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Fingers and Toes
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Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 05:49:56 MST Print View

My biggest problems in cold weather hiking are my fingers and toes. They get cold way too easily (poor circulation, I guess). Anyone here care to discuss the pros and cons of these various footwear and handwear? I'm trying to get a few things for winter, but I'm also on a tight budget, so I have to weigh my purchases in terms of cost as well as actual weight.

40 Below Light Energy overboots-- I've emailed these folks a few times and the overboots sound amazing. I'm wondering how necessary you think the extra Simple Slipper is for day hikes vs overnights. I'd guess it's more necessary for overnights where there's more downtime. Any thoughts? How about for durability, especially when attaching microspikes?

NEOS overboots-- much heavier than 40 Belows, but maybe more durable and a bit cheaper (depending on the model). Anyone use these?

VBL Socks-- I may just try some bread bags with my trail runners to test out the VBL concept soon. Never tried VBL before, but what should I look for? All I know is RBH designs.

This is always a problem. There don't seem to be any really light insulated mittens, since most companies make shells that are wicked heavy in order to deal with skiing and... I don't know, maybe digging snow caves with your hands.

One thing I wondered about as a cheaper alternative-- neoprene paddling gloves. How well insulated is thick neoprene?

Alright. Discuss!

patrick walsh
(apbt1976) - F
Ha funny on 12/12/2010 08:49:44 MST Print View

I have the same problem. I got handed out to for buying the OR Alti mitt. One of my hands was injured in a accident, leaving me with full mobility but limited feeling on the whole thumb side. This is not good as i have poor circulation to start with and my fingers and toes are always cold.

For my hands i bought the OR Alti mitt as they have a removable liner mitt. I also bought a pair of Black diamond thin fleece liner gloves. I figured i could wear just the glove liner in warmer weather, and then when it gets colder i could put on the whole two part mitt system of the alti or just one of the two pieces? This setup would also give me capacity to pull my hands out of my mitts and have fingers to work with due to the fingered liner glove.

After just one hike up and down Mount Washington a couple weeks ago the BD thin fleece liners started pulling apart as the seems. This was prob due to me running most of the way down the mountain grabbing tree limbs on steep sections to hold me up a bit? Still i feel they should hold up to this kind of use. Anyway i bought a pair of Glacier Gloves. I got the thin thin ones lined with a light light fleece. Minutes after i bought them i took em out in 18-20 degree weather with a good wind and my hands where freezing, i even had to pull my fingers back into the glove and ball them up. This was all at like 10am, by 12pm two hours later my hands where pretty warm. I am not sure if it warmed up just enough to take out the chill out or if i had just been moving enough to heat up my whole body. I was walking the dogs so? I would go with the heavier Glacier Gloves if i had it to do again.. I also tried old pair of neoprene gloves with no fleece liner and that i had laying around and my hands froze!!!

Boots.. I have the La Sportiva Nepal evos and at this same temp my toes where cold but not freezing. Hope that helps?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 09:00:22 MST Print View

My fingers and toes fit your description pretty well...

Call 40 Below and talk to Joel Attaway. He will spend as much time as you want discussing pros and cons, including when Not to buy the LT versus the NEOS.

For hands I'm using the BPLs discontinued VaporThru. It is a very light, low bulk vapor barrier mitt. The mitts are good to the high teens for me. After that I add a liner glove and/or a chemical heat pack. I really think the gauntlet style mitt helps. So, I'd look for something at RHB.

Oliver Nissen
(olivernissen) - MLife

Locale: Yorkshire Dales
Re: Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 09:47:02 MST Print View

My big toes empathise! For some reason they alone always suffer before any other digits feel the nip. I'm interested in warm sock recommendations - both VBL and non VBL (I'd like to avoid using VBL when possible.)

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 09:59:52 MST Print View

I think turkey-sized oven bags work well for VBL socks, but hope to make some silnylon ones soon.

Here's my current system for temps 20 F and below:

For my hands I use one of these, generally having all of them with me in temps < 20 F:
Polypro liners 1 oz
Ragg wool or surplus wool gloves 2 oz
Dachstein wool mittens 6 oz
Swedish army mitten shells (leather palms/cotton/nylon guantlets): 6 oz

Edited by AndyF on 12/12/2010 10:05:27 MST.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
hands on 12/12/2010 11:28:51 MST Print View

I've got my hand system done pretty well- I use smartwool liners as the foundation- if it's warmer it's all I need, I have a pair of OR Endeavor overmitts that go on if it starts getting cold or windy, they're light, but still pretty burly for using w/ poles- I also carry a pair of fleece (OR400) mitts- these can be worn alone or under the overmitts if very cold

between the three I've got lots of options depending on if I need dexterity and/or it's warm -> extreme cold

feet I'm looking at the 40 below over boos to be used in conjunction w/ lightweight gore hikers, for around camp feather friends booties

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 11:29:15 MST Print View

Some hikers use good insulation for their hands and feet, yet their hands and feet still get cold. Why?

