The winter season may appear to get in the way of going out and shooting or beating, however, with the right equipment, it is something you can do all year round. Here's how to brave the elements and enjoy a winter's day in the country:
Layering… Layering is the term that refers to wearing several layers of clothing rather than one bulky garment. The science behind this is that air is trapped in between the layers of clothing — air is a very poor conductor of heat so these layers of air prevent heat from escaping from your body. Layers can be broken down into three categories; Base, Middle, and Outer layers: Base layer — Modern base layers are usually made of a close-fitting comfortable synthetic fabric designed to wick moisture (perspiration) away from your body as it is produced. The importance of removing moisture will be explained later in the waterproofing section. Middle layer — This is often referred to as the insulating layer, and can actually be up to two or three layers of insulating clothing such as a microfleece, thick shirt, and jumper. How many middle layers you wear will depend on just how cold it is, but in the UK one or two is the norm. Outer layer — The outer layer, usually a heavy coat or waterproof, is designed to protect your base and middle layers from the elements (wind and rain). If cold air or water is able to get to your other layers they will be rendered useless. Waterproofing… Water conducts heat from the human body 20 times faster than air, so the moment perspiration builds up or rain gets in you are set for a miserable outing! In my opinion, there is no such thing as a breathable waterproof coat! Better quality coats will be rain-proof to a point, but after enough driving wind the rain will be driven into the pores that usually allow air to circulate. That isn’t to say that some coats will not keep you dry all day in the rain, but it is a rarity so don’t expect too much from such items if the weather is utterly foul. To be truly waterproof a garment needs to be made of something that will hold water, such as PVC, heavily waxed cotton, or treated leather. It will also need to have either no seams or very well made and placed seams. The trouble with true waterproofs is they tend to be heavy, as well as rather sticky inside once you start moving around. There’s no magic trick here unfortunately, heavy waxed outers are probably the best all round compromise in wet weather country days out. Hats… Contrary to popular myth, you only lose approximately 10% of your body heat from your head. Nevertheless this is enough to make you feel uncomfortable, so a hat & scarf to keep your noggin warm and dry is always a good idea. Footwear… I generally wear a pair of leather and Gore-Tex wellies, then vary the thickness of my socks to suit the weather. However everyone’s needs will be different as no two people or environment are the same. My choice was struck on a compromise between comfort, waterproofing, durability, and style (in that order as those are my personal priorities). Probably the most popular option is to have a pair of Neoprene lined wellies for the wet and cold, and a pair of brogues when conditions are more civil. Alcohol… Alcohol does not warm you, this myth comes from a basic misunderstanding. When we are cold our blood vessels contract and move away from the surface of our skin (making us appear pale or blue!). When we then enter a warm environment we find it difficult to absorb external heat as our blood is being kept away from the external environment. Alcohol Expands blood vessels, so drinking when you are outside will actually make you colder, because more blood vessels will be exposed to the environment and heat will be exchanged from your blood to the cold air around. Drinking once you get back into the warm will however aid warmth as it allows your blood vessels to expand and absorb the external heat. It’s worth mentioning that this can also result in broken blood vessels as often blood vessels expand too quickly due to alcohol. Having said all of this, what would a day’s shooting or beating be without the customary end-of-day tipple or sup from the hip flask! Always drink responsibly — www.drinkaware.co.uk Getting on with it!... Ultimately the best way to stay warm and dry is to simply get on with it — a bit of wind and rain won’t kill you, and the right clothing will soften the effects. Moving around will generate warmth and help dry you off. Smile, enjoy yourself, and wear the right kit!