Nothing would ruin an ice fishing trip quite like having your fingers all freeze off, so you need to prepare appropriately. I’ve had a lot of fun outside on cold winter days, and the key to that was dressing to stay warm. To help you know how to do that, I’ve written this guide on what to wear.
To stay warm and dry ice fishing, you should wear many layers of clothing (underwear, shirts, jackets) to both insulate your body and be able to adjust for changing temperatures. You should also wear hats, gloves, and boots.
Now, let me give you more detailed advice about choosing what clothes to wear (and I’m not talking about fashion), and what to look for in each item.
Certainly, the most important part of dressing to keep yourself warm and dry is choosing how you’ll cover eighty percent of your body. You have to keep your core warm.
As you know, the human body tries to keep a somewhat consistent temperature. Being in cold air for too long can lower it. This is called hypothermia, and by dressing in layers, you can prevent it.
There are some different options for shirts and jackets when you get down to it, but wearing layers isn’t optional. You will likely regret it if you head on an ice fishing trip without doing so.
Wearing layers that you can remove or add throughout your day is essential because weather conditions often change quickly. A winter day will typically begin with extremely cold temperatures, but if the sun shines all morning, it will warm up quickly.
You don’t want to be sweating much, which can happen if you’re running around on the ice going to different fishing holes, or if the temperature simply gets fairly warm. So, that’s why it’s important to be able to adjust how much you’re wearing.
The strategy for keeping your core warm is going to be to wear, for a bottom layer, materials that keep heat in your body, and then have waterproof clothing for the outer layer.
For this bottom layer, you should completely avoid cotton. Cotton is terrible for keeping you dry. It’s fine in normal temperatures, but out in the cold, it becomes a big problem. If you’re wet, you’re freezing. Cotton will get soaked by your sweat, and it won’t dry quickly at all. Avoid it, especially for the bottom layers.
Let’s talk first about dressing your legs. It is an excellent idea to wear some type of long thermal underwear (as long as it’s not cotton). I always find this makes a big difference in my warmth. On top of that, you can wear a pair of fleece or wool leggings. These materials are excellent at keeping warmth in your body.
If you don’t have those things, you could just wear sweatpants, but you might find them cumbersome. Still, they will definitely help you stay warm.
After that nice layer of insulation, you’ll want some cover on top of it. I recommend a pair of waterproof overalls. They’ll keep you dry and protect you from the wind. They offer additional protection for your upper half, too.
If you don’t want overalls, make sure you wear some sort of waterproof pants, like snow pants. Waterproof is the main thing here. Your knees are sure to be on the ice at some point, and any pants that are not waterproof will get wet when they are.
Now, to be honest, it’s not a bad idea to forego the middle or bottom layer for your legs on days where it’s not extremely cold. The reason for that is that removing layers on your legs is simply more difficult than on your torso. It’s your choice. Just make sure you check the forecast before you make your final decision. It’s always safer to have more clothing available than less.
Now for the torso. Now we will still have a bottom layer that helps insulate you, but you will also be wearing a jacket that will do a great job of doing that on top, so the bottom layer does not need to be as heavy-duty as with the legs.
As I mentioned earlier, you should never wear a cotton T-shirt as your bottom layer. You are almost certainly going to sweat, and the shirt is going to get soaked, and then in freezing temperatures, you’ll be in trouble.
The good news is that today there are many types of fabrics that are far better at dealing with moisture. For instance, there’s polypropylene. This type of fabric wicks moisture away, so you are going to be nice and dry.
It certainly may feel a bit counterintuitive that you’d want a bottom layer to be made of such thin fabric compared to a heavy cotton shirt, but trust me, you have to avoid moisture build-up. You’ll have plenty of thicker material on top of this layer, so don’t think about that.
You will want your bottom layer to sit snugly against your skin for it to work the best.
Now, for the layer on top of that, you’ll have a middle layer of fleece, wool, etc. The exact material type is up to you; they’ll all help keep you warm.
This layer will be looser fitting than the bottom layer.
The purpose of this layer is mainly for warmth, of course, but you might choose to get something with wind-stopping capabilities as well. The reason for this is that if the temperature gets warm, you’ll be shedding your top layer, and your mid layer will be on top. If it’s windy outside, having that extra protection from the wind will be very nice.
Finally, on top, you will have a jacket. This is probably going to be the most expensive piece of clothing you’ll wear when ice fishing, and it’s probably the most important too.
There are tons of options to choose from, offering some different features. Determining which jackets are best is a big topic unto itself.
The main qualities you will want in whatever jacket you choose to get for ice fishing are that it’s waterproof and windproof. It’s wise to make sure it’s “rip proof” too, which means exactly what it sounds like: the fabric won’t tear easily.
You’ll want it to be waterproof mostly in case you have snow pouring down on you. Maybe some water could splash on you when you’re bringing in a fish, but snow is the main concern. You’ll stay dry with a waterproof jacket, provided you were listening earlier and got waterproof pants too.
Windproof-ness is even more important. Wind is simply hard to avoid, and if you’re not protected against it, it will make a huge difference in how warm you feel. I find that cold temperatures are not all that uncomfortable on their own, but when the wind blows, it hurts. So, get a jacket that provides protection against wind.
