November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
drying cloths on the trail
Display Avatars Sort By:
Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Drying in the bag on 01/21/2010 15:15:39 MST Print View

Getting clothing wet on winter trips is a case of where it is better to avoid the problem than to need to solve it.

I do agree that things *can* get wet in the winter, and understanding how to deal with that is worthwhile. I also firmly believe that should be the exception, not the rule.

It seems to me that the main emphasis should be on how to avoid having wet things to begin with. By and large, the worst problem should be *minor* dampness in the underwear and socks from the day. That amount of dampness is easy to deal with.

-- Bob

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: wet clothes on 01/21/2010 15:57:07 MST Print View

There's no rain 20*F below freezing, so I'm not sure how you'd get clothes soaked in that environment. Most likely way would be someone severely over-dressed for conditions. (Example: even at 10*F the most I'm usually wearing when on the move is a wool 3 and a windbreaker, and I still might have to take care not to overheat... assuming cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, etc.) Other than that it would be falling thru ice into a body of water, in which case I hope you have some good fire-building skills, you were only wearing your "active" layers, and your primary insulation is still dry in the pack.

Boots/foot stuff and hand stuff is the biggest "wet" problem for most in winter. Changes of gloves inside the jacket works for me. I like using VBL in boots to keep the insulation dry; I have put on frozen boots in the morning. (Spring paddle/portage trips.) It's not pleasant, but it's fine. (Edit: frozen boots in winter not as good. But if it's that cold that it matters, I have a boot w/removable liner, and I probably VBL'd it, and there's a decent chance I'll just wear the liners to bed.)

Wet stuff always gets segregated from dry. Yes, putting on cold wet clothes is unpleasant. But if you're putting them on in the morning, you just finished fueling up, topped off w/a hot beverage, and are going to start cranking up your metabolism. No worries. Any mild dampness in baselayers from a days moving should dry out (at the end of same day) just by keeping the stuff on.

Edited by 4quietwoods on 01/21/2010 16:00:14 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: wet clothes on 01/21/2010 16:44:19 MST Print View

> When it is +10 F and 10 feet of snow on the ground, no way am I going to put on wet clothes.

Have to agree there! But as others have correctly noted, you should not be wet at +10 F anyhow.

Let's repeat that for clarity. When you are travelling in the snow in serious cold, your FIRST objective has to be to stay dry. That means travelling cool, not sweating. The fastest way of dying in the snow is to get wet. About the only items which I get wet in the snow would be my socks, and that really only happens just below freezing anyhow (melted snow late PM).

As Lynn said, a good trick is to bag up the boots and socks and store them under the foot of my quilt so they don't freeze overnight. But that doesn't let their moisture into the down - which would be risky, or even foolish on a long trip.


Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: wet clothes on 01/21/2010 16:44:56 MST Print View

It is not uncommon (in these parts) for it to be raining heavily one day, or for deep river crossings even in winter, and then wake to snow or a heavy frost the next morning. So dealing with wet clothes in freezing conditions is common and not fun. I always carry a spare (dry) thermal layer and socks for sleeping in, and if necessary I will wear those for a while on cold mornings to get warmed up. Once warm, I will trade them for my wet clothes (still in plastic bag against my body heat) and these usually dry with exertion.

victor larivee
(vlarivee) - MLife

Locale: white mountains
In summary on 01/21/2010 18:41:47 MST Print View

thanks everyone
tips to stay dry when hiking in the winter
don't get wet/ limit sweat (ensure clothing selection matches exersion).
Hand system, two thin hiking glove switch them out when on the move and put the spare pair inside your layers to dry, WP shell and a warm pair of mittens for camp.
Any wet items place in a plastic bag and keep under your sleeping bag at night to keep them warm (won't dry them) in the morning put the damp items on before you head out. When on the move the items should dry.

When in doubt bring an extra pair

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: In summary on 01/21/2010 19:12:03 MST Print View

A comment on boots. I work at a scout camp that gives scouts two pairs of boot liners. One pair is worn during the day, the other (dry) is packed away, and then put in the sleeping bag or otherwise kept dry overnight. The next morning, the scouts put the dry liner in their boots and we hike back to our indoor basecamp and everyone goes home.

In the morning, every scout's liners have a nice thin layer of frost in the morning. Same with their waterproof mitten liners (think like MLD eVent liners but with a heavy, waterproof cordura).

