going from high output to standing still in the winter

7:41 a.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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if you hike or climb in the winter, you have had to deal with this.  typical scenario is that you spend the day going up and down something steep, working hard, wearing appropriate layers for that kind of activity.  during rest stops, lunch, or at the end of the day in camp, you're sitting still - not generating heat, getting cold, and literally steaming.  it might be zero degrees outside....or minus 20 or 30.  you put on your down parka, and all that steam invades your insulation and potentially compromises it.  

same scenario if someone is really chilled & climbs into their down bag to warm up, while still generating a lot of moisture.

how do you deal with this? during the day, out in the weather, i pull on the lightest insulating layer i think will keep me warm during the stop.  i can understand why climbers often favor a synthetic fill puffy jacket for these situations - the moisture won't compromise the insulation quite as much.  it's the primary reason i use synthetic fill pants rather than down fill, but i don't own a synthetic fill puffy jacket.

 at the end of the day, it's a timing issue for me.  i wait until i'm not quite so steamed up before putting the puffy insulating layer on, to avoid compromising the insulation so much.

curious how others address this.  i'm in eastern europe for three weeks this winter and probably doing some hiking or snowshoeing.  probably limited to day hikes, though, so the evening scenario will have to wait for a trip to the Northeast.....

8:37 a.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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I also wear the lightest layer possible while active in cold weather. That usually means hiking pants and either a very thin sleaved top, or a tshirt. 

I know the adage and wisdom is to never sweat, but that's easier said than done. For me, it's nearly impossible, as I have always perspired heavily, and I am a fair sight over optimal weight. 

When I stop, I let myself cool down considerably to just shy of chilled before putting on insulation. 

9:50 a.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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I bundle up while under exertion only to the point of almost being warm.  That reduces sweating substantially.  Also cut back on the level you push while under way, and taper back on the throttle as rest time approaches.  Once stopped I don't put on the warm stuff until I am pretty chilled; that reduces the amount of sweat produced when you eventually layer up.  And I avoid getting in my sleeping bag when still heated from exercise.


10:23 a.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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My rest stops are usually fairly short if I'm doing a day hike, and I put on the down sweater the second I stop. A minute or two after I start again, I warm right up. so I take the down off just before I leave.

On a longer stop outside, it's a matter of putting on the parka and other layers as soon as you start cooling down. However, I've never found that the sweat that's already on my body is enough to make the down clump up.

The only time I've had anything like that happen is when I'm wearing a pack over down and that's because the down is compressed against my back and can't ventilate properly.

11:30 a.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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This must be one of the most basic problems in dressing for winter hiking; how to stay cool and dry while working hard, and warm and dry when at rest. The key message here is keeping dry and unfortunately for me it is still a fundamental problem. Human physiology differs to some extent, but for me I tend to sweat alot no matter how cold it is or what I am wearing. Add to this the duration of my travels (several months) and the environment in which I travel (mostly north of the tree line) I have no way of drying out my gear.

Over the past 40 years or so I have tried many types of fabric, fiber and feather combinations and still haven't found the "perfect" layering system. All of the synthetic base layers I have tried seem to get clammy when wet but wool seldom does, so I often wear wool baselayers with nothing else but a thick wool sweater over top. I can't wear a waterproof/breathable jacket because it tends to trap the moisture next to my body and maximum breathability is essential for my survival. When I stop for breaks or to set up camp, I will pull off my sweater and let it freeze then immediately put on my down parka. In the morning I shake out the frost from my sweater and put it in again just before I don my pack.

I have even tried a VBL shirt to put on at breaks before the parka in order to protect the down from getting wet. I find this works well for me but I tend to put off a lot of heat while walking, even in extreme cold, and pulling on a slightly frozen wool sweater has never bothered me for long.

For a sleeping system, I always use a VBL. 

2:38 p.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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A useful thread.  This is one of the great challenges of winter travel.  On overnights the situation is compounded by the accumulation of sweat and moisture from breathing at night.  A heat source becomes really important to dry the outfit and restore the insulation value of clothing and sleeping gear.

