How To Dress For Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is one of the most interesting and unique pastimes, and human beings have been doing it for thousands of years.

While the goals and methods have remained mostly the same in all of that time, the advent of modern technology has caused some changes, particularly among nontraditional ice fishers. One of the most important innovations been seen in how to dress for ice fishing when out on the lake.

It will probably come as no surprise that ice fishing is incredibly dangerous, especially for the inexperienced fisher. There are a host of potential problems one can encounter on the ice, the least of which being that the fish aren’t biting!

How to Dress for Ice Fishing

Ice is treacherous even on the sidewalk, but navigating across vast swathes of it, especially when it’s a thin layer above an often frigid and remote abyss of water, the obvious treachery of ice fishing becomes all too apparent.

This is why it’s so important to dress properly and prepare effectively if you’re heading out ice fishing.

Underestimating nature is a huge mistake and one that frequently comes at a steep and tragic price. To offset these dangers, ice fishers use a variety of specially designed clothing and wear it in a particular fashion in order to stay safe in even the harshest or most unpredictable conditions.

It definitely isn’t a fashion contest, either. These clothes are worn for their utility and practicality, as well as their potentially life-saving design.

The first thing to make sure of is that you have a proper jacket, designed for warmth and waterproofing. Ski jackets fit the bill quite nicely in a pinch, however, they aren’t truly designed for ice fishing and will miss out on some of the key features a real ice fishing jacket would have to make you safer and more comfortable. 

Another important feature would be proper pants. The most common choice here is ice fishing bibs, which are a pair of heavy-duty waterproof pants with suspenders that latch onto your shoulders keeping everything secure.

These are specifically made for ice fishing and are one of the best choices for pants, however, there are alternatives. There are some ice fishing trousers that resemble a more standard pants format, without the front bib and suspenders, while still providing excellent waterproofing. 

Hats, gloves, and waterproof boots are also very important as they help you insulate yourself from the frigid winds that sweep across frozen bodies of water, and help stave off hypothermia should you get caught in bad weather.

Additional layers like fleeces and base layers are also important to keep you both warm, and more crucially, dry. Getting too sweaty in cold weather can freeze your sweat, which can rapidly accelerate hypothermia.

This is why dressing for the occasion is so important, it could quite literally save your life.

Best way to layer for ice fishing?

Layering properly is very important for any hobby that takes place in cold, remote locations.

The first most important layer is the base layer because as mentioned above, it helps keep your body dry by wicking sweat away from the skin and allowing it to evaporate more easily without the base layer itself staying wet and cooling you down.

Base layers come in various sizes and fits, and while they may not be the most comfortable, they make a huge difference in keeping warm.

Above this, you could go for a few options. If conditions are relatively stable and warm, some pay chooses a light jumper or fleece, however mid-layers are usually recommended to be a fairly thick fleece with a high neck to help keep you warm.

Above this, you’ll want a proper ice fishing or ski jacket that is designed to keep you warm with its windproofing, dry with its waterproofing, and also allow sweat to evaporate thanks to its breathability.

Make sure to always avoid cotton – this material is totally unsuitable for wet environments, as it gets wet very quickly and easily and is very hard to dry out, which will be very dangerous while ice fishing.

Thermal underwear or fleece leggings are an option instead of lower base layer trousers, this is really a matter of preference depending on conditions and your own comfort.

Waterproof pants or overalls/bibs are critically important for staying dry, as you’ll often be kneeling on the ice which can quickly make normal trousers totally sodden and uncomfortable.

The majority of heat we lose comes from the top of our heads, so using a good winter hat will help keep you much warmer even in the very worst conditions.

The style of hat you choose is mostly up to you, some swear by ushanka style hats while others prefer standard beanie style hats. As long as it’s warm and comfortable it will help keep you safe and warm out on the ice.

Gloves are another important choice, and choosing a pair that can alternate between fingerless and standard is a great way to keep yourself warm when you need to but still be able to handle lines, lures, and hooks when you’re actually fishing, without needing to totally remove your gloves.

What can I wear ice fishing if I don’t have snow pants?

If you don’t have snow pants, you may be able to use something as an alternative. One potential option could be wind or rain pants, and while these won’t be as sturdy or warm as snow pants they can provide a good amount of protection from the wet.

Another potential choice is hiking pants if they’re properly waterproofed. Another avenue to consider would be fishing waders, which are of course very waterproof, but can be quite cumbersome and might not be super comfortable or practical.

If you’re going to wear an alternative to snow pants, it’s definitely worth considering wearing a proper base layer beneath them, especially with hiking pants which aren’t anywhere near as warm as proper snow pants.

How do you stay warm ice fishing?

Staying warm while ice fishing isn’t as difficult as you’d think if you prepare correctly. If you’re equipped with the proper equipment and clothing, staying warm is often a matter of keeping busy.

It may even be advisable to remove layers of clothing when particularly mobile on the ice, as overheating can cause excessive sweating which will actually cool you down, especially when you stop exerting yourself and return to the fishing stool.

If conditions are very bad there are other options, such as hand and boot warmers, face masks, and even pop-up ice fishing tents which can really help keep the worst of the conditions off your back and give you much more comfort on the ice.

What should a girl wear to go ice fishing?

Pretty much exactly what a boy would wear to go ice fishing! The human body doesn’t work any differently when it comes to keeping warm whether you’re a man or woman.

The only thing to consider is that if you’re particularly small or light without much built-in insulation, so to speak, you may want to consider adding an additional middle layer however it really depends on the conditions and if you are someone prone to the cold or with poor circulation.

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