I had to chuckle the other day when, in response to me posting up a review of my latest pocket warmer, one of our forum members replied, “Can always tell when it's time to get the thermals out the cupboard when Elton posts up the hand warmers each year”. It's true, I do express my 'warmer side' each year, mainly because I start to notice 'cold weather' questions appearing on forums and my inbox starts to receive the “Can you tell me what's the best....” type emails regarding boots, jackets and the like. I must sound like a stuck record at times, though, as I seem to dish out similar advice time after time.
So, with that in mind, I developed a short list. It's by no means comprehensive, and I'll probably want to change it every time I read it, but it should get some of you thinking. Bear in mind, I'm by no means a scientist and what I say is based on my opinion and experience, not scientific research.
Where possible, I'll mention what I personally use. If the item is underlined, it means that it is linked. Clicking on it should open up a new window with examples of the product for sale, or further details.
My Top Ten Tips For Keeping Warm When Fishing
Wear A Hat
Don't just take a hat with you, wear it. It was always drilled into us a youngsters that you lose most of your body heat through your head and, whilst I'm not going to quote some university research paper on the subject, I don't doubt that it's fact. Even if it isn't, you still lose a lot of heat through your head!
The term 'hat' can mean a lot of things and your own choice will depend on what sort of fishing you're doing, how cold it's likely to get and what you feel comfortable in. My main hat of choice these days is this Sealskinz Beanie. It's warm, waterproof and easily tucks into a pocket. Sealskinz also do a peaked beanie hat now, which would be perfect for anglers, as it's often in the winter than low sunlight can play havoc with your eyes. It's well worth having a look at some of their other hat designs, as they are designed for outdoor people – CLICK HERE.
I also wear a balaclava on occasion, most often on a beach or boat. Your mates will probably laugh at you and say you look like some kind of paramilitary, but you'll be warm and won't care.
Wear Gloves And A Scarf
Remember how mummy used to tell you to wrap up warm? Well, Uncle Elton is telling you the same. Angling is dominated by men and men love to do the macho thing. Wearing gloves, to some, is not 'tough'. A scarf is positively girly! How many of you even own a scarf?
Forget about what you look like and get yourself kitted out right. Glove type will depend on what sort of fishing you're doing. On the beach, you might well wear a nice cheap pair of Thinsulate gloves, as you'll have time to take them off before reeling in (in fact, I keep mine on most of the time). If you're trotting for grayling, you might want a pair of fingerless mittens (did you keep the pair that were joined together with string that you had when you were 6-years old?). Whatever type you need, make sure you take them with you.
I reveiwed some Sealskinz gloves a while back. They were vey good for fishing, if you can afford them.
You don't need to spend a fortune on a scarf, either. Again, a Thinsulate scarf is cheap and does the job well.
Wear Layers Of Clothes
Having layers of clothes means that you trap air in between them, so we're told. This air then warms up and insulates you. I suppose it works in a similar way to a wetsuit filling with water, which then warms up. To me, however, the biggest bonus of having layers is flexibility. If I've got layers of clothes on (or layers to put on, tucked away in my rucksack), I have options. I can keep in control of what I am wearing. If it turns out a bit milder than I thought, I can take a layer off, and vice versa. 99% of the time, I still wear my Eskimo Second Skin thermals as my base layer. Good thermals are worth their weight in gold.
When walking to a fishing spot, especially if it's a fair slog to get there, try not to wear all your clothes on the journey. Your body will heat up during the walk and you will quickly feel cold again when you stop, but will have nothing else to put on. Not only that, but your sweat will make your bottom layer (at least) wet. Chances are, this won't dry out on a cold day and you'll suffer. Far better to carry some of your clothing if you can.
The idea of 'layers' works well in bivvies, too. A good sleeping bag, these days, will have a removable fleece. If you haven't got one of these, get one! I still use a Nash Frostbite 5 sleeping bag and it's snugglier than a really snuggly thing. I love it!
For cheap fishing clothing, it's worth looking at the Jack Pyke range, which seems to be making quite a splash.
Drink Hot Fluids
Is there any better feeling on a hot day than a hot brew? Or even better for me, a hot cup of soup? Makes me warm inside just thinking about it! Flasks are great bits of kit and really cheap these days. Get yourself a good quality stainless steel flask, or one that is advertised as 'unbreakable'. Arriving at your swim and hearing the sound of smashed glass inside your flask gives you a horrible feeling, trust me.
A narrow-necked flask is likely to keep liquids hotter for longer, but a wide gape one will enable you to store hot food in it. This may be worth considering when buying a flask.
TOP TIP: Fill your flask up with boiling water hours before you intend to go fishing (I do it the night before). Then, pour it out just before you add your tea/coffee/soup/whatever. Pre heating your flask makes a MASSIVE difference. Trust me.
An alternative to a flask is a stove. I use stoves a lot. Get yourself a compact camping stove and you can have piping hot liquids in no time. You don't even need a kettle, either, if you get the right sort of steel mug.
Drinking alcohol will not warm you up. It will make you colder and less able to to make rational decisions. Doing this by the side of a lake, river or sea is not advisable.
