Stay Warm with C.O.L.D

So much for a warm winter. There’s cold, snow and ice outdoors and that’s just the reason for some to stay indoors and hibernate until spring. For others, winter is the reason to go outdoors. There’s ice fishing, late season hunting and a variety of activities which can only be done in the wintertime with winter conditions.

If any of those activities tempt you outdoors, the one thing which can ruin the experience is getting cold. No matter how good the fish are biting, it’s no fun if your feet feel like frozen blocks of ice. The best hunt won’t happen if you are shivering or you can’t feel your finger on the trigger.

So how to stay warm? A friend of mine was stationed in Alaska with the U.S. Army when he was taught to think “cold” to stay warm in temperatures of 40 to 60 below zero.

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Not think about the cold, but think of the letters: C, O, L and D. An acronym reminding them of four aspects of dressing for extreme low temperatures.

C is for Clean. Clean clothes are warmer. Dirt, oil and grime contaminate the fibers in cloth and clothes and lower it’s insulation effectiveness. Freshly laundered garments have more “loft” to them, as well. The fibers are springy, light and those minuscule air pocket are what makes the cloth warm. Even if the clothes are not dirty, they may be compressed.

O is to remind people to not overdress. There’s no surer way to get cold outdoors than to get overheated initially. Don’t bundle up until you look like the Michelin Man and for sure, don’t bundle up at home and then hop into a heated car to travel any distance to where you plan to participate in an outdoor activity. The body doesn’t adapt well from going from it’s shedding heat mode to it’s conserving heat mode.

Ever had almost painfully cold feet while you are almost sweating from walking out on a lake to your hunting spot? That’s a sign you were overdressed to begin with and your body’s heat regulating mechanism is conflicted.

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The key to comfort in frigid weather is the L. L stands for layers. Remove layers of clothing when you are traveling or active. Add layers when you stop or begin to feel the chill. Each layer adds another thickness of insulation and the air between each layer conserves heat, as well.

The D in c.o.l.d. stands for dry. Nothing chills human skin more than moisture. Wet feet will do it so wear waterproof foot gear. Wet hands will do it, as well so avoid getting your gloves wet. Most important is to keep your inner garments dry from the normal sweat and moisture which comes through the skin.

Avoid cotton which absorbs water like a sponge and requires heat to dry out. Instead, choose synthetic material such as polypropylene as a foundation layer. Moisture easily passes through this material into the outer layers where it can escape to the atmosphere.

When planning your next outdoor excursion into the winter weather, stay warm. Think C.O.L.D.

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Mike Schoonveld
Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at


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