You can tell people that have lots of experience like Gonzan when they instinctively reach for the down jacket at every rest stop.

4:34 p.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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Hey, ppine - that was me with the down sweater! But I think that most of us who are active here have enough experience to keep an eye on our body temperatures.

I make a point of reminding people when they stop to layer up BEFORE they get cold. There are always a few who are eager to get going so they can warm up, because they dressed for high levels of activity and forgot to bring an extra layer.

7:35 p.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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A lot of people have a tendency to dress warm while they are waiting to start hiking. Then they have to stop in a quarter to half hour to strip layers off. It's better to start the hike on the cool side. You can do this by stripping down a couple minutes before the group sets off, sticking the warm layers in the pack. It also helps to do a little warmup while everyone else is standing around and/or repacking and adjusting their packs. You don't build up much sweat this way, plus if you pack right, the warm gear is still a bit warm when you make rest stops.

My main problem comes at the end of the day after the hiking, skiing, or climbing - as soon as I stop, my body temperature starts dropping (unless I set right to work tramping out the tent platform or digging the snow cave). After 10-15 minutes I start getting significantly cool, so I have to remember to put the layers on step at a time while cooling off. My heart rate drops from my measured 150-160 aerobic rate while hiking/climbing/skiing to 60 or less in about 5-10 minutes after stopping (morning wakeup rate is 45-60 at altitudes up to 7000 ft, with the usual increase with altitudes above that).

In my avatar (Antarctica, air temp about -10F at that point), I am wearing a midweight long-john top and bottom (you can see the white sleeves of the top), a Marmot "stretch suit", and a Marmot Alpinist 3 bib with the side zips open, but held in place by the velcro spots. On stopping I put on a Pata fleece jacket and a Marmot Alpinist 3 shell, unzipped most of the time at the rest stops. A cap or toque helps keep you warm without building as much of a sweat.

9:07 p.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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I settled on a four-part system in winter: a wool base, a breathable thick-pile fleece, a more weather-resistant synthetic (a Nanopuff), and an uninsulated goretex shell (from OR, with the right-to-the-hem pit zips). Coastal winter weather can go from -15C to +5 and back again in a day (through snow, ice, sleet and rain), even fine weather can be damp (cold humidity!), and it gets windy. Some combination of these layers always seems to work. On long trips I keep a shamwowish towel and spare baselayer handy (aside from the sleepwear) so I can dry off right away once stopped, if necessary. I'm anti-chill, me. Learned that lesson.

I have sometimes wondered whether those dry-feeling wicking baselayers are really a good idea in winter. I have worn capilene-type poly layers so good at their stated job that I had no idea how much I was sweating into my insulation until it was too late. Back in the day when I wore cotton tops, all unaware, at least I knew right away that I had to either ease up or layer down. Hooray for wool.

7:33 p.m. on December 16, 2012 (EST)
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I typically use more baselayers, each of a lighter weight, combined with a moderated pace.  If I really need to push it (due to lack of sunlight, inauspicious weather approaching, etc.), then I force myself to wait until cool once stopped before layering again.  Also I find that many times while hiking in the cold, my core is quite cool feeling while my back is absolutely steaming thanks to where my pack rests on it.  Doffing the back every so often even if you don't feel the need for a break is quite helpful.  Now I own a Deuter with the Aircontact system which really cuts down on the back sweat.

6:21 p.m. on December 17, 2012 (EST)
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I’m comforted to see that many folks with more winter experience than me still have the same issues.

On TV, you see all the shows where survivalist types are doing something in cold weather, then turn to the camera and say something like “ OK, I’m sweating too much , I need to go slower, etc…)

I’ve always wondered who can actually go backpacking (with more than a daypack), climb a mountain and not sweat.

Over the years I’ve tried going very slowly, taking small steps, and I still sweat. It just can’t be helped.

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