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Topic: School me on VBLs, Never used one.< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 1:08 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm heading to Greenland this April, for the second time.  Earlier in the season and at higher elevations, temps will probably be colder than last time, and we're staying out longer (minimum 2 weeks).  If it's a cold Spring on the ice (you never know... the weather's been schizophrenic in recent years), we could see temps down to -30-45°F at night for long stretches.  I'll have one sleeping bag to rely upon, and I want to protect the insulation... keep it lofty and insulating the whole time.

A VBL seems like a prudent move.  I've never used one, so I have questions for those who have.

1) How do you manage the smell?  Two weeks without a shower on the ice, it seems like sleeping in the equivalent of a plastic baggie every night will have me (and the VBL) smelling like a moldy sock by the end.  How do you mitigate that?  On previous extended trips in warmer but wetter climates, I've used versions of miconazole powder in key locations.  What other options do I have?

2) What's are good brands?  I know almost nothing about who makes VBL liners--other than using the equivalent of a huge lawn sack--or how they rate.

3) What features should I know about?  The concept seems simple, but if there are things I should consider, lemme know.

Anything else? Thanks in advance for the help!

- Mike


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 1:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't have any advice as i've never used one either, but i have wondered if wearing tight knitted or woven moisture absorbent clothes like wool, rayon, or the like could also help with keeping a bag dryer and more lofty?  

 Don't know, but interested if anyone else knows.  I'm also curious about the VBL, but i just don't like the idea of sleeping in a plastic bag for the reasons you mentioned and the general clammy feeling it must produce.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 1:45 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Your Google-Fu is better than mine, but I thought I would steer you towards this article anyway.

http://andrewskurka.com/how-to....ication


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 2:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Pair this with a Wiggy's FTRSS sleeping bag system and you'll be good to go

http://www.campmor.com/vapor-b....eyword}


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 2:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Mike: PMed you.

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 2:37 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't know anything about VBL's. But for dealing with smell I have used baby wipes with great success. Take them out of the package to dry out prior to your trip. They will be lighter and not freeze. Then just rehydrate with a bit of water from your stove and use to clean up key areas. They come in non-scented too.
I'm sure there are lighter solutions, but it works for me.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 3:39 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(ol-zeke @ Nov. 15 2012, 11:45 am)
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Your Google-Fu is better than mine, but I thought I would steer you towards this article anyway.

http://andrewskurka.com/how-to....ication

Thanks, I hadn't seen that one.  That's helpful.

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 3:59 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I've purchased some VB socks and my father had one of their shells. Good company

I sleep in the socks in the winter since I get cold feet. Work very well.

I see they have a bag liner but no experience with is


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 7:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Andrew's article is a good one, but he focuses on the clothes as he wears them to hike and sleep in. The VBL's for sleeping bags work well but you need to wear only a thin baselayer (if anything) inside it as you will soak any clothes before your body shuts down it's sweat system.

I have one and I only take it when it is cold. What you are talking qualifies. ;-)


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 7:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Chuck D @ Nov. 15 2012, 2:01 pm)
QUOTE
Pair this with a Wiggy's FTRSS sleeping bag system and you'll be good to go

http://www.campmor.com/vapor-b....eyword}

You just mentioned he who is not spoken of here...

GBH-

I wonder - and I know this would be contentious - if it might be worth considering bringing a cotton bag liner to use within the VBL. It would help absorb the moisture, and if hung on your back in the sun all day, at least some of that moisture should sublimate off. Wool could be useful too, though it won't absorb the moisture as well.

Just a thought, and not sure how much moisture will be remvoed (will depend on the amount of sun). Where I grew up people would still hang laundry outside in the freezing winter and eventually moisture would come out. Or so they claimed...
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 7:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(SmokeyBear @ Nov. 15 2012, 5:10 pm)
QUOTE

(Chuck D @ Nov. 15 2012, 2:01 pm)
QUOTE
Pair this with a Wiggy's FTRSS sleeping bag system and you'll be good to go

http://www.campmor.com/vapor-b....eyword}

You just mentioned he who is not spoken of here...

