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Thread: All My Layers Are Soaked - Now What?

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    All My Layers Are Soaked - Now What?

    I didn't want to bog down the Bondcliff hiker fatality thread because it really doesn't directly relate to the incident but I was curious to get info from others on this. In many beginner questions, incident reviews, etc on this forum we always stress the importance of staying dry to avoid hypothermia. But what you should you be doing if you do get wet? Based on a lot of comments by experienced hikers in the Bondcliff thread even the best of us can get soaked in the right conditions. So at that critical junction where you and your gear are soaked, you know you are soaked but you haven't been impaired yet what should the plan be? Obviously most of us have been there and we didn't die or require rescue so what do you do?

    A lot of people reference carrying extra layers but I mean how much extra stuff do people carry? (Based on the typical pack size I see on the trails I suspect most people don't have any extras of anything) Do you hike with 3 extra fleeces on wet days? What about shoes - never heard anyone say they carry back up boots (nor would I want to)? Socks? Are people really carrying three sets of gloves? Do you really carry 5 ways to make fire? What if you fell in a river or wet snow spruce trap and everything, including the back ups, got soaked? I know what I carry and get regularly ridiculed for my heavy pack weight and I'm not packing 2nd's and 3rd's of a lot of this stuff. I suspect if everyone was truly carrying what they say they carry or recommend people carry I'd be seeing much bigger packs out on the trail. Compression sacks only go so far with a lot of stuff.

    Thought it would be interesting to see what people here do when the best laid plans fail and we find our ourselves wet in poor weather with no dry gear.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    "fell in a river" is a really bad scenario - the risk is that your stuff (including the clothing you're wearing) will freeze into a solid block of ice and become unusable (e.g. you won't be able to bend your knees, never mind opening your sleeping bag).

    This scenario assumes dry packs and the opportunity to work in teams:
    http://www.sitkagear.com/experience/...ewarming-drill

    If I'm expecting wet weather I'll keep some extra insulation layers, and sometimes a sleeping bag, inside water-resistant bags in my pack, but usually not in winter, and my packing methods usually wouldn't stand up to a plunge into deep water anyway. I'd do my best to approximate the link above: wring out and put on my synthetics, cover with windproof layers, then either erect/build a shelter (while making hot liquid food with my stove) or sprint for civilization if I'm close.

    I always carry at least two means of starting a fire, in separate zip-loc bags. Building a fire takes too much time and difficulty to be your main re-warming plan, but lighting a stove is quick and hot drinks are a very effective way to deliver badly-needed calories (in both senses) quickly. For use with my stove, I carry jello powder: quick-dissolving, tasty, and high in sugar (with some protein too).
    Last edited by nartreb; 01-27-2017 at 11:19 AM.

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    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Yes, another good reason not to hike alone in Winter. Others might be able to loan you gear.

    To answer your questions, I do carry extra hats, gloves, socks, fleece, warmers, and multiple ways to start a fire. And so does my wife. You should place your gear in waterproof containers, so even a fall into a river is not a total disaster.

    If I got really wet in Winter, I would abort the hike, and try to return to safety ASAP.
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    I do carry 5-6 pairs of gloves because my hands sweat so badly and freeze when I stop. It's usually my base layers that get soaked hiking up hill if I have too many layers on, so I spend a lot of time taking clothes on and off and this really helps. My main decision angst is usually how many heavy outer wears I want to carry.
    Last edited by GBKDalton; 01-27-2017 at 09:59 AM.

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    Senior Member jniehof's Avatar
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    Absolutely drenched turns into a run for safety, as Tom says. That can be either the car or build fire/set bivy.

    Damp and getting wetter is a case for stopping what's wetting and letting body heat do the drying. (I prefer extra layers rather than replacement layers, as much as possible, i.e. leave the wet clothes on.) That involves taking on food and water first. If sweating from exertion, slowing down a bit and maybe adding dry layers as necessary to maintain comfort--you want to get back into a warm but not dripping state. If rain, snow from trees, etc. then it's shell time, which might also require slowing down. Pushing through snow-laden branches always requires taking the moment to brush off as you go before it melts.

    In some cases where it's 30 and raining and the car's three miles away, burning for it and accepting that you're eating margin might be the best option. Just realize that the second you stop moving, heat retention has to go way up the list.

    As with so many wonderful backcountry things (fecal impaction...), the best situation is to recognize when things are starting to go south and taking corrective action early. There's a remarkable amount of space between damp, wet, and truly drenched; if you can't stay dry, at least try to keep it at damp, and so on. If you can wring water out of your clothes, wow it's a bad day, but at least wringing it out will improve matters.

