Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal
One of the keys to successful ice fishing is keeping warm. Today, that’s easy to do. There are a number of products available that will keep you comfortable in even the coldest weather.
When putting together your cold weather outfit, there are a number of things to keep in mind. And, there are a number of ways of dressing depending on the temperature, the wind, whether or not you will be fishing in the open or in a shelter.
Most of my ice fishing nowadays is done up north. So I have to pack my cold weather gear. I have a large, wheeled duffel to carry everything in. That way I can pick and choose depending on conditions.
Staying comfortable on the ice is kind of a balancing act. You need to put on enough cold weather gear to keep warm, but not too much. If you begin sweating you will become cold, no doubt.
In my estimation, the two most important areas where you must dress right are your feet and your head. If your feet get cold, you will be miserable regardless of how warm the rest of you is. The greatest heat loss from your body will occur through your head, so what you wear up top is vital.
Years ago, I learned that I could enhance the warming qualities of any pair of boots by slipping a felt sole into them. I used to buy them at military surplus stores. And I still have a half dozen pairs of them lying around. Later I purchased a pair of rubber boots with a felt bootie inside of them. Although there are a lot of new boots on the market with more advanced features, I still find myself wearing those old rubber boots.
Another secret to keeping your feet warm is do not wear boots that are too small. Your cold weather boots should be about one size over what you normally wear to make up for the heavy sock, or socks you will be wearing. If you can’t wiggle your toes easily, your boots are too small.
One thing I have added, however, is Thermacell heated insoles. These are remote controlled with no external batteries or wires. And, best of all, they don’t get too warm. You can set them for “no heat,” medium heat (100 degrees) or high heat (111 degrees).
When it comes to footwear the thing I look at is weight. It’s hard enough to walk in deep snow without adding extra weight. I should probably add that when there is no snow on the ice, you must have a pair of cleats. They won’t keep you any warmer, but they will help keep you upright.
I usually wear two pairs of socks. One pair is made from polypropylene. They are very thin and wick away any moisture from your feet. The other pair are heavy, mostly wool, and reach almost to my knees.
The base layer on my legs and upper body is a pair of long underwear, also made of polypropylene. Most of the time that’s all I need for long underwear, but if it is really miserably cold outside, I’ll add another light pair of underwear made of mostly wool.
I might add a shirt on top of that, but much of the time I simply put on a hooded sweatshirt that zips up the middle. They are hard to find, but I like the idea I can open them up if I begin getting too warm.
Blue jeans are what I usually wear. But what I feel is important is a pair of suspenders. You stay a lot more comfortable if you don’t have to keep trying to pull your pants up. I’d probably wear them all the time if my wife could keep from laughing every time I put them on.
For outerwear, I go with a pair of insulated bibs and parka. It’s important that they be waterproof and windproof and “breathe” so moisture can find its way through them. It’s nice if they have built-in knee pads for kneeling on the ice.
For headgear I like a heavy stocking cap that I can pull down over my ears. If it is really cold I put on my trapper-style fur hat, the kind with the fur brim and fur ear flaps that you can pull down and snap under your chin.
One item I never leave home without is my neck gaiter, hand knitted by my wife. I carry it in my camera bag in the same pocket with my first aid kit. It has kept me warm on many a hunting and fishing trip. You can buy them most places that offer cold weather gear and I count them indispensable for warm comfortable outings in cold weather.
Keeping comfortable in cold weather is simply having the right gear on hand and planning ahead. Today you can fish outside in 20-below weather with 30-mile-an-hour wind and stay warm. However, I’ll guarantee this, you will still be miserable. There is a time to come in out of the cold.
More outdoors information is available at http://siouxcityjournal.com/sports/recreation/outdoors/