Vapor Barriers

10:45 p.m. on August 30, 2006 (EDT)
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I have two hobbies backpacking and deer hunting. I have always been plagued by damp cold feet when sitting out in the woods while hunting. I have tried all sorts of socks and boots to try and minimize the problem. A little bit ago I started to look deeper into VBL'S and see what information there was on them. I came across some good information about how they work on the net and in a few books but have any of you ever used them. I am wondering if there are any caveats when using them or if they are really worth using. In theory they sound like they would solve my cold feet problem when hunting but how do they work for backpacking? Any advice would be great!

11:37 a.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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VBL socks. sleeping bag liners, and clothing are very much a matter of individual taste and physiology. The theory, as you have probably learned through your reading, is that as you sweat/perspire, the vapor level builds up and your body reaches a balance point. Since the VBL is impermeable, heat flow is blocked as well.

In practice, you will only know whether it works for you if you try it under various circumstances. BUT...if you are having problems with damp cold feet sitting in your deer stand, I would suggest that the real answer for you is add another layer to your torso and be sure you are wearing a warm cap or balaclava. If your torso is warm, your body will send warm blood out to your extremities (hands, feet, ears). Also be sure your boots are not so tight that you are constricting the circulation. On one of my attempts on Denali, one of my partners lost all feeling in his feet at about 19,000 ft. We couldn't figure it out, since he had the super-insulating Everest 1 boots. Turned out he had put an extra pair of socks on that morning, which was cutting down the circulation to his feet. The boots should be insulated and you should have heavy insulating socks, but you also have to have a loose enough fit so the blood can circulate.

Maybe even your sitting position - you could be cutting circulation to your legs if you are sitting in a cramped position or there is pressure on your legs in the wrong place (look at a 1st aid manual to see where the pressure points are for controlling bleeding - these are the main paths for blood flow). Another alternative if these suggestions don't work is heated socks. You can get battery-powered socks (see the Cabela catalog) or the chemical hand and foot warmers. Skiers use them all the time.

As for VBL socks and sleeping bag liners, I use them in extreme cold conditions, and they do work for me. In the case of the socks, I wear a thin wicking liner sock, then the VBL (I use the Integral Designs ones, not having as much success with the Black Diamond and Patagonia ones), then the heavy insulating socks. I tend to have warm hands and feet, unlike a lot of people, so my feet sweat. This means that I need to use the VBL socks to keep the heavy socks and boot insulation dry (which keeps their insulating qualities), while the wicking socks send the sweat up out of the top of the boots.

With the sleeping bag liner, I wear wicking longies, which wicks the moisture up and out the neck and face area while the VBL keeps the moisture out of the bag's insulation.

Again, it really depends on your physiology and preferences. Some people find VBLs damp and clammy, while others swear by them. An inexpensive test is to use plastic bags with your boot/sock combination to see if they work for you, before you spend big bucks to get "official" VBL socks.

2:31 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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Yes I have adressed the issue of circulation and in fact I hardly tie my boots at all, just enough to close in the heat. I also do not have a problem with cold extremities any other time. The problem is that even after sitting for hours my socks are almost always damp and therfore cold. I have done a few tests with plastic bags and my wool socks and I have to say that VBL'S seem to work well for me. As far as applications to backpacking what temp range do VBL'S work best, in sleeping bag liners or socks? In my at home tests the clamminess doesn't seem to be an issue because the moisture inside the VBL is always warm. Which I guess goes along with the way they are supposed to work.

3:27 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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I just have one warning with the chemical foot warmers if you decide to try them. At least for me they heat up my feet enough to make them sweat so my socks get wet then when they stop working my feet get cold, because I am wearing wet socks. the foot warmers usually say they last 8 hours but in my experience they only last about 4, It sounds like the VBL will stop that from happening but I cant say from personal experience having never used a VBL.

3:37 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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Yeah that is why I have always stayed away from footwarmers. I use the hadwarmers any time I am out in winter weather and I just can't imagine that amount of heat in my boot. I guess VBL'S are just something you have to try. Everything I have found about them always says that you have to see it to believe it. I might just have to try it out then.

6:48 p.m. on August 31, 2006 (EDT)
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Generally, VBLs in socks and sleeping bags seem to work for those who have success with them below 15 or 20 deg F. I generally don't use them until 10F or lower. But again, it varies with each individual.

August 27, 2014
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