Cold-Weather Gear: Gaiters, Gloves and More

Cold-weather gear for bowhunters can ring up sales throughout the entire season. Don’t overlook these options to carry into winter.

Cold-Weather Gear: Gaiters, Gloves and More

Bowhunters can be finicky, persnickety, almost any adjective you’d like to place on them. Obsessive, perhaps. Many of them want everything to be absolutely perfect, from their stand that doesn’t make a sound, to a bow that is dialed in like a sniper’s rifle, to their clothing that keeps them dry as well as cool or warm, depending on weather conditions.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this. Being at your best, to perform at your best, is something many hunters strive for whether they use a bow, crossbow or firearm. Having the best clothing and accessories, or “gear” as it’s easier to say, definitely helps. A high-quality backpack or waist pack can carry as much or little as a hunter wants or needs. Boots keep feet warm and dry. Gloves, beanies, hand-warmers and other items for chilly or frigid days are vitally important. All of it works seamlessly, or should, so a hunter has nothing to do but climb into the stand and watch for a target. When the time comes, all of the gear should again work seamlessly throughout the shot. Nothing should tug, pull, get caught or otherwise do anything to distract the hunter from focusing on a smooth draw, aim, release and follow-through.

Loose lips sink ships, and loose apparel can sink the dreams of bowhunters. A floppy sleeve along the forearm or wrist might impede the bowstring during release, or possibly catch something during the draw. Drawstrings on a hoodie or jacket hood can easily get caught in a bow or crossbow string, with bad results. Jackets with bulky cuffs are no good, as is a neck gaiter or balaclava that is so thick it messes with a bowhunter’s anchor point. Could an adjustment be made? Sure, a little head wiggle or re-snug into the draw while finding the peep. And that’s also when a buck, usually an older one, or mature doe figures out the gig and decides to tuck and run. A neck gaiter or balaclava could spoil a shot? Yes, of course. It’s one reason good bowhunters shoot pre-season routines in their winter gear, despite the uncomfortable heat. They also look for ways to tighten, cinch, clasp, lock down and otherwise make things not floppy, loose or hanging around to snag, catch or create issues.

The best bowhunting accessories and clothing helps avoid these situations. For those of us who hunted 25-40 years ago, we’ve seen the development of clothing and gear. Better backpacks, stands, releases, quivers and so forth. Incredibly better apparel that is thinner, quieter, warmer, more comfortable and easier to conform to our bodies. Will you still sell poly toques, gaiters, masks and beanies? Yes, because some hunters want those or their budget requires it. But you also should have thinner, warmer items such as the incredibly warm fleece gaiters from Sitka, thin Merino wool beanies from Icebreaker, and layering systems so hunters can pick and choose. The latter is similar to the olden days when we would put on cotton thermal underwear or polyfill insulation, then add cotton duck and whatever other items to help stay warm. As my wife’s late grandmother would’ve said, I’m grateful to God for what we have now because it’s far better than back then.

Northern hunters are accustomed to winters of snow, ice, bitter wind and more of all of that. Southern hunters, from Texas and Oklahoma to the South Carolina Lowcountry, see more swings than a child’s playground at recess. One week or weekend it may be comfortable in the 60s, and a light jacket or hoodie over a thin fleece top knocks off the chill. Two weeks later, temps could be in the 40s with a northwest wind, rain or freezing precip on the way. Or, as we’ve seen forever, worse conditions and hunters still braving them to go out.

One of the coldest Alabama mornings I ever hunted was in the early 1980s, for ducks with my father. The highway bank sign temperature showed 4 degrees when we departed, and -2 when we got back. Just bone-chilling, shivering cold. We killed ducks, though. I’ve had similar experiences deer hunting in January in Alabama and Mississippi, when the humidity was just right combined with clear overnight skies and temperatures in the 20s. Until the sun rose, it was miserable. A hunt in Oklahoma was like that about 8 years ago. Kansas a year or two before was similar, with northwest winds and temps in the minus-whatever category brutalizing us for a couple of days. But the proper clothing and gear helped keep things warm until it was time to get ready, aim and shoot. Things have gotten better in the last decade, too.

