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Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel Part 3: Model Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Hiking, Snowshoeing, and Snow Camping
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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel Part 3: Model Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Hiking, Snowshoeing, and Snow Camping on 04/03/2007 21:42:46 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel Part 3: Model Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Hiking, Snowshoeing, and Snow Camping

Shane Perry
(Rymnel) - F
Gaiter question on 04/05/2007 13:05:20 MDT Print View

Great article. Tons of insight that only hard earned experience earns. I posted this in the lightweight philosophy and technique forum but maybe it's more appropriate here.

I find it interesting that, particularly with light weight trail runners, you choose to incorporate gaiters. I can easily see why they would be useful when using a goretex boot or sock but why with breathable shoes? How do they contribute to the cold weather setup with mesh shoes?

This question exposes my lack of gaiter use in the past I'm sure. Can anyone enlighten me on why you would use them with a setup based on trailrunners?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Gaiter question on 04/05/2007 20:23:36 MDT Print View

Hi Shane

> I find it interesting that, particularly with light weight trail runners, you choose to incorporate gaiters. I can easily see why they would be useful when using a goretex boot or sock but why with breathable shoes? How do they contribute to the cold weather setup with mesh shoes?

Pretty simple answer, in two parts.
1. When traveling on 'not very cold' snow I find my shoes always get some snow on them. Having the waterproof lower part of the gaiters deflecting the snow off the surface of my shoes means my shoes stay a LOT drier. The lower part of the gaiters functions a bit like overboots here. Without the gaiters the warmth of my feet melts the snow which then trickles into my socks.
2. The snow also kicks higher up my ankle, and would get directly into my socks. The gaiters keep the snow off my ankle regions as well.

Notes:
While I wear light gaiters with unproofed Cordura uppers when I am not in the snow country, I do wear gaiters with Goretex uppers in the snow. One of the few really good uses for GoreTex in fact. Mine have lasted about 10 years or more this way.
For snow use the gaiters MUST have both a tight lower edge and a cord under the arch of the foot, otherwise the snow can wedge itself up between the shoe and the gaiter.
You can see pictures of my summer gaiters in the snow in the Bushwhacking Gear Gaiters article - they worked OK. That was not meant to be a snow trip!

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
very nice piece on 04/07/2007 10:35:57 MDT Print View

This is a very nice piece of journalism. It reaffirms much that I've learned about cold weather footwear combinations.
Working outside in north central washington state and the cascades in the winter I've played with many different approaches to foot warmth.
I've had some success with using a strong deoderant like mitchum unscented on my feet, I've weighed my socks with and without doing this and there is a significant weight difference at the end of a day. I only do this in frigid temp scenarios.
I know of one person with Raynaud's who uses crazy thermaband on her hands and modified for her ankles [these work by keeping the capillaries from constricting with a mini handwarmer pack]
I apologize if you covered this in any of the 3 parts as I did not review them again before writing this.
Everytime I find someone suffering with cold feet they've been drinking, their feet are wet, or their boot/sock combination is too tight with the later leading the pack.
Thanks again for your efforts.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Wearing Gaiters on 04/08/2007 06:29:15 MDT Print View

Thanks for the comments/feedback on the articles.

I also have Reynaud's Syndrone and also find the Crazy Creek Wristband warmers to work well to turn things around when my hands go numb. Most of the time I can avoid the problem, but there are always times when I slip up and get chilled, like at the end of a steady climb in cold weather.

Janet and I wear gaiters the year-round, and feel naked without them. We wear trail runners most of the time, and gaiters are great for keeping snow, water, dirt, and debris out of our shoes.

Jason A. Grafft
(jgrafft) - F

Locale: Inland Empire (of smog)
Lightweight Footwear System Implementation on 04/17/2007 16:08:11 MDT Print View

Used a pair of New Balance 754's (24.2oz/pair) and Ultimax Cool-Max Mid Hiker's (2.0oz/pair) on the Superior Hiking Trail for five days. Weather conditions varied between rain, snow and sub zero temperatures and trail conditions were a mix of standing water, running water, ice and snow (depth range: 1in to 5ft). My feet got wet early and stayed wet throughout the day.

The 754's shed water well and did not pick up any noticeable weight wet, dried quickly and were comfortable to wear even when cold and wet. The socks insulated well and were exceptionally comfortable wet or dry. While moving my feet stayed warm despite saturated socks and frequent walking through ice-cold pools of standing water.

Periods of inactivity were the drawback to this system; my toes would easily become cold at temperatures below 40F when not moving. I believe using a gore-tex sock would have greatly improved the comfort and adaptability of this system to colder temperatures.

David King
(dking1005)

Locale: Olympic Peninsula
Sealskinz and gaiters on 05/02/2007 22:27:47 MDT Print View

A pair of regular Sealskinz All Seasons socks has been part of my 3 season kit since I wore them for most of a six day hike in the Olympic Mountains in August two years ago.

Last weekend I went on an overnight south of Mount Hood and, on the strength of these articles, tried the Sealskinz with my New Balance 809s in the snow. They worked great! I was perfectly comfortable with just the Sealskinz and low spandex gaiters. My shoes got soaked and my feet were damp inside the Sealskinz but never very cold. We hiked in about four miles, made camp and then hiked around in the snow, mostly off-trail, for the rest of the day with considerable postholing as it got warmer.

