VBL clothing for winter

11:36 p.m. on August 25, 2018 (EDT)
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I find no reviews on Trailspace for vapor barrier (VBL) layer clothing.

For use primarily in winter sleeping fo keep my down bag dry day after day. 

This insidious nightly collecting of moisture in the insulation, whether synthetic or down, is a problem, not only for the gradual loss of warmth but the increase of weight.

I may have to make a silnylon VBL "suit" of pullover and pants for this winter's outings. 

Warmlite makes them for $120. a set. I know I can get a pajama pattern and make my own from silnylon tent cloth. Lots of seam sealing but I can do it.

Eric B.

2:47 a.m. on August 26, 2018 (EDT)
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I just typed in Silnylon simply by searching "Silnylon' and found the following;

I have found "silnylon" material at 1.1yd² on the follow websites! I have seen prices from $4.75 to $12.50 per/yd.

Do it your self supply

I found this on a Wal Mart advertisement!! Wal Mart sil nylon: $1.00/yard - Backpacking Light
I’m confused… did you buy this tarp at Walmart… or did you buy Silnylon at Walmart? $1/yard? That’s insane. You could make a classic TarpTent for like… under 30 bucks.

P.S. - I have sewn over a dozen projects to make going into the back country affordable. Many light weight and tightly woven fabrics can be difficult to sew because the needles have a more difficulty penetrating the fabrics.

5:03 a.m. on August 26, 2018 (EDT)
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I reviewed this a few years ago Eric Rothco ECWCS Polypropylene Balaclava Something like this might make a nice hat for your new suit. It keeps my hat from frosting over during sub zero nights. VBL stuff feels freaky but works. I only wear the hat though as I think a full suit would feel too freaky heh.

My cold sleep system uses two quilts, an inner down with an outer synthetic. The down gets compressed to push out moisture as soon as I get up. This is good for a few nights at least, but if I was going to be out longer I think I'd give the fully body suit a try. As a fellow cold weather camper I hope you'll share whatever solution you opt for.

12:56 a.m. on August 28, 2018 (EDT)
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I'm already scouting for the silnylon. It can be very lightweight but must have a decent hydrostatic head to keep my body weight from pushing sweat through it.

I've made a hooded winter white camo suit from a pajama pattern so something even simpler like a "union suit" of slinylon will be faster to make. No hood and no Velcro, just an 18" zipper and neck, ankle and cuff elastics. 

My LL Bean -20 sleeping bag has DownTech DWR treated down so it will absorb 30% less water than untreated down. Plus it is supposed to dry 65% faster than untreated down. Yeah, even with a VBL suit some perspiration will get into my bag but that DWR treatment will lessen its effects.  

My plan this winter is to have a 5 day base camp around 9,500 ft. in the Spring Mountains north of Las Vegas so I can explore the area thoroughly on Tele skis and climbing skins. Five nights in a sleeping bag will mean that without a VBL suit my bag would get colder and heavier as it absorbed perspiration, especially as it condensed near the outer shell. I may take a "winterized" double wall 2 person tent (Scarp 2) to test its winter storm worthiness. My double wall Moment DW solo tent has already proven its chops in winter. Can't wait!

Eric B.

6:34 a.m. on August 28, 2018 (EDT)
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That sounds like a fantastic trip plan...hope you post a report!

I dabbled with VBL in the 90s but never liked the feel of it. However, my winter trips are a lot milder than yours.

11:58 a.m. on August 28, 2018 (EDT)
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i reviewed Stephenson's vapor barrier socks years ago. i moved in that direction after not liking a pair of coated nylon vbl socks that gave me blisters - more related to the cut and size of the socks than the material, they were just too big and invariably had creases and wrinkles. I use them over a thin wool sock and under a thick wool sock in double plastic boots...in seriously cold weather. i think they work, primarily by keeping the thick sock and insulated boot liner free of perspiration. 

i have used a VBL liner inside a winter bag, again in seriously cold weather. it's an acquired taste. you have to get used to feeling a little damp, and you pretty much have to dedicate a light baselayer top and bottom to using inside the VBL liner. the brand i used was cheap; it looks like exped and western mountaineering still sell vbl bag liners.  if you anticipate spending more than a few day sleeping in subzero conditions, I think it's a good way to ensure the insulating properties of your bag don't get compromised.

haven't ever worn or slept in a vapor barrier shirt or pants, so can't comment on that. i would think it's more comfortable to use a bag liner and sleep in a light wicking base layer, though.  

longer trips in very cold weather, a phenomenon to be aware of is that the moisture you exhale as you sleep collects around the opening of the bag. over a period of time, that moisture can invade the insulation and impair its ability to loft, form a sort of 'ice collar' around the bag opening. in my mind, this is a significant reason for having a 4 season bag with a waterproof/breathable outer shell; the mountain hardwear bag I use, a -40 down bag, hasn't had a problem with that. rime collects on the outer shell, and i brush it off in the morning. (an outer waterproof breathable shell will also shed frost that falls from the roof of your tent, accidentally spilled tea.....it's helpful in the winter, particularly if you sleep inside a VBL liner.  

2:08 p.m. on August 29, 2018 (EDT)
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THE very best VBL socks I have found are US Divers 3 mm neoprene diver's sox. They are made for Left and Right foot and are factory seam sealed. (VBL stuff must be seam sealed.)

Closed cell 3 mm neoprene divers' sox are warmer than wool socks and keep your boots' insulation dry. They are FAR better than coated nylon VBL socks. And they last many years.

You need to wear thin polyester or polypropylene socks under them and change them every night. Turn the diver's sox inside-out to dry and 15 minutes later put them in the foot of your sleeping bag along with boot insulating liners (if your boots have them). This insures warm and dry feet in the morning. No more painful, freezing feet in the mornings! 

Eric B.

3:30 p.m. on September 4, 2018 (EDT)
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What about just sleeping in rain gear?  I've thought about VBL's but have not bought one.  My latest idea to try is simply sleeping in rain pants and gore tex jacket.  Anybody tried this?

8:20 a.m. on September 5, 2018 (EDT)
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3,518 forum posts

alan said:

What about just sleeping in rain gear?  I've thought about VBL's but have not bought one.  My latest idea to try is simply sleeping in rain pants and gore tex jacket.  Anybody tried this?

 Since your rain gear is breathable, it will not act as a vapor barrier.  In any case the openings of your apparel with vent moisture.


March 28, 2020
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