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Ultralight in the Icebox
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Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
VBL Clothing vs Bag & Insulation on 01/05/2007 09:33:16 MST Print View

As John S mentioned, clothing is just as viable of a VBL strategy as a dedicated bag. The only significant difference is that you can lose some latent heat through your hands and feet. (and a minuscule amount through "openings").

Most of the moisture loss will likely be leakage IN LIQUID STATE from the openings of his garments. I capitalize the fact that it will leak in liquid form in order to reinforce the fact that you only get latent heat loss when water evaporates from your skin. Likely this minor amount of leakage will not be enough to cause significant evaporation off his hands / feet, nor will it be enough to degrade the loft of his insulation.

John S is also correct in stating that passive persipiration happens continually at some base rate at low temps. If Andy S is exerting himself at such a rate as to raise his body temp enough to cause extra persipration rate while hiking, he needs to REMOVE his VBL because it means his body NEEDS to expel some heat (thermal energy)*.

One note about VBL (which andy has on straight) it needs to be INSIDE your insulating layers to have any appreciable effect. This is do to two things:
1) This minimizes the Delta T between your skin and the VBL (I didn't mention this above as it's a little more detailed). If there is a large Delta T, perpiration will prefer to EVAPORATE from your skin and condense on the VBL which WILL result in a net cooling of your skin.
2) You risk water logging your insulating layer. If it's high-loft this may collapse the insulation. If it's low-loft (aka fleece) you risk compromising the insulation simply because it's water logged and can move heat better.

*I assume Andy S is already aware of this, and that is why his "base clothing" does not actually include the VBL shirt.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Re: Ultralight in the icebox vbls on 01/05/2007 11:06:28 MST Print View

An advantage to a bag liner versus clothing is that a bag
liner is more easily vented in the night. It also makes a
dandy emergency bivy.

Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Minnesota Cold on 01/08/2007 17:07:56 MST Print View

Looks like Andrew is getting what he was hoping for. The next few days are supposed to be well below 0 at night near Ely. Highs in most of NE Minnesota will be pretty chilly. Brrrrrr.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Minnesota Cold on 01/08/2007 18:16:47 MST Print View

If he's making his expected 20-25 miles per day then he's still near the lake until late in the week. Temps there are forecast to be 10F or more warmer than Ely. Let's hope his moisture management has been strong before today.

But he'll start to lose the lake effect this weekend and then the forecast is relatively nasty.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/08/2007 18:52:27 MST Print View

Joshua said:

"I assume Andy S is already aware of this, and that is why his "base clothing" does not actually include the VBL shirt."

Andy has a Vapor Barrier shirt made by RBH Designs called the VaprThrm NTS Shirt. He talks about it under "Clothing".

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
"Base" Clothing vs Clothing on 01/09/2007 09:22:11 MST Print View

Bill: "Andy has a Vapor Barrier shirt made by RBH Designs called the VaprThrm NTS Shirt. He talks about it under "Clothing"."

Yeah, I noticed that he was carrying one. However, Andy also mentions that the VaprThrm shirt is only going to be used "If it gets really cold,". That's why I made the comment about his "base clothing" not including the shirt. By my reading, he expects to layer two Go-Lite C-Thru LW shirts under most conditions (with a Wisp to block the wind as needed), only one when it gets warmer, and if it gets REALLY cold and he's not moving enough to keep his warmth up he'll use a single Go-Lite + the VaprThrm (presumably with the Wisp over the top to further protect against convective heat transfer).

IMO, that's a pretty well-thought out strategy considering Andy's never actually pushed himself this hard before.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/09/2007 10:11:37 MST Print View


Andy is hiking as a business and GoLite is his big sponsor so I would not look for a lot being said for other companies gear that he has along. If he can "make-do" with a GoLite product I would expect him to stay with them. I do hope he tries the RBH NTS Shirt so we can find out what he thinks about it. I believe RBH does not sponsor with free products things like Andy is doing. I expect he bought the NTS Shirt so it will be interesting to see what comments he has if any about it.

