Heavily armed nature hike

Went hunting yesterday, although  it might be more accurate to describe it as a heavily-armed nature hike, As the day went on, some weather moved in and it became prime hypothermia country – lowering temperatures (45~ degrees), freezing drizzle, and gusty winds. The classic scenario for hypothermia. I’d been wandering up and down the hills so I was pretty warm but I decided to find a comfortable spot under some cover and have some lunch and just wait a while and see if something walked by. Problem is, once you come to a stop you start to cool down.

When I was getting ready to leave that morning I was debating on what to wear. I didnt want to wear too much and overheat, or have to carry discarded clothing….but I didnt want to underdress and be cold and miserbale. I went with the ECWS undershirt with a Woolrich wool shirt over it. (And although they are expensive, and they require a certain degree of specialized care, everyone should have a couple quality wool shirts) I was wearing an orange hunting vest over that, so that was pretty warm. I was originally gonna wear the synthetic gloves but went with the wool mittens since I figured if they got wet theyd stay warmer. As it turned out, that was the good call.

So I found a comfy spot under some low branches and set up to have lunch.

IMG_1904[2]It’s hard to tell in the image, but it was a steady drizzle. Fortunately, it was time for lunch.


Lunch was some Mountain House spaghetti which has either gotten spicier since I last had some, or my growing old has made me more sensitive to such things. Still, just about anything eaten out in the sticks tastes good. The Esbit stove worked well and got 12 oz. of water to boiling in a few minutes with time to spare. The Mountain House is in their Pro-Pack packaging. This differs from their normal packaging in that they vacuum seal it to reduce the overall size of the package…this makes it a bit smaller to pack into a bag. Other stuff: titanium spork and Snow Peak Hybrid Summit Cookset. The cup normally has a silicone lid with it and a silicone bottom cover to protect the hand from heat. Since I normally stuff a Nalgene bottle into the cup, that leaves no place for the lid. But, the bottom cover fits over the top to act as a lid, so I use that.

So I had lunch and sat around in growing cold waiting for Bambi to show up. No luck. So, I figured the day was pretty much a bust so lets take advantage of the crappy weather to test some gear.

I used to pack the classic mylar ‘survival blanket’ in my gear. You guys have seen them, right? They’re about the size of a pack of playing cards and gossamer thin. In fact, theyre packaged too well for such a thin material…try opening one up sometime with frozen fingers. Imagine taking a stack of Kleenex out of the box and soaking it in water…now try to peel away one tissue at a time….thats what its like. I went old-school to one of the older style ‘blankets’..specifically the older space blanket. It is a bit more bulky (you can see it folded up on the ground in the second picture, next to the binoculars on the ground) but it is a much more durable material. I figured I’d wrap myself up in this one and see how it fared against the wind and rain.


It actually worked quite well. You have to understand, the material has virtually no insulative value. Wrap a piece of aluminum foil around your finger and then lay it atop an ice cube. Finger gets cold, right? The value of the material is in its windproofness and its reflective properties. Or, put another way, if you wrapped your finger in a piece of insulative material (a wool glove, for example) and then wrapped your finger in foil, you wouldnt feel the cold from that ice cube. So, in this case, draping the space blanket around myself, and drawing it closed around me created a nice pocket of warm air and the warm package of food held in my lap certainly heated things up nicely. (In fact, this sort of arrangement with a small tealight-style candle [or candle lantern] generates plenty of heat in that enclosed space. The space blanket did a very good job of keeping me warm and keeping the wind and wet at bay. Drawback: It would be nice if there were a velcro closure system..I had to grasp the edges of the blanket and hold it around me to keep the wind from pulling it open. In a real pinch, though, I could just use the medical tape out of my first aid kit. If you had some compact insulative layer like a Woobie or poncho liner with you, you’d be in awesome shape. The tradeoff, of course, is just how much crap youre willing to carry around.

So I sat around for a couple hours in the weather waiting for Bambi to show up and was pretty comfortable all things considered.

So there you go – minor field testing of some gear under the guise of a hunting trip. The next day, by the way, we had a blizzard-like weather system move through. Temperature dropped 30 degrees, powerful gusty winds, and a good deal of snow and sleet. So, good timing.

12 thoughts on “Heavily armed nature hike

  1. “In a real pinch, though, I could just use the medical tape out of my first aid kit.”

    In a *real pinch, you could just use two of the old wooden with metal spring clothes pins thrown in your kit. Also good for securing lighter light sources on tree branches above your head for reading. 🙂

    (image of clothes pin)

  2. The candle-under-a-poncho trick has been used from Bastogne to the Central Highlands of Vietnam to keep warm on a cold night.

    As long a Bambi doesn’t have thermal imaging, it’s never a bad idea.

    And as you noted, wool never goes out of style.

    And hey, not to be picky, but don’t you live in prime hypothermia country pretty much 9-10 months out of the year?

  3. IIRC, you do have a Woobie, correct? Any reason you didn’t bring that along? I really want one myself, but still trying to justify the cost. I’m curious as to your long-term feedback.

    Also, a good gust will pull Velcro open pretty quick if given a chance. I’d recommend a few holes with grommet reinforcement plus a little 440 cord.

    • The Woobie is very compressible but even snugged down to its smallest size, it is still about the size of a football…which means it does take a good chunk of space in the limited capacity of my small Scout pack.

      • There’s no free lunch.

        A woobie inside a GI poncho is light and compact, and more importantly it actually works as a windproof and water-resistant blanket.

        Those mylar/aluminum “survival blankets” are so close to useless that no one can really tell the difference. The “casualty blanket” version is better, but still a poor second compared to something intended to actually be used by 19 year old soldiers.

        If it’s just wind-blocking you need, a couple of contractor-grade garbage bags are cheaper and tougher. And you can use them to haul out the heart and liver if the weather is cooperating, or cut 3 holes and wear one as a rain coat if it’s not.

  4. I’ll bet you didn’t see any deer did you? If you have a fire going, deer can smell it miles away.

    • My experience hunting in Montana has been that deer are quite indifferent to smoke. I’ve hunted plenty of logged out areas where there’ll be gigantic piles of slash that have been burned and smouldered for days, leaving a haze of smoke everywhere. The deer will stand a dozen yards away from the embers. The deer don’t mind a bit. The esbit stove generates virtually no smoke to begin with, so I’m pretty sure the deer are uncaring towards it.

  5. been following your site for last 5 yrs. I like it much. thanks for the photos, makes your site even better. bob

  6. I dig my wool clothes.

    Hang the up to air out after you wear them, use a wet rag on the dirty spots, and you won’t need to get them cleaned very often.

  7. Safety pins were always a must-have ever since my old ARMY days. However, in the last few years I’ve taken to always having at least a half dozen small binder clips fastened along the inside edge of whichever ruck I’m humping. I’m telling you now that you’ll continue to find the weirdest shit that they seem to be the only fix for. They take up no space and weigh practically nothing – win / win!

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