"I got ice in my boots!"

3:33 p.m. on February 2, 2013 (EST)
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Hey y'all,

During my winter hiking this year I have encountered an interesting problem with ice in my boots. This year I have encountered ridiculously cold feet early in the morning on my trips, so cold I was considering getting tested for diabetes or poor circulation, and I have never had this sort of problem before. I finally checked my boots one morning and noticed that the toe box was literally encased with ice inside the boot. I tested it again the next morning and sure enough, ice again.  I guess I never noticed it because Ill do the classic "dress in your bag" maneuver  where I warm up my clothes and dress in my sleeping bag. Outside of just knocking my boots for any critters that may have got in over night I just take my warm and cozy feet in my recently warmed up socks and slide em in the boots.

I do have sweaty feet issues and have to dry my socks almost every night I camp. I am starting to wonder if its my sock system. During winter I usually use a merino sock liner (Smartwool Liners ) and depending on how cold a Md Hiker merino, merino trekking sock  or merino mountaineering sock. Now I should mention that when I noticed this problem I was testing out new socks. Instead of going with smartwool like I have for years I bought my merino socks from Fits (I do love them and think they are much more comfortable than smartwool) but they do have a different blend in the fibers. Im wondering if that may have something to do with it.

What I really think the solution is, is to just go with thinner socks and lass insulation  that would cause my foot to sweat.

any feedback is appreciated. 


8:53 a.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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I swear my feet sweat more in winter than they do in summer. One of nature's little jokes? My feet can be very very cold to the touch and still sweating. So I really don't think you want to go with less insulation, because at least in my experience, the feet aren't sweating because they're too hot. It's just their way. And risking frostbite is definitely not what you want.

I'd suggest a VBL, vapour barrier liner, which is a fancy way of saying 'plastic bags'. If you put one over your liner sock, no sweat will get out to soak your insulation sock, or the inside of your boot. The gear sites will be happy to sell you a high-tech VBL, but a good ol bread bag works like a charm.

9:07 a.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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What kind of boots, just leather or membraned? I am always surprised to find the area underneath the insole is wet, even a few days after wearing, so I imagine the inside toe would be a real problem. I know some people heat their boots up in the morning but I don't have much sound experience with that.

If it is your 'sock system', the keep trying different socks and you will know for sure. There are lots to choose from amongst the better brands, mostly US-made as well.

Try ginkgo biloba for circulation (though it's not for everyone).

9:17 a.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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Interesting problem.

My first question would be what kind of boots/shoes are you wearing?

Your socks wont make a major difference, so they are really a non issue for this particular scenario.

I assume your boots are some type of waterproof i.e. non breathable boot such as goretex, heavily waxed leather, or something like that. And so the moisture trapped in your boot is just freezing.

There are a few ways to combat this.

1) Ensure you are not letting in any external moisture such as snow and ice getting trapped inside the boot. Wear gaiters if you need to.

2) Remove your insolves and put them in your bag with you to dry overnight as well

3) Place something absorbant in the toe of your boots immediately after you take them off, such as a small piece of pack towel/sham wow/ even paper towels etc would work.

4) Place a hand warmer in the toe of your boot

5) put a nalgene etc of boiling water in your boot . Both 4 and 5 will allow the boot to dry fairly well. 5 works better than 4 IMO.

And lastly I am a +1 on the bread bags. I personally HATE the feeling of vapor barriers, and only use them as a last resort when its REALLY cold. As stated bread bags work, what i use though is from my local Price Chopper grocery store. The bags that they have you put produce or meat in, some of them are thicker and work great and are very durable. For whatever reason the thick bags at this store are near the meat and the onions. Other stores bags are very thin and rip easily, these are much thicker and work GREAT.


3:49 p.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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My feet sweat like crazy and I also struggle with low-circulation.  Needless to say, my toes are always freezing.  I spray my feet with unscented aerosol  antiperspirant before outings and it really helps control the moisture.  I have had zero problems with irritation/blistering because of it.  I use Arid Dry XX.  I understand the reluctance of people to use aluminum based anti-persperants for health reasons but that is a personal decision. (Bear in mind that the "natural" crystal anti-persperants use either potassium aluminum sulfate or ammonium aluminum sulfate, both of which are aluminum sulfates and not proven to be any safer than the Aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex found in most brands.  Most people don't know this because the products usually don't list ingredients).

If the moisture freezing in your boots in there because of perspiration then this could help immensely.  TheRambler also shared some great ideas for removing moisture that is already there.

It doesn't hurt to leak-test your boots periodically either.

5:59 p.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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HalcyonDays has a good idea, I do this sometimes in winter or when fishing, because of the waterproof boots. Powder helps too. Summer means mesh shoes or less, so no such trouble.

I don't know about breadbags from stores, are they strong? We buy tough clear plastic bags in bulk, a plain white box of 100 for a few dollars, for freezing fish and homemade bread and whatnot. I have a small foot, the 8 gallon is just right. Works well in this cold wet climate.

Back in the summer I posted a suggestion about using panty liners as insoles -- the Always brand in particular is a miracle of material engineering. Once on a long walk, long ago, I thought: "Be great if I had an insole just to soak up the damp, some sort of thin, soft, flexible, absorbent...wait a minute." I only found out a little while ago that some soldiers do this too!

