Jan 3, 2013 at 7:07 pm #1297654
I just got back from a trip in Big Sur, we went up to the window. My hydroskin neoprene socks kept me plenty warm in the rivers. But we encountered a surprising amount of snow heading up to the window. I went directly from wading in a river to hiking up snow that was a foot or more deep. My feet became extremely cold. I was actually forced to stop, make a small fire, and warm up my feet so I could feel them again. I changed into wet wool socks and those were much warmer and actually allowed me to continue on. The air temperature was probably about 35 degrees.
What's up with this? I thought neoprene socks were used for winter snow hiking. Neoprene seems to work in mysterious ways.Jan 3, 2013 at 7:22 pm #1940677
Are they thick neoprene socks? If they're the thin ones then wear your wool socks over them. You feet won't get wet and the wool will keep your feet warm.
A VBL liner sock worn under your wool sock would probably work better.Jan 3, 2013 at 7:25 pm #1940678
They are very thin neoprene. They aren't waterproof at all, they are just supposed to keep your feet warm when wet. I assumed they would work, but i'm thinking gore-tex socks or even just bread bags over my socks would have worked much better when transitioning to snow.Jan 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm #1940688
I always thought that was a suspect recommendation. In wet cold environments, they don't work.
In those conditions, I have always used Rocky Gortex socks.Jan 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm #1940705
I always thought that was a suspect recommendation. In wet cold environments, they don't work.
Mike Clelland uses thin neoprene socks to keep his feet warm in wet conditions up in Alaska. His recommendations are usually pretty good. They've worked for me. But I've never used them in snow, then, either.
One thing I've always wondered about that no one ever seems to talk about is the R-value of materials for insulated gear other than sleeping mats and fill. For instance, if you have two down jackets that have the same down fill, but two different shell materials, one which has poor R-value (conducts heat and feels cold to the touch), the other with a shell that has great R-value (feels warm to the touch), the second jacket will feel warmer. This is part of how R-value in houses is determined… a stone floored room will feel much colder than a wooden floored room, though the temperature of the air is the same, unless the stone itself is heated.
I'm wondering if neoprene, because it quickly feels cold to the touch, will, at certain lower temperatures and contact with snow, will feel much colder than gore-tex socks, even though the gore-tex is thinner…Jan 3, 2013 at 10:17 pm #1940716
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I have used 3/16" thick neoprene sox for years to keep my feet warm in winter with many kinds of boots for almost two decades.
I seam sealed these sox to keep sweat out of my boots and keep their insulation dry.
I use no other insulating sox except a pair of thin polypropelene liner sox under them.Jan 4, 2013 at 4:41 am #1940732
I used to use neoprene booties, likely the same thickness as Erik and after seam sealing they were quite warm and waterproof. Have you tried filling yours with water to see where they leak.Jan 4, 2013 at 5:40 am #1940736
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Snow is (obviously) colder than water. You'll need to change your approach.
-Loosen your laces if possible, especially toes, for better circulation.
-Use gaiters to keep snow off and out of the tops of your shoes. Snow that stays put will steal heat as it melts. A coat of seam grip on the tops of your toeboxes will help this, too.
-Make sure the Hydroskins aren't too tight.
-You may have cold feet and/or bad circulation, and need more insulation; either thicker neoprene or some kind of waterproof sock.
The point many folks (Ure) miss about the neo sock system is that it is best for truly wet conditions, i.e consistent knee high creek and puddle crossings. If you have mild wet conditions, waterproof socks will work in the short term (though they will wear out fairly quickly and cease to be waterproof). I gave up on the waterproof sock system because I didn't like killing a pair of 40 dollar socks every 8 months, but some folks will find that system more amenable.Jan 4, 2013 at 6:31 am #1940745
I haven't missed anything, Chenault. The socks worked well for the OP in crossing rivers. Shock. I use Neoprene when I wake board and it works well. In truly cold and snowy conditions, I have encountered the same issue as the OP. My Gortex socks have always kept my feet warm and having not worn them out in 5 years, I either don't get out as often or I am easier on gear.
