how to layer for cold weather hunting

How to Layer For Cold Weather Hunting

Is there a way to hunt in cold weather and not freeze your butt off?

You bet - you just need to dress adequately.

I know this sounds dumb-simple, but it what it is.

Today, I’m going to talk about how to layer for cold weather hunting. You can start preparing as early as today!

How To Layer For Cold Weather Hunting:

When selecting clothes for winter hunts, I focus on the out-in approach.

This means that I start from the extremities and then move inwards. I’ll elaborate on this in the following sections.


Most folks have a hard time keeping the feet warm. The trouble isn’t just improper clothing, but also the peculiarities of one’s body.

In other words, some people’s feet just tend to get cold fast.

With that being said, you may have to try a few different things before you find what works for you.

Let’s have a look at some general guidelines.


1) Wear loose fit boots

The problem with tight boots is that they restrict blood circulation, which causes the feet to get cold.

Loose boots will prevent this from happening, and will also allow you to wear thicker socks.

2) Don’t wear cotton socks

Cotton absorbs moisture quickly. When your feet sweat, the socks will get dampened and cool the feet down.

So, which material should you go for?

Merino wool is a popular option, or you can try socks made from a synthetic moisture-wicking fabric.

3) Wear two layers of socks

If you’re going out in temperatures below freezing, you should wear two layers of socks.

A good idea would be to have a thin pair, and then a thicker one over it.

Synthetic liner socks are a great first layer, and heavy wool socks are a good second.


Just like with feet, everyone requires a different amount of head protection, but everyone definitely needs it.

There are different opinions on how much heat one loses through the head

To be safe, you need to have some kind of cover, more or less, depending on the weather conditions.


1) Bring a cap at all times

A cap is the quintessential clothing item in cold weather, as it protects your ears and head.

It’s compact and easy to take off when not needed.

2) Pack an insulated face mask

Wind is one of the main culprits of hunting in the winter.

It’ll cause you to get cold fast, and can make your head hurt bad.

A good, full-face mask is a good thing to have if you’re expecting wind.


Hands take the shot, so they need to be ‘fully functional’.

Cold temperatures make them numb and slow down your reactions.

Let’s see what you can do to prevent this.


1) Bring two pairs of gloves

Bring a pair of gloves for walking and another one for shooting.

Use thick, heavy mittens as your ‘walking’ pair as they’ll keep your hands warm and snug.

Since thick gloves aren’t great for shooting, have another, thinner pair ready when you reach your stand.

2) Have a muff

A hand warmer muff can be a lifesaver when spending a lot of time in the cold.

It is especially relevant when wearing thin ‘shooting’ gloves, which don’t keep the hands warm so well.

A muff can be worn around the waist like a fanny pack, so it’s pretty convenient.

Torso, arms, and legs

Now that I’ve covered the extremities, it’s time to get to your core, legs, and arms.

Most hunters have a consensus on the following - you need at least three layers of clothing:

  • Base layer
  • Mid layer
  • Outer layer

Base Layer

base layer

The base layer is the one that’s in direct contact with your skin.

This is, of course, underwear, both short and long. The latter is going to be the focus of the story here.

Today, we have excellent long underwear, and there are many options to choose from.

Some folks just get the long johns for their legs, but I advise you to get upper body protection too.

You can buy whole body underwear either as a one-piece or two-piece.

Like with socks, cotton is out of the question. Your best bet would be polyester blends and various synthetic materials.

Another great one is merino wool, but it’s got a few setbacks. Namely, it’s more expensive and less durable than synthetics.

Mid Layer

mid layers

A mid-layer is just as important as the base. However, this one is the trickiest to decide on, as it needs to be just right.

By this, I mean that it shouldn’t be too bulky but still keep you warm.

Such clothing will not hinder your movement and won’t let the cold get to you.

A windproof vest is an excellent option for most hunters.

It’ll keep your core warm, but it won’t ‘thicken up’ your shoulders and arms.

If you feel like you need a bit more layers, add a light shirt under the vest.

Outer Layer

outer layer

Outerwear is where hunter’s preferences diverge the most.

Everyone chooses this layer based on their hunting style and requirements.

For example, bow hunters are concerned with noise. They will want something that’ll keep them as quiet as possible when in ambush.

If you’re looking for something like this, fleece or wool items could work for you.

If the noise doesn’t bother you, then check any other windproof material.

When it comes to clothing items, a bib and a jacket are a must.

Whichever material you pick, it should be well-insulated.

  • A bib will keep your legs and core snug, and prevent those pesky low-back drafts.
  • A jacket with a hoodie will wrap you up nicely, and you can take it off if you feel too hot.

Tips And Tricks:

Go light on the way in

get light the way in


When entering the hunting grounds, you don’t want to be wearing all of the layers.

Have them with you, but not on you.

Your walk to the stand is laborious, and having all those clothes on will make you sweat.

Sweating isn’t your friend because it’ll cool you down quickly once you stand still.

Here’s how I like to do it.

  • I get to the stand and take a few minutes to cool down
  • Once I feel the slightest cold settling in, I get fully dressed

Bring an extra pair of socks


No matter how cold it is, your feet are probably going to sweat.

I don’t need to repeat why this is bad, right?

A good idea would be to have an extra pair of socks with you.

If needed, you can replace the socks once you get to the stand.

In this way, you won’t lose heat from your feet.

Bring food

bring food

Just like deer, you, too, need extra calories in the winter. This is the body’s way of keeping itself warm.

Besides eating a high-calorie meal before going to hunt, it’s advisable to bring some snacks with you.

Fat and protein-ridden foods would be the best choice here.

Also, some complex carbs won’t hurt. You can find a lot of great bars nowadays, so look into those.

Get some warmers

hand warmer

Via Walmart

Chemical warmers are the best!

Seriously, these things can literally save your life in certain situations.

You can get them in various sizes and for various purposes.

For instance, there are large models for hand muffs and smaller ones for hands and feet.

Use them sparingly, and do not take them out until you can’t bear the cold anymore.


OK, that's my guide for how to layer for cold weather hunting.

As you can see, there’s a lot of clothing to acquire, and many things to consider.

My advice is to take your time and choose wisely.

If you do this, your cold-weather hunts won’t be a nuisance, but a joy!

I’d love to hear your opinion or suggestions in the comment section - don’t hesitate to share!

Robert Gate

Hi, I’m Robert Gate – an avid hunter and founder of I grew up in Texas, USA and learned archery from my dad when I was a child. He gave me a Mathew bow as a gift when I got 12 years old. Read my story!

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