In addition to our indoor shooting during the winter season, there is usually the opportunity to sample archery outdoors on Sunday mornings.
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 intention?
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 or hats with cat ears. Huge pompoms are a sign of status with archers so careful you don’t make a terrible faux pas. Alternatively, a waterproof bucket hat if its more soggy than cold. Just ensure the brim is big enough to keep water off your face but small enough not to interfere with your string at full draw.
Upper body: A long sleeved, cold gear, compression T-shirt like the ones made by Under Armour are fantastic for retaining warmth. In addition, they are skintight meaning they don’t impede shooting at all. Add one or two thin, 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 or addition to UA is Decathlon ski wear tops (WEDZE) whose products are warm, comfortable and not as expensive. These may only be available online depending when you read this. Remember it’s all about heat trapping so multiple thin, form fitting layers are best.
More radically, get a top with heating elements embedded. GA has two members with one of these. You can tell who they are as they steam slightly when it’s cold plus raining/snowing and unusually this isn’t due to frustration with their archery (GA members: neither is who you think it is).
Lined Trousers: Companies like Craghoppers and their competitors 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, it’s all about layers and heat trapping. Jeans are NEVER a good idea.
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 it’s snowing or light rain ideally tailored. Soft shell jackets do a good job here especially a gilet (a sleeveless jacket resembling a waistcoat). These keep your core warm and shed a little rain while allowing free movement of arms with no impediment to the string. Glasgow Archers has a gilet in club colours and badged in our Apparel Merch and Trespass do some reasonably priced ones. See also tubular bandages (noted below) for dealing with sleeves should your jacket have any.
Don’t forget your chest guard will be extremely useful when wearing a jacket and remember to tuck the jacket collar inside the jacket as they can interfere with your anchor.
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. Fingerless gloves are less useful given your fingertips are exposed and those are the bits you need feeling in. It’s usually best not to wear gloves while shooting as this will radically affect the bows position in your hand.
Feet: You have no idea how much heat can leech through your feet especially with unlined wellies so thick socks are pretty much de rigueur! No trainers, its Boots Boots Boots … and in the main hiking boots are fine but even sturdy footwear can struggle with the levels of mud our field can generate or water the field can retain after prolonged rain. So, on those Somme like days, it has to be wellies or possibly inexpensive riding boots which are more like fitted wellies (Decathlon again whose horsey brand is Fouganza). Update for winter 22/23: Once member has heated socks to go with his heated jacket. Words fail us currently.
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 goes 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 … it’s not the flask that’s important, it’s the Coffee or Tea or Soup in the flask. Honestly, you will look forward to that beverage break every 12 arrows! You might even be able to feel your fingers afterwards! Remember toilet facilities are available at the sports hall Sunday mornings.
So, there you have it. Shooting in the freezing cold isn’t impossible, it’s very doable. It just takes a little more preparation and a little more resolution on the archer’s part to get out of that warm bed. Don’t think just because its cold means you have to give up your archery that weekend unless its -28’C plus blizzard when even Finnish skiers wouldn’t leave the chalet! Let’s be slightly sensible there Captain Oats! You just prepare a little more thoroughly … but it does help to be a bit mad and/or obsessed. ;o)
GA Case Study: In winter 2013/14 our Vice-Chair 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)
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