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Thread: Best Warm When Wet Base/Insulator?

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    Senior Member dave.m's Avatar
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    Best Warm When Wet Base/Insulator?

    Here is the hypothetical: It is raining steadily and is in the mid 30s, just above freezing. You are going to hike all day in the pouring rain and your base layers and insulating layers are going to get totally soaked (this is just reality). You have dry camp clothes and will wear them in camp because it is too cold to wear the wet clothes until they are dry. Your ability to effectively dry the wet trail clothes is limited to wringing them out, hanging them in your tent or bringing them into your sleeping bag. Specifically, building a big ol camp fire isn't an option. You know it will be raining and cold again tomorrow, so you will NOT wear your camp clothes on the 2nd day. Instead, you will be putting on your cold and wet trail clothes from the day before.

    Two questions....

    1) What base layer do you want to be using? Wool (e.g SmartWool), Old fashion polypro (e.g LIFA), Treated polyester (Patagonia Capilene, EMS Bergelene), Other?

    2) What insulating layer do you want to be using? Wool, Pile, Fleece, Synthetic Lofting (e.g. Primaloft), Insulating SoftShell (Scholler), Other?

    Ok, here's a trick 3rd question. Has anybody used Buffalo Systems Pertex and Pile clothing (from Britain) for these conditions?
    - Dave (a.k.a. pinnah)

    " Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." - John Lehman, US Secretary of the Navy 1981-1987

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    Senior Member dave.m's Avatar
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    Heh. Well, there 5 of us at Crag this weekend and at least a dozen more at Grey Knob that I counted.

    Actually, I think there is a worse scenario for hypothermia and that would be folks who choose to hike in their dry camp clothes the 2nd day despite the fact that it is still raining. In that case, you have no dry clothes to fall back on in the event you get pinned down by, say, high water. See:
    http://home.comcast.net/~pinnah/trip...s/sabbaday.txt

    And my question is serious. I chose to state it in the worst of possible situations to high light the gravity of the choices but these situations can come up unexpectedly and the utility of the clothing is important regardless. And its the best clothing choices I'm going after, not the go/no-go decision at the trail head.

    To get the ball rolling, I'm pretty much concluding that its best to avoid clothing that has layers of nylon taffeta built into them. Examples would include such things as the Marmot Dri-Clime Windshirt or Primaloft vests or sweaters. My experience is that the nylon really holds water and dries more slowly. I also think that pile is better than fleece and polypro is better than polyester but I'm really wanting to hear from others who hike in the rain.
    - Dave (a.k.a. pinnah)

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    Senior Member sli74's Avatar
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    Is it possible to carry a 3rd set of dry clothes?

    sli74
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    That's easy to answer. Icebreaker 260 crewe long-sleeve top, wool sweater, Puffball vest, Precip anorak. On the bottom, Smartwool midweight baselayer, 200 weight fleece pants, Precip bottoms. A 2nd set is not necessary as the first set will dry faster if I just wear them.

    I agree that taffeta is a bad choice. One of my worst experiences was climbing Central Gully with a taffeta-lined Supplex shell over a down vest. The taffeta got soaked and didn't allow moisture to pass through the shell, then the down got soaked and wouldn't dry. Since then, I've cut the lining out of the shell.

    Icebreaker baselayers
    Last edited by jfb; 10-18-2005 at 04:16 PM.

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    Senior Member lumberzac's Avatar
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    I’ve actually been hiking in those situations on Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago. Friday it rain almost all day until about 6pm when the rain turned to snow. The next morning everything that was wet from Friday’s rain was frozen solid. We ended up bailing and hiked out mostly in our camp cloths because it was impossible to put them back on in their frozen state.

    I actually was able to put my base layer (Duofold Thermax® 55% polyester, 45% Merino wool) back on that morning which was the only garment that I had wore the day before that was pliable enough to put on.

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    Senior Member Doc McPeak's Avatar
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    Since you know the weather for the second day, you should also know the need to bring a full set of extra gear for that day.

    However, in the event you are trapped in a storm system that isn't leaving and you were not prudent in your planning... As with Kevin I don't think I can recommend any lifesaving miracle fiber, however I can pass along this little tidbit I picked up somewhere along the trail...

    It has been explained to me that it "may" be possible to dry your clothes by wearing them over a pair of dry layers (poly, then fleece, then the wrung out stuff) with a layer of gore-tex over this set-up. I think to keep somewhat active is also part of this equation, so a lean-to or cabin might work better if it will be raining in the evening. Body heat dries the wet layer, while the gore-tex helps seal in the heat while letting the moisture escape. If rain water isn't on the gore-tex, the fabric will spread the escaping moisture better and should get rid of some/most/or maybe all of the under garments wetness. I haven't field tested this method, only heard testimonials...

    I always find my gore-tex works better to bring me back to dry after a rain, then keep me dry during a rain.