Of course, when you get out longer, there is a problem with this approach. Otherwise, frost builds up and your feet and hands get cold. And that leads to unhappy appendages.

I wear Steger Mukluks (Arctics) when the weather is cold enough for it (needs to be +20F and colder, consistently). I have a single pair of liners, and use ID vapor barrier socks. In the morning, there is not frost in my liners or boots and my feet stay warm.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: In summary on 01/21/2010 19:21:40 MST Print View


Don't get too dogmatic about it. Different people have different ideas of what works for them. And different things work in different conditions. For example:

Hands -- if your gloves are getting wet from perspiration, then you need lighter gloves or none at all. Perhaps just your glove or mitten shells. By the way, don't automatically assume you need to wear anything on your hands unless it is bitterly cold. May not really be needed at +10*F if you are really exerting yourself -- perhaps just once you get above treeline, or if you stop for a lunch break. Back when I was climbing the 4,000' peaks in the White Mountains in the winter (your locale), I often did not have anything on my hands, even while snowshoeing and holding an ice axe head. I regarded that heat loss as part of my thermal budget. In fact, I tended to hold a snowball in my free hand so that I could melt it as much as possible before eating it for water. (If you let yourself get thirsty, you really cannot eat enough snow to quench the thirst, but if you eat snow as you go you can keep from getting thirsty.) Of course I "gloved up" as soon as I stopped generating so much heat. Another point about hands -- if your shell parka sleeves are nice and long, the overlap onto your hands may be all the warmth those hands need as long as you are moving, or for short stops.

Drying things in the sleeping bag -- the comments that, if you are out for a long time, you must at all costs keep moisture out of your down are accurate. However, if you are only out for a night or two, there is no reason you cannot put damp (not sopping wet) stuff in your sleeping bag with you to dry. You will lose loft, but not enough to matter (unless your sleeping bag is marginal to begin with).

Another trick some people have used to dry damp things is to fasten the damp item inside their underwear while they are moving (and generating heat) and let the body warmth do the drying. I cannot say I have done that myself -- have not needed to -- but some other folks have.

Since I gather you are inexperienced, check out available instruction -- perhaps

* a local college outing club (quality varies, some very good)

* The AMC (used to offer one, don't know whether they still do)

* The Adirondack Mountain Club's Winter Mountaineering School. I don't know how it is today, but in years gone by the ADK course was *excellent*. Well worth getting yourself over to Heart Lake for.

-- Bob

Edited by blean on 01/21/2010 19:30:47 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
another trick on 01/21/2010 20:28:57 MST Print View

When I camp out in the winter, I take my huge winter-weight sleeping bag, and it has a large nylon stuff sack. Normally, the sleeping bag is stored inside the stuff sack, and any snow flying around is kept to the outside of the stuff sack. But when I camp for the night and after chores, I am ready to crawl into the sleeping bag which has been out of the stuff sack for an hour or more. I turn the stuff sack inside-out, and I store my ski boots in it, typically inside the sleeping bag in the foot area. The waterproof nature of the stuff sack keeps the boot moisture inside, and the warm nature of my sleeping bag keeps the boots unfrozen. In the morning, I remove the boots and put them on. I turn the stuff sack rightside-out and store the sleeping bag. The bag trick keeps the boot moisture from getting to the sleeping bag insulation.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: In summary on 01/22/2010 09:14:17 MST Print View

Bob made a good point about not always needing to wear gloves. People seem to think that if it's cold out they need to have on hat, gloves, facemask, down jacket, etc. There were many days working as a liftie when I didn't wear hat or gloves, although the temps were well below freezing. If you're producing heat, you don't need to keep yourself all swaddled up...

William Glazer
(UkuleleBill) - F

Locale: Northeast Ohio
stay dry--stay safe on 01/22/2010 12:20:30 MST Print View

Having read some more of the comments on "drying clothes on the trail" I started thinking about my own experiences with that problem in cold weather. For me, I feel by far the coldest when it is 34F and raining. The only exception was a winter trip in the Adirondacks in the 1990's when the high for the week trip was 4F--most of the time it was sub zero F--I was colder on this trip. But for most of my winter trips at 10F-15F as the low temperature I seem to do okay. I think it is because wetness, in the form of rain and thick fog, can leach heat from the body. I've been my nearest to Hypothermia at and just above the freezing point. Therefore, for me, "drying clothes on the trail" is most critical when I have my biggest problem, which is 30F-39F typically. Of course, I don't mean to imply that 20F and wet is okay--it isn't. Just some thoughts. Stay dry--Stay safe.

