Baby, It's Cold Outside

Baby, It's Cold Outside

How to dress for winter angling

  • By: Ted Leeson
I'm not entirely sure of the reason-extended seasons on catch-and-release streams; better tackle and tactics suited to sluggish trout in cold water; the desire for a little solitude by fishing off-peak times; or simply a greater willingness on the part of anglers to endure crappy weather. The result, however, is undeniable: fly fishers are pushing back the edges of the season-earlier in spring, later in fall-until finally those edges have met. Fly-fishing, now, is a full-fledged four-season sport.Winter angling is hardly a new idea, but these days it's grown beyond a few selected regional opportunities or the province of die-hard loonies. It's become standard operating procedure for a great many anglers. And to anyone who lives at latitudes or altitudes high enough to have a frost date, off-season angling presents two problems-the perennial one of catching fish, and more to the point here, staying warm enough to try for them in the first place. Layering Dressing in layers rather than a single heavy garment is hardly a new idea either, but one that is frequently misunderstood. While layering does allow you to remove or add clothing as the temperature dictates, there's more to the idea than that. Wearing a cotton t-shirt under a flannel shirt under a sweatshirt is certainly layering in the sense of "one thing on top of another," but it's also a recipe for freezing your ass off. Layering really has two objectives: one, obviously, is insulation. The other-and the reason that just piling on clothes isn't the answer-is "moisture management," as people in the biz call it, or "staying dry" as the rest of us say. Even at rest, your body gives off moisture, either water vapor or liquid perspiration, and the amount increases with exertion. One goal of layering is to get this moisture from your skin to the outside air with as little heat loss as possible. Moisture management is the primary goal of the base layer, that is, the clothing next to your skin. As you perspire, the base-layer responds differently with different fabrics. A hydrophilic material, such as cotton or linen, absorbs the moisture. Water swells the fabric, displacing dead air from the weave and rendering it almost useless as insulation. Damp or wet fabric collapsed in contact with the skin conducts heat away from the body as much as 25 times faster than a layer of dry, dead air. Putting on a base layer of an absorbent material is like trying to stay warm by wearing an evaporation cooler. Other materials, notably modern synthetics, transmit body moisture through the fabric by way of "wicking." Wicking is properly, if a bit misleadingly, attributed to capillary action, since absorption also results from capillary action. The difference is that hydrophilic fibers attract and hold water. Wicking fibers, which are largely hydrophobic, resist absorption; by virtue of their structure, the fibers transmit water from a wetter surface to a dryer one, without themselves becoming wet. As long as the moisture wicked to the outside of the fabric has some place to go-picked up by another wicking fabric or evaporated-the fibers next to the skin will remain dry and maintain a non-conductive barrier of trapped air, which helps keep you warm. Wool works a bit differently. Wool readily absorbs water vapor; it will, in fact, hold up to 30 percent of its weight in water vapor without feeling clammy and-more importantly-without much reduction in its insulation value. At the same time, wool fibers resist the absorption of liquid water (ever try to mop up a spill with an old wool shirt?) and will wick away perspiration, though in my experience not as efficiently as synthetics. Wool is, however, a bit bulkier and heavier than the alternatives, and it is slow to dry. Once moisture passes through the base layer, it becomes the responsibility of the mid-layer or insulating layer of clothing. Liquid perspiration can be handed over to the mid-layer fabric, where it is wicked further away from the body, or water vapor can pass through the fabric on its way to being evaporated, or both. But as the name suggests, the primary function of this layer is to minimize heat loss by creating space for an insulating layer of dead air-in tiny filaments of velour-like pile (fleece); in pockets are formed by the weave (wool); or in a waffle-like fabric texture (some synthetics). Though wool still has its devotees, and is still highly practical, most anglers these days choose fleece insulation, for good reason-it has excellent warmth for its weight and bulk; it's soft, comfortable, and highly breathable; it dries quickly; it's easy to launder; and it is available in a variety of weights. Preserving the insulating layer of warm air is the function of the outer layer. Where mid-layers tend to be relatively permeable to allow for the passage of water vapor, the outer layer generally inhibits the movement of air, minimizing the effect of wind in particular, which will carry away body heat. At the same time, however-and this is the balancing act of the outer layer-it must be