    As has been enumerated to me by many skilled and seasoned woodsman over the years: The number one item you need to survive with? A brain. And the ability to use it properly. Preparation is 9/10ths of the battle...
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    Senior Member el-bagr's Avatar
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    My preferences (which do not always prevent getting cold enough to weaken the immune system):

    Base layer: capilene-style polypro. Once wrung out, it doesn't hold much free water so it won't drip when you hang it from the tent roof. When you put it on again the next morning, the icky feeling goes away relatively quickly (assuming proper breakfast and exertion) compared to thicker base layers.

    Insulation: wool. Seems to hold less free water (as above), and leaves me warmer than fleeces. Could be the tight fit of a good sweater, could be the lack of zippers and doodads, but nothing wet beats a wet wool sweater.

    Haven't tried the British Buffalo products. I understand buffalo (bison) robes would work well for these purposes though.

    edit to add: I've been spending a fair amount of time in the ocean this fall; we're down around 53 F according to the buoys, but reality is that the repeated rainfall runoff has routinely lowered surf temps into the mid-40s. With an old polypro base layer and 5mm of neoprene as insulation, you can actually feel both warm and dry despite being neither.
    Last edited by el-bagr; 10-18-2005 at 04:12 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dave.m
    Has anybody used Buffalo Systems Pertex and Pile clothing (from Britain) for these conditions?
    Have you located a domestic retailer for Buffalo ? Their gear looks like it deserves consideration.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    A lot of good ideas here. I also vote for wool as an insulating layer in these circumstances (although I try not to be out in "hypothermia weather", as we call it). Wool seems to hold a little less water than pile, and the fibers seem to be mechanically springier when wet, allowing the wool to retain its loft.

    Using Goretex or equivalent as a drying mechanism also works. The drying effect of gore tex is determined by the temperature differential across the membrane. If it's cold outside, and nice and warm inside, (and the goretex is not wetted), water is pumped rapidly out. Maintaining the DWR (Durable Water Repellancy) of the outside of your goretex garments is important for that reason.

    The most agressive goretex drying I observe each winter is when I'm using chemical hot packs in goretex gloves (usually when ice climbing). This creates a large temperature differential. This works great for staying warm, but my hands are actually overdried using this set up, and my skin cracks and bleeds at the end of a weekend.

    TCD

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    Wet base/insulator

    Quote Originally Posted by dave.m

    Two questions....

    1) What base layer do you want to be using? Wool (e.g SmartWool), Old fashion polypro (e.g LIFA), Treated polyester (Patagonia Capilene, EMS Bergelene), Other?

    2) What insulating layer do you want to be using? Wool, Pile, Fleece, Synthetic Lofting (e.g. Primaloft), Insulating SoftShell (Scholler), Other?
    Base layer-- light weight cheap polypro knit underwear.
    Insulating layer--legs--winter weight polypro biker tights; upper--knit polypro bike jersey, winter weight. Feet-- neoprene socks + polypro liners Head--polypro stretch balaclava
    Optional layer--under the stretch layers-- lightest weight pertex wind shirt and pants (homemade)-- all items together retain about 6 oz water by weight.

    I always carry a silnylon hooded rainsuit (not breathable). This can be worn as a hypothermia garment. If you wear it under the stretch layers as a VB suit inside a Polarguard (synthetic) sleeping bag, most of the moisture will clear from your insulating layers overnight, assuming you have found a dry place to sleep. Insulated pants (Primaloft+Pertex homemade) and a 9.5 oz fleece shirt are reserved for rewarming emergencies.
    Walt

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    Senior Member dave.m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb
    That's easy to answer. Icebreaker 260 crewe long-sleeve top, wool sweater, Puffball vest, Precip anorak. On the bottom, Smartwool midweight baselayer, 200 weight fleece pants, Precip bottoms. A 2nd set is not necessary as the first set will dry faster if I just wear them.

    I agree that taffeta is a bad choice.
    Sounds like you are sold on (merino) wool underlayers. Have you tried them against LIFA style polypro or the new (to me, shows how long since I've looked into such things) LIFA polypro/wool dual layer? Any idea where to find the Icebreaker stuff here in NewEngland?

    Regarding the puffball vest, I had mine with me this weekend on Adams. On the second day, my GoreTex was totally wetted out (totally expected, I'm not suprised or complaining) and was pretty heavy. It seems to me that this weight was compressing the PuffBall quite a bit. Also, the taffeta inner and outer on the Puffbal was totally wetted throught (again, expected but now I'm complaining). Ditto on my EMS Dri-Clime type windshirt with the taffeta outer. That was wetted through too. Both pieces seemed to hold moisture and seemed to created non-breathable micro climates under the Gtx. I'm wondering if I shoulda had a fleece or wool vest instead.

    Speaking of wool, I was blown away at how good my Johnson Woolen Mills "Jones" hunting hat worked.
    http://tinyurl.com/8s74z

    In 2 days of constant rain that thing stayed warm and shed rain away from my face. I only had to use my jacket hood in exposed windy sections (near Quay, for ex) and during the heaviest and coldest of downpours. Actually, it is the performance of this wool hat combined with how wet my polyester layers (EMS and Capilene) were that has me thinking about wool base and insulating layers.

