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Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier?
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Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/13/2009 08:39:38 MST Print View

I have a problem with cold feet and hands in the winter (25*-0*F Lows) when I stop moving. This may have something to do with having such a low heart rate (45), but When I sleep I have been adding a pair of Sierra Designs Down Mutts, but my feet still get cold when the rest of me is toasty warm.

I am thinking about trying a pair of Stevenson's Fuzzy Stuff VB Socks when sleeping. What do you think, will this fix my cold feet problem? Does Anyone have experience with Fuzzy Stuff?

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/13/2009 10:01:30 MST Print View

Does sleeping on a slight incline with your feet lower than your body help any?

I would probably use a hot water bottle before making a gear purchase (and carrying more gear).

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re:Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier on 11/13/2009 10:08:17 MST Print View

I wouldn't really be carrying more gear as they would replace my sleeping socks (3rd pair of socks) and if they did the trick, the Down Mutts.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/13/2009 10:16:50 MST Print View

I have Stevenson's VB Socks and use them at temps below 20-25F. Sleep in them also.

They do keep my feet warmer than with the same insulation and no VB on my feet.

That said, I'm not convinced that's the solution to your experience. Tell us more about your pad, bag/quilt and other clothing.

BTW, if you are thinking of using them only for sleeping or when doing typical in camp activities you can test drive the idea using plastic bags from your local grocery store's produce aisle.

Also, try asking your doc about underlying causes.

Lori P
(lori999) - F

Locale: Central Valley
Re: Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/13/2009 10:35:01 MST Print View

I have the same problem, cold hands/feet due to low heart rate/blood pressure - I've had borderline subnormal blood pressure all my life, to the point where I deliberately lay in bed for a few minutes after waking to avoid head rush. It's not always a problem - rarely so - but my hands start to sting like heck right around 30F unless I put on gloves.

I wouldn't put a vapor barrier on until below 0. I spent a night in the low 20s recently with the hammock, top quilt, underquilt and wearing a heavy base layer/fleece pant combo, with two pairs of wool socks and glove liners. I was warm, tho at the bottom of my comfort zone, and woke to frozen droplets of condensation on the outside of the underquilt. Which tells me that I do have an issue with insensible perspiration even at low temps. There was no frost, rain or humidity to speak of - the moisture had to come from me. Granted, the poncho I used to block the breeze across the underquilt collected the moisture - otherwise it would have evaporated.

I suggest another warm layer for the feet, like the Acorn fleece socks. I used my pair of socks worn during the day over my clean sleeping socks.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/13/2009 10:53:53 MST Print View

Obviously my clothing and sleeping system vary by the conditions, and I plan on doing some experimenting with my new Nunatak Skaha Plus and Golite Ultra 20 quilt this year, but over the past few years, below 20* I generally use:


Clean (used for sleeping only) Patagonia Lightweight Capilene Crew

Clean Patagonia Capilene 1 Pants

Clean Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Gloves

Clean Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon Hat

Clean Smartwool Adrenaline Socks

Sierra Designs Down Mutts (Down Socks)

Sleeping Bag:

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0


Exped Downmat 7

I know this system should be more than enough for the temps that I am out in, and I have used it comfortably to 0*F with the exception of my feet. On shorter trips I generally end up having to throw chemical hand warmers in my Down Mutts to warm my feet up. Ideas?

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re:Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/14/2009 08:38:16 MST Print View

Does anyone else have any suggestions for me to try?

James Naphas
(naphas13) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Maybe more insulation on your feet isn't what you need on 11/14/2009 13:06:17 MST Print View

Maybe stick a bottle with hot water down there (wrapped in something like a tee shirt), or a hand warmer.

Alternatively, maybe get a more insulated hat, though the MH dome perignon is also my warmest. The one part of me that isn't a furnace is my feet. The thing that has worked for me is to overdo the head coverage a bit; after all, it's a survival thing for the blood flow to lessen in the extremities to protect your brain. Maybe you should invest in a puffy hood or a thick balaclava.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/14/2009 13:34:04 MST Print View

If your feet are cold it means you are not sending enough warm blood down your legs to them. Possible causes (apart from medical problems):
* Head and neck too cool
* Legs not warm enough
* Trousers too tight restricting blood flow (yeah, it happens)
* Not enough dinner


Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/14/2009 13:52:23 MST Print View

I find that VBL can greatly increase my warmth and/or perception of warmth. I think it's particularly helpful for feet; as a day (or night) goes on, my feet and the insulation around them start to feel a bit damp, but feet are still cold... Evaporative heat loss happens. Feet are one of the sweatiest parts of your body, lots of "opportunity" for evaporative heat loss. Toss on a pair of VBL socks, insulation over them, and the insulation stays dry. Feet might be a bit damp, but totally warm... no evaporative heat loss and a more humid environment. No insulation degradation. I've found that my feet stay much warmer during a day in boots this way, too, as my liners don't get soaked. Bitter cold, latex exam gloves go under insulating gloves/mitts, for the same reasons.

