Stay warm with plenty of layers

I’m not doing as much wildlife photography as I was a year ago, but I still spend a good bit of time outside. This time of year, that means I need to be prepared if I want to keep from freezing to death.

A year ago, I was hunkered in a blind, tucked into a snow bank, starting two hours before the sun came up, and the high temperature of the day only got to 10 below zero. I was there to get pictures of ducks and geese, and I didn’t want to spook them off the ice before it got light enough to get the photos, so I had to sit still. It’s not a lot different than waterfowl hunting – sitting unmoving in the cold while you wait for your chance to shoot.

Whether you’re taking pictures or trying to bag a goose, it’s not easy to stay warm. Actually, it’s impossible to actually be warm. But you need to at least keep yourself from freezing to death.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I can’t stress it enough. Dress in layers, and stay away from cotton. Cotton loses its ability to keep you warm when it gets wet, either from the outside or from sweat if you start to get too warm. Wicking material like polypropylene and merino wool make great base layers, next to your skin, and more synthetic or wool layers outside of those base layers will help to keep your heat in. If there’s any chance at all you’re going to get wet, make sure you have a waterproof layer on the outside.

In the case of that photo expedition to take pictures of waterfowl, I knew it was going to be cold, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to move around to warm up if I needed to, so I went one step further. I brought along my sleeping bag, and I got inside it along with about a dozen of those little handwarmer packets.

It was still cold, but it was at least bearable. The sun finally came up, I got my shots, and I survived the experience. But only because I had the layers I needed.

Layer up and stay warm this winter.

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