I will be wearing an RBH Vapr Thrm NTS Shirt and the NTS Pants (I bought my shirt and pants) on my hike this month if I can ever get out of Texas. I will start each day with the Shirt and Pants on - cold or warm - and wear them as long as I can each day. I will be recording the temperature every 2 hours and will recored how the RBH items are working. If I get to hot, I will note that, and if I can't vent enough to cool of I will remove them. I will wear them next to my skin and as my only garments as long as I can. I will also wear them to sleep each night or at least to start each night. I will live in them 24 hours a day if possible. I want to really see what temperature range I can make them work for me.

My NTS Shirt can vent through zip'ed mesh pockets and I am getting the optional "Forearm Zipper Vents". The NTS Pants come with 16" outside leg zippers to vent my legs if / when necessary. I have used VB's in my Down sleeping bags and on my feet for over 15 years so the trick will be to see how I do with the RBH Shirt and Pants over a broad temperature range.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/09/2007 10:43:54 MST Print View

Andy may be a sponsored athlete, but he's sponsored by a backpacking company so he still has to be thrifty and can't afford every new piece of gear that comes out. I had a chance to look over his gear as he was packing up to hit the trail last week and he has a balance of stuff he's testing for GoLite as well as other items he's procured on his own.

The temperatures really started to go down last night and it's been around 10 deg. F overnight. I talked to him on the phone last night as thus far he's been making around twenty miles per day (ankle pain from not being used to wearing boots is apparently slowing him down slightly). He'll be upping that to twenty five through the weekend in order to time proper arrival of his next food drop.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/09/2007 11:38:45 MST Print View

Gear Companies being used by Andy and the number of products by company or Store (BPL.Com) from each:

GoLite 17 Store (?) 7 (+/-)
DeFeet 3
RBH Designs 3
Timberland 1
Forty Below 1
High Gear 1
Leki 1
Northern Lites 1
Marmot 1
MontBell 1
Headsweats 1
PossumDown 1
Oakley 1
Jacks R Better 1
Gossamer Gear 1
Therm-a-Rest 1
Nalgene 1
Snowpeak 1
Mini-Bic 1
Brunton 1
LG cell phone 1
Canon 1
Olympus 1
Photon 1
Petzl 1
Victorinox Classic 1

Linda Voll
(Mataharihiker) - F

Locale: NW Wisconsin
Cold weather coming.... on 01/10/2007 16:56:10 MST Print View

Andrew will be able to test his gear...we've got a cold front coming of our Artic blasts...single digits highs, below zero lows and wind...I'll be winter camping in Pictured Rocks (U.P. Michigan) this week'end...wearing my nose cozy!

Edited by Mataharihiker on 01/10/2007 17:37:18 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Cold weather is here! on 01/12/2007 10:46:00 MST Print View

Andrew should be in the Grand Marais area. Their airport is back away from the lake much like the trail is and at 11:30am they're reporting -8F with a 10mph north wind ... windchill in the -20's. Fortunately, the forecast is for a slight warmup Sat-Sun b4 the next cold snap next week.

An indication of the strength of the lake effect is that the harbor is reporting +1F

Edited by jcolten on 01/12/2007 11:21:15 MST.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Grand Marais on 01/14/2007 06:36:33 MST Print View

I talked to Andy yesterday from Grand Marais. He said it had been colder finally. He said when it was only 5 degrees at 11 am he needed to "embrace" the cold!

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
tracking Andrew on 01/14/2007 07:58:50 MST Print View

Folks interested in tracking his weather might find these links useful:
Silver Bay
Grand Marais
I like the graphs ... -16F in Grand Marais yesterday!

Edited by jcolten on 01/14/2007 08:01:57 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/14/2007 12:51:12 MST Print View

Anyone that has talked any trash about Andy Skurka will have to simply hold their peace for the time being because that boy is hardcore!

I hiked in on Friday night and met him for an evening of bivying in -12 deg F tempratures! We went to sleep with -4 deg F reading on the thermometer, -12 deg F at midnight and -5 deg F the next morning.

He's been steadily doing 25 mile days hiking from sunrise until roughly two hours after dark. He's far enough north where he now is carrying snow shoes but crampons have been his weapon of choice thus far.

I had a chance to inspect his vapor barrier system closely as well. He seemed very comfortable with the system and hasn't been having insulation-wetting perspiration issues as he's thermo-regulating with extreme caution. He typically walks 15 or 20 minutes, adjusts his clothing and then repeats. He's wearing suprisingly little clothing while walking and then layers on the insulation upon arriving at camp.

