Nicole McClain: Layering Your Hunting Clothes for Cold Weather Hunting

Deer hunter Nicole McClain sits in treestand in the snow

Deer hunter Nicole McClain hunts in cold temperatures from a treestand

The polar shift in climate across the country has made all of us throw on an extra layer. But what if you’re hunting in this cold weather? What would you wear for hunting timber wolves in Ontario during January and February in -50 degree conditions?

It’s time to man up in layers.

Here’s how I roll when I’m cold weather hunting:

Layer 1: Compression base layer with heat-retention

Studies have shown that runners and cyclists have improved blood flow through their muscles when wearing compression gear during workouts in the lab. The main benefit of compression sportswear is that it keeps the muscles warm to prevent muscle strain and fatigue, and wick sweat away from the body to prevent chafing and rashes.

This year I tried base layer by Columbia with Omni-Heat, both the pants and long-sleeved shirt for women. It has this neat-looking reflective lining and is made of mostly polyester and some elastane. It stretchy form fits tight against skin (as any good base layer should) and you can feel it retaining (and almost creating) body heat as you begin to move around. Other reviews on this say it runs small—which was my first impression upon taking it out of the box—but after wearing it out in the field I can see it fits just right.

TIP: I pull on a pair of ‘Darn Tough’ boot socks over the pant legs.

Layer 2: Pull on some Cold Gear pants base layer

I received a pant and short-sleeved set of Under Amour Cold Gear years ago and finally pulled it out of the closet. I’m a fan of the pants for sure, and I would use the shirt if it were long-sleeved. It’s not paper thin which I like, fits snuggly over Layer 1 and has a comfortable waist band. Unfortunately it must not be available in women’s sizes as the gifter gave me the men’s version or the giver was playing some sorta prank on me. Probably the latter.

Deer & Deer Hunting TV explored the topic of hunting in extreme weather in this episode.

Layer 3: Additional warmth with polyester and elastane

We’ve all heard of the benefits of polyester, but what the hell is elastane? Flash back to the 80’s and think spandex. It’s an elastic, polyurethane material  usedin pantyhose, underwear and even swimsuits. It’s absorbs very little moisture and allows for movement and flexibility.

I use Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Infrared pants and V-neck shirt.The shirt is soft, made of polyester and elastane, and has the heat-trapping technology you want from your core layers of clothing using this soft-ceramic coating on the inside. It wears close to the skin but has a little lessof that ‘compression squeeze’ so it fits nicely over my other layers. It has the heat-trapping technology you want from your core layers of clothing and the thumbholes in the sleeve are a nice addition to keep your sleeve from rolling up while you’re getting dressed and moving around out in the field.The pants have a comfortable mid-rise, flat waist band and wick away sweat.

Bonus heat tip for this layer: Get a few packages of sticky-back HotHands for the feet and stick one on your back between the shoulder blades and one on your chest. In really brutal temperatures, I’ll stick one on the topside of each thigh, one on each arm just above my bicep (but below the deltoid), and even throw one up inside my hat. Feet get colder than most? I use the ThermaCell heater insoles and have been known to put a HotHands pack inside my boot just behind the laces.

Bonus sock tip for this layer: Top off this layer with a pair of wool socks pulled up over the pant legs.

Layer 4: All this chatter about ‘merino wool,’ but what’s all the fuss?

Merino wool clothing helps regulate body temperature (especially when worn against the skin) and provides a bit of warmth without overheating the wearer. It wicks away moisture from the skin, and unlike cotton, wool retains warmth even when it’s wet. It comes from a particular breed of small-sized sheep originating from Turkey and Spain that produce anywhere from 6 to 40 pounds of wool each year per sheep.

It’s no wonder these sheep are considered adaptable foragers.

But don’t be mistaken. The term ‘merino’ is thrown around loosely and not mutually exclusive. Wool from a Merino sheep is certainly merino wool, however, Merino sheep bred for both wool and meat purposes do not produce a wool fine enough that suitable to wear against the skin.

And if you’re an animal lover like me and worry about the shearing of their wool, don’t worry. Their coats grow continually so shearing the wool at least once a year prevents the animals from suffering heat stress, difficulty seeing, and allows for flexibility and movement.

I use Icebreaker’s Merino Wool Bodyfit 200 Lightweight Series because it is lightweight, machine washable (I recommend hang drying), and doesn’t chafe when I wear it against my skin while I’m biking or hiking. During the cold hunting season, I wear it over Layer 3. It’s available in both men’s and women’s sizes.

Layer 5: Fleece-lined vest to seal the core

Why is it so important to keep the core of your body (heart, lungs, brain) warm? Because if you’re core become cold, the body decreases blood flow to your arms, legs and feet in order to conserve heat as of way of protecting your vital organs, also known as vasoconstriction. If you want to keep your appendages warmer, keep the core warm so it shares the heat unselfishly.

I wear a zip-up, camo-outside, fleece-lined inside vest to keep my core heat locked in. I feel it really seals in the heat my body generates. I liked it so much I bought a second vest for casual wear during the fall and winter season.

Get the book: Trophy Bucks in Any Weather
By Dan Carlson
It’s no secret that changes in the weather alter the behavior of deer. Trophy Bucks in Any Weather teaches you how to recognize storm fronts, wind shifts, changing air pressure and more so you can predict deer behavior during these weather patterns, giving you the edge for your next hunt.

Layer 6: Without the hood he would just be Robin

It’s important to not only generate and retain body heat when you’re hunting in cold weather, but also keep the cold winds from breathing down the back of your neck and chilling your bones.

I wear the Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Infrared hoodie. It almost feels like foam, nice and thick. When the wind starts raging, I can scrunch up the hood around my neck or pull the hood over my head to ward off the weather. It has pockets in the front for hand warmers too. This is made of the same snazzy material in Layer 3. Mine is black but I wish this bad boy came in camo.

Layer 7: Outer pants and jacket

I change up the outer jacket and pants depending on the terrain. I’m testing out some new threads, so I’ll be sure to let you know which ones work best and keep me warm. Stay tuned.

Layer 8: Safety harness for treestand hunters gives safety and warmth

If you’re hunting from a treestand, you should be wearing a safety harness. I use this one from Hunter’s Safety System which also adds an extra layer of warmth because it wears like a vest.

Layer 9: Cover up those phalanges

I’ve always had trouble finding a glove that could do two things: fit my hands and keep my fingers warm. I’ve been lucky enough to stumble on these gloves from Huntworth. They fit my fingers, keep my hands warm, and don’t make me feel like I have monster banana hands the size of my head. They have Sensor Series form-fitting gloves with tactile feedback capabilities and the Stealth Series for those freezing-your-arse off days.

Deer hunter Nicole McClain hunts with her canine in crime Mogador Frankenstein McClain

Deer hunter Nicole McClain hunts with her canine in crime Mogador Frankenstein McClain

2 thoughts on “Nicole McClain: Layering Your Hunting Clothes for Cold Weather Hunting