Happy Trails
Ukulele Bill

Edited by UkuleleBill on 01/22/2010 12:23:51 MST.

martin cooperman
(martyc) - M

Locale: Industrial Midwest
A note for Bill Glazer on 01/22/2010 13:06:50 MST Print View

Off-topic but Bill I noticed that you are from NE Ohio and likely a mile or so from my house. You don't have anything set up to email privately, so I thought I'd post this here.
You can email me at: m(dot)cooperman(at)csuohio(dot)edu.
Marty Cooperman

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: stay dry--stay safe on 01/22/2010 15:20:38 MST Print View

Maybe I'm abnormal but in temps where clothes are likely to be wet from rain, I don't have any issues keeping my bag lofted over several days of bad weather, drying them in the bag. For my shoes, I arrange them in my pack liner and put them between my legs. I have experimented with leaving the opening of the pack liner bag outside of my bag (full zip, using bottom venting technique) which still seems to work. I guess if you're paranoid about it you can try that, or bring along some chemical warmers to up the heat. But, Like I said, I have never noted loss of down. The loft on the bag I carry at those temps isn't so much that my body heat can't expel the moisture.

Remember that a lot collapsing of sleeping bag loft results from the shell being damp and then stuffing the bag. Wipe 'er down well.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: drying clothes on the trail on 01/22/2010 15:27:36 MST Print View

"Even when it's raining outside, quick-dry synthetics will dry -- or at least be only "slightly damp" when hung or spread around overnight either inside or outside your tent (say in the vestibule)."

Ha! That is funny. When I hang my cap 1 stuff to dry it is just as wet in the morning as it is when I hang it up. One of the benefits of living in southern California is that the humidity is low and things dry. Here you just have to live with damp clothing. I just make sure I have something dry to wear when I get to camp and sleep in, in the day, I am fine in damp clothing if I keep moving.

That just goes to show how things can be so different depending on where you hike. For example: I know many of you guys (and gals) wouldn't dare go on a trip without sunscreen, sun hat, sun glasses, etc. I have never even thought about sunscreen or anything like that even though I sunburn easily. When backpacking you are rarely exposed to any type of sunlight here.

Edited by Mocs123 on 01/22/2010 15:32:18 MST.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: stay dry--stay safe on 01/22/2010 15:53:32 MST Print View

"Remember that a lot collapsing of sleeping bag loft results from the shell being damp and then stuffing the bag. Wipe 'er down well."

Actually, most loss of loft occurs from insensible/sensible sweat and moisture inside the bag, &/or dewpoint differential... assuming "normal" humidity. In very humid conditions, everything absorbs some moisture regardless, in which case you take the time to air things out when the sun comes out... But relatively very little loss of loft occurs from condensation on the shell of the bag.

William Glazer
(UkuleleBill) - F

Locale: Northeast Ohio
Re: A note for Bill Glazer on 01/22/2010 16:16:42 MST Print View

Just sent you a PM with my email address. Feel free to contact me.

Happy Trails--
Ukulele Bill

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: stay dry--stay safe on 01/22/2010 16:21:31 MST Print View

> Remember that a lot collapsing of sleeping bag loft results from the shell being damp and then stuffing the bag. Wipe 'er down well.

Not really the case in winter. In cold weather the dew point will be within the down. Any water vapor -- and you give off quite a bit with insensible perspiration -- will condense when it gets to the dew point. That's also why it is bad to breathe into your sleeping bag -- more water vapor to condense in the down.

Drying clothes in your bag is the same deal -- you are trying to turn the water in your damp clothes into water vapor -- any of that which gets to the dew point (within the down) will also condense there.

-- Bob

Edited by blean on 01/22/2010 16:43:51 MST.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: stay dry--stay safe on 01/22/2010 16:43:04 MST Print View

> For me, I feel by far the coldest when it is 34F and
> raining. The only exception was a winter trip in the
> Adirondacks in the 1990's when the high for the week trip
> was 4F--most of the time it was sub zero F--I was colder
> on this trip. But for most of my winter trips at 10F-15F
> as the low temperature I seem to do okay.

You bring up an interesting point -- it may actually be easier to stay comfortable when it is colder out.