Keeping Hands Warm

Bowhunters may be more particular about their hands, gloves and warmers than almost any other accessory. With some, it’s a flat “Nope” about gloves. They’ll shove their hands in their pockets or a muff until it’s time for action. Others will opt for thin gloves and maybe use chemical handwarmers, and some will want gloves without fingertips. Others, perhaps, mittens with magnetized flip-tops for the crucial moment. In the harshest winter conditions, the diehards are dialed in with wool or top synthetics to stay on the stand.

Sales of gloves can start early and continue through the season. Fingerless (the tips) gloves from SitkaFish Monkey and Wooly Hunt are super options at different price points and designs. 

I’ve used Huntworth gloves for years, keeping them in my truck and bags for different occasions. They’re affordable, camouflaged and come in different thicknesses for various temperatures. Also, they don’t cost so much that cutting out the fingertips makes me wince. Huntworth is a solid option. Code of Silence’s Verdigre glove has fingers with tactile tips, and is designed to fit tighter for increased dexterity.

Muffs are great for sales, especially with today’s materials that are quieter and warmer. Sitka’s Incinerator muff is stellar for keeping hands warm without gloves or with their thin gloves. Wonderfully warm synthetic insulation lines the thick Incinerator, which is protected with Windstopper by Gore-Tex. It’s a solid solution to the worst late-season winter conditions. ALPS OutdoorZ Shield Bino Harness combined with its Ember Hand Warmer also is a top combo. The Shield keeps a bino protected from the elements yet right at hand on the chest, while the handwarmer is curved to sit perfectly across the belly. Both are quiet, connect with each other, and would make a solid special deal you could offer before or during the season.

Want some easy sales? Of course, the HotHands “shake ‘n warm” disposable chemical warmers fit the bill. These are easily recognized and scarfed up by hunters to stick in gloves, pockets, neck gaiters, boots or elsewhere. They come in different sizes. Put these at every cash register, scattered around the store on shelves and under colorful signs with arrows pointing to them. Make them impossible to miss and you’ll sell them. Other handwarmers to consider include the legendary Zippo refillable catalytic warmer, though these require butane and may not appeal to younger hunters. For those, consider the Zippo HeatBank models that are pocket-sized, affordable, rechargeable and have several hours of run time.

Head and Neck

I’m a sucker for a good beanie, toque or hybrid cap if it’ll keep my head and ears warm, especially if it can be combined with a good neck gaiter. My go-to for the harshest conditions are the Sitka Fanatic beanie and fleece neck gaiter (along with the Fanatic bib and jacket). The beanie is designed with Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper technology and PrimaLoft insulation. It is so warm that I don’t walk to my stand wearing it or the gaiter. For deer hunting, or for waterfowl, football games or other winter outings, this is my go-to melon-topper. The Fanatic beanie has a price tag of $89 and the gaiter is $49, which might make some hunters scream as if they’ve been electrocuted. They’re worth it, though.

Another great choice for harsh winter outings is the Code of Silence Verdigre Cap (beanie) and StandCap, which has a short bill and earflaps. Both are designed with Berber wool, like Code’s other apparel, and are warm, quiet and quite comfortable. Code’s Coldfjall Balaclava covers the head, neck and lower face, and can be lowered, if desired, to draw the bow and anchor. Along with Sitka, I’m a big fan of the Icebreaker line of Merino wool beanies (and layering undergarments). Icebreaker’s long history with harsh conditions and quality apparel is worth considering for your store.

Definitely offer a variety of price points and options for different weather conditions, early and late season, and possibly in different camo patterns. Some hunters are hung up on the camo pattern. The most inexpensive polyester toque and gloves will catch the eye of some hunters who want extras, want to modify or cut out fingers, or who just prefer those to anything else. Remind your shoppers that having a few extras of these in the truck and hunt bags is better than nothing at all when Mother Nature throws a snowball.

