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
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
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
- Carry your
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’
- 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!