GBH-

I wonder - and I know this would be contentious - if it might be worth considering bringing a cotton bag liner to use within the VBL. It would help absorb the moisture, and if hung on your back in the sun all day, at least some of that moisture should sublimate off. Wool could be useful too, though it won't absorb the moisture as well.

Just a thought, and not sure how much moisture will be remvoed (will depend on the amount of sun). Where I grew up people would still hang laundry outside in the freezing winter and eventually moisture would come out. Or so they claimed...

Well, "hanging on my back" wouldn't really work, as this isn't a ski trip or a backpacking trip.  I could hang it out though, perhaps stuck to a pole.  I'll be working in camp all day, and every few days our team will pack up and drive snowmobiles to a different location, setting up camp again.  Weight isn't really a concern, but warmth is.  Sunlight can be iffy... sometimes it's out for 22 hours at a stretch (well, probably only 18 hours that early in the season) and sometimes not at all when it's cloudy, which it often is.

However, I don't put much stock in the "soak up the moisture with an absorptive liner" thing.  We're not talking about just sweat... I try to layer well to avoid sweating in the first place (I'm not perfect at it, but I try).  Vapor releasing from the body passes through warm layers near the body and condenses in outer layers of the bag when it hits the dew point temperature, even if I'm layered perfectly and don't sweat a drop.  A cotton liner won't really fix the problem.

I was alerted to this fact on a cold winter snowshoe trip several years ago, when we had temps to about -25*F at night.  After three nights out, I could feel the ice inside my down bag (crunching just under the shell) as I packed it up.  Not much ice, mind you, but it was there.  We were leaving that day so it wasn't a big deal, but I was aware that on a longer trip, it could become a problem.

I need to think about water vapor in addition to sweat.  Hence, the VBL.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 7:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(rayestrella @ Nov. 15 2012, 5:09 pm)
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Andrew's article is a good one, but he focuses on the clothes as he wears them to hike and sleep in. The VBL's for sleeping bags work well but you need to wear only a thin baselayer (if anything) inside it as you will soak any clothes before your body shuts down it's sweat system.

I have one and I only take it when it is cold. What you are talking qualifies. ;-)

I'm considering either system... actually looking at the VBL clothing since a friend offered me a VBL shirt for free.  I like the idea of wearing it under my insulating clothes at night, so I can still wear a jacket to sleep and shed it (and a hat, and gloves, etc) if I'm feeling too warm, which is how usually I fine-tune my sleeping temp during the night.

Do you have any problems with smell, etc?  Don't need to get specific, but any general advice is appreciated.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 7:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sounds to me like you need to think about sleeping cold.  Minimizing your body's vapor production.

I'm a deep Souther, remember?


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 7:57 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah the shirt makes sense to use that way. You want it to be fairly form-fitting.

Smell? You probably know as well as I do that winter is the worst time of year for funk. That is one good thing about the VBL, it keeps your bag cleaner.

Mike, try to get a hold of D, or just send me his email if you would. I had it long ago (back when you lived over there) but can't find it now.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 8:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Mike, I started using VBL's in the 1970's... my current is a Chouinard from the mid 1980's... still going strong!

Odor isn't much of an issue IME. They're absolutely at their best in sub-zero temps and are, to me, critical with a down bag at negative digits and for trips over a week. Worst thing that happens with a down bag in night-after-night negative zero temps is your bag becomes filled with ice and the loft deteriorates.

I wouldn't go out without one in negative temps.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 8:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Just a thought, but what are the teams using in the Arctic and Antarctic? Another direction would be military issued gear in some of their fringe bases.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 10:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Nov. 15 2012, 7:42 pm)
QUOTE

(SmokeyBear @ Nov. 15 2012, 5:10 pm)
QUOTE

(Chuck D @ Nov. 15 2012, 2:01 pm)
QUOTE
Pair this with a Wiggy's FTRSS sleeping bag system and you'll be good to go

http://www.campmor.com/vapor-b....eyword}

You just mentioned he who is not spoken of here...

GBH-

I wonder - and I know this would be contentious - if it might be worth considering bringing a cotton bag liner to use within the VBL. It would help absorb the moisture, and if hung on your back in the sun all day, at least some of that moisture should sublimate off. Wool could be useful too, though it won't absorb the moisture as well.

