Topic

Wet, Cold Feet When Backpacking: How To Keep Your Feet Dry(er) and Warm(er) in Inclement Weather


Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Wet, Cold Feet When Backpacking: How To Keep Your Feet Dry(er) and Warm(er) in Inclement Weather

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 41 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #3493828
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Companion forum thread to: Wet, Cold Feet When Backpacking: How To Keep Your Feet Dry(er) and Warm(er) in Inclement Weather

    Keep feet warm and dry by using a carefully designed system that involves different types of socks, shoes, and gaiters.

    #3493838
    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member

    @tipiwalter

    You hit on all the important aspects and wisely mentioned “Rethinking the stream crossing”.  Or crossings.  I do all in my power on a winter trip to keep my gtx boots dry (and socks) as long as possible.

    Scenario:  Day 1 it’s winter and about 15F and I reach my first creek crossing of the trip.  Take off dry boots/socks and use my wading shoes to get across (no bare feet please).  Reboot on other side.  Had I just barged on thru in my boots, well, they’d be frozen solid that night at 0F and sucky for many further days.  My winter rule is this:  Keep my footwear as dry as possible for as long as possible.  Not relevant on summer trips, as you say.

    Day 4 I hit a foot of wet miserable snow and with good gaiters and a gtx boot my socks stay dry.

    Day 7 I hit a series of creek crossings.  Like 12 in a row with some snow on the ground.  My boots are still not saturated—socks dry.  This is where it gets tough because there are too many crossings in quick succession to off-boot and reboot constantly . . . . maybe.  And it’s very difficult to backpack 7 or 8 miles (with the crossings) in water shoes (crocs, etc)—because it’s dang cold on the feet (snow gets in the shoe).  Solution?  I just endure it but neoprene water socks might help.  A couple years ago I did Snowbird Creek with it’s couple dozen crossings and it was so cold I actually Debooted, crossed barefoot in crocs, rebooted—repeated forever.  But dangit I kept my boots and socks dry for when I wasn’t hiking in a creek valley.

    Day 12 I’m still backpacking and my boots are dry.  Unless I’m caught in a tough winter rainstorm at 35F.  Miserable.

    In camp I always have a pair of bone dry smartwool mountaineer socks—thick—for sleeping.  And a pair of down booties.  What’s amazing is having a $700 down winter bag and getting all cuddly warm and yet my feet are in the bottom of the bag frozen cold and take 2 full hours to really warm.  My circulation . . . is . . . problematic.

    Of course, everybody knows about flaring out the boot laces at night (morning bricks), repeated wringing out of wet socks (wrung out socks will soak up boot water —repeat as needed).

    One good thing about having saturated boots/hiking shoes in the winter is you can then cross creeks without compromising your footwear—it’s too late for that.

    And thanks for the Brand links—I’ll look them up.

    #3493842
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Good ideas, good article.

    Sometimes I can really tighten the laces at the top of WPB mid height boots and quickly cross a stream.  Water won’t get into the boots even if water level is above top of boots.  Depends on the boot.

    Or, like someone mentioned recently, take your socks off while crossing, then dump water out and put socks back on.  Time consuming for multiple crossings and your socks will get a little wet, but sometimes a useful technique.

    #3493844
    Mark Verber
    BPL Member

    @verber

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Over the years I have tried several approaches, including a system very much like Jordan’s but I have never been happy with the waterproof shoes. Maybe I am doing something wrong, but water always seems to get inside mine, and then they take forever to dry. So these days I use pretty much the same light weight / highly breathable shoes for all trips except those that are 100% frozen where I need stiffer sole for kicking steps / mounting crampons, and good insulation.

