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Icy feet
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Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Icy feet on 10/10/2012 11:03:28 MDT Print View

One big problem I have on trips in the fall and spring is my ridiculously cold toes. I'm fine during the day, but particularly in the evening setting up, and in the morning, packing up and drinking my coffee, my toes literally hurt they are so cold. I wear thick warm camp socks, but it doesn't even come close to warming my feet. Without resorting to down booties I'm not sure I have any other options.


I hear people talk of using bread bags...might that help my chilly toesies??? I'm trying to bring LESS gear, I really didn't want to start packing $100 down booties for a few camp chores...

Neoprene socks??

Any other thoughts??

Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Icy feet on 10/10/2012 11:30:00 MDT Print View

I use plastic bags...the type you put bulk foods in. They weigh virtually nothing and are free. I keep them up and closed with a small rubber band. (Careful that the band isn't too tight or it'll restrict blood flow to your feet and make them even colder!)

I have used bags like this for perhaps a decade or so, at night in my bag mostly but also during cold morns and eves as well as walking through snow in trail runners during the day. I've used them against my bare skin and over my socks. Though my socks get slightly damp, I prefer the latter.

These bags work so well for me, I make them part of my kit on every single trip. (usually use them to contain meal components during the days. Double duty.) Give'em a shot. They may work for you too!

Good luck.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Icy Feet on 10/10/2012 12:00:56 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 09/08/2015 15:47:15 MDT.

Mike R
(redpoint) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Has to be breathable ... on 10/10/2012 12:01:27 MDT Print View

Any form of air-tight membrane feels warm for a while, but then, as body vapour begins to condense, your toes will get really, really cold. Same feeling as wearing rubber boots or non-breathable rain pants. I used to think camp booties were dumb and then I tried some. Initially, I tried some while backcountry skiing - wow - I could actually get out of my ski boots at the end of the day! I'd go with some down booties ... try and find some with a highly wear-proof/tough/grippy material on the base. Trust me on this!

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Icy feet on 10/10/2012 12:36:26 MDT Print View


Rather than using bread bags....use UPS shipping bags, which are free and very strong.

I have hiked in them for miles and miles without tearing them.

You just have to cut them down to sock size.

I agree with what was said earlier....around camp, they might cause your feet to get colder.

I have used UPS bag and trail runners in the snow and while snowmobiling as a test to see how they would work.

While hiking, they keep your feet warmer and protected from the wet cold of rain/mud.

When I stopped hiking, my feet would get a chill from the trapped sweat that was in them/saturated my socks (damp, not soaked from sweat) as my body and feet were cooling down.

In the morning, you might realize some warmth because your feet are not sweaty....but you might get a chill.

You would have to experiment.

Wear some in your backyard early in the morning and see if your feet are warmer...better to test at home vs. on the trail.

Let us know if this works for you.


Mike V
(deadbox) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
Re:"Icy feet" on 10/10/2012 12:47:48 MDT Print View

Jennifer, what temps are you having these issues in and what is your current footwear? The reason I ask is that heavier socks will result in colder feet if it means that your shoes are now too snug with them on. If the blood can't circulate freely in your feet, your toes are gonna be cold no matter how much insulation you have on them.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
cold feets ... on 10/10/2012 13:43:30 MDT Print View

when you put on your shoes first thing getting up, so you can wander about and make coffee ... are your shoes warm from being in a nice tent, or about frozen solid from being basically outside under a tarp ?

frozen shoes will freeze to numbness the feets, and not warm up for several miles.
wamr'ish shoes are kind'a a nicer way to start the day.

maybe you can shove shoes in a plastic bag, and bring them into the bag with you at night.

peter v.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Icy feet on 10/10/2012 13:58:46 MDT Print View

I too have issues keeping my extremities warm and they'll often hurt without proper care or activity, even in moderately cool temps.

This article hits my system spot on, but also links to some other article for cold weather footwear that may work for you too.

Specifically, if it's cold I expect my feet to get wet somehow (water, snow, simple condensation and sweat). So if my feet are going to be at least clammy, might as well keep them warm. Neoprene socks work really well. I've hiked all day with my feet submerged in 40-50f water and not had my feet feel particularly cold. That's with simple 3oz NRS hydroskin socks (only 0.5mm thick with a thin fleece lining). So if you went with beefier neoprene, you'll be warmer (and heavier). I find this works well as long as I give my feet time to dry once settled into camp, before sticking them into socks and my sleeping bag. With cool weather it usually doesn't take my feet too long to fully dry out, where I live that is.

