As an avid hunter, I know that having the proper gear for cold weather hunting is absolutely essential. When you’re sitting motionless in your tree stand or blind for hours on end, the slightest chill can become downright miserable. But with the right gear, you can stay warm and comfortable no matter how frigid the temps get.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll cover all the must-have hunting gear and clothing you need to conquer the cold and have a successful hunt. I made plenty of mistakes my first few years hunting in the winter, but now I’ve got my cold weather system dialed in. I’ll share what I’ve learned so you can avoid my early failures and gear up properly for cold weather the first time.
- Use a layering system with moisture-wicking synthetic or merino wool base layers.
- Insulated mid layers like fleece or down are crucial for retaining body heat.
- Choose a windproof, waterproof, breathable outer shell. Gore-Tex is ideal.
- Don’t forget head, neck, hand and foot protection. You lose a lot of heat through extremities.
- Understand your body and how it handles exertion vs. being stationary in the cold.
- Invest in quality gear made specifically for cold weather hunting conditions.
Now let’s get into the details on the hunting gear and clothing you need to stay warm and deadly this winter.
Having the proper layers is absolutely essential for cold weather hunting. The key is to use materials designed to work together as a system, not just a mishmash of random clothes from your closet. Technical hunting gear uses innovative fabrics to keep you dry, well-regulated and concealed.
Follow these layering guidelines:
Your base layer sits directly against your skin. Avoid cotton here – it holds moisture and will leave you cold. The best materials are synthetic or merino wool. They wick sweat away from your skin and dry quickly.
I use Under Armour ColdGear compression tops and bottoms. The snug fit increases warmth. Merino wool base layers from First Lite, Sitka Gear and Smartwool also work very well.
For feet, wool hiking socks are great. I also use HotHands Toe Warmers when it’s frigid out.
Your insulation or mid layers trap heat near your body. Fleece and down are ideal materials. I prefer fleece for hunting over down since it maintains warmth when wet. Brands like Sitka Fanatic Hoody, KUIU Peloton, and First Lite Furnace are excellent mid layer options.
I also wear a waist warmer vest like the ALPS OutdoorZ Deception Vest. The insulation covers your core while leaving arms free. You can quickly shed mid layers as you heat up hiking or skinning then put them back on at your stand. Having options is key!
The outer layer protects from rain, wind and snow while allowing sweat to escape. It should also blend into your surroundings. Your outer shell is like the roof on your insulation layers’ house!
Look for waterproof, windproof and breathable membranes like Gore-Tex. Sitka, KUIU and First Lite make outstanding hunting outerwear. The Sitka Fanatic Jacket and Bib Pant are my personal favorites.
Camo outer layers are crucial. Muted patterns like MultiCam Alpine or Solid Forest work year-round. Late season I switch to TrueTimber Vias or Snowfall White.
Don’t forget head, neck, hand and foot protection! You lose a tremendous amount of body heat through those areas.
For hands, mittens are much warmer than gloves. I wear Gore-Tex mitts over merino liners.
Protect your head and neck with a balaclava, beanie and jacket hood. First Lite and Sitka make great options.
Feet need wool socks and insulated, waterproof boots. Some of my favorites are Kenetrek, Lowa and Irish Setter. Toe warmers also help.
Understand how your individual body handles exertion vs. being stationary in the cold. I overheat hiking but get cold sitting. So I adjust my layers accordingly. Knowing your tendencies helps immensely with staying warm and dry.
Take the time to test different layering combinations and materials when hunting. Be analytical and methodical – keeping notes helps! Dialing in the perfect system makes cold weather hunting so much more enjoyable.
Beyond your clothing and layering, here are some other essential items for cold weather hunting:
Disposable heat packs are clutch when temps plummet. Grab a box of HotHands – they last for hours and provide instant warmth. I keep some in my pockets and mittens.
You can also get rechargeable electric hand warmers. Brands like Ocoopa, Zippo and EnergyFlux make good ones with various heat settings.
For extreme cold, protect your face from windburn with a neck gaiter or face mask. I wear a First Lite Nexus Face Mask underneath my balaclava on frigid days.
