How to Stay Warm

Steve Sorensen
Contributing Writer, Steve Sorensen

I’ve hunted deer in temperatures as low as 26 degrees below zero without getting cold, but on the opening day of this year’s New York firearms season I wasn’t prepared. I sat in a treestand and the wind (at only 13 mph) cut through my layered clothing and stole my precious heat.

My clothing would have been enough insulation if I had been wearing a light rain jacket to block the wind. Instead, the old North wind got the best of me.

Advertisements try to tell you this jacket or that coat will keep you warm. Any old-timer will tell you the real secret is layered clothing, but you need the right layers.


1. Undergarments. Proper underwear will immediately trap warm air your body generates. Don’t wear cotton because it will also trap moisture and won’t dry out. Make sure your underwear is close-fitting (not too tight and not too loose) so when you move the fabric moves against your skin. It causes a little friction, and friction produces heat.

2. Layers. Your layers should be porous to trap air heated by your body. The air in the fabric and between two, three or four layers slows the transfer and loss of heat. Do not layer-up like the Pillsbury doughboy or your movement will be inhibited, and you’ll get cold and tired.

3. Windbreaker. Without wind your layers might be enough, especially if you’re moving. But even a mild wind may nullify your layering effort. Without a wind barrier the wind will blow your heat away.

Clothing is only the starting point. It won’t do the whole job of keeping you warm. You also need to produce heat. Everyone knows walking generates heat, but what if you’re on a stand, and not walking? Here are some limited activities that can produce heat for you.


1. Standing — Modern treestands encourage you to sit, but with your knees bent the path your blood follows to and from your lower legs and feet is not as direct. If you’re sitting, stand every fifteen to twenty minutes so your blood circulates through your legs unconstricted.

2. Increasing your heart rate — Caffeine causes your heart to beat a little faster. So will resistance exercises. Do push-pull aerobics with your hands. Shrug your shoulders. Stretch your legs. Twist at the waist. Muscle movement from resistance exercises helps keep your blood flowing and creates friction.

3. Creating fiction — You can discover many ways to create friction with barely any movement. Rub your hands together. Put them between your knees and rub them. Wiggle your toes. Shake your boots to rub your feet against your socks.

4. Eating — Eating generates heat by putting your stomach to work. Chewing also generates heat. Drinking hot liquids helps warm your body core.

5. Breathing — Your nose is built to warm the air you breathe. Your mouth lets heat escape. Breathe through your nose, not your mouth. Even if you don’t have a big yapper, that oral cavity is cavernous compared to nasal passages and you lose a lot of heat from it.

6. Conserving — Cover exposed skin. Button the top button of your shirt or jacket, or use a neck gaiter. Cover your ears, your nose, your lips. Exposed wrists will cool the blood heading for your fingers, so cover them. Your fingers will help keep each other warm if you curl them into fists. Insulated insoles are underused, and their cold-weather benefit is unadvertised. You don’t
have to pay a lot. Just cut thin sheets of quarter-inch closed-cell foam into foot-sized insoles. That extra layer between the soles of your feet and the cold, merciless ground will conserve warmth. Your body is working hard to produce heat, so conserve it any way you can.

Finally, those air-activated hand and foot warmers will help. Some of them have a sticky side so you can position them at strategic places. When it comes to staying in the deer woods all day, knowledge is warmth.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.