1) Common winter temperatures in the Adirondacks and White Mountains are days of +10F to -10F and nights of -20F. Those are actually quite comfortable if you are active -- the snow is dry and it is pretty easy to dress so that you stay warm without overheating and sweating. You have a nice, safe, comfortable, exhilarating winter trip.

2) Days when it is sub-freezing, but not by a lot, can actually harder to dress for. The snow is wetter and you probably want some clothing between you and the wind, but if you are climbing a mountain (especially if you are the one breaking trail) just about any amount is too much and you will sweat. Ventilating a lot and minimizing the amount of clothing that gets sweat-soaked is about all you can do.

3) Thirties and raining -- just not a comfortable range. There is also an associated big problem if this happens in the winter, at least in the Northeast -- a common weather pattern is for that to be followed by the bottom dropping out of the thermometer. That leaves you with wet stuff and in sub-zero temperatures. In those conditions -- a winter rain -- the safest thing may well be to strip down to as little as you can wear and avoid hypothermia, pack the rest (including all of your insulation) as waterproof as you can, and get out of the mountains.

-- Bob

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: Re: stay dry--stay safe on 01/22/2010 17:05:41 MST Print View

I don't think you fellas are understanding me. If the moisture in your bag gets pushed out- dew point, loft, etc non-withstanding- then it's out. As, I mentioned I have a lot of experience doing this and I experience no appreciable loss in loft over several days of foul weather. I feel most of the comments posted here are maybe a little overly analytical. The science is sound but I don't see it translating to my real-world experience.

As for my comment about a bag with a damp shell, let me clarify. If the shell of your sleeping bag is wet when you stuff it in your stuff sack or pack that moisture will get pushed into the bag and soak the compressed lost. It's also sitting in your backpack all day. That's a lot of time for the moisture to do it's work, in very close quarters. If your sleeping bag shell is damp when stuff it, your bag will lose loft. That's all I meant.

Victor- I think the spirit of your original question may have gotten obscured. Go out and give this method a try on a short trip. I think you'll find that in most conditions during which you need to dry out a few items, the loft in your bag (and the sky) won't fall and you'll make out just fine. Don't try it in a snow cave for a week straight, but I don't think that's your intention anyway.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Re: Re: stay dry--stay safe on 01/22/2010 17:17:16 MST Print View

> I don't think you fellas are understanding me.

It seems to me that it is a matter of temperature. Since it is January, many of the replies have assumed a winter (i.e. sub-freezing) trip. Note the original poster gives his locale as the White Mountains (NH, I presume). My replies have been in the context of the White Mountains in January -- which can be seriously cold.

What temperatures are your posting based on?

> If the moisture in your bag gets pushed out- dew point,
> loft, etc non-withstanding- then it's out.

True, but when temperatures are well sub-freezing, that is not going to happen. The moisture will condense within the down and stay there. It will not get "pushed out". With a good winter bag you may not notice this a lot over a day or two, but over a week I sure notice it. Does your "foul weather" phrase imply rain, and temperatures above freezing?

> a bag with a damp shell

Again, what temperature are you thinking of? In sub-freezing winter weather, the sleeping bag shell will not be damp -- any dampness will be frozen. The closest you will come will be sometimes seeing some frost on the surface. Naturally, you brush any of that off before stuffing the bag.

-- Bob

Edited by blean on 01/22/2010 17:23:34 MST.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: stay dry--stay safe on 01/22/2010 17:40:01 MST Print View

"Naturally, you brush any of that off before stuffing the bag."
I think assuming this comes naturally to a lot of people is a broad assumption. I've observed it to be a common mistake. The frost melts inside your backpack from some body heat and viola- wet bag with an inch and a half less loft.

Whites in Jan? I though it was discussed already there isn't likely to be much issue with lots of wet clothing under these conditions. I am trying to apply common happenstance to the original question asked- "Should I dry stuff out in my bag?"

On most backpacking trips where you're likely to have a lot of wet clothing and gear, we're not talking below freezing all day and temps low enough to place the dew point inside of a sleeping bag. Bringing a few pairs of wet socks and liner gloves into a sleeping bag at night, even on a snow trip, is not a big deal.

Now, if you slipped during a creek crossing and got soaked through, maybe we're talking about a different scenario but it seems to me Victor was asking about the usual "I walked all day in the rain through 40 degree weather and can I dry my windshirt in my bag?" Maybe Victor can clarify for us.