Preparing for the Cold Weather Hunt
While cold weather can bring misery, you know the advantages of getting prepared and facing it head on are worth it. To hunt in cold weather, you need a well-thought-out plan to ensure you stay warm and, in a position, to perform. Perhaps nothing has changed the game for cold weather hunting than ultralight gear. If you can lighten the load, you have more energy to push to the edge of what’s possible. That’s where KUIU comes in and offers you the upper hand on your next cold weather hunt.
THREE CORE CONSIDERATIONS
While hunting in cold weather presents many physical and mental challenges, there are three core considerations you should prioritize above all else before selecting the right gear:
Check the forecast carefully. You’ll need to know what you’re up against. You should also remember how quickly things can change: You need to plan for it being worse than what’s in the forecast. With added wind, rain, snow or humidity into the mix, a seemingly bearable temperature may become dangerous.
Most hunts are stop-and-go action. You may encounter a spiked heart rate on a steep ascent, followed up by hours of glassing from the backbone of a blustery ridgetop. You’ll go from feeling hot-to-cold in a matter of seconds, all depending on your activity level.
Do you run hot or cold? Do you sweat a lot or hardly at all? Everyone is wired different—what is cold to you may be cool to others, or vice versa. Knowing how you personally react to cold takes experience, and depending on where you live, that experience may be an everyday thing or quite limited.
LAYERING IS EVERYTHING
A layering system allows you to adjust your level of insulation and protection to correspond to the facing weather, activity level, and personal preferences. The ritual of adding or peeling layers to regulate becomes a necessary task. KUIU’s approach to hunting apparel centers around a technical layering system. This system enhances your performance in the field by scaling your insulation and protection up or down during high and low-level activity.
Our layering system can be summed up in three parts: You have a next-to-skin base layer, mid-layer insulation, and outer-layer protection. It’s an entire system built to complement how you hunt and withstand the elements you encounter. Understanding the principle of a layering system will make your selections easier.
What’s a simple way to think about what can be a very sophisticated layering system? There are three core layers: your next-to-skin layer, your mid-layer insulation, and outer layer protection.
Here’s some more detail on each.
NEXT-TO-SKIN BASE LAYER
Regulating the sweat coming out of your body, our base layers are the workhorse of the layering system. They’re designed to handle the stop-and-go exertion levels you encounter, all while keeping you comfortable. You want tops, bottoms and briefs that draw sweat away from your body and evaporate it quickly. We offer base layers in quick-drying synthetics and odor-resistant Merino.
Our synthetic base layers, like the Peloton 118, are ideal in damp and humid conditions, when quick-drying fabrics are a must. They’re ideal when changing into a fresh base layer each day is an option.
Our ULTRA Merino collection of tops, bottoms, neck gaiters and beanies are a versatile base layer. They’re the fastest drying Merino base layers on the market, plus they maintain their insulating properties while wet—which could be exactly what you need in cold and wet conditions. Merino is also naturally odor-resistant, making it an ideal choice when wearing the same base layer for multiple days is required.
While getting dressed for your hunt, the debate on whether to wear long thermal bottoms or not is a story as old as time. You many want them for the early, cold mornings, but as the day warms up, you’ll wish you hadn’t put them on. KUIU eliminates that dilemma. Our zip-off bottoms can be removed without taking off your outer pants or boots. Pull down your pants partway and unzip the full-length side zippers and pull them off. If you’re feeling slightly warm, the side zips line up perfectly with the hip vents on your favorite KUIU pants, allowing ample ventilation.
If you’re preparing for sub-freezing cold, you may consider doubling-up on base layers if it doesn’t restrict your mobility and circulation.
You have a lot of options for insulating mid-layers. They’re worn on top of your base layers. Depending on the circumstance, you may add lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight mid layers or a combination of all three to regulate your temperature.
A lightweight mid-layer top may be all you need over your base layer for the hike in. A prime example is the Peloton 97– a high-loft synthetic fleece with an amazing warmth-to-weight ratio. Offering the best of both worlds, the PRO Merino 200 is dual-layer design that positions Merino wool on the inside to absorb sweat and synthetic polyester on the outside to evaporate it. It’s a mechanical process that’s proven to evaporate moisture four-times faster than pure Merino.
Midweight insulation like Peloton 200 & 240 and Insulated Snap Shirt are fantastic midweight options. The Strong Fleece 210 & 260 feature a hybrid blend of paneling to insulate and breathe where you need it most. Be mindful to not select too many layers with hoods as they’ll uncomfortably bunch up while worn on top of another.
Active synthetic insulation like 3DeFX+ that’s more suited for high-level activity like hiking and or traversing. 3DeFX+ is found in the Insulated Snap shirt and Kenai garments.
The knock on most down products is that, if they get wet, they lose all insulating capabilities. The Super Down ULTRA addresses that issue. Its 850+ fill-power Quixdown is water-resistant and surpasses the water shake test. Quixdown insulation is suited for locking in heat during stationary activities, like glassing or stand hunting.
Kenai and Super Down ULTRA are all sized with a mid-layer fit, so they’ll fit under your rain gear. If you’re using these pieces as an outer layer, consider going up a size.
OUTER-LAYER 3DEFX+ INSULATION:
Built for extreme cold, wet, and windy conditions, the Kutana Gale Force Jacket and Pant combines a durable, 100% waterproof, seam-taped shell with highly breathable 3DeFX+ synthetic active insulation. Gale Force is proven in regions from the Arctic to the Lower-48, and from Bering Sea to the Pamir Mountains of Asia. Product testers report braving extreme wind, rain, snow, and temperatures as low as -40 °F (-40 °C). This purpose-built solution allows you to comfortably hunt in conditions most wouldn’t consider.