    Can you expand on why you like wool underlayers but not wool pants?
    - Dave (a.k.a. pinnah)

    " Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." - John Lehman, US Secretary of the Navy 1981-1987

  12. #12
    Senior Member dave.m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chip
    Have you located a domestic retailer for Buffalo ? Their gear looks like it deserves consideration.
    No, I haven't. There is an excellent write up about the stuff in one of Chris Townsend's excellent backpacking books (the big one). That's where I first heard about it.
    - Dave (a.k.a. pinnah)

    " Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." - John Lehman, US Secretary of the Navy 1981-1987

  13. #13
    Senior Member dave.m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by el-bagr
    Base layer: capilene-style polypro. Once wrung out, it doesn't hold much free water so it won't drip when you hang it from the tent roof. When you put it on again the next morning, the icky feeling goes away relatively quickly (assuming proper breakfast and exertion) compared to thicker base layers.

    Insulation: wool. Seems to hold less free water (as above), and leaves me warmer than fleeces. Could be the tight fit of a good sweater, could be the lack of zippers and doodads, but nothing wet beats a wet wool sweater.
    Just to clarify.... Patagonia's Capilene is treated polyester, as is EMS's Bergelene. LIFA, on the other hand, is one of the few makers of polypropylene, which is known to be stinkier, scratchier and more shrink prone than polyester. Also might stay drier. Which do you prefer?

    Regarding wool insulating layers, do you prefer knit wool sweaters or woven wool jackets (e.g. buffalo plaid shirtjacs)? And what about insulation on the legs? Synth or Wool?

    BTW, hope you shake this cold quickly. Did you go to Washington with JS?
    - Dave (a.k.a. pinnah)

    " Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." - John Lehman, US Secretary of the Navy 1981-1987

  14. #14
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    I have used (over time) and still have: cotton fishnet, merino wool (Stil-Long), wool fishnet, polypropaline, and wicking polyester. (All thin bottom layers, purchased in that order--1974 to present.) For body insulation, I have used wool sweaters/shirts, Scottish pile, and fleece.

    For whitewater boating, I used the merino wool under a wet suit. Probably the best in soaking conditions. Whitewater boaters who didn't have a wetsuit used to use wool and raingear. Probably also pretty good in soaking hiking conditions.

    For hiking, I'd start with wool fishnet. Even when you are soaked, this would keep some of the wet insuation off your skin. (I still do this on my legs on occasion.) Next I think that I would go with the merino wool. My guess is that wool sweaters and shirts would be better than fleece if soaked. (I have worn a wool cap or a fleece cap in the rain and wet snow--wool wins hands down. The outer surface of the wool can be wet and the inner surface can be dry and warm. Fleece soaks through... My spare cap is still frequently wool.) And I would top it off with a GTX or equivalent shell. (No wind barriers between the shell and my skin--they just prevent things from drying.)

    I used to ice climb using only Dachstein (heavy pre-shrunk boiled wool) mittens on my hands. Sometimes water would flow down the ice and through my mittens. Ten-fifteen minutes later my hands were warm and dry and there would be ice lumps on the outer wool fuzz. A while later, that would be gone too.

    These days, I frequently wear wind-blocking fleece gloves when hiking. They can get wet (particularly if skiing and crashing) if temps are close to freezing. My hands get chilled, occasionally cold. The fleece dries out slowly. Only rarely do I actually have to get out my spares.

    A number of years ago (ca 1980), I did a hike on the southern Prezzies on a windy and rainy day with temps close to freezing. I know I wore wool outer pants (still do...)--my inner layer was probably wool fishnet. (Not sure what I used for chest insulation--would have wool or a Scottish pile. Fleece didn't exist yet.) My legs were soaked (didn't use rain pants), and IIRC everything else was damp too. I won't claim I was toasty warm, but I was ok.

    IIRC, old time NE loggers used to just wear wool all winter (don't know about an outer wind layer) and just walk through streams. Probably didn't get any days off because of rain or warm snow, either.

    Fleece, polyester, and polypro are lighter and as good as or better than wool if they can be kept fairly dry. But they can get soaked. Wool just keeps going. Boaters used to just drip-dry (well, drip-damp anyhow) under their rain gear after a swim. (NE whitewater is frequently done during spring melt--hypothermia is a real issue.)

    BTW, the wool fiber is a hydrophobic sheath over a hydrophillic core. Has something to do with why wool is so slow to soak up water and then so slow to dry out.

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 10-18-2005 at 07:19 PM.

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    Senior Member spaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dave.m
    Actually, I think there is a worse scenario for hypothermia and that would be folks who choose to hike in their dry camp clothes the 2nd day despite the fact that it is still raining.
    I totally agree, I always try to have sacrificial layers but keep one set dry in the pack. I usually only go for the extras when I know I'll be able to get to the car. And in the car I always have something warm to change into.

    If the forecast looks bad I'll bring an extra set too.

    I totally hate the weather scenario you described. I'd much rather have minus 20C. I find the dampness at that temp range chills me to the bone.

    I like my Capilene much better than my synthetic base when wet. I seem to always find fleece cozy too, especially compared to my softshell which I just can't stand when wet.

    Warm dry fleece/wool toques/gloves always seem to keep me happy even when my other layers are wet too.


    -Shayne

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