sufficiently breathable to allow water vapor to escape. Moisture management is ultimately a function of evaporation at the outer layer; there's no other way for moisture to escape. A completely impermeable outer layer-think of a rubberized raincoat-will cause perspiration to condense on the inside surface, like humid air on a glass of ice water. I suspect most anglers strike this balance between vapor permeability and heat preservation simply by putting on a waterproof/breathable wading jacket-a solution that offers considerable flexibility. During periods of exertion-hiking to the water, for example, or rowing-where perspiration increases, you can remove the jacket to expose an inner layer, fleece for instance, to promote evaporation. When you are less active-standing in one spot, casting, and catching nothing-you can put it on to block the wind and conserve heat. And if it rains, of course, you're good to go. (An outer layer for the legs isn't much an issue for fly anglers, since most wear waders.) An increasingly popular alternative are fleeces with a windproof/breathable barrier, which are more permeable to evaporation than the waterproof/breathable type, and offer the benefit of an outer layer that provides additional insulation that keeps you warmer or allows the use of a lighter mid-layer. In a sense such fleeces do double duty, and reduce bulk by substituting a thin layer of material in the fleece for a separate outer layer. I like this type of fleece best in subfreezing conditions, when rain isn't a threat. If the weather forces you into a rain jacket, body moisture must then pass through two breathable barriers, which slows evaporation. There's an astonishing quantity of cold-weather clothing on the market. For the purposes of review, I stuck with manufacturers who specialize primarily in outdoor softgoods and have a strong presence in the fly-fishing market; manufacturers specializing in fly-fishing products that offer a line angling softgoods; and a few manufacturers that specialize in specific cold-weather products. Even then, there was a ton of stuff. I tested out a range of products from each manufacturer and then cherry-picked what I found the most serviceable in various clothing categories. Bibs or Farmer Johns Good for really cold weather or extended stream time. These one-piece base-layers promote air circulation over the skin for more uniform warmth and moisture dispersal, and they add additional insulation to the body core without encumbering arms and wrists. They also give better freedom of movement and less bunching or shifting than you get wearing layers of two-piece long johns. The downsides: no flexibility to wear tops and bottoms separately, and answering nature's call can require real commitment. I find these preferable to full union suits, where getting a proper fit in the arms, legs, and body simultaneously can be difficult. Bibs, however, are not for the weak of wallet. Simms Polartec Power Stretch Fleece Bib: Cozy, 300-weight Polartec has a fleecy inside but a smooth, low-friction exterior that slides against a mid-layer fabric for easy movement, especially in the legs. Four-way stretch gives nice non-binding mobility and ensures that most anglers will get that close, second-skin fit for maximum wicking and minimal bulk. Stirrups are integral (not sewn in) and comfortably wide. Top-quality fabric offers excellent moisture movement and insulation while still allowing freedom of arm motion. I like these for max warmth. Full front zipper, zip chest pocket, and five sizes, $139.95. Orvis Gale Force 98.6 Fleece System: Same stretchy fabric as above, but in a mid-weight 200 Polartec. Fleeced on both sides except for long fleece-back Lycra ankle cuffs (with integral stirrups) and Lycra upper chest portion that offer good lengthwise stretch to accommodate bulk of base garments if this is worn as a midlayer-a practical option since these are cut fuller in the torso than the Simms bibs. Double pulls on long front zipper mean you can unzip from the bottom for minimal exposure when the time comes. Three zip trouser pockets and zip chest pockets for secure storage. I like this one for its exceptional stretch and mobility; functional as base or midlayer for a good 3-season item. Five sizes, $149. Two-piece Long Johns A highly popular choice primarily because of the versatility. Available in a variety of fabric weights, tops and bottoms can be purchased separately and mixed to meet the dictates of your personal thermostat. In tops, look for long, close-fitting cuffs that inhibit air movement out the sleeve. Zip-necks offer more flexibility than crewnecks in venting or conserving heat, though they do add bulk around your neck. Make sure bottoms have sufficient length in the leg for good coverage and unencumbered movement. L.L. Bean Polartec Power Dry Underwear. Fast-wicking fabric makes this a good choice for more active fishermen. The midweight version I tested offers surprising warmth for a base layer that is quite low in bulk and weight. The shirt is especially pleasing; extra-long sleeves have thumbholes through the cuffs-a useful feature that prevents sleeves from riding up the arms and adds insulation (alone or under gloves) to the bottom half of the hands. Solid performance at a nice price. 