When I first started whitetail hunting, being cold was the No. 1 thing that’d get me out of a stand early. It didn’t matter how heavy or warm my clothing was; I still froze during November and December hunts. Every Hunter’s Ed test has the same question: “What is the hunter’s most important item of clothing?” The correct answer is a blaze orange hat plus a blaze orange shirt vest or jacket.

Daylight fluorescent orange clothing is essential when gun hunting, wherever you’re hunting, and the right answer for passing the test. But knowing that isn’t going to help much in a treestand in November or December if you don’t also pack in warm layers.

What matters when it comes to staying warm are the textiles clothing is made from and how it’s layered. That’s what it all boils down to: You need the right clothing with the right properties, and you need to layer it correctly.

Most whitetail hunts unfold the same way; energy is exerted hiking into your hunting spot, climbing into, or setting up and climbing into a treestand. Then, you sit. And sit. And sit. Hunters get warm and body heat builds on the walk-in, then it dissipates as they sit. And they get cold. If the base layer is soaked with sweat from the hike, they get even colder.

Hunters can avoid this awful cycle by choosing the right pieces of clothing and layering them correctly.

Related:Hunting History – How Firearm Tech Changed the Way Americans Hunt

Pick the Right Clothing

Base Layer

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Knowing When to Layer and Unlayer

You might have all of your clothing components figured out and on your body, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll stay warm. The most critical part of any clothing system is understanding the demands of a hunt and layering accordingly.

I hunt the big woods — mountainous regions of the Appalachian Mountains where I may hike three miles to my stand. When doing so, I only wear my base layer, an active insulation top, and softshell pants with my additional layers stowed in my pack. I would rather be cold at the beginning of the walk than be overheated when I get to my stand.

Once I arrive at my tree, I pull on additional layers to capture the body heat I produced during the hike.

It is critical that you understand the concepts of building a performance layering system to stay warm because it will allow you to stay in the whitetail woods longer and increase your chances of success. If you’re taking a hunter’s ed test, the most important item of clothing is blaze orange. If you’re trying to bowhunt all day during the rut, the most important item of clothing is the layering system that will keep you in the tree.