Dressing For Success on The Ice

When you get cold ice fishing, your brain tells your body to start shivering to increase your core temperature. That’s all well and good for survival, but a shivering angler loses his concentration and focus on the reason he’s out-of-doors in the first place: to catch fish!

With the new technology today, so many clothing options exist to avoid this situation. Everyone knows that moisture-wicking garments are great, and many understand layering, but still don’t practice it.

Terry Tuma Column Photo 1-15
Terry Tuma

Regarding new-age base layers that wick moisture, however. They’re great, and they work, but we don’t want them wet with sweat either. Any base layer that’s wet will chill your body, period. For a second layer, most of us use regular clothing, but think this through, too. A wool shirt or fleece is better than a flannel cotton shirt. Then we wear our third layer, the insulated clothing, such as bibs and a coat, with some wind-breaking shell covering it.

The biggest factor that too many of us ignore is monitoring our body temperature and taking off outer garments when one gets too warm. If your inner layers get wet from body moisture, you’re going to become uncomfortable. Use your head and a hat as a thermostat. As soon as you begin feeling too warm, pull that hat off to release some heat.

When you begin to feel chilled, focus on warming your extremities. Wear quality socks, either wool or a synthetic, that wick moisture.

There are several good cold-weather clothing options available. Remember to keep clothing as loose as possible, because if it’s too tight, it will constrict blood flow and that’s counterproductive.

For your hands, get a big pair of “chopper” mitts and wear a liner glove underneath. They work very well for handling fish and keeping hands warm even on subzero days. Avoid cotton and fleece gloves, which are worthless when wet. By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, I think wool is terribly under-rated as an outdoor garment. People have been using it to stay warm in cold, wet places for a millennium.

If your hands ever come close to frostbite, soak them in lukewarm water, not hot or cold water, then consult a physician. Apply some lotion to your fingers to avoid them becoming chapped and then peeling. Another reason to avoid frostbite is because those same stricken areas are likely suffer from the cold first in the future.

Also, avoid warm-up remedies, such as hot brandy or drinking alcohol. Besides the obvious safety issues, alcohol actually drops your core body temperature in cold weather by opening your capillaries and putting more blood and heat near your skin. It feels good temporarily, but then your core body temperature drops. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee are a bad idea, too, since they’re diuretics. Instead, have a Thermos with some hot soup or maybe even hot water with some lemon.

And God forbid, if you do ever break through the ice, get to a vehicle as soon as possible and crank the heat. Then, get out of your wet clothing and into a warm building to warm your body.

Use these tips to make your next outing on the ice a bearable one!

Shop Sportsman’s Guide NOW for a fine selection of Ice Fishing Clothing!

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