OUTER-LAYER QUIXDOWN INSULATION:
Super Down PRO Jacket and Pant are our warmest down duo. With twice the down as its ULTRA counterpart, PRO is built for days you’re stationary, locked behind the optics, or in a stand. They’re built to trap your heat and keep you insulated from the strongest cold and wind. Like our rain gear, PRO is sized to fit over your base and mid-layers. Our Super Down collections are not ideal when you’re highly active and sweating, since they are 100% windproof, meaning they do not breathe as much as other jackets.
While KUIU makes a pant for every occasion, when it comes to cold weather hunting, look to the Guide and Axis Hybrid. Both are fleece lined and DWR treated to repel moisture. The Axis has a similar cut and feel as the Guide, though it has waterproof paneling in the knees and seat. Both feature hip vents that allow ample ventilation. Check out the Pant Comparison Guide to learn more.
SOFT SHELL JACKETS:
The Guide DCS, Kutana, and Axis Hybrid are perfect for layering under. They offer wind, rain and snow protection, with the durability you need while busting through brush or rocky terrain. Our soft shells are sized with a mountaineering cut. So, if you’re planning to have multiple layers underneath, consider going up a size. Check out the Jacket Comparison Guide to learn more.
Our waterproof and breathable rain gear isn’t just for when it’s pouring. They offer superb outer layer protection from the wind and cold. We offer four types of rain gear that are geared towards meeting the individual needs of our customers. All four types are sized with an outer-layer fit, with the consideration you’ll be wearing it over insulating layers. Check out the Rain Gear Comparison Guide to learn more.
THE RIGHT ACCESSORIES
If left exposed, your body’s built-in survival mode will restrict blood flow to your extremities. Your skin temperature will drop to the point it’s just warmer than the outside temperature. Depending on how cold it is, if left unprotected, you may get frostnip or frostbite on your fingers, toes, ears, nose, and cheeks. Here are some accessories for your kit to address that issue.
The percentage of heat retained in your head alone is debatable, but most agree your head is a radiator, capable of shedding heat fast. You can regulate your body’s heat by adding or removing layers from your head. For the coldest days, consider the Kenai Beanie and Bomber. They’re insulated with active 3DeFX+ insulation and lined with Sherpa fleece for ultimate comfort. For full-face coverage a balaclava will complement your cold weather hunting kit.
Tight fitting gloves are a no-go in the cold. Your fingers need room to allow air and blood circulation. The NorthStar Glove, NorthStar Glommitt, and Super Down PRO Glassing Glommitt are our warmest gloves. Both are built an extended cuff, which you’ll appreciate if you’re riding an ATV or facing windy conditions. The NorthStar is solid choice for active conditions and the Glomitt is ideal for stationary conditions. The Super Down PRO Glomitt features a port on each index finger which is perfect for the time you get to pull the trigger.
When you’re breaking down your animal after a successful hunt, it’s a vulnerable time for fingers to get exposed to the cold. You need dexterity to manage a sharp knife. The ULTRA Merino 210 is a popular choice as wool insulates while wet or soaked with blood. At 1.4 oz per pair, it’s wise to keep a few pairs on hand to get you through the animal cleaning process. Check out the Glove Comparison Guide to learn more.
They’re a must-have for the late season hunts. The Yukon HD Hunting Boot Gaiter are a top choice for keeping debris, snow and rain from entering the top of your boots and keep your lower pant legs dry. Plus, they add a level of stealth minimizing unwanted noise from cuff-to-cuff contact.
Well-fitting Merino wool socks, like our ULTRA Merino socks, are vital to keeping your feet warm. Merino is top choice because of its natural moisture-wicking and ability to insulate while wet. Depending on how much your feet sweat, changing socks often throughout the day will ensure your feet stay dry. Feet are high maintenance because once they get cold, it’s difficult to get them warmed up.
Buy the best cold weather hunting boots you can afford. There is no room to skimp on footwear. If there’s one thing that can spoil a hunt, it’s cold feet. They must fit perfect and make sure they’re waterproof. For active hunts in rugged conditions, our KUIU-Scarpa Rebel K 10 Insulated HD, is our warmest boot. It’s insulated with 200 gm of Primaloft Gold and features an HDry waterproof membrane. If you’re hunting in cold conditions while stationary, consider a well-insulated pack boot.
THE RIGHT FIT
There will be different combinations of the products above that work best for you. Having more layers isn’t always the answer. Adding too many layers, or layers that don’t fit well could cause more harm than good. If your clothes are restricting your movement, you’ll get cold from poor circulation.
While you’re active, like hiking into your stand or between vantage points, the key is to not layer up too much as it will cause you to break a sweat. That isn’t something you’d want in freezing temperatures because it could lead to hypothermia. You’re better off to be a little chilly on the hike in and remain dry, and then bundle up when you need to be more stationary.
Finding the right cold weather layering system that corresponds to the way you hunt and meets your personal preferences will enhance your performance and improve your endurance.
SHOP THE GEAR
Explore some of the products featured in the article.
Two for Two
Read about Justin Shaffer’s and Kevin Wilkerson’s recent Coues deer hunt in Sonora Mexico where they both take Boone & Crockett Class bucks.