But alas, I won't put words into his mouth and will save the details for him to share when he's done in a week or so. I'm sure we can expect a full report. 400 miles in what is shaping up to be 16 winter days - not bad, Andy. Not bad at all.

cushing hamlen
(chamlen) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Re: Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/16/2007 20:42:16 MST Print View

I have not visited the BPL website for a while...and so just came across this thread. First of all....good luck to Andy....gutsy effort...and I am looking forward to hearing more on how his gear performs. Second...I am in Minneapolis, and the temps are definitely taking a dive these days...should be something like -10 to -15 for him tonight. I will be wondering if he will be able to keep up anything like the pace he is keeping on the superior hiking trail once he turns west onto the Border Trail and then the Kek. The Superior trail is a well maintained clearly marked trail, with ready access, so it is heavily hiked. The Boarder Trail and the Kek are different in two ways: access is far more difficult (I think this is some of the most remote area in the upper 48), and being in a national wilderness area, anything man-made, including signs or blazes, are forbidden. thus the trail is not actually marked at all, and because foot trafic is so low, it is sometimes nothing more than a game-trail (i.e. barely visible)...and that is with no snow on the ground. Also, with all the iron ore in the ground, compasses literally can turn circles as you move from one place to the next. It can also be very, very rutty with exposed roots and rocks. This is absolutely drop-dead beautiful wilderness...I was up there in early October for a solo getaway...and can only imagine how majestic it would be in the dead of winter. I both envy Andy the experience (pictures please!), and cringe at the challenges. Be safe Andy.

Edited by chamlen on 01/16/2007 20:45:07 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/17/2007 09:19:39 MST Print View

Andy's pace has probably dropped some now that he has moved off the well-marked Superior Hiking Trail and onto the less obvious BRT and Kek trails. He has hiked these trails previously however (winter '04/'05) and commented that the route finding was not as difficult for him as many people claim.

cushing hamlen
(chamlen) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Re: Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/22/2007 21:02:32 MST Print View

Sam - interesting to hear he has hiked those trails before and feels he can keep up that kind of pace. From what I hear, the biggest issue in the most remote portions of the trails is tree-falls, as routine maintenance is not....well...routine. Certainly on the north end of the Powwow trail, which is not even as remote as the Kek, falls really slow you down. Oh how for maintenance like that which is possible on the AT...where you can really pretty much fly. But then again, on the Kek you get nearly daily doses of the northern lights! At least the temps have been pretty moderate this last week for him.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Re: Re: Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/22/2007 21:29:08 MST Print View

Andy reached Ely with only a little damage late Friday. I talked to him last night. He mentioned that the blowdowns were really bad. We'll publish a podcast of our first interview Wednesday. In the meantime Andy is off to meet some other obligations - that guy is BUSY!

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Ultralight in the Icebox on 01/23/2007 09:09:51 MST Print View

His first time through the boundary waters he often chose to walk chains of lakes as the going is utterly easy compared to the mess of blowdowns from 1999. When I was with him in Grand Marais he told me he was going to stay strickly to a land route this time around and that he expected to be done on Thursday. As you can see from Carol's last post that he didn't arrive until Friday and that he obviously had some trouble with either route finding or (more likely) slow conditions.

The BRT and Kek are trails synonymous with slow travel as their maintenance organizations are small (albeit dedicated) crews of people who can only get out a handful of times per year. Winter conditions probably heighten the difficulty for game trails are more obvious taking you off track, having to contend with walking over and through the literal bomb holes that moose put in the ground as well as the added weight of snowshoes on the feet.

My congratulations go out to Andy on a difficult hike that was from what I can tell well-executed. I look forward to hearing his perspective.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Ultralight in the Icebox on 02/01/2007 17:08:55 MST Print View

Does anyone have any insight into why Andrew wouldn't be using a Canister stove?

He mentioned not wanting to "modify a canister stove for winter operation," but the only "modification" required would be turning the canister upside down, no?

Canister stoves in practical application use 1/2 to 2/3 the fuel by weight, according to Dr. Caffin and others. Why the white gas?

Further, all those finicky little parts on a white gas stove's pump assembly really increase the chance of a catastrophic failure, (not decrease it,) right? I'd love to hear anyone's insight.