Some of those hikers are not wearing enough insulation on their arms and legs. The warm blood from their torso is delivered through a "cold pipe" to hands and feet, so they feel cold there.

If I dress imperfectly this way, I will feel colder hands and feet on the windward side of my body when the wind is cold. The addition of one layer of wool is typically all it takes to make it normal for me.

As for using plastic bags over your feet... if you use bags that are too weak, they will split out within your boots and then not work as good. If you use bags that are too thick, they will play games with your foot fitting in the boot.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
a few comments on 12/12/2010 14:30:04 MST Print View

ryan ... consider a pair of layered winter boots ... something like sorels or baffins ... they are a bit heavier but are quite warm ... also the fleece liner is removable so if yr camping overnight you can dry out or sleep with yr liner

as to gloves ... it varies a lot from person to person ... but generally when active yr hands warm up and can stay warm with a much lighter layer, when stopped on goes the mitts ...i usually carry a pair of lighter gloves either fleece or softshell or workgloves ... and then heavier insulated gloves or mitts for stops/camps ... one easy way to boost the warmth is to wear food prep gloves between the liner and glove ... for mitts i recommend a real mitt if yr hands are cold rather than just a fleece glove and mitt overshell ... it might not be weight efficient but bring heat packs

in a worst case scenario you should have 2 stuff sacks or plastic bags that are sized to fit your feet ... you can empty these of contents and use them as emergency VBLs

patrick ... if yr grabbing stuff on climbs, get a leather palmed gloves ... fleece gloves wont last you very long ... another thing you can try is cold weather work gloves ... they are made to take a beating and be dexterious

Edited by bearbreeder on 12/12/2010 14:34:25 MST.

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Agree with Bob on 12/12/2010 15:18:59 MST Print View

I have to agree with Bob on this one. Andy Kirkpatrick's blog Psychovertical switched me on to it. He recommends adding a fleece half sleeve from wrist to elbow, to prevent the heat in the blood close to the surface here from being lost. Cyclist's arm warmers work well. I often use this in reverse, pulling my jacket sleeves up when I'm active to let the heat out and prevent sweating.

I also find that a pair of longer legged sports boxers (close fitting) is MUCH warmer than a pair of jocks. Last winter in a hut with a fire, I was toasty warm, but my feet were dry but still freezing two hours after coming in. I put on my puffy pants, and within ten minutes my feet were warm.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 15:33:01 MST Print View

I have some Marmot wrist gaiters. They are pretty sweet. they def stop the dreaded snow-up-the-cuff thing. also, it covers the palm and all the veins and stuff which helps w/ camp chores- exposed fingers, but covered palms.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 15:39:18 MST Print View

"stop the dreaded snow-up-the-cuff thing"

That shouldn't be much of a problem unless you ski as poorly as I do.


Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 19:36:34 MST Print View


Definitely give VBL a try. Plastic bags are a definite yes for a low cost test drive, although I believe that Mike Clelland uses nothing else (for feet).

Andrew Shurka seems to like RBH VBL stuff (I'm reasonably sure that's based on more than enough experience in the field:-). Stephenson's Warmlite sells a full line of reasonably priced VBL clothing. I use their socks and gloves and like them ... wearing them against the skin.

VBL socks under wool socks inside oversized Inov-8 390GTX boots with a felt insole is much warmer that I ever thought possible when first reading Will R's articles on light weight winter footwear (I hope to test that at a new low temp of -15F tomorrow).

The gloves worn under a knit glove (varying thickness depending on expected temperatures) inside uninsulated shell mitts works very well and is very versatile.

edit: Latex or nitrile or vinyl gloves would probably make for a good low cost test drive of VBL for your hands. Look for them in the paint aisle at your local hardware store or big box home improvement center

Edited by jcolten on 12/12/2010 19:59:37 MST.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 20:15:33 MST Print View

I used nitrile gloves under my insulated gloves during my years as a greenskeeper- worked well for me.