    Incidentally, the caloric content of the heat in a hot beverage is miniscule compared to the energy value of the food; a cup of boiling water will yield about 14 calories. But warm is very appealing and you're more likely to consume it. When I ate meat I was a jello fan, too; unfortuately as far as I can tell all commercial jello-like vegetarian desserts are sugar free. Apple cider and cocoa are good options.

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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    I have never been drenched in cold weather. I imagine most scenarios where I would fall into deep water would be closer to the car and I would just scoot back. Perhaps if I fell through a pond (as opposed to a crossing) I might be a ways away. In that scenario I would put on my thick fleece pants, my spare thick socks, my extra top, my down, extra gloves and keep moving to help dry things out. Depending on the scenario I would either head back, or I would start gathering wood for a fire. Odds are I am not alone though and would have help. Again, the scenario is likely a freak thing that will have unique circumstances to account for (weather, distance, trail popularity (help from strangers), time of day, trail conditions, etc.).

    A lot of effort goes into avoiding this kind of scenario in the first place. I have aborted hikes that would have led to being wet and miserable knowing that at bet we'd not enjoy it as much as we prefer. I didn't hike last Saturday because of the weather. Pushing on regardless of conditions is something that has been discussed here many times, but it is important. Constantly assess your situation, and do as much research ahead of time so you know what to bring and what the risks are.
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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nartreb View Post
    "fell in a river" is a really bad scenario - the risk is that your stuff (including the clothing you're wearing) will freeze into a solid block of ice and become unusable (e.g. you won't be able to bend your knees, never mind opening your sleeping bag).

    This scenario assumes dry packs and the opportunity to work in teams:
    http://www.sitkagear.com/experience/...ewarming-drill

    If I'm expecting wet weather I'll keep some extra insulation layers, and sometimes a sleeping bag, inside water-resistant bags in my pack, but usually not in winter, and my packing methods usually wouldn't stand up to a plunge into deep water anyway. I'd do my best to approximate the link above: wring out and put on my synthetics, cover with windproof layers, then either erect/build a shelter (while making hot liquid food with my stove) or sprint for civilization if I'm close.

    I always carry at least two means of starting a fire, in separate zip-loc bags. Building a fire takes too much time and difficulty to be your main re-warming plan, but lighting a stove is quick and hot drinks are a very effective way to deliver badly-needed calories (in both senses) quickly. For use with my stove, I carry jello powder: quick-dissolving, tasty, and high in sugar (with some protein too).
    I've actually seen that video before here in an old post. Found it very interesting.

    Do you carry a stove on day hikes in the Winter? The reason I ask is that most of the suggestions for fire, hot liquids, etc tend to include things I wouldn't normally carry on a day hike, in particular some sort of stove. Trying to build a usable fire in Winter seems to be near impossible quickly with likely bad weather, scarcity of fuel (particularly dry fuel), etc. I used to carry fire starting materials and an Esbit stove and tablets when I first started Winter hiking but that did not last long. Prefer the extra weight of my Gore Tex bivy sack as a better use of space/weight or a few warming packs. Maybe I'll revisit the Esbit stove for the modest weight.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    One technique that hasn't been mentioned for the falling in scenario is rolling in the snow right after emerging from the water. Snow is a big sponge and can soak up a significant amount of water. Whether you do this or not, your outer clothing is likely to turn into a suit of armor.

    Several years ago, a solo winter hiker descending Valley Way (WMNF) got off trail and broke through the ice into a stream. (IIRC, only his legs got wet.) He got out, found the trail and continued downward, but realized that he was losing heat too fast, was not likely to make it all the way down and called for a rescue. (They met him and he survived.)

    Doug

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Rankin View Post
    Yes, another good reason not to hike alone in Winter. Others might be able to loan you gear.

    To answer your questions, I do carry extra hats, gloves, socks, fleece, warmers, and multiple ways to start a fire. And so does my wife. You should place your gear in waterproof containers, so even a fall into a river is not a total disaster.

    If I got really wet in Winter, I would abort the hike, and try to return to safety ASAP.
    I use dry sacks for a lot of my stuff, mostly the gloves, hats, etc. I did notice though that even in a dry sack on that wet Saturday my goggles had moisture on them when I took out of the dry bag on the lenses. Was surprised by that. Can't say for sure that they didn't get wet immediately upon removal from the bag (they were in the baggie they came with so I don't think so) or if they had moisture inside. The other stuff was dry, ????

    I will usually tweak the stuff I carry if I'm taking a route with known water crossings issues, like North Twin, Isolation, etc.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    One technique that hasn't been mentioned for the falling in scenario is rolling in the snow right after emerging from the water. Snow is a big sponge and can soak up a significant amount of water. Whether you do this or not, your outer clothing is likely to turn into a suit of armor.

