Shhh. Don’t make a move. At your three o’clock- there’s something moving in the bushes. It’s what you you’ve been hunting for all day. This is the reason you’ve braved the 15-degree weather with a fierce wind chill. You try to position yourself to get the perfect shot, but you can’t feel your feet. What? Why can’t I feel my feet? It’s the cotton socks and the worn-down boots. In fact, the more you think about it. You’re starting to get really, really cold. The shivering is setting in and you need to get inside ASAP. Before you know it, that majestic animal is long gone and you’re left high and dry or cold for that matter.
To keep your feet warm while hunting the most important thing you need to do is to keep your feet dry and the blood flowing. Use multiple layers of either wool or synthetic socks. Stay away from cotton. Cotton holds the moisture next to your feet and will make your feet cold. Also wear boots that not only keep the moisture out, but that fit loosely. Tight fitting boots will reduce blood flow to your feet needed to keep your feet warm.
(Quick side note: If you are looking for boot inserts and other winter clothing that will keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures even if you get wet, see my article “Fortress Clothing – My Review!“)
Keeping your feet warm while hunting is important to staying alive in cold weather. When you’re in hunting, you’re typically traversing off the beaten path-through creeks, rivers, mud pits and feet of compact snow. If your feet get wet and cold, that means you’re at risk for hypothermia and it’s time to cut the trip short. You don’t want to be that guy in the hunting group who has to call it a day, three days earlier than everyone else. You need to know how to keep your feet warm while hunting!
The best defense against cold, is choosing the right pair of socks for your adventure. If you take anything away from this article let it be this: cotton kills. Stay clear of cotton socks on your next hunting adventure. Cotton absorbs sweat and hangs onto it like a wet sponge. When socks get wet they actually steal body heat. So, that’s why when you get wet, you get really cold too. Stay away from cotton and you’ll have happy feet.
With that said, look for socks made of merino wool or synthetic material. A lot of socks designed for winter weather will be made of a blend of merino wool and synthetic material. Wool is the wonder material for winter activities. Wool wicks away sweat and moisture from your body and it acts as an insulator too. With wool or a blend, your feet will stay dry and you’ll be nice and cozy.
You have your choice when it comes to a good pair of hunting socks. With modern day technology, sock manufacturers are able to provide cushion and support where you need it most, all while keeping moisture away. Most socks are also breathable, keeping your feet at just the right temperature.
Pro tip: make sure you try on your socks with the boots you intend to go hunting in. Thicker socks don’t always mean they’ll keep you warmer. If your socks feel too snug inside your boot, you could risk reducing circulation and your feet will actually get cold, regardless of how fancy your socks are.
Hunting is sport of patience. In between hiking in and out, you’re usually sitting in a blind or under a pile of leaves to blend into the natural environment. All this waiting and all that sitting can make you really cold, unless you’re dressed head to toe for the occasion. Electric socks might be a good choice for you if you suffer from poor circulation to begin with or if it’s going to be extra cold. Electric socks typically have really small batter powered wires weaved into the fabric of the sock. In most cases, you can’t feel the actually wires, just the nice consistent heat they produce.
You’ll need to get boot that will work specifically with electric socks because there is a small battery pack attached to the top that you need to have access to. Plus, it would be really unfortunate if the battery pack is rubbing against the boot. Most electric socks have a variety of settings to determine how much heat you need.
If it’s a blizzard kind of day, you may want to go with the high setting (135 degrees). But, if it’s a mild Minnesota day in mid-March the low setting may be just fine. I imagine electric socks would come in handy when you’re sitting in a blind for a couple hours at a time. You can just turn on your socks and warm up for a bit and then turn them down when you’re nice and toasty.
If you don’t want to pack around batteries around your socks, a sock liner will give you extra warmth for those extra cold days in the woods. Sock liners are designed to fit snug against your foot and wick away moisture. This layer is typically lightweight and very thin. A good sock liner is made out of wool or synthetic material- just like your main pair of socks should be! Liners will also keep a thin layer of warm air trapped next to your skin!
This layer of warm air will keep your feet warm and dry all day long. After you’ve put on a sock liner, you’ll want to put on another lightweight to medium weight sock over it. The two socks will work in unison to keep moisture away and keep your feet dry. You can pick up a pair of nice sock liner for $10-$15. It’s a good investment and should always keep a pair in your hunting pack. Winter weather can change rapidly! An extra pair of socks could save your life!
Once you have your socks, you’re going to need a nice pair of insulated boots. For hunting, you’re going to be walking and sitting a lot. This means you’re going to need a boot with good traction, waterproof and insulated. Depending on where you’re going and how thick or thin your favorite socks are, you may want to consider going up a size in winter hunting boots.
