Do you have a gift card in your pocket and ice fishing on your mind? You can spend your money on many things, but no one enjoys ice fishing when they are shivering cold. When considering how to stay warm ice fishing this year, think back to the layers you hoped would keep you warm last year. Did your base layer, mid layer or outer layer let you down? Let’s look at your options with these three layers so you can make the most of your gift card dollars.
A STRONG BASE
Think back to your backcountry camping trip last year. Whether you went with your friends and family or embarked on a solo camping adventure, you might have found yourself wet, cold and ready to go home. If that was the case, you should consider spending that gift card on a good base layer. A good base layer wicks moisture away from your body. This is one reason most base layers are so tight. The more skin the base layer is in contact with, the more moisture is wicked away.
Hunting tips from cold weather pros always encourage wearing an inner and an outer base layer. The more merino wool in your inner base layer, the better. It is great at wicking away moisture from your skin. Merino wool can absorb up to 30 percent of its weight in water and still keeps you warm. Merino wool is not cheap so, depending on how many gift cards you have, you may opt for a more affordable merino wool blend. The less merino wool in synthetic blended garments, the cheaper they are.
Polypropylene makes a good outer base layer. It will protect your merino wool investment from abrasion and block the wind. If riding your machine, unloading your gear and drilling a hole makes you sweat, you may want a thin merino wool base layer with a heavy polypropylene outer base layer over that. You can remove the polypropylene layer when moving around to prevent sweating, but slip it back on when you're cold. It is waterproof and protects the expensive merino wool inner base layer.
Back in the day, a good mid layer was a fleece hoodie and pair of insulated jeans. If you're asking your buddies today for deer hunting tips in cold weather, they will want you to spend your gift cards on a synthetic fiber hoodie. They would be right, and it works great as a mid layer for ice fishing as well. Synthetic fiber is less bulky than fleece and not as heavy. Synthetic fiber hoodies are breathable and dry quickly. As a rule, they are weather-resistant and will keep you warm even if you need to remove your outer layer for chores.
Fleece or synthetic fiber hoodies are good choices for a mid layer. You can’t go wrong with a synthetic down jacket, either. It comes down to price and preference when deciding which is best for you. Whatever you choose, mid layers are a great place to use thumbholes. They keep your sleeves pulled down and your wrists warm. Another option to consider is face protection that is built into the hood. This built-in face protection helps to keep your lower face and neck warm.
For years, mid layer pants were jeans. They provide some insulation and dry fast, but they can get heavy when wet – and there are better options. Many prefer mid layer pants with fast-drying synthetic fabric insulation. Spend your gift card on pants with side zippers and plenty of pockets and belt loops. Unfortunately, many don’t have pockets or belt loops. The side zippers help you take them off without removing your boots.
There are a lot of options when it comes to outer layers. Make sure your outer suit floats. Many manufacturers are making this a standard option now. You will want pockets with a fleece lining for those times you have your gloves off. A good pair of bibs is essential. Also, make sure they have knee protection for kneeling on the ice. You will want jackets with drawstrings to keep the cold from blowing up your back when pulling out fish.
A good stocking hat and neck gaiter will help keep the heat from escaping from your head. Think twice before spending your gift card on a skull hat. They don’t keep your ears or lower neck warm. Choose a more traditional stocking hat with maximum coverage and insulation. A neck gaiter is great for keeping your neck and even your lower face warm. You will want to pack a couple of extra hats and gaiters in case the first pair gets sweaty.
A good pair of mittens and boots will prevent frostbite. Ice mittens are a good option if you’re not doing a lot of drilling or chores. They come up over your sleeves and let you hold a hand warmer while waiting for the fish to bite. Bring an extra pair in case one pair gets wet. Rubber boots are waterproof, but they get stiff when it’s really cold. Choose a good pair of boots with protection well up your calf. Removable liners are easy to dry out and allow you to put foot warmers under them.
IT ALL ADDS UP
A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work, unless it’s so cold you can’t feel your fingers or toes. It may take more than one gift card to upgrade your base layer, mid layer and outer layer, but if you spend them wisely, you can keep your fingers and toes warm all day. The longer you stay warm, the longer you can stay on the ice. The longer you stay on the ice, the more fish there is for the grease!