November 22, 2011
Hunting (even with a rough camp) in the late season can be an extremely enjoyable experience. The smell of a fire, the warmth of a wall tent, and waking up to a silence that is only known in winter is priceless, but the other reality is that the nights can get downright frigid. If you're not prepared, the intense cold can spoil your entire hunting adventure. Follow these few hard-won tips to create the perfect late-season experience.
Chemical Heat Packs
Hunters have been using chemical hand warmers for quite some time in really cold weather, and while they work well at keeping your fingers and toes limber, a better idea is to use the larger ones in conjunction with them around your kidneys. This will keep your core warm, which in turn helps with your fingers and toes. A little-known fact to remember is that not all chemical warmers are ideal for all applications. People often assume that the toe and hand warmers are the same, just cut in different shapes, when in actuality they have different air-to-chemical mixtures to perform either in the air-rich environment of a glove or in the air-starved area of a boot. Use a hand warmer in a boot and it won't heat very well; use a boot warmer in a glove and it will get steaming hot, but fizzle out quickly.
Eat For Heat
Concentrate on eating food high in protein and fat. Keeping your metabolism running high generates heat. In addition to maintaining a high-calorie diet, stay well hydrated even though you may not feel like drinking liquids, as this can help you stay warm. Avoid the old wives' tale that alcohol keeps you warm. While it may have that effect in the short term due to blood rushing to the skin, it does nothing for long-term heat production and actually is counterproductive to staying warm.
As anyone who has spent a night in the late fall or winter can attest, as soon as the lantern or stove is extinguished in a tent, the inside temperature drops immediately to the outside air temperature. Recently, I field-tested a great design that should have been thought of years ago — an insulated tent aptly named the Arctic Oven from Alaska Tent & Tarp. Available in several sizes and styles, these tents are simply amazing. With just body heat, the tent warmed up significantly, and with the help of a stove, lantern, or even a safety candle, it remained warm all night. Not only was this tent much warmer than a traditional wall tent, it was light and easy to set up to boot. While not for every camping application, when the weather turns nasty or weight and size are at a premium, it is hard to beat.
A Warm Night's Rest
Recently, in Alaska I learned a trick that I missed in almost three decades of sleeping under the stars. The nights were getting cold, and we were doing everything we could to stay warm. We had good bags, wore stocking caps and long johns to bed, used insulated pads, and still we froze. That is, until I saw our guide pour a boiling pot of water into a one-liter Nalgene bottle, cap it off, and throw it into the bottom of his bag.
"Oh, yeah, we always do this in cold weather. It will keep your bag toasty now, and if you fill the bottle to the brim, removing all the air, it will stay warm all night." Made sense. It wasn't that long ago that every household had a few rubber hot-water bottles around for the same purpose. I tried the technique that night and couldn't believe it — it worked as promised. At one point I even had to unzip my bag a bit to cool down. After a night or two of testing, I took this concept one step further and poured coffee into the bottle. In the morning it was about the exact right drinking temperature. A warm night's sleep and coffee in bed — what more can you ask for on a hunting trip?