination
- Slow movement
The most important factor in avoiding hypothermia — in general, and especially on the hunt — is keeping yourself dry. That’s because water conducts heat away from your body about 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, making it basically impossible to warm back up.
While you can’t necessarily avoid sweating while on the hunt, you’ll want to try your best to avoid sweating too much before you get to your hunting location, as this can drastically lower your body heat. Some hunters will wear lighter layers on their way to their hunting spot and put on more clothing once they reach their destination to avoid extra sweat.
Preparing for your trip
When preparing for your winter hunting trip, the first thing you’ll need to do is put together a plan. Start by identifying the game you’ll be hunting and researching its habitat. Then, check the weather for when you’ll be in the area. You’ll also need to obtain any necessary permits for the specific game and location you plan to hunt in.
Determine who, if anyone, will be traveling with you on your hunting trip, and if no one is going with you, make sure a loved one or trusted friend knows where you are and how long you’ll be gone. You’ll also want to make sure you stay hydrated and nourished, as winter conditions can be deceptively dehydrating. High-energy snacks like trail mix, energy bars, and jerky are great choices for on-the-go sustenance, as your body will be burning more calories to stay warm.
Gear to keep you warm
Wearing warm hunting clothes will be your saving grace against the cold when you can’t move or make a sound without scaring away your prey. In this section, we’ll be exploring how to stay warm while hunting, from general gear like heat packs to warm hunting socks — and a key material to avoid.
In cold weather, your hands and feet are going to absorb the chill the fastest, making the right choice of hunting boots and gloves imperative. When selecting warm hunting boots, prioritize insulation for warmth and waterproofing to keep your feet dry. Insulated boots are essential for cold weather hunts, and materials like Thinsulate or PrimaLoft provide excellent insulation. Look for boots with a durable outer shell, good tread for traction, and a comfortable fit. Get your boots in a half, or even a full size up, as tightly fitting footwear will reduce circulation and make your feet colder faster.
For choosing warm hunting gloves, look for those with high-quality insulation, waterproof or water-resistant materials such as PVC-coated palms or Gore-Tex membranes to keep your hands dry, and moisture-wicking linings for added comfort.
Selecting the right socks for hunting is essential for keeping your feet warm, dry, and comfortable during your outdoor adventures. Opt for warm, moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic blends designed to keep your feet dry and insulated. Consider the thickness and length of the socks based on the weather conditions; thicker mid-calf or knee-length socks are ideal for cold climates, while thinner options may suffice in milder weather.
When packing warm hunting socks for your hunting trip, it's wise to bring extra pairs, as your feet can quickly get wet. Organize your socks in waterproof bags or ziplock bags to keep them dry and separate from your other gear.
Keeping your legs warm while hunting is just as important as any other part of your body, as the legs can lose up to a quarter of your body’s heat during physical activity. Choose a pair of warm hunting pants with a waterproof or water-resistant shell to keep you dry during rain or snow. Look for pants with an insulated interior lining or the option to layer thermal bottoms underneath for added warmth in cold temperatures.
When packing your hunting pants, roll or fold them to save space in your gear bag. It's also a good idea to bring an extra pair of pants in case of unexpected weather or accidents.
A warm hunting jacket will make a huge difference in how comfortable you’ll be against the elements on your hunt. Across the board, wintertime hunters recommend layering your hunting clothes for maximum comfort, dryness, and performance. A good rule of thumb for layering your hunting gear is to have a base layer of merino wool or similar material, a layer for insulation, and an outer shell to protect yourself from wind and additional moisture. You’ll also want to choose an outer layer that won’t crunch and create unnecessary noise in the cold, which will scare away your prey.
The right hat for your winter hunting trip will depend on how cold it’s going to be where you’re going, but you can pretty much always count on a high-quality wool beanie to lock in the heat. For really cold areas, consider getting a neck gaiter, balaclava, or full-face mask to keep your head warm as you sit in your stand. Some hunters won’t put on their hats until they reach their stand to minimize sweating, or they wear a baseball cap. If you sweat easily, you might want to opt for this approach. It's also a good idea to choose a hat in a color that blends well with your hunting gear to avoid alerting game animals.
Heat packs are valuable additions to your hunting gear for keeping warm during frigid conditions. You can choose between single-use chemical heat packs or rechargeable electric versions. Single-use heat packs are convenient for short-term use, while rechargeable ones are eco-friendly and can provide warmth for extended periods. Pay attention to the size and duration of heat packs, ensuring they fit comfortably in your gloves, boots, or clothing pockets and last long enough for the duration of your hunt.
When looking to stay warm while hunting, there’s one common fabric you should avoid at all costs — cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and retains it, meaning it loses its insulating properties and can lead to discomfort, chafing, and even hypothermia once it gets wet. Instead, opt for moisture-wicking, insulating materials like wool, fleece, synthetic blends, or specialized hunting fabrics.
Another great way to stay warm on your winter hunting trip is by setting up camp in a heated habitat. Using a heated adventure vehicle provides a safe, steadfast shelter against cold winter conditions, offers the space to bring more gear, and gives you access to creature comforts like a functioning kitchen and running water. It’s also a portable solution if you need to quickly pack up and head down the road as you track game.
Learn more about hunting campers and their benefits here.
Stay warm on the hunt
Hunting in the winter can be a rewarding and exhilarating experience, but it requires careful preparation to stay safe in challenging conditions. Selecting warm, well-insulated clothing is a necessary first step, and you can double the efficacy of your efforts to stay warm in the winter woods by using a heated camper for your base camp. Not only does it provide safety from the elements and animals when you’re not hunting, it’s also a safe space to store all of your gear, and fit in your garage back at home. Our habitats provide freedom of mobility and fuel efficiency, giving you a reliable trailer for your outdoor adventures all year round.Learn more about our campers, from our overlanding vehicles for rugged adventures to our standard trailers for camping, to bring your outdoor experience to life any time of the year. Not sure where to begin? Chat with one of our adventure specialists today to get started!