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Staying Warm: It’s All in Your Head

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Most of us have heard the saying, “If your hands or feet are cold, put on a hat.” This stems from the notion that a large percentage of our body heat is lost through the top of the head.

I recently heard about a study that suggested that this is in fact just a myth. Well, I don’t know who the subjects of this study were, because I can say definitively that I lose a lot of my body heat out the top of my head. The “hat head” I always get from wearing a hat for just a short time on a warm day is all the proof I need. As hunters, however, we can use this knowledge to our advantage to help stay warm while afield on those cold days.

A number of years ago I was on a late November whitetail hunt in northern Alberta. For three straight days I sat from dawn to dusk in an elevated tripod stand. With no walls for shelter, I was completely exposed to the elements. On one particular day, I sat through conditions that ranged from sunny to sub-zero to a blinding blizzard that left me completely covered in a blanket of snow. But despite these variable conditions, I was able to stay comfortable all day, each day. I wore all of the clothing that I had brought with me, and I never had to add or remove any layers. I simply changed my headwear as the conditions changed. I had a ball cap, a wool toque, a wool balaclava, and the hood of my hunting parka. By incorporating all these items I had an almost limitless combination to control the rate of loss of my body heat to stay comfortable.

Early in the day, when temperatures were usually the coldest, I wore my toque, perhaps with the ball cap underneath if I needed to use the bill to shade my eyes from the rising sun. As temperatures warmed during mid-day, I wore just the ball cap, or nothing. When a snow squall pushed through, I wore the balaclava to protect my face from the biting wind and pulled my hood over my head to keep snow from going down my back.  Throughout the day I would switch back and forth as I started to feel a bit cold or too warm. Except for the hood which was permanently attached to my parka, all of these items easily stowed inside my coat when I took them off.

By just carrying a few different pieces of headwear afield, you too can stay warm and comfortable through a surprisingly wide range of conditions and temperatures. And it beats lugging around a pack full of different layers of clothing.

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Staying Warm: It’s All in Your Head