Lightweight Backpacking Gear for Cold Winter Temperatures (Two-Layer Systems, Vapor Barriers, and Really Puffy Stuff)
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Home › Forums › Campfire › Editor’s Roundtable › Lightweight Backpacking Gear for Cold Winter Temperatures (Two-Layer Systems, Vapor Barriers, and Really Puffy Stuff)
- This topic has 24 replies, 9 voices, and was last updated 2 years ago by Erik Norseman.
Dec 24, 2019 at 8:43 am #3624022Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Lightweight Backpacking Gear for Cold Winter Temperatures (Two-Layer Systems, Vapor Barriers, and Really Puffy Stuff)
Lightweight backpacking gear for winter temperatures: two-layer insulation systems, vapor barrier systems, and really puffy stuff.Dec 24, 2019 at 8:49 pm #3624101marjolein KeuningBPL Member
Hi, thanks for the article. There is something I don’t understand.There is so much trouble being taken NOT to let your down sleeping bag get wet, and then the advice to dry your gloves inside the sleeping bag, and sometimes I read about boots , or boot liner inside the bag.
Doesn’t that compromise the bag?Dec 25, 2019 at 1:42 am #3624116
Yes, putting any wet gear inside your SB (without a VBL) will simply transfer the water into the insulation. It is a ridiculous idea, even though novices still do it. You will find that experienced BPL members NEVER do it.
Well, actually, my wife & I do put out wet ski boots into the foot end of our quilts, BUT we seal them up in plastic bags first! Sealed up seriously. The idea is to keep them warm for when we put them on in the morning, but NOT to try drying them out. A lot of experienced XC tourers do this.
Let’s put it in context.
If tomorrow is wet, what is the point of trying to dry your shoes? They will just get wet again, almost immediately.
If tomorrow is dry, why worry? Your shoes will dry out on your feet fairly soon.
‘But you will die if your feet get wet’ …
River walking in the Colo Gorge. The river is the highway. Days on end.
CheersDec 25, 2019 at 7:28 am #3624130Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Excellent post Ryan. I run hotter than a lot of people so I use high breathable, non down insulation for active and down puffy once I am stopped. I tried the down quilt inside a synthetic quilt (Bozeman Mountain Works 90?) but ended up going with a vapor barrier sack inside down bag which was lighter and more manageable.
One of the reasons vapor barrier socks / mitts really win is that they don’t have material to soak in the water, so “drying out” is nearly inconsequential. +1 Roger’s shoes / boots in a sealed bag to keep warm. Yes, it’s nice when they are warm in the morning, but even more important is that they haven’t frozen in a shape which makes them challenging to put on.Dec 25, 2019 at 8:25 am #3624131
more important is that they haven’t frozen in a shape
Yeah, that IS what I meant!
Frozen ski boots at -10 C: delightful stuff.
CheersDec 26, 2019 at 3:35 pm #3624191Elliott WolinBPL Member
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
I wonder how many people use a (not very breathable) so-called “waterproof/breathable” outer layer when it’s cold and thus trap lots of moisture in their clothing. Then perhaps add a vapor barrier inner garment to compensate.
When it’s cold I go for totally breathable everything, often wearing a sort-of-heavy 60/40 shell if I’m not worried about weight (one of the few times I’ll wear cotton, the other is when it’s very hot and I soak a cotton t-shirt in water to keep me cool).Dec 26, 2019 at 7:45 pm #3624220
I can’t imagine wearing a VBL when walking without getting hot and very sweaty. There is no way I would wear anything like that just for cold. It has to be both very cold and rather wet before I resort to anything waterproof.
Even in heavy rain+wind in the cold, I find sweat condensing inside my silnylon poncho which is kept very loose and flappy around me. While it has sleeves, I rarely use them. I prefer to use it as a sort of close umbrella, usually partly open down the front.