    Mild weather I use light weight merino toe socks. In inclement conditions I switch to a coolmax liner weight toe socks and the rocky waterproof socks. I typically have 2 or 3 liners for the trip. Each night I change into the cleanest/driest pair of liners I have (I continue to wear them the next day). I rinse the Rocky’s if they are particularly dirty and then shake them as dry as I can. I sleep with the Rocky’s and the day’s liners next to my torso. One of the nice things about using the Rocky oversocks is that they don’t absorb a lot of water and keep the inner socks clean.  So In the morning they are dry. Shoes are in a plastic bag under me to keep them from freezing. If I have to go out in the middle of the night the Rocky’s are worn. When it starts to get really cold the Rocky’s are replace with RBHdesigns VaprThrm insulated vapor barrier socks (still using the liner weight toe socks) and I bring some booties for in camp use.

    I typically don’t sleep in extra warm socks. I guess my circulation is pretty good. If my feet are particularly cold before bed I sit with my feet tucked against my thighs with my quilt wrapped around me until they are warmed up and then I lay down.

    My liners are crew high, the Rocky’s and RBH are a bit taller. I typically use light weight, mid thighs soft-shell gaiters unless I am expecting to be post-holing / lots of snow, in which case I switch to knee high waterproof gaiters.

    For water crossing I try to find crossings that keep the feet dry. If I can’t, I take off the socks and wear the shoes in the water, dry my feet and then put the liners / rocky’s back on.

     

    #3493857
    Paul S.
    BPL Member

    @pschontz

    Locale: PNW

    I’d love to try Rocky socks but haven’t been willing to mess with the sizing. Anyone with large calves have any experience with the fit?

    #3493901
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    must have been Mark I heard that from, I’ve taken to doing that myself : )

    90% of my trips I can cross streams without the water ever going above the tops of mid height boots.  At the end of the day my socks are only a little damp.  I wear them to bed (in my down sleeping bag) and they’re dry in the morning.  Lightweight gaiters are required when walking through wet brush or my feet will get quite good.  Dirty Girls would be pretty good.

    About once a year my socks will get wet, so then I have to sleep in my second pair of socks, but then I get into the situation where it’s difficult to ever dry out wet socks and WPB boots.  Sometimes I’ll wear my sleeping socks the second day and they’ll get wet from the boots, but if I don’t do any more stream crossings they’ll only be a little wet at the end of the day so if I wear them over night they’ll dry off.

    Maybe one time I wore my wet socks in my sleeping bag, but that got the down wet and it lost it’s loft.  It wasn’t that cold though so I survived.

    #3493904
    Hanz B
    BPL Member

    @tundra-thrasher-ouch-man-2

    Just want to add a point about shoe inserts regarding their use either outside vs inside the rocky socks. I did an experiment in cool wet backpacking conditions with one side having the shoe insert inside the rocky sock and one outside. At the end of 8 hours the side with the shoe insert inside the rocky sock was much more macerated and had heat spots developing whereas the one with the insert outside the Rocky sock was pretty good as usual with the system. Since then I always have the insert outside the rocky sock. I wonder if anyone who has had more experience disagrees with this in concept?

    System used is similar: Shoe: altra lone peak 3.0, snow or not. sock: injini toe crew mixed merino. Gaiter: zpacks ul calf. Waterproof sock: rocky two sizes up. Extra protection: hiker goo generously applied morning and night. One always dry linner weight smart wool or a darn tough dress sock vs PhD smart wool in colder conditions. In camp I use his system and recs – it works well.

    Another point to mention regarding keeping feet warm at night is to keep your head and core warm. You brain will always sacrifice extremity flow to keep itself and vital organs in homeostatic operating temps – a good hoodie and maximizing core warmth will keep the Capillary beds in toes open to be filled with warm blood. I would love a debate from users on the weight of the hoodie vs the ul down camp sock with regards to actually foot warmth at night in this context  – though I realize it’s somewhat subjective.

    Great article, thank you!