Just a thought, and not sure how much moisture will be remvoed (will depend on the amount of sun). Where I grew up people would still hang laundry outside in the freezing winter and eventually moisture would come out. Or so they claimed...

Well, "hanging on my back" wouldn't really work, as this isn't a ski trip or a backpacking trip.  I could hang it out though, perhaps stuck to a pole.  I'll be working in camp all day, and every few days our team will pack up and drive snowmobiles to a different location, setting up camp again.  Weight isn't really a concern, but warmth is.  Sunlight can be iffy... sometimes it's out for 22 hours at a stretch (well, probably only 18 hours that early in the season) and sometimes not at all when it's cloudy, which it often is.

However, I don't put much stock in the "soak up the moisture with an absorptive liner" thing.  We're not talking about just sweat... I try to layer well to avoid sweating in the first place (I'm not perfect at it, but I try).  Vapor releasing from the body passes through warm layers near the body and condenses in outer layers of the bag when it hits the dew point temperature, even if I'm layered perfectly and don't sweat a drop.  A cotton liner won't really fix the problem.

I was alerted to this fact on a cold winter snowshoe trip several years ago, when we had temps to about -25*F at night.  After three nights out, I could feel the ice inside my down bag (crunching just under the shell) as I packed it up.  Not much ice, mind you, but it was there.  We were leaving that day so it wasn't a big deal, but I was aware that on a longer trip, it could become a problem.

I need to think about water vapor in addition to sweat.  Hence, the VBL.

I meant it more as a means of reducing the moisture in the VBL itself to prevent the aforementioned stank concerns, not as a means of controlling moisture passage to the bag or on top of the bag itself.

I haven't done any real cold weather camping - nothing below - 5C for more than a few days at a time, so the moisture issue hasn't played a big role for me there. But i know that getting the layering right is a problem for me, as I often start off very warm and become much cooler later in the night. Which means I either layer up right away and sweat, or stay more comfy but then wake up cold. I can only imagine how important it is at those colder temps.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 15 2012, 11:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Ah, gotcha SB. :)  I misunderstood your intent there.

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(BradMT @ Nov. 15 2012, 8:13 pm)
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Mike, I started using VBL's in the 1970's... my current is a Chouinard from the mid 1980's... still going strong!

Odor isn't much of an issue IME. They're absolutely at their best in sub-zero temps and are, to me, critical with a down bag at negative digits and for trips over a week. Worst thing that happens with a down bag in night-after-night negative zero temps is your bag becomes filled with ice and the loft deteriorates.

I wouldn't go out without one in negative temps.

Do you use the VPL clothes as well?   If so, how well does that work out?  I eventually want to visit Alaska, and the info i've been reading on VPL is pretty fascinating.

 I would use VPL for a bag, definitely, after what i've been reading, but i'm  not sure i would do the clothes or not.  My thinking is i could possibly devise a way to get around this by using layers of very warm, but mostly natural and thus much more breathable clothes.

 It seems that most who go into frigid conditions usually do the same thing, bring a warm jacket with a thin, super tight weaved synthetic shell filled with either down or synthetic fill.  I'm not surprised that this would tend to build up frost inside as most shells made for this aren't really that breathable to begin with--even the non WPB kinds.

  What i was thinking was something along the lines of this:  Take my baby alpaca sweater which is quite warm, combine it with my lambswool/angora rabbit/cashmere lighter sweater (quite warm, but less durable so goes on the inside), stuff either Kapok and/or Climashield apex between the two, sew it up.  

 Under that, wear a thinner, Merino wool shirt, and over the top of the two wear say a heavier Polartec Wind block or Thermal pro fleece shirt sprayed with some kind of DWR stuff.  (maybe also a light silk shirt inbetween the Polartec and insulated sweater combo).

 It would be pretty warm, but a heck of a lot more breathable than the typical jackets or systems that most use out in very cold temps.  

But then again, it would be lighter and easier to just use VPL clothes in conjunction with a typical down or synthetic jacket.  