CheersDec 26, 2019 at 11:04 pm #3624236Bryan BihlmaierBPL Member
@bryanbLocale: Wasatch Mountains
Great advice @ryan. The vapor barrier shirts you link to are relatively heavy and expensive. Plus, with multiple layers in the fabrics they would add more warmth (when moving especially) than I think I could stand.
Have you ever tried a simple silnylon shirt or jacket under your insulating layers as a vapor barrier? I’m wondering if it would be a lighter and cheaper alternative to at least try the concept. Something like the Anti-Gravity Gear ultralight rain jacket would definitely be vapor-proof. But I own a MontBell Tachyon anorak that is pretty waterproof but not completely, and weighs only 2.1oz (actual). There is also the EE Copperfield windshirt that is similar.
Thoughts?Dec 28, 2019 at 3:06 am #3624486AlpineIceBPL Member
Ryan, anyway you can post a photo of your winter footwear setup? I’m trying to understand how you’re able to use the summer-weight boots with the overboots. Do you wear them in combination, or do you have the overboots in case of an emergency and need to keep your feet insulated? Thanks!Dec 28, 2019 at 1:34 pm #3624566Ash BruntonBPL Member
Are you going to review the Nunatac Nova (synthetic) with Nano Liner (Down) at some stage>
@tjaardLocale: Minnesota, USA
you are correct of course. My 6th grader wears a Pata Mission Peak running shell to bike to school most days here in northern Minnesota winter.
I don’t know about “many people” but the reason to use VBL layers is not because of using a WPB outer layer.
It is because, when it’s very cold, you add insulation to keep warm. Yet, once the temperature drops far enough, and you are wearing thick enough clothing, the dew point is inside your clothing. So even if you were wearing some magic insulating mosquito netting, you would still get condensation inside your clothing,
The fact that most traditional al high loft clothing uses calendared down proof fabrics, that are very poorly breathable doesn’t help of course.
This is were the new ‘active insulation’ come in handy, they offer a slight wind resistance, but their high air permeability allows much more moist air to move through than traditional insulated jackets. So, even if they do get damp, they dry much better.
https://andrewskurka.com/vapor-barrier-liners-theory-application/Jan 13, 2020 at 4:51 pm #3626926Tjaard BreeuwerBPL Member
@tjaardLocale: Minnesota, USA
I will also make a plug for the Pata Capilene Thermal weigh baselayers.
i have tried so many different baselayers, and these seems to do the best at moving moisture out, so for variable or continuous high output activists in cold weather, nothing else comes close.Sep 21, 2020 at 6:12 am #3676921Jon SolomonBPL Member
Have you ever tried a simple silnylon shirt or jacket under your insulating layers as a vapor barrier? I’m wondering if it would be a lighter and cheaper alternative to at least try the concept. Something like the Anti-Gravity Gear ultralight rain jacket would definitely be vapor-proof.
Has anyone anything to report from the field about using silnylon jacket/pants combos as VBL clothing inside a sleeping system? Cheaper and lighter than the dedicated offerings from RBH and others.Sep 21, 2020 at 8:42 am #3676930Link .BPL Member
Jon, if you read the Andrew Skurka article linked above he wears a homemade silnylon jacket and pants and goes into great detail for both on the move and sleeping.Sep 21, 2020 at 9:00 am #3676932Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I wear my damp socks inside down bag and they dry out over night
Wet socks – they’re still wet in the morning plus the down bag gets wet
There’s a certain capacity to dry stuff out over night, but it’s limited
Boots if it’s freezing? Make sure and open them up as much as possible, so when they freeze, you can still get your feet into them the next morning
I made a shirt and pants from Srephenson’s “fuzzy stuff”. It was sort of heavy. I found lighter base layer was just as warm over-all, just as dry. But, I didn’t do extended periods of many days at very cold temps which is the example Stephenson uses as an application where VBL works.Sep 21, 2020 at 3:28 pm #3676971
Boots if it’s freezing?
