Indoor shooting access isn’t going to happen this winter by the looks of things so we are probably outdoors for the foreseeable future!
Outdoors?! … in a Scottish winter!?!
Don’t panic, stay calm. Now shooting al fresco in the winter is something that not many outside the insanely hardy have experienced. Unless you have shot a Frostbite or even an Ironman (see below for details of these macho rounds), the idea of being outside in winter with your bow is probably going to be more alien to you than some of the residents of Area 51. But you need your archery fix … So what do you need if shootie in the freezing cold is your only option?
Obviously when the temperature drops you are going to need to stay warm but you cannot just bulk up clothing without it getting in the way of your form and the string. That’s frustrating like you won’t believe. So … here are a few things to wear ensuring you stay warm while shooting but won’t add to your archery woes.
A Hat: Here you need a beanie or woolly ski hat. This will keep your ears warm and will retain a great deal of your body heat which is lost through the head. The sillier the better as it keeps the other archers spirits up when they get to see you in a winnie the pooh hat.
Upper body: A long sleeved, cold gear, compression T-shirt like the ones made by UnderArmor are fantastic for retaining warmth. In addition they are skin tight meaning they don’t impede shooting at all. Add one or two tight, into the body, normal tops. These multiple layers form heat traps that keep you warm and can be fine tuned with the removal or addition of a layer as required.
A cheaper but perfectly viable alternative to UA is Decathlon ski wear tops (WEDZE) whose products are warm, comfortable and not as expensive. These may only be available online at present depending when you read this. Remember to add extra heat trapping, form fitting layers.
More radically, get a top with heating elements embedded. GA has a member with one of these (edit: now there’s two of them) . You can tell who it is as he steams slightly when its cold plus raining/snowing and unusually this isn’t due to frustration with his archery (GA members: no, they aren’t who you think they are).
Lined Trousers: Companies like Craghoppers do hiking trousers that are lined so keeping warmth in the lower body. If lined trousers aren’t possible, the alternative is long ski underwear (again see Decathlon’s WEDZE ski kit) and indeed you can have both on for extra warmth. Again its all about layers and heat trapping.
Jacket: You don’t want a thick jacket. This is something else that will get in the way of your form or the string. Think more wind breaker with some water resistance if its snowing or light rain ideally tailored. Soft shell jackets do well here. Alternatively a gillet (a sleeveless jacket resembling a waistcoat) can keep your core warm while allowing free movement of arms and no impediment to the string. See also tubular bandages.
Don’t forget your chest guard will be extremely useful when wearing a jacket and remember to tuck the jacket collar inside the jacket.
Gloves: A pair of gloves i.e. ski gloves not marigolds, driving or evening wear (although those do come up to the elbow which is useful – see tubular bandage below) are pretty important. If you finish shooting before the last person on the line, get those gloves on before your hands turn into small blocks of ice. Also wear when walking to collect your arrows. Again, Decathlon WEDZE kit is good value.
Socks: You have no idea how much heat can leech through your feet especially with wellies so thick socks are pretty much de rigueur! Sturdy footwear if fine if the ground is frozen but they can struggle with mud as the ground gets walked on over the course of shooting.
Tubular Bandage: A great way to gather up any loose clothing i.e. jacket sleeves and tuck them out of the way are tubular bandages. They are elasticated tubes so when pulled on over loose clothing, they immediately compress them into a state that they don’t get in the way of the string. One on your bow arm is ideal then your bracer on top. Every archer should have at least one of these cheap but useful items in their kit all the time.
Hand Warmers: These fall into the categories of reusable, chemical or USB. All do the job. Sticking one in each pocket is a toasty nirvana although just one is fine. Between ends these stop your hands freezing. Believe me shootie is impossible if you can’t feel your string through your tab or in extremes of weather … can’t feel the tab!
A Flask: Ok … its not the flask that’s important, its the Coffee or Tea or Soup or Mulled Wine (remembering drink driving restrictions) in the flask. Honestly, you will look forward to that beverage break every 12 arrows! Just remember toilet facilities can be non-existent.
So there you have it, shooting in the freezing cold is doable. It just takes a little more preparation and a little more resolution on the archers part to get out of that warm bed. Don’t think just because its cold means you have to give up your archery that week. You just prepare a little more thoroughly … and be a little bit mad. ;o)
(note: in winter 2013/14 our editor shot on his own, in sub zero temperatures, snow, freezing rain and howling gale for at least 2 hours every single Sunday he wasn’t competing! Admittedly he’s not right in the head .. but with the right clothing and attitude, archery is possible, even ‘fun’ in those conditions … if you like that sort of thing!)
Frostbite: 36 arrows at 30m on an 80cm face. Must be SHOT IN THE WINTER!
Ironman: 2 frostbites back to back plus another 12 arrows in between just to make you suffer a bit more! (84 arrows at 30m on an 80cm face)