Today’s big game hunter understands that layering is the key to staying comfortable in the field.
Today’s big game hunter understands that layering is the key to staying comfortable in the field.

Sidebar: Bags and Packs

Minimalist hunters stuff a couple of items in their jacket or pants pocket and take off. Perhaps an apple or crackers and a water bottle. Toilet paper or baby wipes. The phone is a given today, and it’s smart to have because it can be a safety device and has weather, a compass or other helpful information. Apps showing boundary lines are quite nice to have and check, lest you stray on adjoining property.

Packs, bags, satchels or other means of carrying things aren’t new. My first deer hunting experiences included my father’s tattered canvas tote bag. It contained our lunches and maybe an extra sweatshirt. In the last 20 years or so, it’s become more vogue for true backpacks to be on the shoulders of bowhunters (and other hunters). Camouflaged, comfortable, padded, quiet and with ample room, these packs and waist packs (some with chest harness or shoulder straps for support) offer hunters the chance to be uber-organized and take scads of items into the woods.

To wit, my typical grab ‘n go pack includes a rolled-up Merino wool shirt, gloves, beanie, Gerber pruning clippers and folding saw, chartreuse and blaze orange flagging tape, compass, extra knife, flashlights (more than one), Bright Eyes tacks, unscented moist baby wipes (they’re good for more than “that” use), Scent Killer spray and cedar cover scent, snack and water. That sounds like a lot but it’s not, once everything is in its little pocket or spot. If I am going to be out for half a day or more, I’ll also have a book and a phone charger.

Your customers will be looking for packs with quiet construction, durable zippers that work in cold and possibly icy conditions, and with ample room. The latter being cubic inches as well as pockets, for specific items. Code of Silence offers two great options: the DoubleBack Xtreme and DoubleBack. The former is designed for hunters who need or want more space for gear, with 2,250 cubic inches. The DoubleBack is smaller, at 1,750 cubic inches, for minimalist hunters or shorter sits. Both are made from Berber wool, and are quiet, reinforced at stress points, have breathable padded back panels, bow holders and straps for transport, and other features.

Another great option to consider is the ALPS OutdoorZ Pursuit, favored by many bowhunters thanks to numerous bow-specific design features. Also worth looking at is the Mystery Ranch Treehouse 16, which is 975 cubic inches with a clamshell opening, inner dump pocket and integrated strap to hang the bag on a tree. Another solid option from Mystery Ranch is the Pop Up 30, which has a low profile but hauls a lot of gear or meat during the post-hunt return to camp. It has a telescoping frame and 80-pound capacity. Also, for more space, the Tenzing Pace has a whopping 1,600 cubic inches of storage space, ventilated back pad, molded straps and several pockets internally and externally for gear.

Sidebar: Ozonics Helps With Scent on Apparel, in the Stand

Ozonics continues to improve, with the new HR500 model about 40 percent quieter in “boost” mode than the company’s comparable OrionX. That’s thanks to a redesigned rubber over-mold that helps contain and reduce audible sounds. The HR500 still has the top features of other Ozonics units including Pulse Technology, XL battery, Smart Arm mounting system and Hyperboost advanced ozone output. Hunters can use the HR500 with hands-free operation thanks to its Bluetooth capabilities for operation with a smartphone and app. The HR500 also has an additional 25 percent more ozone output when using the Hyperboost mode, along with Locker and DriWash modes for use with clothes, boots and gear at camp or home.

I was a skeptic until a few years ago when I used an older Ozonics model while bowhunting in Kansas. It was just above my left shoulder, “showering” me and the surrounding area with scent-smashing ozone. Several deer came within range, including a couple right under the stand, without a care in the world until I moved and spooked them. Ozonics units might find a home with some of your customers for additional scent control this season. Contact:


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