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Hot gear for the cold

Don’t forget all of this much-needed stuff by Bryan Hendricks | February 18, 2021 at 2:21 a.m.
Excellent severe cold weather boots include (from left) Muck’s Arctic Ice, Lowe’s Nabucco Evo Gtx and Irish Setter’s MudTrek. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)

You can cuss the snow and cold, or you can finally cheer a chance to properly test all your cold-weather gear.

Throw another log on the fire, pour yourself a hot cuppa Joe, kick back in your recliner with your Arkansas Democrat-Gazette iPad and check out these recommendations.

BOOTS

If you can keep your head and feet warm, your limbs and torso regulate easily. I have a lot of boots designed for extremely cold weather, but Arkansas weather hasn't really tested them until this week.

I've used every brand of hunting boot made, but my favorites are Slovakian-made Lowa. Its flagship Renegade GTX is my primary boot, but I keep Lowa's Nabucco Evo GTX in reserve for our present weather.

The Nabucco does not have the Renegade's supportive outsole, but its Vibram Arctic Grip Trac II grips ice and snow, as well as other slick surfaces like wet rocks. If you prefer an all-season boot, the Renegade Evo GTX Ice also has the Artic Grip Trac II sole.

Also, the Nabucco features a Gore-Tex Partelana liner, which is very warm in addition to being waterproof, as well as an Insulate Pro insole. This combination kept my feet toasty this week in single-digit weather without needing bulky socks.

For more information, visit lowaboots.com.

Of course, Lowa boots are only ankle high. For deep snow and extremely cold weather, my choice is the Muck Arctic Ice.

At first touch, it seems like these boots are like insulated stovepipes, tall, stiff and unyielding. They are, however, surprisingly flexible. Their advertised comfort range is minus-60 to plus-30 degrees. In deep snow, they keep my feet warm with hiking socks.

The true test of a boot's insulating qualities is how warm it keeps your feet when sitting idle, like in a deer stand. The Muck Arctic Ice accomplishes that largely because of the 8mm neoprene upper that hugs the calf and prevents heat from escaping from the top. It's doubly effective if you wear a thermal underlayer. Wrap your cuffs around your ankles, and they easily slip down the pipes.

Like Lowa, the Artic Ice soles provide solid footing on ice and snow, as evidenced by long walks on Hot Spring County backroads coated with snow and black ice. I walked in a normal gait without slipping once.

In the same class is the new MudTrek from Irish Setter. Like the Arctic Ice, it is 17 inches high, which for me goes to just below the knee. A rubber shield envelopes the front and most of the upper sides, providing protection against brush, briars and snake bites. The upper also contains 400 grams of Primaloft insulation, and it constricts to retain heat. Other models are available with 800 and 1200 grams of Primaloft.

Critical areas are also reinforced with insulation within the foot box, such as the toe box, beneath the insole and within the footbed, where heat loss is most common.

This is a more flexible boot than the Arctic Ice, and it keeps feet warm and dry in the worst weather Arkansas can dish out, you know, every 10 years or so.

WARMERS

For extended periods outdoors in cold weather, HotHands disposable hand warmers are indispensable. Most sportsmen use them, but we especially like HotHands Body Warmers, which help heat the trunk. The Body Warmer is a large packet that's large enough to cover a significant portion of the chest area. One side is adhesive and sticks to the bottom layer of clothing. It begins generating heat when exposed to air.

I started using these during a deer hunt on Nov. 12, 2019, when it was 19 degrees at dawn. I attached one each to the chest and back of my base layer. I also used hand warmers. They kept me very toasty and comfortable all day. If you need a concentrated shot of warmth, all you have to do is cross your arms or lean back in a seat to press them closer to the flesh.

Also available are HotHands Foot Warmers and Insole Foot Warmers. These can be used with hunting boots and waders to eliminate discomfort from standing in freezing water.

These products are more convenient than traditional warmers that use lighter fluid or sticks that burn in a case lined with asbestos. Simply remove a HotHands warmer from its package, knead it in your hands for a few moments and enjoy hours of warmth.

PARKAS

A parka is essential cold-weather gear, and when a hunter finds one he or she likes, we wear it for as long as it lasts. My favorite is a Browning parka I've had for about 15 years. Its camo pattern is long out of date, but it is dependably warm and waterproof.

For duck hunting, I use the Redhead Bone Dry Canvasback wader jacket, which is windproof and waterproof. It should be illegal for this thing to so warm for as light as it is, but it and my Browning parka have proven themselves through many seasons of bone-chilling hunts. I wish I had something more current to offer, but I take good care of things that work.

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