5 regular sizes, 4 tall. Zip-T, $36; pants $29.50. Filson Alaskan Long Johns. One for the natural-fiber lovers. Top-quality Merino wool maintains the warmth while eliminating the itchy feel of most other wools for comfortable, surprisingly low-bulk long johns. Long, close-fitting knit cuffs at wrists and ankles prevent the loss of warm air and minimize riding. Bottoms fit base-layer, but tops are more generously cut, with extra-long tails, and make a nice mid-layer on less-than-frigid days. Excellent quality and long service, along with price tag, make these as much an investment as a purchase. Zipneck top, $93.25; bottoms, $80.25. 5 sizes, machine washable. Cabela's Polartec Power Stretch Long Johns. Toasty warm, but the real virtue here is the stretch in the fabric, particularly the freedom of movement in the shirt-a good choice for power-casters who swing for the fence all day, or those who spend time behind oars. This stuff moves along with you rather than fighting against you. Only the funky silk-screened logo is regrettable. Less-expensive fleeces will keep you as warm, but anglers who approach their fishing more athletically should really give these a look. And women should check out the pants with the QRS (Quick Relief System) that reduces the hassle of a pit stop. Zip-top in five men's sizes and three women's, $74.95; fives sizes of men's pants, three women's, $64.95. Patagonia R1 Flash Pullover. I'm a big fan of Patagonia's Regulator System of cold-weather clothing-and this shirt in particular. The waffle-like interior traps air against skin, using texture rather than additional fabric to keep you warm. I don't know a warmer base layer for its bulk and weight. Close-fitting, but excellent mobility from the Polartec Power Dry material makes for comfort. Insulated stretch-panels on the arms allow you to pull up a sleeve (for reaching into the water) and it'll stay up and dry. You'll look twice at the price, but this one is immensely versatile and the single piece of cold-weather gear that I would not be without. Four men's, four women's sizes, $99. Patagonia Capilene Midweight Tops and Bottoms. This stuff excels at keeping you dry, picking up body moisture quickly and rapidly dispersing it through the fabric where it can be transmitted outward. Though available in four weights, the midweight seems to me the most generally useful balance of moisture dispersal and insulation. When ice freezes in the guides, it makes a toasty base layer. In less extreme conditions, it's a good midlayer over something lighter. In either case, the combination of stretch and a smooth, almost slick exterior for slide against other layers promotes ease of motion. It wears durably, washes well, and is, to my mind, one of the best values in the Patagonia line. Five men's and women's sizes; Zip-T, $43; Bottoms, $38. Wading Pants Distinguished from long-john bottoms in that you can stroll into the world without looking like you forgot to put on your pants. Some have pockets, zippered fly, and other useful trouser-like accouterments. Some also have stirrups, which are a real help in preventing leg bottoms from riding up under your waders. Simms Polartec Power Stretch Fleece Pants. This 300-weight fleece has a smooth exterior that slides against waders or other layers for mobility and comfort. There are no stirrups, but close-fitting ankles and elasticity in fabric prevent cuff creep. Side-seam pockets and zip fly make these suitable for appearing in public. The pants can be worn as a base-layer, but relaxed fit, coupled with 4-way stretch, make this a natural for a non-binding midlayer. These are perhaps the warmest wading pants I tested, and certainly the most expensive at $139.95. But sometimes, price is no object. Cabela's Moisture Management Wader Liner Pants. Microfleece interior gives moderate warmth and good wicking, while a smooth, tan exterior shell fabric and overall styling (back and side-seam pockets) make these look like trousers for street wear rather than underwear. Wide-tabbed Velcro ankle cuffs close securely to prevent creep. They're warm enough to wear alone in cool weather, but a looser cut makes them ideal as a mid-layer over close-fitting long johns. Wonderful versatility and performance make these one of those sleeper values that you just love to find. Four sizes for $59.95. Fleece Jackets Standard equipment for almost every angler these days. I find 200- or 300-weight fleece to be the most useful, since they can be worn for insulation in cold weather or as an outer layer in less frigid conditions. There are hundreds of choices on the market, and you get pretty much what you pay for. Not all fleece is created equal, and the cheaper stuff can lose its insulating properties through pilling, clumping, and laundering. Look for snug cuffs to retain heat, and extra arm length to fit over bulky under-layers and prevent sleeves from riding up your arms when casting. (You can get added sleeve length by ordering a "tall" size or a size larger than you