Now, other features of jackets are simply a matter of preference. Protection from the elements is your biggest concern, but if you want to get a great jacket that lasts through the years, research your options thoroughly.
With all those layers, both your torso and your legs are going to be very warm. That’s the vast majority of your body, so heat will have few places left to escape.
When it gets warm during those winter afternoons (and it often does), you can easily ditch your top layers and feel totally comfortable. Are you staying past sunset? It’s going to get cold again. Put those top layers back on.
Cover your body as I have described, and you are most of the way there in the process of guaranteeing warmth and comfort when ice fishing.
Cover Your Head
Hold on, there are still some places left exposed to the cold. Namely, your entire head.
Any exposed skin is a place where warmth can escape. With cold air outside, the heat in your body always wants to escape and create equilibrium. Clothes keep that heat from getting as far.
We’ve covered most of the body already, and you’ll be pretty warm with all that coverage alone, but with your head uncovered, it’s going to be a major source of heat loss. I want you to be as warm as possible (without getting too warm, that is), so let’s cover up your head, too.
You can have layers here as you did on the rest of your body. You can wear a liner and then put a hat on top of it. If you get too warm, you’ll remove one of those layers.
There are plenty of styles when it comes to hats. You can probably guess that a baseball cap isn’t going to be too much help. Your objective is not as much to protect yourself from the sun (though you should do that, too) as it is to keep your head from losing heat. So, basically, you’ll want something soft and fluffy.
It’s best to get a hat that covers your ears. Frankly, I hate the feeling of the cold wind on my ears and wonder why anyone would choose to suffer through it. Keep those guys warm!
If you really want all skin covered for maximum warmth, then why not wear a ski mask? You might look like a cartoon burglar, but you’ll be warmer.
Also, when it comes to wind protection, you may have gotten a jacket with a hood, so the hood will help with that. It won’t be as good at retaining heat as a hat is, though. Perhaps you should put on a hat, then wear the hood on top of that. That sounds incredibly warm.
Now, this isn’t a matter of warmth, but you should wear sunglasses, too. The sun is powerful, even in winter.
If your head is exposed to the winter air, you are simply not going to be as warm as you could be. So, get a hat and wear it.
Keep Your Hands Warm
So far, we’ve done a ton to protect ourselves from the cold. If I was wearing all these things right now, I’d feel invincible in any cold weather–if it weren’t for one problem. We haven’t put anything on our hands yet.
Yes, hands are another place where heat can easily escape if not covered. The feeling of my hands gradually freezing never is pleasant, either. The solution, as you likely realize, is to cover them.
You may wonder if wearing gloves will affect your ability to ice fish. After all, you’ll need to tie knots sometimes or hook bait, and gloves can impair your dexterity. If you get thick gloves, indeed, sometimes you will have to take your gloves off to get something done.
However, not all gloves are the same. Some gloves are better for difficult tasks than others, so it’s best to choose a pair that you can easily work with.
And, lucky for you, I wrote a blog post a while ago that lists some of the best gloves you can get for ice fishing. It should help you find a great pair that will keep you nice and warm.
Unless you really feel the need to get thick gloves, it’s smarter to get thinner gloves so you avoid having to ever remove them. Here’s the problem that can arise with thick gloves: you find that you can’t maneuver your fingers well enough to complete some task. So you take off the gloves. However, it takes you a while, and your fingers are now getting numb. So you have to switch to the other hand. It’s really a pain.
This is why you should go for a thinner pair of gloves. I think your hands will generally feel just as warm in them, and you’ll be able to bait hooks and do everything you need to do.
That’s really the main thing to consider about gloves, really. You should also factor in the quality of the manufacturing and how tough the gloves will be. It’s never fun to get a product that won’t last.
Now our hands are covered. But it feels like we’re forgetting something. Oh yeah, we need to wear shoes.
Actually, I’m only kidding. I assumed you were planning to wear shoes all along. However, you might not have thought about what kind.
You should wear insulated, waterproof boots.
Sneakers or other everyday shoes do not retain heat very well, because they’re not insulated well. You are going to want boots that will keep your feet warm. Feet aren’t all that different from hands, after all.
When it comes to ice fishing, you’re likely to encounter snow and slush, so you definitely need to avoid boots that are going to get soaked easily. Make sure the ones you wear are waterproof.
The size you pick should be a size bigger than normal because this will help keep things warm in there, but don’t get boots so big that they’re uncomfortable and hurt you.
Of course, what good are boots if you don’t have good socks? This is another one of those times where you should avoid cotton. Your socks shouldn’t get wet due to the boots being waterproof, but if they do, for some reason, cotton will lead to misery. A soaked cotton sock doesn’t dry easily in the summer, so I don’t want to think about it in the winter.
Instead, get wool socks. They should be fairly thick, for maximum comfort. It’s smart to bring an extra pair along in case anything weird happens.
With good boots (and good socks underneath) as the final step on this list, you are finally ready for a harsh winter.
Dress as I have described, and almost no cold weather will stop you from enjoying winter and catching all the fish you want.
Thanks to this source for information I used in this article.
Staying warm outdoors in freezing temperatures can be quite a challenge. I used to wear layer upon layer, but that only provided warmth for so long until I was cold to my core. Then I would be forced to go indoors to escape the winter weather. Not only that, but all those layers left me feeling confined and often claustrophobic. There had to be a better solution.
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