     

     

     

    #3493907
    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member

    @here

    Locale: Right there

    Here is a link to the three part Will R article from 2007 for more,

    https://backpackinglight.com/lightweight_footwear_systems_for_snow_travel_part_1/

    #3493913
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    yeah, that was a good article, lots of good stuff in the archives that’s still applicable

    #3493920
    Brian M
    BPL Member

    @bmontgomery

    REALLY good article that I wish I had read and HEEDED before our Sept. 13 – 16 outing in the Beartooth Mnts. But there is no teacher like experience. Even with out this and only using garbage bags and DarnTough wool socks inside my Merrill Moab Ventilators I was fine in the snow storm at 10K+ ft. … as long as I was moving…  In camp my feet quickly became bricks of ice… The <style type=”text/css”><!–td {border: 1px solid #ccc;}br {mso-data-placement:same-cell;}–></style><span data-sheets-value=”{"1":2,"2":"Goose Feet Gear – DOWN SOCKS"}” data-sheets-formula=”=Hyperlink("https://goosefeetgear.com/products/down-socks/?__s=k64ongwqxds5ehyeed3n&quot;,"Goose Feet Gear – DOWN SOCKS")”>Goose Feet Gear – DOWN SOCKS</span> look inviting and I will be trying them out this winter in some of my treks in Central Oregon in preparation for my PCT Thru next year.  Thank you (again) for the adventure and the advice!

    Brian

    #3493921
    Adam G
    BPL Member

    @adamg

    I just haven’t had good luck with waterproof breathable shoes in snowy/wet conditions. I’ve found that they wet out after trudging through the snow or getting rained on for any extended period. Goretex socks don’t really add sufficient warmth for me to counteract that. In contrast, waterproof boots with a GoreTex membrane don’t really do that. Sure, your socks get wet from sweating, but there’s not cold snow or rain leaking in. Feet stay much warmer that way, and in my experience, quite a bit drier. Does anyone else have that experience?

    #3493934
    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member

    @tipiwalter

    Adam—Isn’t a goretex boot the same as a waterproof breathable boot?  You first say you haven’t had good luck with a WP/breathable shoe, and then say a gtx membrane keeps your feet warmer and dryer.  ????

    I was out on a 24 day backpacking trip in January 2014 (TN/NC mountains) and wrote this in my trip report—

    THE ADVANTAGES OF GORETEX BOOTS
    “Okay, let’s reason it out. 85% of all creek crossings in the Southeast mountains of TN, Georgia, NC and VA are easy fords between 1 to 6 inches deep and so whatever you are wearing will sink to that depth in order to do a ford or to rock hop. Try these little crossings in fabric boots or trail runners and POW you’ve just saturated your socks—not good on the first day of a 21 day winter trip. A good boot with a GTX liner is able to pull 6 inch deep wadings with no leaks, and of course you don’t stand in the water for 20 minutes. Fabric boots soak in water like a canvas tennis shoe and so the high need for an above ankle GTX boot.”

    The next year I upgraded my goretex winter boot to a full leather Zamberlan and it had all the waterproofness of a Sorel type pakboot without the hiking- impeding clunkiness.  It was cold so when I got to my first creek crossing I didn’t feel like taking off my pack, removing my boots and socks, putting on crocs, putting on the pack, crossing, dumping the pack, putting back on my boots and socks, putting on my pack—and moving on.  I just waded the low water and both the boots and the socks stayed dry.  It’s a good system if you don’t mind carrying the weight of a high ankle boot.

     

    #3493939
    Hanz B
    BPL Member

    @tundra-thrasher-ouch-man-2

    For waterproof breathable on a shoe, I think the only tech that’s got it right is “outdry” where there is no liner so no space for water to get trapped in between liner and leather etc. They dry out way faster and are a bit lighter.  It’s a different approach then a a gortex  liner. I can hose them clean or dunk them in the steam to clean them up as well. I think sorrel and Colombia are both using it some of there winter boots. It’s the only wpb I trust for more then two days. But I still prefer non-wpb mesh light hiker at altitude and snow.

