Ice Fishing Clothing
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Outdoor Clothing

Minnesota is truly a state of many challenges when we look at the weather found here. The State is often showcased for the diverse beauty and the myriad of seasonal opportunities to be enjoyed. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these seasons is the winter, which brings with it countless outdoor activities and an equal number of headaches for those who choose to partake. The cold, obviously is one such consideration, as is getting wet. Or better, staying dry. Stopping the wind can be as vital as the other two issues just mentioned. As an avid outdoor individual, I have been challenged by these simple elements and have come to some very pointed conclusions.

Winter can be enjoyed very nicely if time is taken to look at what activities are on the day's slate. The absolute first thing to do is get the most up-to-date weather forecast and listen to it carefully. The old quip of, "Hey, if you don't like the weather, hang around for 10 minutes" can very easily hold true. How you dress for the day should include items for what will be occurring later in the day. The time spent preparing and the extra bundle to carry may seem unnecessary, but your life may become dependent on how well you do your planning. Winter weather is fast changing and unforgiving.

To meet the clothing demands of this time of year, one has merely to go to the Internet to do some studying on all the newest apparel goodies that will keep us comfortable and safe. You'll find the footwear that will meet your strictest of demands. Hand and headgear will also be found that offers many conditional uses. Something will be available for every type of situation imaginable. Underwear-with sweat-wicking capabilities, silks, light to heavy weights-all can be checked out without leaving the house. Parkas, bibs, rainwear are just a button away. This is where you start to outfit yourself, but I would urge you not to buy from this (Internet) source until AFTER you have gone to a store and actually put your hands on this clothing and read what the tags have to say.

Weight of clothing will always be an issue to consider for the outdoor-active person. Actually holding a parka and the bibs of choice will give you a very direct idea of how much this gear will weigh while you are wearing it. The newer micro-fiber insulations are pound cutters as are the vapor films used to create the water repellence properties. Often times what you think might be your best option will be too heavy for what you need. To meet this demand, I might suggest not buying that parka and purchase instead a piece of higher quality rainwear in a size larger than you need. This will allow you to layer your clothing beneath it. As the daily weather changes you can adjust by removing or adding what ever you need to maintain your comfort level. If matching bibs are available to the jacket, get them. I will point out though that this type of clothing can be matched according to need, not so much fashion aesthetics. Don't be afraid to get heavily insulated waterproof bibs to go with a jacket if you plan to be kneeling at an ice-hole where splash will a constant companion.

Something to think about that is not really weight related is how easy a piece of this clothing comes off in the field. This is especially true for women and children when the urges of nature are calling.

Water is another issue altogether, but must certainly be considered when purchasing this type of clothing. One thing overlooked many times is how a jacket or coat will get rid of moisture from within. As a person gets active, he/she will sweat and if this moisture has nowhere to go, the day will get pretty miserable. Label reading will become imperative for deciding what garment will suit you best. Not all clothing boasting of being water-proof actually turn out to be that, and not all clothing indicating the capacity to "breathe" will. In this department, I always consider the cost...if it seems like too good of a deal, it probably is. By the same token, the very film, which will give the jacket or what ever it’s waterproof, and breathing abilities will also determine its ability to stop wind. If you cannot stop the wind from sailing through your clothes, little else will matter. Again, read labels before you buy.

Insulation is a new art form with today's products. The weight and bulk are gone. We no longer have to dress like Ralphie's brother in the Christmas Story to be happy campers. Warmth is easy to obtain. Micro fiber technologies have gotten very handy for the person looking to dress warm and not add forty pounds to his being. The fleeces are nothing in the weight department and are great for adding layers under a jacket or bibs. Synthetic underwear is so refined today that you hardly know you are wearing it. Thinsulate can literally wrap you from head to foot (and hands!).

Earlier I mentioned having a system for battling the elements. Here is how I go about it. I do not own, nor ever will, one of those confining, restricting zoo suits known as a one piece.