In the UK, it's unlikely that you'll be wet and warm at the same time when fishing, so prepare for rain (or splashes from waves). The way I see it, there are two ways to do this: you can have wet weather gear in your bag, or you can wear it.
Personally, I don't like wearing 'old style' waterproofs until it's actually raining, as they have sealed surfaces and can make you sweaty. I have a set of camo waterproofs that I bought from a boot sale, and I keep them in my rucksack, quite literally, for a rainy day.
However, with modern technology, there is a vast range of breathable waterproof clothing out there for any outdoor enthusiasts. You're likely to pay a bit more, but you're paying for something you'll actually wear! I've got tops and trousers that most people wouldn't even realise were waterproof. They're great not only for fishing, but any time I'm outside.
One added thing; don't think you have to buy your fishing clothing from a tackle dealer. By all means, have a look, as there are some great bits of kit available, but also consider more 'general' outdoor outfitters, such as Webtogs.
AND...one other tip for keeping dry; take a towel of some sort. When you've baited up, handled a fish, or whatever, your hands will be wet. Don't transfer that water to your clothes – dry them off instead!
Get Some GOOD Fishing Boots
I absolutely HATE having cold feet. Seriously, there aren't many things in life I despise more! Keeping my feet warm is a priority for me. That said, I don't necessarily do things the 'normal' way.
I have a pair of Viper Tactical Boots that I wear for times when I know it's going to be cold and I'm going to have to hike anywhere. These are exceptionally warm. Most other times, I wear a normal pair of cheap safety boots with a couple of pairs of socks. On the beach, if I think it's going to be dry(ish), I often wear trainers and a pair of Sealskinz socks. I told you I wasn't normal.
If my style of fishing was more stationary, I'd seriously consider getting a decent 'moon boot'-style pair of boots. A few of my friends speak highly of Derriboots and, having just had a quick look at how affordable they now are, I might just buy a pair!
My advice when choosing footwear (and you don't HAVE to wear boots!) would be to think about what you'd wear if cold and wet weren't a factor, and then find a waterproof, warm version of that. That does make sense – honest. Buy the best pair you can afford. Cheap is rarely the cheapest option in the long run. And that makes sense, too – honest!
Not content with having to tell my kids to “eat up” every mealtime, I've now taken to telling however many millions of anglers there are in the world the same!
Seriously, though, food contains calories – everyone knows that. A calorie is a unit of heat. Your body turns food into heat.
As I said in my intro, my ideas for keeping warm are not backed by science, but my wife did point out to me that your stomach draws blood, and therefore heat, to itself when digesting food. With that in mind, it's probably best not to wait until your fingers are about to drop off before ripping off that Mars Bar wrapper. Instead, make sure you're well fed before you go fishing (stop off on the way for a hearty breakfast, if you can) and eat little and often in order to keep your body topped up with fuel.
Get A Pocket Warmer....Or Two!
This should please a certain forum member (Hi, Andy!) - I love pocket warmers. I now have two of them. You can read about my two HERE and HERE.
But it's not just me who loves them. A few of our members have now bought them. My neighbour popped round last night, spotted mine, asked about it and promptly ordered one. Just about everyone I know seems to love them.
If you don't want a fuelled version, try a disposable hand warmer. There are various ones out there and I've used a few of the. In most cases, you simply open the pack and the exposure to the air sets them off. They last a good few hours and you chuck them in the bin when you're finished.
There are also gel versions that require a bit more work, but are reported to be slightly cheaper to run and involve boiling them.
My advice? Get a Peacock Pocket Warmer or two (or an equivalent brand).
When the fishing permits, keep moving. Don't just sit there and let your body get cold. There's always something you can do, whether it's pacing back and forth on a beach, or tying up a load of new rigs in a bivvy. Keep that blood pumping round you.
By keeping busy, you are also keeping an eye on yourself. If you notice that things are more difficult to do than normal, you could be heading towards hypothermia. If this is the case, TAKE ACTION!
Great fishing website this is, huh? Here I am, telling you to go home, instead of fishing!
Seriously, though, if you've tried all of the above, and some of your own methods, and it still doesn't help, then pack up and go home. Things are not going to improve by themselves. People can, and do, die of the cold.
It always amazes me that I still hear tales of people getting ridiculously cold when fishing, as if it's some kind of noble quest and that they should, perhaps, be considered for a gallantry medal for their endeavours. It isn't; at best, you might catch a fish. Keep it in perspective, folks. Life is more important than one fish. Live to fight another day and catch lots of fish, instead.
There you go. That's my basic advice. I hope it helps a few of you. I've missed out loads and, as I mentioned before, will probably wish I had written something different every time I read it. If you've got your own ideas, please add them to this thread on our forum and/or the Anglers' Net on Facebook page. I speak on behalf of a lot of anglers, I'm sure, when I say that we'd love to hear them.
It's 5:30am as I finish writing this and I'm off out soon. It's freezing out there and I'm about to practice what I preach. If you see me today, I'll be the one with the smile and the warm glow. And no, it's not because I've just wet myself!