This way you’ll have plenty of room for your socks and you won’t risk cutting off any circulation. You’ll quickly find that there are a lot of winter hunting boots on the market right now. How do you choose? It’s overwhelming. When choosing a pair of winter hunting boots, you need to consider what you’re hunting, the weather conditions and how active you will be.
No matter what though, you need a boot that is both breathable and waterproof all at the same time. See also our article entitled “What Are The Best Brands For Warm Winter Boots?” You also want insulation, but how much? Industry standards break down insulation into grams. The higher the number of grams, the more insulated the boot.
When shopping for winter hunter boots, where you’ll be exposed to wind, rain and snow look for a boot between 800-1,000 grams of insulation. Some boots are also made with a special chemical that masks the human scent. This is an added bonus of course when trying to hunt in the middle of winter. Also, look for a boot that comes in a variety of widths. You may want a wider boot that will pair nicely with your brand-new hunting socks.
Before you buy your boots, turn them over and check out the sole. How thick is the sole? How much Traction do they have. You’ll want a thicker sole for winter time hunting. This is going to be your main protection from the cold. You also want your boots to be comfortable. This is a no-brainer, but when you start focusing on everything else, you could lose sight of how important comfort is. You’re going to be out in the woods for days at a time, you want to be warm, dry and comfortable.
Insulated Boot Pads
If you’re really going out in extreme cold, consider an insulated boot pad. A boot pad will prevent you from losing heat via conduction. Conduction is the process of losing heat through touching an object or surface colder than the body. So, if your boots are on their last leg or you just need another layer to between your sole and your sock, this might be a good option.
Insulated boot pads come in a variety of different materials, from sheepskin to fleece. Plus, a good boot pad will also give you better arch support if needed. Insulated boot pads are typically one-size-fits all and you can cut the pads to fit your foot and boot. Boot pads are a budget friendly way to keep your feet nice and warm no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.
If you’re planning on standing around all day in the woods or in a stand, waiting patiently for that prize elk to stroll on by, you many want to consider an insulated mat. An insulated mat acts as a barrier between your feet and the cold, wet weather. There’s nothing worse than standing on compact snow and ice for hours on end.
No matter how well insulated your boots are, eventually you will start to feel that bitter cold seep through your boots and into your feet. Most high quality insulated mats on the market today are composed of waterproof, closed cell foam and lined with a synthetic material. Some companies go so far as to make the mats skid proof, to not give away your location.
How cool is that? Insulated mats also help reduce fatigue. They keep you alert, warm and dry. An insulated mat is a great choice for hunters, no matter the season. If an insulated mat just isn’t in the budget, grab a piece of cardboard and call it a day. Some of the most seasoned hunters always grab a piece of cardboard before setting out on their next adventure. Cardboard isn’t as soft as an insulated mat, but it protects your feet from the cold. This is a good choice when you’re in a pinch and don’t have time to hunt down an insulated mat.
Keep Your Head Warm
Wait a minute, I thought this article was about keeping feet warm? It is. Hear me out. Some experts believe keeping your head warm will also keep your feet warm to. The same could be said for the rest of the body as well. When it’s cold outside, our bodies lose a lot of heat through radiation. Radiation happens when parts of our body are uncovered and exposed to the elements. If you keep your head covered, the rest of your body will thank you for it. When choosing a hat, look for that covers your ears.
There are plenty of different fabrics to choose from: wool, fleece, sheepskin, synthetic. The list goes on and on. If you’re going to be really active while hunting, you may want to opt for a hat made with merino wool. Just like with the socks, merino wool hats wick away moisture and keep you insulated. You want to choose a hat that keeps your head just the right temperature. If you get too hot, you’ll start shedding layers and expose your body to the cold weather. You want to prevent this at all costs. On the other hand, if you go with a hat that’s not insulated enough, you’re going to be freezing.
So, what’s the correlation between head and feet warmth? Well, for starters their all part of your body and share the same circulatory system. If you’re losing heat in your head, your feet are going to have to work harder to stay warm. To stay toasty from head to toe, you need to wear the appropriate layers, from head to toe! There are a lot of companies that make hats specifically with hunter orange or camo to blend in with the surroundings! Some hats are even made with material that keeps your scent at bay!
Heat Packs Hand Warmers
You know those little packs that warm up when you shake them? They’re amazing and a genius idea. They come in all shapes and sizes! You can now use heat packs in your boots, on your torso, hands, legs, ect. Wherever you are feeling a little chilled, a heat pack is a great way to boost your body temperature. They’re budget friendly and easy to pack!
Keeping your feet warm and dry during turkey season could mean the difference between a successful trip or coming home empty handed. Nobody wants an empty freezer at the end of deer season. Making the investment in a good pair of socks and boots will set you up for years of enjoyable hunting trips. Let me know how your next adventure goes! Can’t wait to hear all about it. Please also see our article entitled “How To Keep Feet Warm While Camping“.