Being a wildlife photographer means sitting out in the cold a lot this time of year. Sometimes, it’s just simply cold; other times, it’s cold, windy and wet. Dealing with cold is tricky enough sometimes, but when you add in the wet and windy conditions, it can be downright difficult – and possibly dangerous.
On those mornings when I’m preparing to go look for coyotes, moose, waterfowl or other critters that don’t have the good sense to go south for the winter, I find myself dressing much the same way I would if I were hunting these animals. And it all starts with a good base layer.
I have several sets of long underwear, ranging from light insulation all the way up to “polar.” One thing all of them have in common is that they’re all made from wicking material, like polypropylene. The heavier insulation versions are a mix of polypropylene and merino wool. The wool is great, because even if it gets wet, it keeps me warm.
The next layers are the insulating layers. I tend to go with several layers, so I can shed layers if it gets warm, or add them if I start getting cold. If I find myself walking from one place to another, I’ll take a layer or two off so I don’t work up a sweat on the walk, then put them back on when I get situated again, so that I keep that self-generated warmth trapped near my body.
Again, these layers tend to be polypropylene and wool.
The final, outer layer is a water- and wind-resistant shell. I have a few different ones, but they’re all either nylon or a treated cotton blend. I avoid cotton unless it’s treated, because cotton doesn’t insulate if it gets wet.
Stay warm out there, and use those layers to regulate your temperature. It can mean the difference between warm and happy or cold and miserable.