  Some Qiviut stuff would be really nice, but man, that stuff's so expensive. The cheapest sweaters are like $700!
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 16 2012, 3:31 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Mike,

Check out winterschool.org.

Run by a bunch of nuts who teach nuttier folks like us  to stay alive in the Adirondacks in the winter...where the temps you speak of  are not uncommon.

The link to their student handbook is particularly interesting and even tho you are a well traveled winter type you'll probably get some good info from that as well.

Sounds like a great trip!!!!


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 16 2012, 3:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Minus 40*F is common in the 'Daks?  I think you misread his post.  He is going to the Greenland Icecap and it is going to be cold!!  

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 16 2012, 3:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Minus 30 is somewhat common in the Daks...

But hey close enough.  And the info in winterschool will serve you well.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 16 2012, 4:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I want to Thank You for schooling me.  I took the time to do some research and found out the 'Daks are much colder than I had known.  Few places in Wy, where I lived for 7 winters, ever reach that sort of low on an annual basis, at least not the ones lower than 7000'.  I found this and it convinced me.  

In the majority of winter seasons, a temperature of -25° or lower can be expected in the northern highlands (Northern Plateau) and -15° or colder in the southwestern and east-central highlands (Southern Plateau). The Adirondack region records from 35 to 45 days with below zero temperatures in normal to severe winters.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 16 2012, 4:38 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I used a VBL on Mt. Hood in single digits. I wore my regular thermals inside it. I didn't keep it snugged up tight for long around my neck because I figured the moisture needed to get out. It wasn't for an extended period of time so I can't comment on that. That said, there was a noticeable difference in loft the next morning and no dew at all on the surface or in the outer layer like I was used to getting (and that was also using my OR bivy). I also don't get the "stank" factor much at all so I can't even begin to comment on that. I doubt it helps much but I figured I'd at least throw out my experience with it. It ain't just a gimmick, of that I'm sure.

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(wcolucci @ Nov. 16 2012, 1:31 pm)
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Mike,

Check out winterschool.org.

Run by a bunch of nuts who teach nuttier folks like us  to stay alive in the Adirondacks in the winter...where the temps you speak of  are not uncommon.

The link to their student handbook is particularly interesting and even tho you are a well traveled winter type you'll probably get some good info from that as well.

Sounds like a great trip!!!!

I will look into that for sure. :)  Not much time today (and I'm busy most all weekend), but next week for sure.  Thanks!


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(LiteMan @ Nov. 16 2012, 12:17 pm)
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(BradMT @ Nov. 15 2012, 8:13 pm)
QUOTE
Mike, I started using VBL's in the 1970's... my current is a Chouinard from the mid 1980's... still going strong!

Odor isn't much of an issue IME. They're absolutely at their best in sub-zero temps and are, to me, critical with a down bag at negative digits and for trips over a week. Worst thing that happens with a down bag in night-after-night negative zero temps is your bag becomes filled with ice and the loft deteriorates.

I wouldn't go out without one in negative temps.

Do you use the VPL clothes as well?   If so, how well does that work out?  I eventually want to visit Alaska, and the info i've been reading on VPL is pretty fascinating.

 I would use VPL for a bag, definitely, after what i've been reading, but i'm  not sure i would do the clothes or not.  My thinking is i could possibly devise a way to get around this by using layers of very warm, but mostly natural and thus much more breathable clothes.

 It seems that most who go into frigid conditions usually do the same thing, bring a warm jacket with a thin, super tight weaved synthetic shell filled with either down or synthetic fill.  I'm not surprised that this would tend to build up frost inside as most shells made for this aren't really that breathable to begin with--even the non WPB kinds.

  What i was thinking was something along the lines of this:  Take my baby alpaca sweater which is quite warm, combine it with my lambswool/angora rabbit/cashmere lighter sweater (quite warm, but less durable so goes on the inside), stuff either Kapok and/or Climashield apex between the two, sew it up.  

 Under that, wear a thinner, Merino wool shirt, and over the top of the two wear say a heavier Polartec Wind block or Thermal pro fleece shirt sprayed with some kind of DWR stuff.  (maybe also a light silk shirt inbetween the Polartec and insulated sweater combo).