It is -33C here right now. Where did I put those Rockys?Jan 4, 2013 at 6:58 am #1940749
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
In snow, I like using the thin neoprene socks inside wool ones as a durable vbl.
A bread sack over the whole batch, including the insole then keeps the wool pretty dry.
Even with holes in the heal of the neo socks.
You do have to use roomy shoes.
I do sleep with all the socks at night to dry out any moisture.
I quit using liner socks inside my neoprene. Didn't seam (pun) to make them any warmer or blister resistant.Jan 4, 2013 at 7:07 am #1940751
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
I think that the R-value thing is key. The OP describes the neoprene socks he used as "thin." Neoprene works in wetsuits (e.g. Dave's wakeboarding) because it traps a thin layer of water next to your skin which then is warmed by your body heat. That water doesn't exchange very much with colder water outside the suit.
But for hiking I don't think that a thin neoprene sock has any utility other than as a waterproof and possibly VBL layer. (Perhaps a nice thick one would provide decent insulation in itself, but who could stuff them in their shoes?) If he wasn't wearing gaiters or somesuch then his shoe was probably pretty much filled with snow and slush, and as that melts… well, the heat of transformation has to come from somewhere, and the thin neoprene wasn't enough to keep it from coming from his feet. The stream water, while cold, was probably both more transitory and didn't require heat of transformation. Plus, in the water the neoprene may have worked like a wetsuit.
… at a guess.
So, it seems that I agree with Dave- a simple waterproof/VBL layer and wool socks might have served him better. And, logically, it makes more sense to wear the wool inside the VBL, but I could be wrong.
But what the other Dave said is also a VERY important point that is often overlooked: Don't constrict your foot. (The military is VERY big on cold weather training.) If your shoe/sock combination is too tight it actually reduces bloodflow to your foot. Bloodflow from your core is what keeps your foot warm, and constricting it makes you more vulnerable to frostbite. If my feet get numb from cold my first step is always to loosen my laces.
I would propose that it is difficult to find footgear that fits correcly both with and without a neoprene sock. If you are going to wear neoprene socks you probably need a dedicated cold-weather shoe so that it isn't too tight. I did this- I bought a shoe much larger than normal so that it fit with a neoprene sock over a wool sock.Jan 4, 2013 at 7:26 am #1940758
A friend of mine here in Japan wears an oversized neoprene bicycle shoe bootie over his hiking shoes (wool socks inside) and a FortyBelow overboot over that (with oversized Kahtoola Microspike on the outside for traction). Seems to keep his feet warm and dry down to well below sub-freezing. I'll be trying out that system this winter to see how well it works.
One of the things that the Inuit and Saami emphasize about their winter boots is that they be flexible. Keeping them flexible helps keep up the circulation in the feet. So, wide, relatively loose, and flexible.Jan 4, 2013 at 8:03 am #1940762
@detroittigerfanLocale: Ann Arbor
>> I thought neoprene socks were used for winter snow hiking. Neoprene seems to work in mysterious ways.
I've always thought that the use of neoprene started with diving wetsuits. A wetsuit isn't meant to keep you dry, just warm. In fact, it don't work until you're fully submerged in the water; it traps a thin layer of water around your body that's warmed by your body heat and then works as insulation.
When I dive on a cool day, as soon as I get out of the water, I get out of my wetsuit if I need to get warm.