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/12/2010 20:31:33 MST Print View

Whew, more responses than I thought there would be.

Definitely going to give the VB a try on the feet. Plastic bags are easy enough to come by.

For the hands, though, it seems like there's no one perfect way of doing things. I'm going to have to play around with layers of gloves and overmits. Once I get moving my fingers warm up pretty nicely, so gloves should be enough, but it takes a lot to get them warm again once they've cooled down. Which is why I'd rather not carry heavier mittens, since I only really wear them a small fraction of the time.

Nitrile gloves.... interesting. I guess those act as a VB, right? Also cheap and simple! I love it.

John Stearns
(Any-Cal) - F
Cold hands/feet on 12/13/2010 00:43:49 MST Print View

If your extremities are cold, it helps a lot to keep your torso and limbs warmer.

Surplus wool glove liners work well and are durable, if not super UL. If you buy 2 pair, they are easy to double up, and are pretty warm like that.

If you get two pair of the same size, they will run a bit small, but when you start wearing holes in the outer pair, you can switch them hand for hand and inside to outside. This puts the holes on the back of your hand in the inner layer.

If you get one size larger, they don't have the extended durability, but do fit a bit better because the inner one doesn't wrinkle as badly. When those start to wear, you can cut the outer fingers off, and you end up with a fingerless layer over the fingered gloves, which is fine unless it is REALLY cold, or you buy a new large size outer layer.

My pair, that is missing both outer thumbs, is 4.5oz. With both liners complete, and the rest of your clothing done well, they are good to at least -10F, and work fine lower than that, though not without the need to warm up periodically.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
VBL socks on 12/13/2010 00:56:37 MST Print View

I pefer light neoprene divers' sox that I've seam sealed. They are great as VBLs and also add a lot of insulation.

Urethane coated ripstop VBL socks are "OK" but tend to have wrinkles in them when in use. This can be uncomfortable at times if they are in the wrong spot.

As for gloves, I prefer GTX lined glove shells with REMOVABLE liners. I carry at least one spare set of liners so I always have a dry set when needed. Dry the damp liners out in the foot of your sleeping bag overnight.

Edited by Danepacker on 01/01/2011 14:31:58 MST.

Duane Hall
(PKH) - M

Locale: Nova Scotia
Re: Fingers and Toes on 12/13/2010 01:41:00 MST Print View

I use the Neos overboots, and they work well. Surprisingly, the heel is stiff enough to use with snow shoes. Yes they feel a bit clumsy and they are not ultra light. But it's winter, and you have to make some concessions.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Fingers on 12/13/2010 09:38:44 MST Print View

Re: "For my hands i bought the OR Alti mitt as they have a removable liner mitt." These are extremely expensive, but if you have special physical needs, price is not an object. Also very expensive is RBH's Trigger Mitts, with a thumb, a trigger finger, and a mitt section for the other digits. I bought the largest size they make and the company almost refused to sell them, saying they have to be sized to fit "next-to-skin." I've been happy with them as over-mitts, even though they are vapor barriers, and they have a lot of dexterity that the Alti mitts lack.

Scott Ireland
(WinterWarlock) - MLife

Locale: Western NY
Mitts on 12/14/2010 12:04:02 MST Print View

They aren't easy to find anymore since they've been discontinued, but you can still google and find Outdoor Research Snowline mittens...fairly moderate shell, and my cheap-o army surplus wool gloves fit in as liners perfectly.

I actually just sent OR an email asking if there is a suitable replacement for the Snowline's...if I hear back I'll post it here.


Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: VBL socks on 12/20/2010 04:40:10 MST Print View

I just tried the plastic bags for foot VB's this weekend for the first time. I had a smartwool liner sock inside, then a plastic food storage bag, then a neoprene sock on the outside. Wore my NB 909 trail runners for shoes (not water proof), and that was it. Conditions were low 20's at the beginning of the hike, up to mid 30's by the end of the day, walking in some amount of snow all day. Maybe not the best conditions for testing, but I was pretty amazed at how they worked. My feet did not get overly sweaty (even though they sweat like crazy year round normally), and they stayed much warmer than I expected for the given temps.

The bags I used were a bit small, so when I took the socks off I realized they were only around my feet up to the ankle, and no higher. Next time I'll have to use bread bags, since they're longer. But for a practically free and weightless addition to my footwear system for the winter, I'm amazed.

Next I'll have to see if the rubber glove will work as well for the hands.