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VBL clothing options
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Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
VBL clothing options on 11/02/2011 17:23:24 MDT Print View

The mystery of VBL clothing... I know of 1 1/2 manufacturers of pants and shirts:

RHB makes VaprTherm NTS Shirt and Pants. The clothing looks very dialed in at around 14 oz for each, customizable zippers, sizing... The downside is the price, they have a corner on the market and I think they know it $145 for the pants, $185 for the shirt = $330 + shipping.

The half manufacturer is Stephenson's Warmlite. I say half because if you look at VBL clothing on their website it looks like a rain jacket that a 90 year old lady would wear to the grocery store, the pants don't look that bad but there isn't a buy button on the website. The shirt sells for $25 so assume the same for the pants and you are around $50 plus shipping. I will admit I haven't called to inquire about the products so I am throwing these questions out without doing any homework.

So here are my questions:

Does anyone own the Stephenson's and have better pictures?

Is the RHB stuff worth $330 bucks?

Are there any other companies that make it?

Should I just make my own? If so what about seam sealing. I have heard that VBL socks normally break down at the sealed seam then they delaminate?


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: VBL clothing options on 11/02/2011 17:47:01 MDT Print View

I bought some "fuzzy stuff" from Stephenson and made pants and shirts

If you were doing an artic expedition, I think they might be useful, but I only did 4 nights max at maybe 20F minimum which they didn't seem better than normal clothes for the weight

You could take a garbage sack, cut holes for your neck and arms and make a VBL "vest" just to get an idea of effectiveness.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
I have the theory and proper use down... on 11/02/2011 17:54:21 MDT Print View

I intend, this winter, to use them in the ADK, White, and Green mountains. I anticipate at some point seeing -20F temps and regularly seeing -single digits. I used an ebivy bag liner last winter and didn't like the feel, so I really don't want to go down the trashbag route. I liked waking up in a dry bag didn't like the noise and PITA of the foil wrap. How much did you pay for the "fuzzy stuff" fabric if you don't mind me asking? Did you seal the seams or let that little bit of vapor breath out?

Edited by earn_my_turns on 11/02/2011 20:03:24 MDT.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
RBH on 11/02/2011 18:23:42 MDT Print View

I purchased the VaprTherm NTS Shirt last year and was very satisfied with it last winter, but I didn't experience temps all that extreme, thanks to a relatively mild winter. It could be worth it (convince a loved one to buy the pieces for you for Christmas or something), but it's definitely not cheap. I guess if you use the gear over several years and it keeps you toasty (and your down dry), why not?

Edited by evanrussia on 11/02/2011 19:03:58 MDT.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: VBL clothing options on 11/02/2011 19:01:40 MDT Print View

Another option is the silnylon 'rain' gear from Antigravity Gear.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: I have the theory and proper use down... on 11/02/2011 19:02:58 MDT Print View

I just did French Seams, so there wasn't a lot of path for vapor to go through.

I don't remember what "fuzzy stuff" cost but it must not have been too bad, because I'm a cheapskate, maybe $10 per yard? Ask them

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
Re: Re: VBL clothing options on 11/02/2011 20:08:34 MDT Print View

I don't wan't to go down the silnylon route either. The nice thing about the VBL specific fabrics is the "fuzzy" material laminated on the inside, it wicks moisture away and feels nicer on the skin. This will be my base layer that doesn't come off until the trip is over several days later. If I made it I would probably go with the "fuzzy stuff" from Stephenson's. I think I am going to give them a call tomorrow and enquire. I would love to see some better pictures of what their products look like.

Does anyone know another company anywhere in the world that makes VBL clothing? I have searched the web for months now and can't find anyone. I just think there has to be some cottage company in the middle of nowhere Alaska that makes VBL clothing.

Edited by earn_my_turns on 11/02/2011 20:12:00 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: VBL on 11/03/2011 07:29:22 MDT Print View

"This will be my base layer that doesn't come off until the trip is over several days later."

It might be worth considering a lighter VBL like the zpacks cloud jacket (2.9 oz $165) or RBH cuben VBL (4ish oz) used in conjunction with a light base layer underneath. This would give you a little more flexibility in being able to remove the VBL (without going naked) during periods of high intensity like breaking tracks uphill etc. It would also let you periodically dry out the liner if needed. I know you said you were not interested in silnylon longterm, but this or another lightweight non-breathable cheap raincoat would be a great way to test out the system before committing to the expense of designated VBL clothes. By the way, 5 days without removing VBL will create an odor like you've never smelled...

Good luck with your purchase

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
VBL Stephensons update on 11/03/2011 11:55:03 MDT Print View

I spoke with Stephensons today and I thougth I would update for anyone interested or future people that would be interested in more details.

The shirt and pants are ment to be the base layer. The fabric is a nylon with a brush urathane coating on the outside and a wicking laminant on the inside. The shirt has a zipper in the front, it is not skin tight however because the fabric doesn't stretch. The pants have a closure in the front similar to jeans snaps or zippers or combo (I think), also not skin tight. Both are meant to be worn as the base layer.

