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  • Vapor Barriers for Boots and Upper Body

    I am planning to try bread bags over ski socks for skinning this weekend. I've heard it works like a charm to keep liners dry and also helps with blisters. Can anyone share their experience with VBs on feet and whether they apply to all AT excursions (both short and long)? Finally, for camping, is a VB on the upper body all that is necessary to keep condensation from wetting a sleeping bag (or does one need to cover legs/feet as well)? Thanks in advance for feedback.

  • #2
    Yes, I know 1-2 people who swear by that method. I've tried a few different VB socks from grocery bags to a $15 pair (wish I could have that back), but in the end, my feet get so damn sweaty, I haven't found a method that reaches a compromise between comfortable feet and dry boot liners (and I had tried thin sock liner, various VBs, wool sock). If it's a day trip, it's easy to dry out the liners in the evening, so I wouldn't bother with VBs. If it's an overnight, I'll sleep with the liners in my bag and let my body heat dry them as much as possible. A boot liner also make a wonderful pee bottle koozie.

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    • #3
      Best blister prevention I've ever experienced are knee high nylons. Friends laugh at you at the trailhead, you laugh at them when they apply duct tape to oozing skin at the end of the day.

      Best VB socks I ever used were neoprene socks. Awesome warm, didn't cause blisters but created serious stinkfoot. Your friends will still suffer at the end of the day, not only 'cuz their feet are hamburger, but because yours smell like rotting hamburger.
      Last edited by Dostie; 7 March 2014, 08:57 PM.

      ain't no turn like tele!

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      • #4
        I'd save the vapor bags for all but the coldest conditions. If blisters are the concern I'd look into techniques used by the rando race geeks i.e. Bodyglide anti chafe, plain old antiperspirant, and for trouble spots and super long days a layer of clear finger nail polish. I've often had good luck just changing socks and definitely use a good sock or hose like Dostie says. I've also had good luck combating a hot spot with a preemptive piece of high quality athletic tape. It seems kinda obvious but if you're experiencing tons of blisters then you might need to work on your boot fit. As for sleeping I think a silk sleeping bag liner is the way to go, but I have a super warm winter bag and have never tried a vapor barrier. I also try and unzip the bag a little if I'm getting hot and really dial the temperature to be comfortable but not too warm. Venting a single wall tent slightly seems to help in all but the most extreme cold. Breath condensation seems to be the greatest source of moisture for me when winter camping. I gotta agree with Charley that simply airing things out and swapping socks and long undies out regularly fixes most of my condensation woes.

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        • #5
          I have used VB sox quite a bit. They are the only thing that worked for blister prevention for me. The added benefit was they were warmer. The problems are 1) stinky at the end of a day, and 2) drying the liner sox.

          I finally ended up using the “bread bag” – use the opaque crinkly bags with nothing written on them, they are more durable. Any bread bag with print on it will bleed into the sox, quite noticeable with white sox. Use thin liner sox only. My go to liner sox is foxsox X-Static liners.
          Neoprene was heavier, couldn’t find any benefit when using Intuition liners. Neoprene also seemed to conduct heat away, wasn’t as warm.

          For the stinky problem and drying problem, I bring along a salt-shaker filled with GoldBond powder. At the end of the day, Goldbond goes on bare feet then put on fresh liners, Goldbond goes on stinky wet liners and they immediately go inside the long underwear to begin drying. GoldBond is great for winter bathing in the snow as well, can also sprinkle some on the insides of your baselayer shirt and the missus will still kiss you when you get home, even after a 10 day traverse. Well, depending.

          I have also used full VBL in the sleeping bag fairly extensively. For one or two nights, you should be able to get away without it for condensation purposes. Never tried just a VBL shirt, I think it would help but if I was concerned with moisture I would do something other than a shirt. If temps are above freezing, skip VBL altogether in the sleeping bag. For condensation in a down bag, open it up as soon as you get up and let it air out for a while – the warmth from it should do a lot to rid it of condensation by the time you are ready to stuff it up. Do NOT use old WPB shelled down bag – get something like Wind-stopper, much more breathable.
          Soccer is a game of feet. Hockey is a game of inches.

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          • #6
            I'm with MattJ...you don't need all that VB crap. And as Steve says, just hang the bag in the sun/breeze in the AM or on a break during the day. I used to spend 2+ weeks at a time out in the winter for work and never had to deal with VBs. Gore-tex bivy or over-bag worked well for in-the-tent condensation, as well as venting the tent well. Just my experience...you'll find what works.
            Last edited by BillyFromTheHills; 7 March 2014, 04:52 PM.
            Yay!...(Drool)


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            • #7
              I've used the plastic bread bags, with the thinnest nylon inner socks. These were in a synthetic, double climbing boot with Aveolite liners. Worked well, no blisters, but your feet get clammy. Your foot slides around a bit, in the boot liners, which might prevent blisters. Used this setup climbing ice and snow routes in Peru.
              If I was doing a hut trip, with big days, I would definitely try the knee high nylons.

              Finally, for camping, is a VB on the upper body all that is necessary to keep condensation from wetting a sleeping bag (or does one need to cover legs/feet as well)? Thanks in advance for feedback.
              The big problem with condensation, is condensation inside the tent walls. After you zip up the bag, and go to sleep, the condensation on the tent inner wall freezes, then falls onto your bag. The heat radiating from your bag, re-melts this ice on your bag. Ask me how I know. The best fix I had was a custom down sleeping bag I had made up with a very thin Gore-Tex outer shell. The tent condensation, would fall on my down bag, but it never penetrated through the Gore-Tex into the down.
              My down bag stayed dry over many climbs. If you have time at base camp, opening your bag inside -out and draping it over your tent, in the sun is great too..

              oh, and learn how to cook dinner with your head/stove outside the tent door. This will reduce condensation in the tent in a big way. Cooking in the tent is really dangerous when the MSR starts to torch!
              Last edited by chamonix; 7 March 2014, 09:21 PM.

