I like the autumn. Some people see it as marking the end of the summer. But I’ve always thought of it as the season when the year really gets started.
Autumn really did mark the start of a good few things when I was a lad. It was the start of the footy season. And the academic year, for good or ill. There was even some decent new telly on after the repeats of the summer.
These days you can get strawberries or a Christmas pud any month of the year and so the seasons seem less significant. But somehow, as you get older, you start to notice the seasons more. Perhaps because you’re going to have fewer of them.
Enough melancholy. For me, autumn and winter have always been the best seasons for our hobby. Why? Well, when you think about it there are no end of reasons.
To begin with, it’s a great excuse to get out into the fresh air when the natural temptation is to hibernate. So it’s easier to kid yourself that you’re doing it for the good of your health as well as to satisfy your strange compulsion to dress up and play with toy guns.
It’s a fact that fewer people play airsoft in the winter. And those who do tend to be the more dedicated types. Which makes for a higher standard of honest-hit taking, even if there are fewer targets to hit. (Incidentally, I’ve always quite liked smaller numbers at a skirmish. In fact, I’d be happy to pay more for the privilege of a more tactical game with people you have a chance of getting to know and team up with.)
Of course, there’s less foliage, and so less cover. But again, that makes for a more challenging game as fieldcraft really comes into its own. And then there’s mud. Beautiful, slippery, honest-to-goodness mud. Which makes you feel like you’ve had a proper day out as you pile your kit into the washing machine at the end of the day.
In the spirit of being of some sort of service to younger, less experienced (and less arthritic) airsofters, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your autumn and winter play.
- Dress in layers. Start with your usual undies, or some thermals in the winter. Then add a norgie fleece, and finally your smock and trousers. Chances are you’ll get good and warm pretty quickly and discard the norgie until the journey home, hence the advisability of layering.
- Keep drinking. You sweat (sorry, perspire – or, if you’re a ladysofter – glow) just as much in cold weather gear as you do in summertime kit. So it’s just as important to stay hydrated even on a cold day.
- Showerproof your outerwear. Hill walkers say ‘cotton kills’ because it lets in the rain and brings on hypothermia. And while it might seem a little bizarre, most military outer garments tend to be
made of the very same material. I soak my combat clothing in Nikwax Cotton Proof. It provides a degree of rainproofing without damaging the fabric’s permeability. Just be sure to wash your kit in their natural soap-based Techwash detergent thereafter, as other detergents will wash out the proofing.
- Keep your gas warm. There’s no getting around it, winter puts gas gun players at the wrong end of Boyle’s Law. The best you can do is keep your mags close to your body. Don’t be tempted to use Red Gas. It’s a risk to most guns’ internals even in cold weather.
- Look after your weapons. Before leaving home, wipe your guns with a thin smear of silicon oil, and dry them carefully when you
get back. Externals can rust. It’s wise to give the barrel a quick rod-through with silicon oil too.
- Protect your extremities. Cheap socks are, as ever, the falsest of false economies. Gloves are essential. A hat is more than advisable, preferably a Polartec watch-cap or similar. Though I still insist on rocking the old beret. Comfort sometimes has to take a back seat to style, after all.
- Look after your boots. There’s a separate thread on this blog all about my slight obsession with boot care.
Of course, the ultimate wintersofting experience must be a snow game. I’ve never had the pleasure of airsofting in the snow, but I keep a spare white sheet in the airing cupboard just in case the chance arises. I did once play when it was minus ten degrees Celsius, but there was no snow on the ground. The low temperature resulted in a broken buckle on my Wxxtex chest rig however; a reason why I’ve avoided their kit ever since.
Lastly, there’s one big problem with airsofting in the colder months. And that’s getting out of bed early on a freezing Sunday morning. Which is why your best wintersofting investments might well be, in order of preference, some extra strong coffee, a bloody loud alarm clock, a hyperactive dog, or an especially ugly sleeping companion.