    #3493950
    Adam G
    BPL Member

    @adamg

    Tipi: perhaps my terminology was not precise. You call the shoes “fabric boots,” which seem to be what this article recommends. I use boots very similar to yours: Asolo TPS 520. They are wonderful boots, keep my feet warm and dry, but they are heavy. I tried more lightweight shoes like advocated in this article and my feet–especially my toes–just ended up wet and cold. Maybe I need to try outdry.

    #3493957
    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member

    @tipiwalter

    Despite what I already said, I feel alot of winter backpackers can get away with very light trail runners and just live with the wetness—ford creeks w/o concern, hike thru wet snow—get soaked and keep moving.  This comment mostly applies to BPL hikers who don’t mind wet shoes and cold feet on occasion, “cold” being relative.  Fording a creek at 20F is a whole different subject than fording a creek at -10F.  When it’s that cold snow isn’t wet ergo boots stay much dryer except for the occasional creek crossing.  Hence this discussion.

    #3493961
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    My feet have almost always been warmer in a soft (fabric), waterproof trail running shoe rather than a stiff waterproof leather boot. I think part of the reason why is that in a soft shoe, especially when you are on the trail, your foot is allowed to completely flex, which improves circulation. Certainly there are softer boots, hybrid materials (fabric + leather), that allow for more flex and these should be warmer than a stiff boot. In camp, the full protection of a leather upper should provide more insulation than a fabric shoe…in theory?

    Also I received an email from a reader noting that he brings a few pieces of small newspaper to put in his boots at night to absorb water.

    I’m wondering if a small viscose towel would absorb enough water overnight to make it worth carrying? An interesting analysis would be to see how much water the inside of a shoe retains, add the towel, see how much water weight the towel was able to suck out of the shoe, and then decide if it’s worth the hassle/weight/extra items.

    #3493970
    Mike M
    BPL Member

    @mtwarden

    Locale: Montana

    Ryan- thanks for the article, lots of good tips and lots of food for thought. I use a very similar system for late hunting and into winter.  My only difference is using syn booties (Apex) vs down.

    I’d like to use a similar system in early Spring, ala the Bob Marshall Open, but at that time of year you’re sometimes making 50-ish fords a day (some up to your chest! :) ). This precludes the use of goretex or the like. Fortunately temps usually only drop into the 20-30’s. I use pretty open mesh shoes, but combine them with the same full height, thick wool socks you’re using. At night they are rung out as best as possible, feet aired and dried thoroughly, fresh dry socks donned- I’ll put heavy duty meat bags over the top if I need to don my wet shoes for any chores.

    I do carry neoprene socks in the event my feet get too cold on the move- knock on wood, haven’t had to use them yet.

     

    #3493980
    JCH
    BPL Member

    @pastyj-2-2

    The general consensus seems to be that the Rocky Gore-Tex socks are pretty much state of the art for WPB socks. It also seems that some people are hiking in them.  The idea of being able to hike 20+ mile wet soggy days for several days in a row wearing a very light wool liner > Rocky GT socks > mesh trail runners is very appealing, but is there a lot of high milage experience with this system?  I know a few people have mentioned it, but would love to hear from others for whom this system did or did not work, and why?

    #3494090
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    1.) 3mm NEOPRENE DIVERS SOX

    Once again I’ll say that when using uninsulated GTX hiking boots the best socks are 3 mm neoprene divers sox (I prefer US Divers brand, with L &R foot design and factory seam sealed).

    These sox, worn over light poly liner socks, are THE warmest way to go with uninsulated WPB hiking boots. No, your feet will not be dry, they will be sweaty BUT WARM!

    However these (seem sealed) divers sox will keep sweat from wetting the inside of your hiking boots, important for keeping feet warm.

    In camp sox ritual:  

    A. When going to bed I remove my divers sox and turn them inside out to dry. 15 minutes outside of my bag and the rest or the night inside my bag is sufficient .       B. Remove sweaty liner socks and put them in a Ziplock bag, tightly sealed! ;o) I bring one pair of poly liner sox for each day since they are so light. But you could bring 3 pair and rinse them and rotate them. For this fast-drying polypropylene socks are best.

