If you are like me and love to shoot outdoors, you might want to shoot even when it’s very cold. Most archers stay indoors when temperatures drop below the freezing point because some additional hassle is involved when shooting outdoors with these temperatures. The best weather to enjoy archery is a dry cloudy day with a temperature of about 68 °F (20 °C). With this weather you can shoot without sunglasses and don’t need a jacket.
In this article I will give some concrete tips on how to shoot your bow in the winter. I will first discuss whether low temperatures and rain is bad for your bow. Next up I will discuss how you should care for your bow, with these extreme temperatures. I will also discuss a topic that is often overlooked by archers: your winter archery attire. At the end of this article I will give some recommendations on useful gear for shooting your bow in the winter.
Is cold/wet weather bad for your bow?
Earlier in this article I discussed the ideal weather conditions, these conditions are not only ideal for your own comfort but also for your bow. The materials of your bow work optimally in these weather conditions. When it is really cold, your bow limbs tend to stiffen, which makes it more prone to breaking. In general wood, plastics and carbon fiber are reasonably resistant to harsh weather conditions. Only long exposure will cause significant damage, therefore you should always store your bow indoors, preferably in a room temperature location.
Although technically cold/wet weather conditions are not optimal for your bow, I wouldn’t be discouraged to shoot in these weather conditions. In my experience shooting your bow both in the rain and snow doesn’t damage your bow. The only thing I noticed is that your string tends to wear out more when using it in these weather conditions.
How to care for your bow
When you are shooting in harsh weather conditions, the maintenance of your bow is very important. Especially your bow string is very vulnerable for different weather conditions. Therefore I will briefly give some tips on how to care for your bow before, during and after shooting.
Before you go
Although it’s always important to keep your bow string sufficiently waxed, it’s extra important when you are shooting in the winter. In the winter the air humidity tends to be very low, which makes fat surfaces dry up. That’s why it’s recommended regularly use lip balm if you are skiing. When your lips are getting very dry, you might even get minor cracks which will feel very painful.
This same happens when your bowstring is not sufficiently waxed. If you shoot with a bowstring that isn’t sufficiently waxed, the fibers will start to crack, which you can spot when your string starts to fluff up. Therefore, I would recommend to wax you string before every session if the temperatures are below freezing point. Make sure though to first remove any excess wax before applying a new layer. If you want to know how to wax your string, I would recommend watching the following video:
When you are shooting in irregular weather conditions you should be extra carefully. Rain for example can make certain parts of your bow slippery. Since bows are not designed under these conditions, you should try to keep it as dry as possible. In the rain this can be very difficult, but if it is snowing it’s a good idea to remove the buildup snow between shots. Extra care should be taken to keep the string as dry as possible, since it is more prone to slipping. This issue is especially present with the cams of a compound bow.
You should also be aware that some parts of your bow are more likely to break between shots. The harsh weather conditions are especially damaging for materials made from fibers (like your bowstring), cyanoacrylate (glue) and rubber (like peeps sight tubing in a compound bow). Therefore you should check these parts regularly to check for damage. Additionally it’s a good idea to store your bow in warm and dry environments, like your car, when you are taking breaks. This will limit the strain on these materials as much as possible.
After your training
When you are back home, you should dry your bow as much as possible. If you store your bow wet it will harm your string and you might even get mold on your bow. Therefore you should only store the bow in your bag/case when you are certain that your bow is dry. You can use a towel to get most water out and let it dry in a warm and dry environment. Don’t place your bow near a heater though, it shouldn’t get hot, since this can cause damage.
When your bow is dry, you should apply a new layer of wax before shooting again. This might seem extreme, since in normal conditions you often wax your sting once every 2 months. Since your string is, however, made from synthetic materials, it will go bad very quickly when insufficiently waxed. When your string is gone bad, you can’t repair it and you should fully replace it with a new one.
You should dress appropriately to protect yourself from the elements. But you can’t wear a lot of traditional winter clothing, since it will interfere with shooting the bow. Therefore, I will discuss what you can and can’t wear. And I also recommend some products I use while shooting in the winter.
How warm to dress
A common mistake athletes make is to dress themselves to warm. Even in cold weather conditions, it’s often not a good idea to dress very warmly. Although archery is not a cardio sport, you will still tension your muscles and thereby create heat. If you feel nice and warm when standing still, you are probably wearing too many clothes.
You should compare it with hiking. When you are just starting you haven’t created a lot of body heat and it will therefore feel a bit cold. When you are well underway you might even get quite hot because you are creating way more body heat. This is the same when practicing archery; therefore, you should clothe yourself like you are going on a hiking trip. For more information, read the article below:
You should take extra care to select a good jacket. Since the string comes close to your chest and arms, you want a tight-fitting jacket. Otherwise, the string might get tangled up in the jacket or scuff the jacket. Also make sure that you buy a jacket that has large pockets, ropes, or buttons, which may get caught in the string.
Below I listed down both a mid-layer, as well as an outer layer jacket. If it’s below freezing point, you probably want to wear both. I always wear Puma jackets while practicing archery, because they are tighter around the arms than other sports jackets.
In autumn and spring, you can ditch the outer layer and only use the mid-layer. So, it is a good idea to invest in a good tight-fitting mid-layer.
When the temperature nears freezing point, you want to wear gloves. If your fingers get too cold, it will not only feel uncomfortable, but they will also start to get stiff. This in turn significantly decreases your accuracy.
You can’t use regular gloves while shooting your bow. They will not provide you with enough grip and are too bulky to use with a release or tab. Therefore, we need sleeker gloves that still provide us with enough protection from the elements.
If you shoot with a release
I would recommend this pair of shooting gloves if you shoot with a release. These gloves are made for riffle shooting sports, but they also work great for compound archers. Because the gloves are tight-fitting you can easily hold and manipulate the release. These gloves also have more grip than regular gloves.
If you shoot with a tab
You must wear thin gloves to make sure that your hands still fit in the tab. Therefore, I recommend this thinner pair of shooting gloves. These shooting gloves also have more grip than traditional gloves. I tried shooting with running gloves, but since they were too smooth my bow hand started to slip on the grip.
If you shoot with your fingers
Choosing the right glove is the most difficult when you shoot with a finger glove. Any normal glove will not provide enough finger protection. Luckily, there are special winter finger gloves you can use. You can find these in archery pro shops and online. Here is a set I recommend from the traditional archery brand Bearpaw.
It might seem silly to wear sunglasses in the winter. But, it makes a lot of sense. In the winter, the sun is a lot lower which causes more glare than in the summer. Additionally, the light reflects on snow which can cause severe eye strain. So, if it’s a sunny day, you want to wear some sunglasses.
You can try some casual sunglasses, but in most cases that won’t work. You need glasses with a big field of view to make sure that you can look through the glass. Since you don’t turn your head all the way you will look straight through the glasses.
Therefore, I recommend this pair of sports glasses. The benefit of sports glasses is that they are closer to the eye and provide a larger field of view. These glasses are also less bulky than casual sunglasses so, they won’t get caught in the string.