Tips For Playing Paintball In Winter
Last Updated: 11/27/2013
Playing paintball doesn’t have to stop for the season when the weather drops and snow starts sticking to the ground if you’re properly prepared. Paintballs, markers and equipment all react differently than when you played during the summer, though. If you don’t change your gear and playing style to deal with the elements then you’re in for a bad day! Here are some helpful tips for playing paintball in the winter.
- Cold temperatures will affect paintballs!
The shell of a paintball is usually a gelatin or vegetable starch material. When the temperature drops this shell becomes brittle; so brittle that they can crack or break from handling or before making it out of the marker’s barrel. The key to preventing this is to keep paint insulated for as long as possible from the cold. Carrying around a bunch of pods in a pod pack or vest is just exposing them to the elements; carry fewer pods and figure out a way to keep them under your clothes. Once loaded into the hopper they will start to chill so only load up at the last minute. Try not to jostle or rattle the paint in the hopper around as much as when playing in the summer. Store paint in your car or a cooler with some heat packs; anything to keep it above ambient temperatures.
Some paintball manufacturers offer a winter-specific ball beginning in late autumn. They have a slightly thicker shell and a shell/ fill formula that resists getting too fragile in the cold. These paintballs are well worth the money! While we’re here and since it is always brought up… no, you will not get nailed by a frozen paintballs! The frozen paintball is a myth; the oil and ingredients in a paintball (one being glycerin, a common additive in antifreeze for your car!) require extreme cold to solidify and the shell would deform and shatter long before.
- CO2 does not like the cold!
Co2 tanks may be great to use in the summer but they are miserable in winter. The pressure from expansion decreases significantly, so that your velocity drops off and blowback markers cannot properly cycle, resulting in that long, machinegun-like stuttering sound. Your marker will “go liquid” easier, with the gun body frosting over and huge clouds of thick white vapor coming out of the barrel. No fun!
The best solution is to make the switch to compressed air (HPA). The effects of the cold and humidity on compressed air systems in negligible and overcomes all of the above. If CO2 is simply the only tanks you can use you can at least make it manageable. First, simply try to shoot less and at a slower rate. Liquid CO2 expands slower in the cold so try to give it some time to do its thing. Try to keep your marker with the barrel tip pointing up when not shooting. This will help keep the liquid CO2 in the bottle and out of the marker’s valve. Take expansion chambers off and avoid using a remote line because the less volume the slower expanding gas has to fill, the higher the pressure. Although it may seem like a good idea, don’t tape heat packs or handwarmers to your CO2 tank! The result will actually be even greater pressure spikes and valleys than without.
- Thermal Lens for your goggle!
You may get away with a single lens and some anti-fog in the summer but not in the winter! The interior of your lens will mist up like people’s glasses coming into a warm house from the cold and then freeze in place. A thermal lens will help prevent this.
- Dress in layers!
This is common sense for any outdoor winter activity. When moving and running you’re going to heat up and perspire. When you stop moving you are going to get chilled to the bone! You need to dress so that you can open up and get some air circulation while active, yet close it all up to hold in heat when inactive. A thermal underwear base layer, a sweater or sweatshirt and then a zip-up waterproof outer layer will let you warm up or cool down mid-game. A thick down jacket or similar bulky outer layer is a bad idea, as you will sweat profusely and be uncomfortable. A pair of warm socks and waterproof shoes or boots are essential to comfort and safety. Try to avoid wearing two pairs of socks; when your feet swell two pairs of socks can restrict circulation. Gloves that you can load and work your marker in and a beanie or similar warm cap that can pull over the ears completes your playing clothing.
Keep a wool blanket or a warm coat you don’t mind getting dirty on the inside handy in the staging area. When you come off the field to take a break this will keep you from getting chilled from inactivity. Pack a few pairs of dry socks and change throughout the day; your feet will stay much warmer!
- Carry your squeegee!
Your marker may never break paint in the summer, but winter is a whole different animal. You can’t judge a paintball shell’s brittleness mid-game and your super low pressure, soft nosed bolt, quadruple anti-chop eyed über-marker can still break a ball. The fill is going to be sludge in the cold so dream on if you think you can “shoot through it”. Carry at least a stick squeegee or better yet, a pull through. Trust us, you will need it!
- Stay hydrated!
Just because it’s not hot and humid like summer doesn’t mean you can lay off the fluids! You can dehydrate just as easily in the cold as well. Be sure to drink plenty of water the day before, the morning of, and during game play. Some hot cocoa, coffee or tea is a nice belly warmer between games, but be sure the bulk is just good ol’ plain water.
- Keep an eye on everyone and yourself!
Cold weather can be brutal and its effects will sneak up on you. Make sure everyone is watching for signs of hypothermia in others, such as disorientation, sluggishness, fatigue, etc. If you start to lose feeling or experience numbness in your toes or fingers, immediately stop and get them warmed up. A propane heater is worth its weight in gold!
That should help you get out and play paintball this winter. Play safe and have fun!