    Several years ago, a solo winter hiker descending Valley Way (WMNF) got off trail and broke through the ice into a stream. (IIRC, only his legs got wet.) He got out, found the trail and continued downward, but realized that he was losing heat too fast, was not likely to make it all the way down and called for a rescue. (They met him and he survived.)

    Doug
    I recall you referencing the "snow roll" in an older post. This is the kind of thing I was thinking of when I posted. Little tips or tricks that might make a difference when in the situation.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Do you carry a stove on day hikes in the Winter?
    Usually, yes. It's light, and in winter I'm I'm usually wearing one of my larger packs so space (for the pot) is not a problem.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    A few months ago I read a book called Extreme Alpinism by Mark Twight and he had some interesting takes on layering (I am well aware of the irony of someone of my ability reading that book. ). In particular, he hates wool and fleece and advocated wearing a thin poly base layer and a Marmot DriClime windshirt as the "base layer" and layering over that with synthetic insulation garments, even over the hard shell. If it's warm, the windshirt and base are sufficient. If you need to remove a mid layer during a hike you're already wearing a weather proof layer to maintain the heat you built up, etc (versus being immediately chilled if you only had a thin base layer). I've been experimenting with this quite a bit this year and I like how it works. As most of you know I'm not in the greatest shape (so I sweat a lot regardless of speed when I'm exerting myself and in steeper terrain I don't maintain enough speed to keep my heat up with my frequent quick stops) and I get cold very easy so managing my layers has always been a challenge. I find this system works really well for me. I guess because of the temperature gradient in the layers and the barrier the wind shirt creates I find when I am really sweaty I do not get cold and when my effort level drops the poly base layer and inside of the windshirt gets surprisingly dry. When I am back at the car and peel whatever layers I had off the moisture/wetness is on the outside of the wind shirt and the mid layers so it doesn't freeze and it doesn't make me cold. This has allowed me to wear less layers and more breathable layers when I hike which has really helped out.

    Anybody use that type of alternate layering system as opposed to the base layer, mid layer(s), outer layer model? Rather than wear way too little layering to embrace the cold and avoid sweating this method acknowledges that not sweating is just about impossible for most humans and manages it's impact versus trying to avoid the inevitable.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    https://books.google.com/books?id=DH...othing&f=false

    I agree with some of the things he writes. Managing moisture is definitely an important skill for winter hikers to learn.

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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    On the vast majority of my winter trips, the only clothing items I carry a backup of are: 1 extra pair of socks (rarely used but don't take up much space); 1 extra set of gloves (rarely used, but critical if primary set is lost or blown away); 1 extra hat (critical if the first is lost or blown away). That's it. Most of my trips are backpacks, often several days' long, so I really can't afford the weight of extra stuff, or frozen and useless layers accumulating in my pack.

    This past weekend, based on the forecast, I broke with my standard protocol and packed one extra base layer (but nothing else extra). I thought I would need it when I first got into our camping area, while we were setting up tents and before dinner. This is a critical time, because you've exhausted a lot of your energy reserves, it's steadily getting colder out, and you're not moving as much as you had been. Very common to get cold. And last weekend I thought (correctly) that I'd be completely soaked. I put on a dry base layer for that period of time. Once I had dinner in me, I felt quite warm, so I wrung out my wet base layer and VERY reluctantly put it on, with several insulating layers over it. It warmed up pretty quickly and was dry before I even climbed into my sleeping bag.

    Full submersion situations are different. That's a survival situation. I take stream and pond crossings very, very seriously. If you go in the drink, you don't have any good options, just less-bad options. Worth keeping in mind. I avoid stream and pond crossings if at all possible.

    I read somewhere that rolling in the snow following submersion is a bad idea, because you'll freeze all your layers and yourself before you extract any meaningful amount of water out of your clothes. I think the idea stems from a trapper trick - when trapping beavers and other water mammals, the animals are often trapped partly submerged. When you pull them out of the water (dead), you can get a lot of the water out of the fur by rolling them rapidly in powder snow. But remember the animal is dead and doesn't care about getting colder, and that water is very excessible, basically on the surface of the fur, rather than trapped under a couple of fleeces and a shell.

    I don't carry specific fire-starting materials - it's unlikely a fire would ever improve my odds of survival. I've never taken extra boots. I really don't take extra anything. I've found my clothes (but NOT my puffy), even when completely saturated, can be dried in the field. But I DO consider wet clothes to be a first step in the continuum marching towards 'major problem,' and I take that situation seriously. I don't always pack a stove and pot for daytrips.

    I read Extreme Alpinism some years ago and concluded that my style of hiking is completely different from his - goals, abilities, willingness to suffer - and consequently found little in there of use. All of my sytems are different. But it sounds like you've hit on a nugget that works for you. That's great.
    Sure. Why not.

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