normally wear.) Cabela's Dry-Plus River Guide Jacket. Upper body and arms of this fleece jacket are faced with a windproof/waterproof fabric. Waders cover the unfaced portion, and you're good to go in wind, drizzle, or snow (be aware that heavy rain can be channeled inside waders). Minimizing redundant weatherproofing of both jacket and waders make this one a practical, lower-cost alternative to spendy windproof fleece. Neoprene cuffs extend from sleeve, and cuff thumbhole gives warmth to lower hands; or cuffs can be retracted under sleeve for conventional wear. Smartly designed and versatile, this is one of the better incarnations of an idea that pops up now and again; a useful choice for the wading angler at $69.95. Six sizes in both regular and tall. Cabela's Polartec 300 Hooded Jacket. One of the very few hooded fleece jackets and miles ahead of a hooded cotton sweatshirt. Heavyweight fabric gives great body warmth; pull up the hood and you're in your own personal cocoon. With a baseball hat beneath (for the visor) and a rainjacket hood atop, you're set for any weather-consider it a layering system for the head. In months of testing, I kept coming back to this one. Good fleece at a good price at $59.95; six sizes in both regular and tall. Patagonia R3 Radiant Jacket. Like the Flash Pullover, this jacket uses construction instead of extra fabric for warmth-in this case, a gridlike interior of Polartec Thermal Pro that holds air and promotes moisture transfer without the bulk of conventional jackets. The upshot is compressible, low-weight insulation that can easily be stashed in a vestback when conditions dictate. Warm enough for an outer layer in calm conditions, but this one really shines as a mid-layer under a light shell. Very high performance, and priced like it at $138. Four men's and women's sizes. Windproof Fleece Jackets A personal favorite for an outer layer, when rain's not in the picture. The fabric is softer, quieter, and more comfortable than a stiff shell or rain jacket, but it still staves off heat-robbing wind. As with ordinary fleece jackets, good cuffs and arm mobility are top priority. Take note, though, that once wet-say a sleeve dunked while landing a fish-these fabrics can take five times longer to dry than conventional fleece. Simms Windstopper DL Jacket. With its double-layer (DL) of fleece in the torso area, this jacket provides comfortable, reasonably low-bulk insulation for the upper body. But I really like it for the arms. Smooth, tight-mesh lining in the sleeves reduces bulk and slides easily, and the shell exterior uses stretch nylon at the elbows-a package that gives good arm mobility and helps prevent cuffs from riding up. It's well-suited to energetic casters. Waist-length allows for deep wading or less bulk when worn under waders. Great steelheading jacket. Five sizes at $199.95 (also available as a vest). L.L. Bean Microburst Jacket. With a roomy cut in the body-and especially in the sleeves-combined with an extremely stretchy fabric, this jacket fits nicely over bulky underlayers and gives good freedom of movement. A fine-mesh lining with Polartec Windbloc ACT makes this one of the more breathable windproof fleeces. The fabric weight offers moderate insulation, but also low bulk; it's the only jacket of this type I tested that was at all practical for vestback packing-a good choice for those days with big weather swings. A nice product for the money at $125. 5 regular sizes, 4 more in tall; also available as vest. Patagonia R4 Jacket. An intelligent, 3-layer hybrid-waffle-like Polartec Power Dry on the inside; Polartec Windbloc laminate; and Polartec Thermal Pro on the exterior. This one is an uncommonly practical balance of insulation for warmth and stretch for mobility. In dry weather, it makes a cozy outer layer, but I also like it under a shell when circumstances dictate maximum warmth-say, standing waist-deep in a pool, casting for hours. This jacket, though, is close-fitting by design, and if you plan on wearing under-layers with any bulk at all, consider buying a size larger than normal. Priced for those seriously committed to winter fishing: $215. Five men's sizes, four women's. Gloves Cold hands are probably a fly angler's biggest problem, and the first step in extremities warm is to make certain that your torso is properly insulated. In heat regulation, the hyopthalamus calls the shots, and it is decidedly undemocratic. If the trunk of your body gets cold, the hypothalamus reduces the flow of blood to arms, legs, hands, and feet to prevent further heat loss and preserve the temperature of vital organs. Your extremities get colder. A well-insulated torso makes a flow of warm blood available to more distant body parts. Beyond that, gloves are a necessity, and as far as fabric goes, it's really dealer's choice. Wool is warmest when wet, but dries slowly. Wet fleece doesn't insulate well but dries quickly. And neither offers much wind protection. I've used all kinds and finally concluded that windproof fleece offers some advantage, if only a marginal one. I like the weather protection, but if the fabric gets wet, it takes a long time to