Phil Parker asked our Academy, “What would you ideally wear to keep warm and comfortable without feeling like Michelin Man, and do you advocate the use of these new bivvy heaters which are in my opinion potentially dangerous?”
Matt Eaton says:
“Any winter session, or indeed campaign, can be thrown off course if you aren’t warm and comfortable for the duration of your stay at the lake. It’s highly unlikely that you will be at the top of your game if you are cold. The motivation to make changes or move swims will be diminished and, at worst, there may be a temptation to cut the session short. At the very least sitting outside watching for fish showing or other clues is going to be a chore and hunkering down within the confines of the sleeping bag becomes a more attractive proposition.
“There are three main things to consider when choosing winter clothing – breathability, insulation and waterproofing.
“The breathability of clothing has no bearing whatsoever on its ability to get you warm. A cheap non-breathable jacket will have exactly the same insulating properties as a more expensive, breathable counterpart. Breathability is, however, the key to STAYING warm. The human body releases moisture in the form of sweat and the warmer you are the more you will produce. A breathable garment will allow this moisture vapour to pass through its layers and away whilst a non-breathable one will trap it, making you progressively more and more damp and thus more and more cold. Each and every layer needs to breathable as just one will form a barrier to moisture and this applies to footwear as well as other items.
“An item’s ability to trap pockets of warm air is what governs its ability to insulate i.e. keep you warm. There are two ways to achieve good insulation – one is by wearing a thickly padded layer. This type of garment is typically a top layer that has a thick lining, such as the Chub Vantage All-Weather Suit. The second way is the method I prefer and that is by wearing several thinner layers. There are several advantages to doing things this way, not least of which is the flexiblity of the system. A thick layer is either on or off whereas thinner layers can be put on or removed to make fine adjustments to your comfort according to bankside conditions. Another benefit is the efficiency of the insulation as, an additional layer of warm air will be trapped between each of the layers of clothing creating more heat retention.
“In the depths of winter my layers will consist of the Vantage Base Layer Set followed by my normal summer Cargo Trousers and a hoody. A Greys Strata Quilted Jacket will be used for an additional layer in the evenings or on particularly cold days. Two pairs of socks complete the set up. It is important that they are not tight as that will certainly lead to cold feet.
“If you get wet in the winter you will, inevitably become cold. It is therefore imperative to have waterproofs to keep the rain out. As several layers take care of my warmth I need only carry a thin set of breathable waterproof clothing purely to keep me dry. When sitting in the bivvy these can be removed so as not to get the sleeping bag wet, without detriment to my comfort, whereas those opting for a thick padded waterproofs may need to keep wearing theirs in order to remain warm. The Vantage Weathershield Jacket and Overtrousers do the job and can be rolled up compactly enough to fit into a side pocket on my carryall.
“I’ve never felt the need for a bivvy heater so I can’t really comment but there are a few other little things that will help during the lower temperatures. A groundsheet will stop the damp rising and a candle makes a difference too. It may only add a fraction to the temperature but the warm glow gives you a degree or two in the mind. Do use a proper holder though, as setting fire to the bivvy will make you a little too warm! Good food will increase your body’s ability to stay warm so a hot meal in the evening is a must.
“Winter Carp fishing needn’t be a trial as there is plenty of good gear out there to keep you warm and dry throughout your session. Being comfortable is imperative to the enjoyment of winter Carp fishing so wrap up and have fun.”
“A very topical question as it seems to have suddenly dropped into proper winter weather after all the mild but wet weather we have been having.
“Obviously, with what to wear it does depend on the conditions, but for maximum warmth it’s all about layers. I use the excellent range of Chub and Greys clothing that’s available and, trust me – if it didn’t keep me warm I would be straight down the shop to get something different!
“So, to me one of the most important things is a good base layer. I use the Chub Vantage set, and it’s amazing how much of a difference it makes. Not only does it keep your body warm, but it also draws all the moisture away which stops you getting cold. Then from this I build up as many thin layers – t-shirts, hoodies etc depending on the conditions and top it off with a two piece suit (Bib and Brace and Jacket) which is also waterproof. I make sure to strip a couple of layers off when I’m barrowing my gear to the peg to stop myself sweating too much and then getting cold. I leave a couple of layers to put on once I’ve sat down.
“The other really important point is your extremities! A good quality hat and neck warmer for the top half, gloves and then a good pair of warm socks and boots – take spares as well as, I’m sure you know if hands and feet get cold it’s nigh on impossible to get warm again.
“With regard to bivvy heaters I haven’t used one myself – there is a risk involved if used incorrectly but couple the correct clothing, shelter and sleeping bag together and you should be warm and toasty without one.
“The other point is I rarely do nights once it gets really cold. I find it much more productive and fun to just fit in quick day sessions – be it for Carp or other species and keep on the move. Not only is it a great way of finding fish in the winter but it keeps you mobile and keeps the blood flowing and keeps you warm.
“Don’t force yourself to go in the cold with the wrong gear as you won’t enjoy it. My advice would be to sort the right clothing and keep the sessions short and interesting. Leave the sitting it out for a chunk for the better weather and, yes you can call me a wimp as I’m sat by a roaring fire typing this after a few hours on the bank…”
“Starting from when I first get out of the car for a walk round the lake, I’ll be wearing a good pair of walking boots and a pair of sports socks. Above that I’ll have the Vantage Base Layer and my normal fishing trousers, which are usually the Greys Strata Guideflex ones. On the top half I tend not to wear the other half of the base layer, simply because it is too warm when I am moving about. Instead, I wear two t-shirts and a hoody, if needs be I’ll grab a jacket and woolly hat, depending on temperature. This will keep me warm enough whilst walking round and setting up.
“Once I stop being active I start layering up to keep the chill out. I start with another zip up hoody, followed by the fleece lining from the Vantage All-Weather Suit and then finally, once the sun drops I’ll put on my Shemagh to keep my neck warm and then the Strata Jacket. This coat has a Thermatex 500 rating which has kept me warm on many a freezing night. On the bottom half, I’ll put on the Vantage Bib and Brace thermal trousers (from the Chub All-Weather Suit) and a pair of thermal air trap socks. In this get up I have been out on many sub zero nights without feel cold
“To answer the second part of your question, I have never used a bivvy heater, but I do drink plenty of hot drinks. The regular use of the Coleman stove (liquid fuel stoves work much better than gas in the cold weather) and the hot drink itself does keep the chill out too – one little tip is to switch to decafe coffee so I can have hot drinks late at night without fear of the caffeine keeping me awake. It’s also worth mentioning that a good 5 Season Sleeping Bag is needed and a good twin skin bivvy such as the Chub Vizor helps to the condensation at bay.”