No way to get around it, the seasons are changing and winter is upon us. Unless you live in the deep south, you’re going to need to bundle up this winter. Knowing what to do, and just as important, what not to do, is vital in keeping yourself safe and warm on the water this winter.
Do - Start with a base layer. This layer is meant to trap warm air next to your body and pull sweat away from your skin. The most overlooked of all layers, this one is right up at the top as the most important part of your layering system. A snug fit on your base layer is key. It should fit right up against your skin for maximum benefit. I’m a fan of 100% Merino wool base layers, but if you’re sensitive to wool, Capilene is a great alternative.
Do - Follow the base layer with a mid-layer. This is an insulation layer and, much like the base layer, is an important part of trapping heat in and moving moisture out. Ideal mid-layers are low-profile, meaning they insulate without feeling bulky, and allow air to permeate. Think fleece or wool. While I like both fleece and wool, the Voormi Confluence hoodie is my absolute go-to. It may be a bit pricey as a mid-layer, but it’s so worth it.
Do - Know yourself. I’m always cold, so I use the four-layer approach and add another heavier mid-layer usually made of natural or synthetic down. It is important to note that natural down won’t insulate when wet. This extra layer adds extra warmth I tend to need (unless I’m in hot flash mode). Patagonia came out with the Tough Puff, which is super comfortable and has thumb holes, so the tops of my hands are covered. Thumbs up for that little detail.
Do - Wear an outer layer, also called a shell. Inclement weather happens when we least expect it, so preparation is the best offense. I prefer a hard shell, which offers no insulation, but blocks the wind, rain, sleet, and snow. Choose a shell that is breathable and functional. I like the Patagonia River Salt Jacket, because of the adjustable, waterproof cuffs, the comfort of fit over my other layers, and the fleece-lined pockets.
Don’t - Wear cotton. You’ve heard the term “cotton kills,” but do you know why it’s important to stay away from cotton? In cold, wet weather, when cotton gets wet (even by perspiration), all of the air pockets in the fabric fill up with water and no longer insulate. The worst material you can wear in the winter is cotton.
Don’t - Forget the bottom half of your body. Layering for only the top half of your body is a mistake. Wearing a base layer and mid-layer under your waders in the winter is a must.
Don’t - Neglect your feet. Having frozen feet is super uncomfortable and makes for a rough day on the water. First grab a sock base layer and cover them with thick wool socks. Find the brand that fits you best and stock up.
Don’t - Neglect your hands. I’d love to say I’ve found the perfect pair of steelheading gloves, but I haven’t. I wear a mix of wool fingerless gloves and the Simms mittens.
Don’t - Sacrifice warmth for fashion. As women anglers of today, we are fortunate there are so many great companies making good-looking and functional gear. While we all want to look great on the water, remember safety and warmth first before fashion.
Don’t - Skimp on cold weather gear. Are these items pricey? Absolutely, but they are pricey for a reason. They work. They last. They keep you comfortable on the water longer.
Be prepared to add and remove layers throughout your day. Standing in a cold river will require more insulation than walking to the river. Layering systems might be a little foreign at first, but once you get the hang of it, knowing what to wear will become second nature.
DUN Editor’s tip
Jen says, “Because my hands are always cold, and I can’t fish with frozen fingers, I like to take the HotHands toe warmers and stick them to the top of my fold over mitts. That way when I cover my fingers with the mitts, the toe warmers sit on top of my hands and help thaw out my fingers.”