dry and sucks heat from your hand the whole time. To compensate, I take extra care to keep my gloves dry, when landing fish for example, and sometimes wear a pair of close-fitting surgical gloves underneath (which can in fact help keep hands dry and warm with any outer glove). Warmth argues for a full-fingered glove, but dexterity necessitates a fingerless, or fold-back finger design unless you want to spend the day removing and putting on gloves. There's no ideal solution, but here are some of the better ones. There's a slew of fingerless gloves out there; I like these four in particular. The Glacier Glove Polartec Windbloc Fingerless ($29.95) is noteworthy for non-restrictive finger openings; long, close-fitting cuffs; and neoprene palm for grip and water protection. The Chota Finger Fleece Glove ($24.50) gives better coverage than most, extending all the way to the uppermost finger joints. This low-bulk glove with a RoughSkin palm gives secure wet/dry grip. These are a good buy. The Patagonia Windzone Fingerless Gloves ($37) use no windproofing film or membrane. The dense knit of Polartec fleece trades away bit of windproofness to get a glove that is quick drying and comfortably supple. Nice synthetic leather palm. Being cold of hand, I really like the Wind River 3/2 Fingerless Windblocker Glove ($32.50). Pinky and ring finger are fully covered, while the three crucial fingertips are exposed, giving a nice balance of knot-tying dexterity and warmth. In really cold weather, a fingerless glove with a foldover mitten top is a blessing for those periodic fingertip warmups. Simms Windstopper Foldover Mitt ($39.95) has a fold-back, hook-and-loop securing mitten top and thumb that give various options in finger coverage. Warm, windproof, and quick to convert. The Wind River Windblocker Converta-Mitt ($32.50) has hook and loop-securing mitt and thumb covers, but fuller finger exposure than the Simms gloves and a textured Toughtek palm. A slightly roomier fit makes these good with glove liners in extremely cold weather. On days when I know cold, wet hands are in my future-handling wet oars, anchor lines, and so on-I go for full neoprene gloves that allow for some finger exposure. The Glacier Glove Curved Slit Finger ($39.95) has pre-curved fingers to minimize blood constriction when gripping; fold-back thumb and forefinger; and long, strap-securing cuffs. Nylon face on thumb and forefinger allow easy line stripping in full-finger configuration, and fleece lining eliminates that sticky rubber feel. Chota Stow-A-Way II Neo Glove ($30) has unique thumb and forefinger sleeves attached to stretchy, integral straps; simply pull off the finger covers and tuck them out of the way in the rolled cuff. Smooth nylon lining gives easy on/off. Hats Without a hat, your head, which accounts for only 8 percent of your body's total surface area, can dissipate 30-40 percent of your body heat. Windproof insulation is warmest, and a hat that gives you the option of covering your ears is a sensible idea. Baseball hats can be pretty cold in winter, but devotees of the style have a couple of options. The Simms WindStopper Stocking Cap ($24.95) can be pulled right over a baseball hat to warm and windproof head and ears, and you still get the benefit of a visor. It stuffs easily in a pocket and is good insurance against cold, windy weather. You can, of course, also wear it alone. The Filson Insulated Duck Bill Cap ($31) is a wool-lined, Oil-Finish Shelter Cloth hat that has wool ear flaps that tuck up inside when you don't need them. Nothing fancy here, just basic, functional, high-quality head protection. If you need a little more warmth, take a look at the Filson Shelter Cloth Wildfowl Hat ($57) of Oil-Finish Shelter Cloth with a wool lining. The wraparound flap can be folded up against the hat crown and buckled above the bill, lowered to half-mast to cover upper neck and ears, or pulled down all the way and buckled under the chin for complete coverage of ears, neck, and chin. Versatile, well made, and warm. If you find the slightly short bill on this hat to be a drawback, check out the Stormy Kromer Cap ($29.95). Similar in design to the Filson, it is an all-wool hat with a longer brim for sun and rain protection, and a wraparound flap that can be worn up or pulled down for ear coverage. Ruggedly built protection in a venerable design-not just for da Yoopers anymore. Socks Unless you wear bootfoot waders (which allow some measure of air circulation), feet are a unique problem since you can't vent perspiration through your wading boots. Here, wool's capacity to absorb water vapor and still provide insulation makes it a top choice. Merino wool is favored for its soft, non-irritating fibers. Mid-weight is a minimum; I like heavyweight better. Simms, L.L. Bean, Columbia, and a host of others offer them. On multi-day trips, though, wool socks can stay damp. Then I prefer either Patagonia Capilene socks (mid- or expedition weight) or a good-quality fleece socks, both of which offer a good balance of quick-drying and insulation. Regardless of choice of socks, a wicking sock liner helps disperse moisture and improve