11:56 a.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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For decades my standard winter boot was the white Acton Mukluk made in Quebec for the Canadian Military. These had a thick wool duffle cloth liner along with a mesh insole in the vary bottom of the boot. The mesh insoles could be removed and shaken out to remove any frost which had gathered in them. They seemed to work great over level terrain.

I tried a thinner mesh insole in my leather hiking boots with possitive results.

For any overnight trips in the winter I would not consider any boot without a removable liner, regardless of the extra weight. But, I guess it would depend on where you plan on going.


12:19 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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fine line between going light on foot insulation to avoid sweating, but leaving your foot vulnerable to just getting too cold.

are your boots heavily insulated with primaloft or something similar? that could account for overheating, if the boots are too warm for conditions.  a gtx-lined boot could be inhibiting moisture from exiting.  i use plastic mountaineering boots and usually find some rime between the boot liners (which i bring into the sleeping bag and night) and the shell; i just wipe the white buildup out with my mitts.  if that's the case, boots that aren't as heavily insulated or lighter-weight socks might help. 

someone above mentioned vapor barrier liners.  the point being that whatever moisture your feet generate stays inside the barrier and does not get into your socks and boots - it just stays next to your foot.  perversely, though, your skin supposedly adapts to the fact that perspiration isn't escaping by sweating less.  i'm not sure how true that is, but i think it is semi-accurate.  it is a concept that works best in really cold weather in my experience.  it also takes some getting used to because your feet feel pretty wet/clammy at first, and the socks can wrinkle and cause blisters.  i have used them from time to time and find they work best if i use a thin merino liner sock underneath.  while plastic bags (eg bread bags) are fine, they don't last and can rip very easily while you're using them.  VBL socks are not expensive; Stephenson's makes them and charges 8 bucks a pair - i have a pair, they have lasted a number of years.  when i picked mine up years ago, the seams weren't sealed - did that myself with some seam grip or silnet.  not sure what they do now. 




7:55 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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stick with the sock system that keeps your feet warm, and just throw a plastic shopping bag over them before you put your foot into your inner boot. This keeps the moisture from getting into the boot liner so ice can not form. The sweat will stay in liquid form inside the bag and in your socks because the liner is keeping your foot warm.

At night in the sleeping bag, change into dry socks and use a cloth compression bag of some kind for any wet clothes, and sleep with it. In the morning, the wet clothes should have dried from your body heat. The cloth bag allows the moisture to escape as your body heat warms it up.

8:19 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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iClimb said:

..At night in the sleeping bag, change into dry socks and use a cloth compression bag of some kind for any wet clothes, and sleep with it. In the morning, the wet clothes should have dried from your body heat. The cloth bag allows the moisture to escape as your body heat warms it up.

I am not a big fan of sleeping with wet clothing to dry it out in my sleeping bag:  that is a sure fire way to de-loft down and turn synthetic fill into blocks of ice on extended trips.   I prefer to wear the damp items in the tent and dry them out before bed time.


10:29 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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Do your boots have a Goretex liner?

10:57 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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No, this time there was no gore-tex in my boots. I was testing a new pair of Ecco brand boots in their YAK series (they were bestowed on me by a sales rep) but they do not have a water proof liner. Ive been using them as my mid hikers.

Thanks for all the feedback guys lots of good advice. I have often thought of using some of that "no sweat spray" stuff for runners in their shoes. A similar approach to using the anti antiperspirant. I have also considered, along the lines of the bread bag, using some of my aqua socks I use for kayaking over a liner sock.


2:11 p.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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Do you have a specific boot model etc we can look up to maybe better understand your circumstances?

4:02 p.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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these be them, im overdue a good review on them for Ecco considering they just gave them to me to test a few months ago and a couple of hikes in. Ill post the review of them on here too when I finish it.


8:48 p.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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623 forum posts

whomeworry - that has never happened to me interestingly. To specify tho, I never do that with clothes that are literally drenched. If they are drenched, they go into a trash bag and freeze into a nice little bundle until the trip is over. That has only happened to me once during a trip where it was a complete soaking rain and temps over night dropped to 20 degrees. 

Luckily I knew the rain was coming and I packed accordingly with a completely new set of clothing.

In most normal situations where I am hiking in the winter and need to dry clothes out in my sleeping bag, the "drying" is merely a little bit of sweat and the socks or base layer might just be slightly damp. Even that is a stretch because I typically work so hard to maintain a temperature that won't get me all sweaty with the on/off clothes shuffle that is winter hiking.

10:17 p.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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PLEASE use  VBL socks when winter backpacking!

I prefer a light neoprene diver's sock which I have seam sealed sell. Light Polypro liner socks are worn beneath, with a few spare pairs carried. The closed cell neoprene foam provides excellent insulation.

>Peel off the VBLs at night & turn 'em inside out to dry and stow the wet polypro sox in a dirty clothes bag. They will reek!

>Put on new polypro liner sox & heavy sleeping sox. Aaaaaahhh...

Take yoru feltpack liners out of yrou boots and put them in the bottom of your bag or on your feet.

>Wake in the morning to nice, warm boot liners.

>Hike all day with dry liners

** This does require that you have removable insulating boot liners. A light but warm way to go is buy a good quality pair of feltpac liners and put them inside a pair of NEOS overboots, the height of your choosing. Then cut out a pair of closed cell foam NEOS inner liner soles to go beneath the felt liners. This keeps cold from the ground from penetrating your soles.

Finally buy a good, supportive insole to go inside the felt liners.

VOILA! You have very warm and light boots that will take you down to at least -20 F.

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