I do not buy parkas. They are "one season" things. Like a snowmobile, they just take up space in the summer, spring and fall. I buy a high quality, uninsulated rain suit instead, one that I know will protect me from getting wet and at the same time allow perspiration to vent from within. That means the jacket and the bibs. I buy one size larger than what I would normally wear. I buy the very best that I can afford. I can wear it all year and this gives me the best value. Buying larger gives me the versatility in adding clothes underneath to protect against any weather condition I encounter. I make darned certain that these pieces of clothing are wind-proof as well. Under it all goes the sweatshirt jacket and under that another lightweight sweatshirt and then a tee shirt. Under the bibs are jeans and a pair of light sweats over them. This will get me into the zero degree range pretty comfortably. Another sweatshirt and a pair of sweats over the other sweats on the legs will allow me to be out when mental status is an issue. The feet get a pair of Irish Setters with 400 gram thinsulate, 800 gram Rockies if it is below zero. Pack boots give little ankle support and I cannot think of one reason to ever wear them. If the temps are moderate, I wear my MuckBoots from MuckbootsOnline. I always have something along to cover my head and my hands, although I seldom wear anything on my hands. This is a simple way to keep me warm and I have a version to satisfy my needs when the temperatures are above 25 degrees substituting a pair of rain pants for the bibs. Doing some homework and lots of tag reading on lots of different clothing, from many makers evolved my system. Regardless of the maker, you need to read the labels!

Gander, Cabelas, BassPro, ...everybody has their own product line to help keep you warm and dry. They have stuff to keep you from smelling, to hide you, to ward off chill and to combine all of the above. But consider something. Wouldn't a clothing maker who specializes in skiing apparel do everything you want to stay warm and dry and without all the extra weights and "add on". Columbia has fit this bill nicely and is a garment maker that I look to frequently. I will use them as an example because I am familiar with them on a first hand basis. They have rainwear for every season. They have cold weather wear for winter months. And who will put to test the quality of a product quicker than a skier does. Many of the products are really run through the mill by the cross-country skiing enthusiasts. Columbia has clothing to wear under the outerwear and items for the hands and head.

Columbia offers several jackets, and parkas, at moderate prices that will serve the need of the ice fisherman. Women and children will enjoy the warmth without looking as though they are supposed to be in the deer woods. Ski pants and bibs are also available in several designs and styles to keep your lower half warm and dry.

Ski clothing does everything camo gear does, but does it without the bulk and extra weight. That holds true for and ski- clothing manufacturer. And one of the most serious things to think about is how much weight you might have to haul on you if something should happen and you have to trudge through two feet of snow for three miles to get help. Is your heart up to the extra weight that these heavy hunting suits can put on you if you have to do this? I am a safety conscious person. My first decision is not what must I wear to stay warm today, but what do I have to wear to survive today. I have my heavy camo wear for the hunting season and my blaze as well. I do not wear these items much after the deer season come to a close. I do not fish my through the ice, but prefer, instead, to sit in the boat below the dams on the Mississippi River dams. The damp from open water really accentuates the chill, so my clothing must be right up to snuff. I don't have the luxury of just taking things off while in a small boat. Many of the items mentioned are from the Columbia clothing line. My rain pants are made by Columbia, as is a micro-fleece sweatshirt that goes on over my tee shirt. My next rain jacket will be made by them as well. Remember, I made mention of buying what will work for you. You need to be comfortable without feeling like you are drowning in clothes. Incorporating some ski clothing in your cold weather-clothing arsenal is a good way to achieve this balance without sacrificing protection.

Aside from the sources mentioned, look to Helly Hansen or NorthFace for ski wear and rain wear. Check out the other makers while in stores such as Gander, Cabelas or Galyons. Go see your larger sporting goods shops. Get familiar with new products and read some reviews on them before spending the money. Stay away from "new and improved" until they have gotten to be "tried and true". You are going to have to make an investment in staying warm. Being in touch with how well something performs should be a greater concern than whether things match. That top layer is the most important one and the most for the money will be best attained by looking at products which have evolve over many years to serve a specific group of people- skiers. They know what is warmest, driest, most wind resistant and least bulky long before the hunters and fishermen see the same technology on their shelves. Columbia has always been a forerunner in this arena and has the broadest catalog of choices.

Fishermen are adaptable. Look at how they can take a bass plastic and catch walleyes. Many are already getting rid of the bulk in their cold weather wear and have found favor in what the skiing world has to offer. If you ice fish and are looking for an up-grade in your cold-clothes, go check out your ski shop. Step out of the camo section and go see what the skiers know. Before you drop that 300 bucks on a store brand of rainwear, look at your other options. That money might be better spent elsewhere and you'll likely have some decent change for your pocket. You can fish lighter and warmer if you want to and still maintain the utmost in winter safety. Footwear options abound and hand/head protection is everywhere. One thing for sure is that what goes on over everything else in the winter, gets used in the summer. Like my boat, it gets year round activity. Try that with the no-scent, heavy duty, wind proof, waterproof, you can't see me clothes that most people fish in while on the ice.

Tom Sawvell

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