And there's the old saying, already mentioned in ways: "If your feet are cold, put on a hat."

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
RE: Cold Feet Problem on 11/14/2009 16:45:58 MST Print View

Being checked for circulation problems might be prudent if this is a recurring problem. If not, you may just be a cold sleeper and need a warmer sleeping bag or a (custom-made?) bag with more insulation in the foot box.

Stephen Klassen
Cold Feet on 11/15/2009 02:09:32 MST Print View

Try sleeping without the Down Mutts.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Vapor barriers, for free! on 11/15/2009 04:46:23 MST Print View

Cheap guy that I am, I save the thin, plastic bags that come with my daily newspaper and wear them over my socks in winter as a vapor barrier. They hold up pretty well in the sleeping bag. They'll eventually tear as you walk, but small tears don't seem to bother their effectiveness too much.

If you don't get a newspaper, the veggie bags from your local grocery work work almost as well. They are however, more than a bit flimsier.

Hold your cheapoid varor barriers on with rubber bands. I always carry a bunch of extra bags -- they weigh next to nothing. Keep extra rubber bands wrapped around your trekking-pole handles.


douglas girling
(dgirling) - F

Locale: Adirondacks
Vapor Barrier on 11/15/2009 05:03:24 MST Print View

I absolutely swear by vapor barriers - use them hands, feet - and torso in very cold. I really like the RBH gera
If the Vapor barrier works for you it would be by far the simplist and lightest method.
The only thing special about the fuzzy liner (or RBH NTS liner) is that it tends to feel a little less "wet" against your skin, but they work in exactly the same way as any vapor barrier in that they prevent evaporative heat loss.

I would try Thomas's idea first - using plastic bags. I suggest putting the bag over a thin inner wool sock (if the layer against your skin is wool it will feel more comfortable) and add additional layers over that as needed (you will need a lot less layers than you are accustomed to) Then you haven't wasted any $$ if you feel it didn't work .



Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
VB socks --- night, or day? on 11/15/2009 05:18:13 MST Print View

One concern I would have with VB socks at night is if the weather is wet during the day and you're using trail runners, you could end up in a situation where your feet never dry out. I don't mind (too-o-o) much if my feet are wet all day if I can dry them out and sleep with them dry at night --- this has been discussed here, in fact, in other threads.

Is it possible that a beefier down bootie to sleep in would make a difference? Such as

Another question is whether this is a problem getting the feet warm enough to start with, or if they start warm and end up cold later. If the former, then jumping jacks, situps, whatever before trying to sleep ...

Edited by brianle on 11/15/2009 05:21:14 MST.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Cold Feet Problem - Vapor Barrier? on 11/15/2009 08:08:30 MST Print View

Brian - you have a point there, they probably start off cold as I don't change my socks or take my trailrunners off until I go to bed, though I generally hike until half an hour before dark.

Another good point is that my feet are often wet/semi wet during the day. We get a lot of precipitation here my feet do sweat a bit even in the cooler weather.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Toe socks on 11/15/2009 12:55:41 MST Print View

One more thing:

Forgot to mention . . .

I also wear wool toe socks -- the greatest! They encase your toes in wool and are remarkably effective in keeping your toes warm even when they are wet. Keep a spare pair in your clothing stuff sack. I often drape them over my backpack while I'm walking to keep one pair relatively dry for sleeping purposes.

The combo of toe socks and newspaper/ veggie bags for sleeping in cold weather are very effective in keeping the tootsies warm.

Seriously, these babies encase your toes. As old age (:-) ) limits yer cirkalation, toe socks and a vapor barrier are your best defense against numbness and even frostbite.

Psst. Sometimes I wear the toe socks around during the day during "civilian," non-BPing activities. If only my students knew . . . ;-D


Edited by nerdboy52 on 11/16/2009 04:53:29 MST.