Late-season hunting can be an endurance contest. Braving winter’s wrath can be a challenge made nearly unbearable if your feet are cold. Here’s a plan to keep you and your toes toasty on a stand. I hunted this year with an eager young man in excellent shape. I dropped him at a mountain saddle an hour before daylight on opening day. He willingly hiked a quarter mile uphill to his tree stand, where he hoped to bag an early morning buck. “After an hour, my feet were freezing,” he said later. “I couldn’t stand it and had someone pick me up.”
Perspiration is a Foot-Freezer
I’ve hunted several times with this young man who is an animal in the mountains. He’s in excellent shape, yet perspiration was his Achilles’ heel, if you will excuse the pun. He wore his expensive Western boots, but the brand wouldn’t matter because his climb up the mountain caused his feet to sweat, and his damp socks soon failed to insulate. Unless your feet are dry, they quickly feel cold.
Pack a Pair of Dry Socks
I believe that our young hunter would have been fine if he had packed a pair of warm, dry socks in his pack and changed them when he reached his stand. Better yet, wear a light pair of cotton sock for less insulation when walking and then change to a warm pair before climbing into his stand. I’ve found that allowing my boots to be cold helps as well. When traveling to a hunting spot in a vehicle, never run the heater on your boots as you build perspiration before you get there. In short, dry feet will feel much warmer because your insulating socks will be more effective.
When I first began hunting, I thought that wearing two pairs of socks was better insulation than one. Logical, right? However, as I squeezed my feet into my standard size boots, the socks were so compressed that they lost most of their insulation properties. Today, I wear rubber insulated boots two sizes larger than my shoe size. In this way, I can wear very thick socks which maintain their loft and maximize insulation. I’ve experimented with “hand warmer” brands for the bottom of the feet. They work, but you will generate perspiration so be sure your brand last as long as the hunt.
Insulate the Insulation
I remember the first time that I put my hand on a “Heat Seat,” one of the first insulating pillows designed for hunters to sit on. The insulating material inside the product reflected the heat from my hand and it felt “warm” even though it was creating no heat on its own. Later, I carried a piece of carpet padding to place under my feet. Especially in snow, I unfolded the two-foot square piece of insulation and rested my feet on it, completely eliminating the heat loss by snow. This heat barrier can be anything from a piece of cardboard to a foam insulation.
I use an Alps foam pad that is four inches thick, camouflage on one side and blaze orange on the other. On cold days, it feels like a heating device because it completely reflects my body’s heat back into my bottom. Also, it raises me a few inches from the ground which aids shooting my crossbow. If you haven’t used this simple device, you will quickly become a fan. Circular round pads are often fully stuffed with insulation and attach to your belt so that each time you sit down, you have the insulating pad for increased comfort and warmth.
What’s Your Secret to Warm Feet?
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