As far as price and weight:
Shirt for Small or Medium is $25, Large is $30
Pants are $39 and they need waist and inseam measurements.

Weigth for each is around 6 oz...

Lead time is about 2 weeks they are assembled after order.

I have to take some measurements tonight but i am going to order in the next day or so, I will post pictures and actual weight when they come in.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: VBL Stephensons update on 11/03/2011 12:40:15 MDT Print View

That seems like a pretty good price

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Stephensons on 11/03/2011 17:29:02 MDT Print View

Yeah, for that price, I'd retract my original recommendation. Let us know how they work out.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
Stephenson's VBL update on 11/29/2011 18:58:47 MST Print View

Hey guys,

As promised, weather you wanted to know or not my Stephenson's Warmlite vbl clothing came in today. I ended up ordering socks $8, Large Shirt $30, an 32W-32L Pants $39, for a total of $83 with shipping. Construction on all stands up to the Stephenson's name that I believe everyone associates with quality.

In a one sentence review, their VBL clothing is as quirky as they are, but it seems like I can make it a good thing. The clothing came with 3 sheets of instructions (with 3 different fonts), and a current catolog which gives much more info about their other products than the website, and I believe from my quick flip through has more products than they advertise on the website??? WARNING, if you are ordering for the young mountaineer in your family intercept the package and remove the catalog because naked women are all over the place. Unless your family is in to that sort of thing and then by all means, I won't judge.

The Socks: 3 oz
I think this is the best product of the three, they are a double layer of what might be a different fabric than the fuzzy stuff. The most interesting part of the socks is that each layer is cut all from one piece an then sewn together with minimal stitching. I think this will greatly improve comfort at a cost of probably very few socks per yard of fabric on their end. Very high quality design!!!
vbl socks

The Pants: 5 oz
Made of fuzzy stuff, they said order them the same size as a pair of jeans. They are hugh, the waist and length are right but they are extremely baggy for a base layer. The other odd thing is they have velcro for the waist and an opening for the fly but no zipper. It is just open. Sorry for no photo of the pants as a whole, the color was playing tricks on my camera that really doesn't like taking indoor photos in the first place.

detail of waist and missing zipper
vbl zipperless pants

The Shirt: 7.5 oz
The shirt is the oddest of the three items, they said to order it the same size as I would a long sleeve tee shrit. Also maid out of fuzzy stuff, but a silver instead of black. It has a full length zipper, a chest pocket, and a collar as if I should have bought the vbl tie. The shirt is also about 6" longer than I would ever need. It fits more like a large flannel button down than a base layer. The pocket makes no sense as in is the bottom layer in the winter, the collar is fuzzy stuff out so I think it is meant to be like a buff but it really is just in the way, and the full zip is a little much, but that is a personal preference when it comes to zippers.

VBL shirt
vbl shirt

detail of the pocket, collar, and full zipper
vbl shirt, pocket, collar, and full zipper

The shirt and pants feel nice against the skin, I think the material is a great vbl fabric.

I think I am going to end up modifying the pants to be a little more athletic fitting, as well as add either a zipper or velcro where the crouch zipper should be. I am most likely going to slim the shirt in the chest area and down, change out the full zip for 1/3 zip, and remove the pocket and collar. I am going to wear them as is for a few day hikes when it finally starts to get cold enough in New England and then make a decision about slimming the fit.

All and all for $83 bucks I am fairly happy but if I were to do it again I would order the raw fuzzy stuff fabric and make my own shirt and pants with a pattern bought from JoAnn fabrics. If you aren't that sewing machine savvy I would recommend having Stephenson's customize the fit a little more athletic and base layer sized, order the material and have someone make the clothing for you, or go with the RHB more expensive version, that looks like it has a more athletic cut on their website. For reference I am 5' 10" and 155ish pounds, athletic build.

Let it freeze and snow in our near future!

Edited by earn_my_turns on 11/29/2011 19:07:23 MST.

Jan Mihalik
(mihaall) - F
Density polyethylene coveralls on 02/14/2012 07:40:08 MST Print View

Hi there.

I'm looking for something that could serve as a VBL layer in my sleeping bag. I prefer clothes instead of VBL bag.
What do you think of this? density polyethylene coveralls?

It's good cut, very light, cheap and waterproof. It says it's permeable, but it seems not much.

what do you think, what is the max permeability of material to be considered a Vapor barrier material? (??? grams/24/m2) for the use in sleeping bag in winter.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
Re: Density polyethylene coveralls on 02/14/2012 07:53:03 MST Print View

I am not that scientific but my guess based on my understanding of how VBL works is that 0 permeability is the only way vbl will work. You will get a bit that escapes from the appendage holes in the garment, ankles, waist, wrists, and head. Other than that the fabric needs to have no permeability at all. I have heard of using the tyvec hazmat suits before. You need to wear a base layer under the suit for comfort and probably health as well. The moisture needs to wick away from your skin and humidify the air trapped inside the vapor barrier.

Edited by earn_my_turns on 02/14/2012 07:54:43 MST.