 It would be pretty warm, but a heck of a lot more breathable than the typical jackets or systems that most use out in very cold temps.  

But then again, it would be lighter and easier to just use VPL clothes in conjunction with a typical down or synthetic jacket.  

  Some Qiviut stuff would be really nice, but man, that stuff's so expensive. The cheapest sweaters are like $700!

That could work well in milder cold temps, say 0-ish to +30*F.  In really frigid temps (below-zero all day, -20*F at night or far below), it's not the lack of breathability that causes condensation.  Wearing waterproof hardshells contributes for sure, but simply wearing breathable clothes won't stop the problem.

It's the fact that moisture vapor leaving the body will hit dew point, condensing and eventually freezing, before it ever fully leaves the insulation.  A person simply doesn't produce enough heat to fully "push the vapor out" all the way, regardless if they sweat or not.

For a weekend it doesn't matter (I've done such weekends, and sufficed just fine).  I got lucky in Greenland last year... we had -30*F temps one morning and -10 to -20 another couple, but by the end of the week it was unseasonably warm, only getting down to 0*F at night or so, and darned near freezing/+30*F during the day (no one expected temps that warm), so I suffered little.  It routinely gets colder than that in most the continental US.  Plus, we were only on the ice a week.  Our last day on the ice, waiting for the plane, it was downright balmy.  We sat outside drinking coffee as if lounging on a beach.

(May 7, 2012... near +32*F at the end of Spring in what turned out to be a record-setting hot summer in Greenland.)


I can't count on being that lucky again.

This Spring I'm expecting far colder temps (earlier in the season working at higher elevations on the ice) for two weeks straight... the conditions everyone describes VBLs being ideal for.  I didn't really post the thread to be convinced one way or the other about VBL's, but rather to learn more about them before getting my own.  It's been helpful so far.

- Mike

p.s. -- Depending where (and when) you hope to go in Alaska, you very well may not need it.  I've spent a handful of summer trips in SE Alaska, and wouldn't even consider bringing a VBL-anything for those.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 17 2012, 8:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thank you for the comprehensive reply Mike.  You're probably right, but i still have some thoughts and questions about the issue.  Some people don't use VPL clothes in extreme cold, this is part of what "Michael" wrote in reply to the Skurka article: "I say to each his own. However, I only use breathable water proof or water resistant laminate fabrics with varying thickness levels of polyester fleece and taped or non taped seams. (depending on weather, temp, wind etc) I spend most of my time skinning, bootpacking at high altitudes and extreme weather..."  

  Also, i wonder about this, VPL clothes are a relatively recent invention.  What did people in extreme cold do before that, particularly more indigenous cultures or our ancestors?   For many thousands of years people have been able to survive in extreme cold climates without VPL clothes, and typically they used natural and more breathable materials like a combo of fur, animal skins, tight knit sweaters made out of warm natural fibers, etc.  

 If the insulating materials are sufficiently breathable, they will allow vapor dissipation also through some outside convection (via wind) and not just relying on our body heat to push the moisture out.  A combination of the two, really speeds up the moisture vapor dissipation.  This is the same reason why the softshell Polartec Neoshell fabric is so much more breathable and comfortable than other WPB's, it allows some minimal outside wind convection to speed up the process.  Neoshell wouldn't be near as breathable as the combo of fabrics/insulation i was talking about earlier though.

 In any case, i'm the type that likes to try and test something before dismissing it outright.

 Re: Alaska, i'm not sure when and where i'm going.  I may have to go in the Summer to the S.E. region since my wife doesn't like the cold so thanks for the tip.  If i had my way, i would probably go during a more off season time to get better deals, since i'm kind of cheap and don't mind the cold.  

Best of luck on your trip back to Greenland, and hope it's enjoyable.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 18 2012, 12:53 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(LiteMan @ Nov. 17 2012, 7:12 pm)
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What did people in extreme cold do before that, particularly more indigenous cultures or our ancestors?

They died before they saw 35...

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(LiteMan @ Nov. 17 2012, 7:12 pm)
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In any case, i'm the type that likes to try and test something before dismissing it outright.

Really? ;-)

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