insulation. Layering Tips - There's a general principle in exercise physiology that recommends 3 layers of clothing over the torso, 2 over the limbs, 1 on hands and feet. If you can get away with it, this distribution gives good mobility in casting and wading. But since it's designed for more aerobic activities, it may prove a bit cool for fishing, in which case try 3-3-1. - Efficient wicking relies on maximizing the contact area between fabric and skin, so the base layer should be close fitting, but not so tight as to restrict movement. - If possible, alternate fabric surfaces-a smooth layer against a fleecy one to promote sliding. Two high-friction surfaces, such as one fuzzy fleece against another, reduce mobility, particularly in the arms. - In very cold weather, bootfoot waders beat the stockingfoot type, as they allow warm air to circulate down to the feet. Neoprene waders take a brute force approach, putting a thick layer of non-conductive material between you and the elements. But moisture build-up can be considerable. My own preference is for a moisture-management approach using layers under breathable waders. It find it just as warm, and more comfortable in the end. - Don't forget the soles of your feet, where heat loss can be high. Consider using an aftermarket innersole of non-conductive high-density foam. If you habitually fish in cold temperatures, you might consider an extra pair of wading boots a size larger than normal to accommodate heavy socks, liners, and a separate insole. Overly tight boots are the quickest route to cold feet. - A neck gaiter will help minimize convective heat loss from your collar. In very cold or windy weather, a balaklava or ski mask holds in heat by using exhaled air to warm and humidify inhaled air. Just remember to take it off before you go into a convenience store. Better Warmth Through Chemistry? If, like me, you are terminally cold of hand and foot, you might consider chemical handwarmers. (There are types that burn solid or liquid fuel, but I refuse to put a live fire, no matter well controlled it might be, into my pocket.) I checked out two types, one disposable, one reusable, that are widely available from places like REI (www.rei.com) where I bought mine. Grabber MyCoal warmers are typical of the disposable type-just open the package, expose the fabric-like packet to the air, and they heat up, reaching maximum temperature in about 15 minutes (not quite the "instant heat" advertised). The handwarmer version is about the size of a credit card, 3/16" thick, and reaches 135 to 156 degrees. You can keep them in your pockets for periodic hand warm-ups, which I found to be the best approach. The directions say that you can put them inside your gloves, and they are thin and flexible enough so they don't interfere with fishing. But, as I discovered, if you get them wet, they cool down; eventually, when they dry, the temperature climbs again, but never, it seemed to me, back up to the original maximum. And if your gloves stay wet, the heat packs remain just above lukewarm. The package claims "7 hours" of heat, which, in my experience, overstates the case. They topped out at about 4 to 5 hours. But I'll take that any cold day; if it's really frigid, or you suffer badly from cold hands, these can be a godsend. A pair goes for about $1.50. The toe-warmer version is a little different. They are adhesive backed and you stick them on the outside of your sock beneath your toes. These hit a max temperature of 100 degrees and last "6 hours" (or 3 to 4 on my planet). Assuming all goes well, you won't get these wet, but there is a different potential problem-these can work too well. Your feet can get overly warm and start to sweat, and unless you want to be pulling off and putting on waders all day, there's no way to regulate the temperature. Unless its bitterly cold or frozen toes are a way of life for you, comfort can be a gamble. They run about $1.80/pair. Since I'm not, in principle, a big fan of disposable products, I desperately wanted the EZ Heat Instant Reusable Handwarmer to pan out. It didn't. It was promising at first. The liquid-filled, clear-plastic pouch is about the size of a playing card and 3/8" thick. Inside is a nickel-size metal disk. Flex the disc a few times, and the clear liquid begins to solidify (it's pretty cool to watch); almost immediately the packet becomes rigid and gets hot-up to 130 degrees according to the manufacturer. After each use, you simply boil the packet for 10 minutes to recharge the system. These get toasty warm quickly, but it doesn't last; the useful duration of heat, alas, is about 30-40 minutes. I suppose it might be feasible to carry additional packets, but they run $4.95 each. Moreover, a pair weighs 7 ounces; five pairs for five hours of fishing weighs over 2 pounds. I don't think the technology is quite there yet. Contacts Cabela's www.cabelas.com Chota www.chotaoutdoorgear.com Filson www.filson.com Glacier Glove www.glacierglove.com L.L. Bean www.llbean.com Orvis www.orvis.com Patagonia www.patagonia.com Simms www.simmsfishing.com Stormy Kromer www.stormykromer.com Wind River www.windrivergear.com