Naomi Folkard explains how to stay warm despite it being cold outside.
Being cold can make executing a good shot difficult, so it's really important to wrap up well to retain as much body heat as possible. It's also vital to performance that we are able to stay mobile and keep the string free of the chest and front arm, which can be quite challenging and limits what can be worn on the upper body. Therefore, the clothing choice for our legs, with 1/3 of an adult's surface area, must be selected sensibly, even if our legs do not feel cold.
Everyone will have heard of "layering up", which traps warm air between the layers. In order to keep warm air between the layers and within the garments, depending on the fabric, garments need to be loose. This also allows comfort and freedom to move. However, to achieve string clearance there obviously needs to be a balance between loose and close fitting garments.
Wearing skin tight clothing, such as tights or leggings, is not a good idea because the garment tends to be stretched so that it does not trap air within it, and nor will it trap air underneath it next to the skin - instead it essentially has a cooling effect. If you've found particularly thick and fluffy leggings, go up a size or two so they are not stretched tight and you may find them to be useful. I find a loose thermal layer, a pair of thick jogging bottoms and thick skiing trousers to be a great combination that works well for me.
I picked my ski pants up at TK Maxx for £25. They dragged on the floor and soaked up water so I needed to adjust the length of them, but I think they were really good value and still keep me warm, even if I did buy them as far back as 10 years ago.
When it comes to layering up the torso and arms, we tend to hear about "base layers". Bear in mind that base layers are designed for different functions:
Cotswold Outdoor has a large variety of base layer tops available at different price points.
Long-sleeved tops with a sports company branding tend to be either for compression or cooling. For thermal base layers it's best to find mountaineering/hiking brands; they will also have cooling base layers so always check the label before purchasing!
I've since invested in merino wool base layers with different weightings. They were expensive but I shoot outside a lot in winter, and they really are good at insulating due to the tangles of fine fibres; other options on a budget are available. On the coldest days I wear a short-sleeve medium merino wool top. On top of that I wear a thick merino wool long-sleeved top, which is quite close fitting, and then a thin merino wool long-sleeve on top of that.
I prefer men's-fit garments for the top because they are longer and allow me to alternate tucking them into the top and bottom layers.
I have recently invested in a USB battery heated gilet and I love it for the icy mornings - it definitely affects my string-to-chest guard clearance, so I tend to wear it with the string arm in the sleeve hole and bow arm out.
I often do the same with my down coat, which is two sizes larger than I could have chosen just so I can shoot one arm in and one arm out without any restriction from the coat. This makes my coach's job difficult as I look like the Marshmallow ghost from Ghostbusters, but being warm is more important.
We can lose a lot of heat through the head, so choosing a good hat can make a big difference, and no one likes cold ears, so make sure the hat covers your ears well. When choosing a hat, look at how it is made. A knitted hat might seem like a great idea, especially if the wool is thick, but the gaps between the stitches may also be large, letting the warm air out and cold air in. Make sure your hat is fleece lined.
I enjoy shooting in a snood to prevent heat loss through the neck. Most people would find it an interference at full draw but I don't mind it at all. It could be potentially dangerous so do NOT wear a snood to shoot in if you are not certain that you are safe. Make sure it is close fitting and you must guarantee that there is nothing on your tab/release aid, jewellery or string etc that could potentially catch on it.
Mittens are definitely better than gloves, as you can shove hand warmers into each mitten and warm fingers up between ends. I've found that single-use chemical hand warmers need a certain amount of heat for them to stay warm, therefore they don't tend to work well at all if you have to keep taking hands out of gloves and putting cold hands back in. An electric hand warmer is going to work better, and is arguably more eco-friendly.
There are plenty of thick thermal socks on the market, and there are even socks out there with a tog rating! However, there's no point in buying wonderful socks if you cannot fit them and your feet inside your walking boots. So, next time you buy walking boots, whatever the season, you should wear a pair of thick boot socks over the top of two pairs of normal cotton socks and make sure there is ample room within the boot for you to walk around comfortably.
When it comes to winter training, you will then be able to layer up your feet with cotton and thermal socks. The first sock layer should go over the cuffs of your long thermal pants to make sure there's no draughts around your ankles. Keeping legs warm will also help keep your feet warm. Your boot/shoe selection has to be waterproof if you are to have any chance of keeping your feet warm; unless the ground is frozen, grass is always wet in winter.
Look after your boots to lengthen their life span. Whether you have chosen leather or a fabric like Gore-Tex for your boot, you must thoroughly clean the mud off and treat with a wax for leather or waterproofing solution for fabric boots every time you wear them, or if you wear them every day, perhaps just once a week.
The mud dries leather out and can make it crack, which lowers the waterproof life span of the boot. Mud on fabric boots which is not cleaned and retreated can very quickly damage the outer waterproof coating of the fabric and then on later occasions get into the fabric itself which creates a pathway for water to get in.
Clothing science and technology is a big business and you can spend a lot of money on it, but you don't always have to, so when selecting items, think about their usefulness from a scientific point of view. Shop around, and at the right time of year; the end of winter is a great time to pick up thermal gear in sales. Outlet shops may have less technical gear but nonetheless good value options.