Put them in good plas bags and store them under the end of your quilt. They will be slightly warm in the morning, which is sheer delight.
Yes, we do that when XC ski touring.
CheersSep 22, 2020 at 9:16 am #3677048Mike MBPL Member
I’ve had such good luck with an Apex quilt over a down bag that I don’t see the need for a vapor barrier- maybe a 10+ day expedition?
My Apex quilt has a “poncho” hole so it does double duty around camp as an insulating layer allowing a lighter puffy to be used.
I’m with Jerry- slightly damp items (base layers, socks, glove liners, etc) go in the bag- worn or tucked into a waist band- they’re always dry by morning and have never had an issue with the bag losing loft (w/ a Apex quilt over top).
Wet items in the winter go in between a ccf pad and my inflatable pad, they are always warm (and unfrozen!) and even occasionally dry.
Boots on the other hand… As my bag is a three season bag I’ve sized it’s length shorter and don’t have room for boots (occasionally trail runners and they fit)Oct 13, 2020 at 7:22 am #3679464
I want to put an overbuilt over my down quilt to avoid the condensation issues discussed here. But I don’t have the budget for a synthetic overquilt right now. I do have a summer weight synthetic sleeping bag that could do the trick, but it is heavier than these synthetic quilts. Money, money, money :) I also have a think fleece blanket that is lighter – I think less than a pound. Has anyone ever tried something like that as an overquilt? Did it work?Oct 13, 2020 at 8:12 am #3679470Chris RBPL Member
Costco have synthetic fill blankets from Eddie Bauer. Around $25 up here in Canada. Add a draw string to the foot end and you have an overquilt. They can tend to slide off so I stuck snaps to the sides of my winter pad to match a set I added along the quiltOct 13, 2020 at 9:35 pm #3679602
Thank you for the suggestion Chris. We have a Costco where I live so that is an option I can explore. I’m using a hammock so if I get it over the feet in some way like you suggested I may not have to add snaps.
Any thoughts on whether a fleece blanket would work for managing the condensation? I would expect it to move the point at which condensation occurs out at least a little from my down quilt. But not sure if it will be effective enough. I’m going to a colder climate in November for a week but I won’t have any opportunities to experiment and test before that where I live.Oct 13, 2020 at 10:13 pm #3679606
Of course it would help keep the vapour from condensing inside the down, but whether it is weight-efficient is entirely another matter.
We use a down over-quilt covering the two of us. That way we share a lot of warmth, which helps of course.
CheersOct 13, 2020 at 10:19 pm #3679607Adam GBPL Member
I’ve been burying most of my boots in somewhat uncompacted snow. They seem to be substantially warmer in the morning, probably due to snow being a better insulator than the air. Has anyone else done this?Oct 14, 2020 at 5:06 am #3679623
Thank you Roger.Oct 14, 2020 at 6:40 am #3679630Mike MBPL Member
I’ve been burying most of my boots in somewhat uncompacted snow. They seem to be substantially warmer in the morning, probably due to snow being a better insulator than the air. Has anyone else done this?
I’ve done that with Nalgenes (upside down) as you’re correct, the snow helps insulate. I have not done that with boots though, but I did recently purchase a longer sleeping bag and the boots will reside in the bottom (in a dry bag) :)Mar 29, 2021 at 6:21 am #3706734Erik NorsemanBPL Member
I’m wondering when someone should consider using a two-layer insulation system plus VB clothing, or choose one or the other? Is it an either/or, or a both-always kind of thing?
It would likely be lighter and more versatile to just bring VB suit and a very puffy down insulation, but is an overbag still an important part of the sleep system on some trips, e.g. longer trips?
Further, if using VB clothing, would it be recommended to use a sleeping bag with a highly wind resistant shell material, such as a gore windstopper or similar, given that moisture management is handled by the VB. This might allow a comfortable sleep under a tarp on a cold windy night, when a more breathable shell may allow too much heath to escape.
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