For hiking, I use neoprene socks when actively hiking IN water and it works just like my wetsuit does when I'm diving. I've hiked 4-5 hours in 33* water in neoprene booties/boots and an eVent drysuit. My feet were wet but the neoprene booties kept them warm. But as soon as I got out of the river, I changed into dry wool socks.Jan 4, 2013 at 10:39 am #1940793
while it is true that wetsuits trap (if not too baggy) a thin layer of water and that helps to keep you warm, its true ability to keep you warm comes from and is directly related to its thickness. neoprene isn't a perfect insulator; therefore, it's subject to the same rules of physics for a given insulator, the thicker the better so the colder the water you're in, the thicker the wetsuit needs to be. If that wasn’t the case, there’d be no need for different thicknesses of wetsuits. if a wetsuit excluded all water entry and there was just a thin layer of air between your body and the wetsuit, it would be warmer because air is a better insulator than water. if you were to wear different thicknesses of wetsuits on land you would notice the thicker one being warmer than the thinner wetsuit. Anybody who has worn a wetsuit out of the water for any length of time (prior to entering the water) can tell you how warm and clammy they can be. One of the reasons you’d feel chilled when exiting the water in a wetsuit is the result of evaporative cooling that takes place, which is exaggerated if your wetsuit is double lined neoprene and/or if there is any breeze blowing.Jan 4, 2013 at 8:11 pm #1940914
@skopeoLocale: British Columbia
I've used 5 mil neoprene fishing waders for years for steelhead fishing in water that is just slightly above freezing and I can only last 3-4 hours tops before my feet are frozen. My feet are dry and the water isn't as cold as the snow you are walking on and you're using very thin neoprene, so I think your only problem is managing your expectations. Very thin neoprene isn't going to keep you warm for long.
Another thing to consider is that not all neoprene is created equal. High quality neoprene (like fishing waders and dive suits) will have millions of trapped air bubbles in the rubber and that's what keeps you warm. Cheaper neoprene (like your socks maybe…), not so much. Try a thicker pair and expect to pay a fair bit for quality (try a dive shop).Jan 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm #1940918
Gaiters, trail runners, hydroskins, and medium weight boot socks is what I use.
For me, good to 10°F (this morning) as long as I'm moving fast. Below that I add another liner sock.
And I have Real crappy circulation in my feet and hands.
YMMVJan 4, 2013 at 8:49 pm #1940925
@cooldripLocale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
Could you tell us a little more about the footwear system you were using? I use neoprene socks in conditions much like what you've described and it works well for me, but without more specific details of your system, it's hard to guess. In my opinion, neoprene is great in wet conditions down to a certain point. In really serious cold, all the water is frozen, I'm probably in ski boots, and so a different strategy is called for.Jan 5, 2013 at 12:48 am #1940956
I was wearing vivobarefoot aquas. They have a 3mm sole. The neoprene socks were 0.5 mm thick.Jan 5, 2013 at 1:00 am #1940957
mmm wonder why you got cold feet?!
would you sleep on a thin summer mat in snow?
Good discussion initiated though.Jan 5, 2013 at 3:14 am #1940959
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> they are just supposed to keep your feet warm when wet.
Neoprene hasn't worked for us either.
Thick wool socks, on the other hand, always work.
CheersJan 5, 2013 at 8:08 am #1940981
@brooklynkayakLocale: South West US
Hydroskin socks are thin and not designed to add that much warmth.
I'd combine them with fabric socks.
Thicker neoprene, 3mm or thicker, works much better, but neoprene is heavy.
The only time I'd consider neoprene socks for hiking is if my feet were going to be wading all day.
I have worn thick neoprene socks hiking, but that was in cool weather and I knew I was going to be constantly walking on trails that were flooded.Jan 5, 2013 at 9:58 am #1940992
Wading through a creek and going straight to snow is going to make your feet cold regardless of what you are wearing.*
*excluding footwear you probably aren't hiking in, like rubber boots or high altitude mountaineering bootsJan 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm #1941030
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
"I was wearing vivobarefoot aquas. They have a 3mm sole. "
It's possible you didn't have enough insulation on the bottom of your feet.Jan 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm #1941042
@mikuLocale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
+1 to Sumi's post above. Regardless of the type of neoprene you have, if it is wet and air exposed it will freeze you. The evaporative heat loss is substantial. It is best as an insulator when immersed in water, also good out of water when dry. Try wearing a wet wetsuit out of the water in sub 45F/10C air temperatures – you won't last long.
DWJan 5, 2013 at 8:05 pm #1941102
Yes, those shoes don't insulate me from the ground well. If the ground becomes frozen, I will feel the cold through my shoes. If I am hiking on a hot day I can feel the heat from the hot ground through my shoes. It's never really a problem if I am wearing good, warm socks. I do have a super thin insole that I slide in sometimes and that helps as well.
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