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              • #8
                So many great replies here.... I will digest and come up with (I hope) good follow up questions. A couple quick questions: do you wear the knee-high nylon stocking inside the ski sock or on outside? And regarding tent condensation falling from roof, are you not concerned about wetting out the down bag on inside by not wearing some sort of VB protection when in cold situations where you might not have time to dry it out in morning? Or is this something that one must just plan for....I.e. You let the bag air out as long as it takes before packing it away and starting your next day tour? Thanks very much.

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                • #9
                  are you not concerned about wetting out the down bag on inside by not wearing some sort of VB protection when in cold situations
                  well not for me..I tried a nylon/VB bag liner..horrible and clammy. You may want to dry out thin layers in your bag overnight too. A VBL sleeping bag liner will just get/keep everything wet in the nylon VB bag. Moisture problems (for me) were condensation on inside wall of tent.
                  Last edited by chamonix; 7 March 2014, 09:29 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by NOBS View Post
                    do you wear the knee-high nylon stocking inside the ski sock or on outside?
                    You didn't read my link, didja?

                    ain't no turn like tele!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by NOBS View Post
                      Or is this something that one must just plan for....I.e. You let the bag air out as long as it takes before packing it away and starting your next day tour? Thanks very much.
                      Even just 5-10 minutes makes a huge difference. After that, law of diminishing returns.
                      Soccer is a game of feet. Hockey is a game of inches.

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                      • #12
                        Did a lot of winter camping as a younger man. One of the most annoying things was in the morning putting on X-C boots that were frozen blocks of ice. While the boot exterior was sealed from water penetration with Sno Seal the interior would get soaked from perspiration and stayed wet for the duration of the trip. My first VBLs were plastic bags and other than the print staining my socks they worked great, eventually bought a pair of coated nylon VBLs. In addition to keeping your boots dry they also keep your insulating socks dry, limiting the need to carry extras. Overall it was a system that worked well.

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                        • #13
                          NOBS--here are some VB thought errata, some inspired from your raising this back yonder. First I'll dispense with the type response to a particular Q I like least, the "get your head straight," ones. Try approaches; you might like some; won't know until you do. IME any gear combo you take becomes a *system* and you just have to adapt your system. E.g. condensation a problem?--exit tent if possible to dress. Now the errata...

                          Listen first to approaches of people who use and like VBs like Big Steve; that's the good info. No real info in, "I don't like it, don't do it."

                          I've used a VB liner and a VB suit. Preferred the suit because you can wear insulation over it in the bag, but removing in morning is bracing. Never VBd my feet.

                          I've heard it said an incomplete barrier is no barrier, but I don't believe it. Seems logical any increase in skin humidity decreases insensible perspiration and it's release.

                          Who knows how much of the condensation on your tent came from mouth exhale versus skin exhale? (to me a perpetual mystery,...like how much of that "75% of your heat loss is from your head" is via breathing). Don't breathe into your bag. If you're a side-sleeper and are in full-mummy, you'll need a bag or system good enough to avoid cold spots. Cold and dire enough, there are polar breath energy recapture masks, I hear tell.

                          Ventilation is everything. It's possible I ventilate needlessly when sleeping in a VB, but feel no urge to test that, even if I could.

                          Don't use the VB in my Sierra spring trips, but that system does permit my perfect morning: stuff the sleeping bag as a I get out of it, pack it, and go.
                          nee, Whiteout

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                          • #14
                            Charley another thing to remember is that a lot of the old anecdotal advice like always wear a hat because more heat is lost from your head has been debunked. Just recently I saw a mainstream network TV show where they had a volunteer wear a swimsuit out on the street in NYC in January and shot some footage with an infrared camera to show heat loss proving that your head does not shed more heat.

                            I think the OP will find that the data is limited on extreme temps because as equipment has improved and costs less we are very well outfitted for even the "extreme" ends of what most people find desirable conditions. Outside of elite climbers most folks aren't spending repeated nights out in sub zero temps.

                            My coldest weather bag does have a GoreTex covering over the top 2/3rds and I do find that helps a lot with the accumulated moisture. Perhaps a bivy bag or other cover might be ideal for a conventional bag.

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                            • #15
                              I should back up to stress that I am a huge believer in first take care of head. Head/face, hands, and feet are your body's radiators. Thermoregulation shuts them down easily, but they are the prime locations to lose (and gain) heat. No reason to have less insulation on your head than your chest at night. My only real point of noting the mystery of heat loss via breathing, is I've just never seen #s. Possibly Nantick winter research labs has them. Giving it a moment's thought..., being able to measure body weight to the gram and capture all exhalation via mask (seem pretty easy), would be easy to measure total weight loss and subtract exhaled moisture weight.

                              I'm going to have to differ with you on the gortex, Matt. Or, go on alert. I have a goretex Marmot Snowgoose bag, and fully experience it's bad reputation for trapping moisture. I only use it for truck camping now and it never fails to disappoint in loft loss over say three nights. This is another tricky area, because it is all about dewpoint and how to get it outside your bag. Humidity is crucial. I sometimes use a breathable/DWR pertex oversack when sleeping in snowcaves and can be apalled by the condensation between it and my outer bag in the morning (here's a time when VB helps a lot even though it's not very cold). But then I pull it off, shake it inside out, and look at all the moisture sitting on top of my bag--not in it--evaporating, and feel good. Not saying there aren't better generations gortex, or Event, for sleepingbag covers, just stating my belief that ANY moisture blocker works both ways to some degree.
                              Last edited by Charley White; 8 March 2014, 02:11 PM.
                              nee, Whiteout

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