    ->Don clean liner socks and heavy “sleep socks” and in the morning you’ll have warm, dry divers sox and can just remove your sleep socks and slip into the divers sox and your boots. Your boots are dry inside so there is no “frozen boot syndrome” in the morning.

    2.) GTX GAITERS

    I prefer knee high gaiters for snow conditions. Gaiters add about another 15 F. of warmth to boots. This judgement is from years of using them a Nordic (XC) ski patroller. Plus gaiters will keep out 100% of snow and 95% of any water that may go over your boot tops in a quick dip if you slip in a stream crossing. Never, ever go to bed with your divers sox on. You MUST dry your feet overnight or risk getting “trench foot”.

    So with these two items I can hunt and backpack with uninsulated hiking boots to 15 F. and still be warm day after day.

     

     

    #3494092
    Hanz B
    BPL Member

    @tundra-thrasher-ouch-man-2

    Eric thanks for sharing! Does your process   Transfer over to breathable mesh shoes? Or do you find the value of neo preen socks limited to gortex boots?

    I had good success with Rocky socks gators and toe socks at altitude in snow at lows of 17f with appropriate camp socks –  I brought the neoprene socks with me to Add camp warmth which I think they did. I had much less success with Gore-Tex boots , gators , and neopreen socks in wet cool Denali. Since then I’ve either left the neoprenes at home or placed a yeti insulated insert in them to use as a camp shoe (4.5oz of weight). So do you see a roll for neoprene socks in non wpb footwear in cold wet conditions?

    #3494108
    William Chilton
    BPL Member

    @williamc3

    Locale: Antakya

    I can’t answer for Eric, but the experience of me and my wife is that neoprene socks make a big difference for keeping your feet warm in snow with non-waterproof shoes.

    #3494312
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Hanz,

    My old Merrill Moab Mid GTX boots have begun to leak. I wore them for a mid-September mule deer hunt on the approach to eastern Nevada’s  Mt.Moriah. It rained for 7 hours the 2nd day and I was in my tent for the duration. But later that day and the foggy, rainy next day the boots got wet in stream crossings and the general dampness. Yeah, it snowed at the end of the rainy 2nd day! But I was at 8,125 ft. so it was not a total surprise. The next morning it was 25 F. but my overstuffed Western Mountaineering bag kept me warm and so did my neoprene sox as I made breakfast and broke camp.

    I was wearing my US Divers sox and poly liner socks. when I finally got back to my car that evening my feet were fine in sub freezing weather but of course my polypro liner socks were soaked.

    So the short answer is yes, I’ve worn the neoprene sox in leaky boots but not in totally non- GTX boots and they were fine. There are slightly thicker diver’s sox but you need larger boots to accomodate them.

    #3494372
    Sam Haraldson
    BPL Member

    @sharalds

    Locale: Gallatin Range

    Thoughtful article, Ryan with just the right balance of science and subjectivity.  Precisely what I’ve grown to love from BPL.

    #3494590
    I. Chhina
    BPL Member

    @ichhina

    Locale: Puget Sound, WA

    Ryan:

     

    How does the efficiency of that MSR WIndburner stove compare to an inverted canister stove system (like Caffin’s)? I haven’t had good results with upright canister stove use in Winter due to the gas feed issues in cold temps, while the inverted method giving a liquid fuel feed has worked great.

    #3494658
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    How does the efficiency of that MSR WIndburner stove compare to an inverted canister stove system (like Caffin’s)?
    Not a simple comparison. How high the flame is turned up seriously influences the efficiency. That said, heat exchanger (HX) pots are always a bit more efficient than plain-bottom pots. But you have to balance the quite small fuel savings against the increased weight of the HX pot.

    Cheers

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 41 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Get the Newsletter

Get our free Handbook and Receive our weekly newsletter to see what's new at Backpacking Light!

Gear Research & Discovery Tools


Loading...