Wrap your rifle or bow in an insulated cover when not in use. It prevents metal parts from getting icy cold. Allen Company and Tenzing make nice fitted thermal weapon covers that help your gear perform better.
Prevent frozen toes with adhesive toe warmers like HotHands. They stick right to your socks and provide up to 10 hours of heat. I use them on stand days when it’s below zero.
Battery-powered heated insoles like Lenz Heat and Thermacell ProFlex give your feet a major boost of warmth. They work great in conjunction with warm socks and boots. Just push a button on the battery pack hooked to your boot laces.
Small portable propane heaters from Mr. Heater provide unbeatable warmth in ground blinds. I use a Mr. Heater Buddy in my layout blind on frigid days. Just crack a window for ventilation and be mindful of carbon monoxide.
Your phone will die fast in the cold. An external battery pack keeps it charged. I use the OtterBox 3500mAH Performance pack. It integrates directly into certain phone cases.
Once the sun goes down, quality light is a must for packing up gear and tracking blood trails. The Petzl Actik Core is an excellent rechargeable headlamp with 350 lumens on max setting.
Throw a pared-down survival kit in your pack as a just-in-case measure. Include items like a mylar blanket, fire starter, first aid kit, flashlight, Paracord, and whistle. I keep a kit in an OtterBox dry box to prevent water damage.
Here are some extra pointers to help you thrive while hunting in frigid conditions:
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol which increase fluid loss. An insulated bottle like a Hydro Flask keeps drinks from freezing.
- Eat high protein and high-fat foods for energy – jerky, nuts, cheese, sausage. Have snacks readily accessible.
- Use trekking poles for stability on icy trails and to take strain off your legs.
- Keep shooting gloves, ammo, and other necessities easily reachable so you don’t have to expose skin swapping items.
- Use knee and elbow pads for kneeling on frozen ground when shooting.
- Carry extra base layers, socks, gloves, and hand warmers to change into if needed.
- Take breaks out of the elements when possible and add/remove layers to stay comfortable. Don’t let yourself get chilled to the bone!
- Use foot traction devices like STABILicers if hunting in icy conditions.
- Scent control is important since cold air causes odors to settle versus dissipate.
- Position yourself downwind and stay as motionless and quiet as possible. Sound and movement travel farther in cold, dense air.
- Be prepared for changing weather. Have backup rain and windproof layers handy.
- Tell someone your specific hunting location and expected return time as a safety precaution.
- Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Don’t take chances if conditions worsen.
- Maintain proper fitness for cold weather hunting. Condition your body ahead of time through cardio and strength training.
These are my top recommended brands for cold weather hunting gear based on my experience:
Sitka Gear – My #1 choice overall. Sitka’s technical hunting gear and layering systems are unmatched. Fanatic Series clothes are engineered for the most extreme conditions.
First Lite – Excellent merino wool and synthetic blends optimized for concealment. Great base and mid layers.
KUIU – Ultralight gear including super high quality insulation layers. The Valo and Tiburon lines work well in cold climates.
Under Armour – Affordable base layers that retain warmth without bulk. ColdGear line is perfect for hunting.
Muck Boots – Insulated rubber boots that are 100% waterproof and extremely warm. Great for late season.
Irish Setter – Durable leather and rubber hunting boots with proven warmth in frigid temps. Moderate price points.
ALPS OutdoorZ – Budget-friendly hunting gear including jackets, bibs, gloves and more. The Whitetail Extreme line is for serious cold.
Browning – Reliable cold weather hunting clothes and accessories at reasonable prices. The Hell’s Canyon line is top notch.
Cabela’s – Huge selection of affordable hunting gear and apparel, including their linewidths for extreme temperatures.
As you can see, proper gear makes all the difference for cold weather hunting. The right clothing and equipment allow you to stay effective and lethal even when Old Man Winter starts nipping at your nose.
I hope this guide gives you a head start on assembling your perfect system for prevailing over frigid temps. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions! Here’s wishing you many successful, comfortable hunts this winter. Now get out there and fill some tags!
Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.