As others mentioned, your fluffy socks may also be TOO thick, enough so that you're cutting circulation to your feet. It's surprising how little pressure is necessary to reduce blood flow. I tend to keep my laces much looser or size up my footwear during cool temps to ensure adequate blood flow (and warmth!). Since you don't want to carry much more gear, I would suggest just trying the bread bags. The VBL effect will be the same as neoprene (although I think neoprene is warmer per thickness/weight than big fluffy sock and a VBL). Worst case scenario, you get cold feet like usual but get to enjoy the wilds as usual and you've eliminated one possible solution. Best case works and your enjoyment will increase!

If the bread bags and socks combo (make sure you also wear a liner sock) seems to work for you without introducing new issues, you may want to again consider the neoprene socks. I just find the neoprene route is much more streamlined, allowing me to use my normal shoes and have better blood flow over all.

PS: Get over the calf socks if you don't have them (as per the article, something like thin ski socks). Knee high socks put a lot less pressure on your skin, over an area where blood vessels are deeper in the leg. Around the ankle many of the blood vessels are pretty shallow (that's why many feet are veiny) so having a sock cuff in that area puts pressure points exactly where blood flow is most easily obstructed. Mid-calf or higher socks avoid this concern.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Insulated insoles on 10/10/2012 14:03:04 MDT Print View

Forgot to mention insulated insoles. ToastyFeet makes some insoles using aerogel insulation that are supposed to be pretty good. No direct experience but marketing literature and testimonials say they've helped keep feet during death valley marathons in the summer and feet considerably warm on everest expeditions. They seem cheap enough to experiment with and should just replace whatever insole came with your shoe.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Icy feet on 10/10/2012 14:11:09 MDT Print View

I actually start with the cold toes around this time of year...mid30s and below at sunrise. I've tried thick socks n' loose crocs (too windy I assumed), my regular hiking socks and my old leather boots, and then two pair of socks (thin running socks and heavy camp socks) both in the airy crocs and again once I switched to trail runners. Now I don't use any camp shoes, but I had this problem just last weekend and it was only 38 in the am.

I do keep the shoes outside the tent, so maybe I should try putting them under me. Good idea.

And one if my hiking friends RAVED about the down booties from feathered friends...if a simple plastic bag doesn't do the trick maybe I should go ahead and take the plunge. It's the only real comfort issue I haven't been able to master on the trail after all these years, and in my pursuit of sub 10# (finally hit 9!!) I wasn't sure what my options were.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Cold toes on 10/10/2012 20:38:15 MDT Print View

Jennifer, Two additions to your winter kit that might solve your problem: (1) plastic bags as recommended, for early mornings in camp and hiking, (2) down booties as your camp shoes. Some down booties have soles and structure stout enough to replace your Crocs (saving weight and adding insulation) and ought to help considerably. Looks to me that your circulation requires special attention, which you should address regardless of (in Sturka's words) "stupid light" weight savings.

Cheers (and warmer toes), Richard

Edited by richardglyon on 10/11/2012 14:44:37 MDT.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Icy feet on 10/10/2012 21:15:10 MDT Print View

I use chemical heat packs, placed under my toes. They last quite a few hours. I switched brands as one took forever to activate. Of all places, CVS had the better brand that reacts much faster. I'll fire them up before I get up in the morning. I also have down booties, but need the heat packs too.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Icy feet on 10/10/2012 21:25:42 MDT Print View

Been there, done that! The cure for me was Ben Smith's Goose Feet with the extra silnylon overbooties for outside of the tent.

My daughter has even worse issues than I do (she has a mild case of Reynaud's) and she will go to any lengths to keep her feet warm, regardless of weight and other desires. She gave up winter sports for that reason.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
wpb on 10/10/2012 23:27:35 MDT Print View

Get waterproof breathable socks, expensive for socks but effective. Plastic bags are a no no if you plan on moving due to condensation.

Edit: Like mentioned above DIY Tyvek socks would be a good alternative.

Edited by M.L on 10/10/2012 23:30:37 MDT.