Normally I would have worn LL Bean Cresta Gore-Tex boots and wool socks. This combination saved about 9 ounces per foot and felt great. Back in camp I put on clean wool socks and down booties. Heaven.

The daytime temperature was in the fifties. The lake we were camped on refroze overnight.

I just need a larger pair that I can wear over wool socks.

Sven Klingemann
(svenklingemann) - F
Lightweight Footwear System Implementation on 10/24/2007 08:11:59 MDT Print View

Hi guys,
as winter approaches the footwear question(s) loom large. Assuming that more layers are needed to keep your feet warm/dry, do you have additional shoes (assuming that you use trailrunners all year) that are sized larger than those you would wear otherwise?
Thanks,
S.

E J
(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
Questions prior to snowshoe trip re: overboot pictured, VB socks, Keen shoes on 12/06/2007 15:17:55 MST Print View

Thanks for this wonderful piece - it was perfect to get educated on footwear for cold weather hiking and snowshoeing. My wife and I are about to go snowshoeing and x country skiing in Northern Vermont next weekend (my wife's first time snowshoeing), and I would sincerely appreciate your advice on a few smart gear choices, so that my wife will continue to snowshoe with me. She grew up a flatlander in New Orleans, but after a good introduction and outfitting, she loves hiking in New England, despite already suprising a mother black bear with cubs in the White Mountains a few years ago (I'll have to log that in a a BPL section on bear stories).

1) Which long black overboot was pictured with this caption: "Lightweight Footwear System For Snowshoeing In Continuous Snow In Frigid Temperatures - Our model system: liner sock, vapor barrier sock, heavy wool sock, insulated footbed, insulated waterproof/breathable boot, neoprene bootie, and an insulated overboot. The total weight for a size large (excluding the snowshoe) is about 42 ounces/foot." The overboot pictured is long (above calves), black and appears to have a white embroidery or picture of a snowshoer at the top part. What model is it and where can I get it? I'd like to order them ASAP, especially since the only gaiters we have are short OR Flex Tex and ID eVent Shorty gaiters (which aren't as warm as tall waterproof OR gaiters).

2) We were planning on using the Keen Growler you recommended. It's quite cold in N Vermont this time of year, probably 15-25F daily and it can be windy, especially climbing some of the more accessible local mountain snowshoe trails. The Keen has 200 gram Thinsulate. We chose it because we thought 200 g thinsulate is very versatile - it can be used for milder cold temps in late fall or early spring, and made warmer with an overboot or vapor barrier socks.

There is a boot that is very close to the Keen Growler in construction and weight, the Keen Snoqualmie - but the Snoqualie has 400 grams thinsulate in the toe area, and 200 in the ankle and boot body. Would you recommend it over the Growler, or would you just use the Growler?

3) Even with going with the larger sizes we needed for the Growler (we found it is cut small, which is often the case with insulated boots), the Growlers we picked up can't accomodate a liner plus very thick winter socks - only a liner plus medium weight socks. I'm a size 11 foot, typical 11.5 running shoe and hiking boot, and need a 12 in the Growler. Andrea is a shoe size 7, typical hiking boot/running shoe size 7.5, and wears an 8 in the Growler. That being said, would you recommend a vapor barrier sock for very cold conditions, in addition to the overboot? How much room will it take up in the shoe?

Thanks kindly for your advice. We'd like to be just as comfortable and safe in cold weather as in 3 season milder conditions. Especially since winter offers less crowds (which can be an issue in the Northeast) and some very special scenery.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Questions prior to snowshoe trip re: overboot pictured, VB socks, Keen shoes on 12/06/2007 18:10:31 MST Print View

Hi EJ

You need to ask Will R about this, not me :-)

Cheers
Roger

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Questions prior to snowshoe trip re: overboot pictured, VB socks, Keen shoes on 12/06/2007 21:49:14 MST Print View

Hi EJ,

Sorry- my climate is different here in the PNW. I personally use a Gore Tex runner with a RBH insulated VB sock and a full-height gaiter for winter trips down to about 10 deg. I've gone several days with this and it's been great in my climate. Today, I'd buy the high top Inov-8 shoe, but my current shoes are lowtop Inov-8s.

But Will is the expert and his article articulates shoe systems the best.

Have fun with the Northern Lites- they're all I've used for years now. Well, that's with the exception of review snowshoes but they were awful in comparision. Northern Lites ROCK!

Good luck!
Doug

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Etan question #1 on 12/07/2007 10:10:31 MST Print View

Etan,
Look at the third picture below the one you refer to in question 1.
It's the Forty Below Light Energy TR Overboot in the photo.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel Part 3 on 12/08/2007 16:08:27 MST Print View

This three part series was fantastic. Great work!

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Comments: on 04/29/2010 00:03:26 MDT Print View

Lots of alternatives for winter footwear discussed here, some "good" some "not good", IMHO.

With many years as a Nordic ski patroller, Army ROTC winter survival instructor and XC ski racer I can say that if you're out for a DAY hike, ski, or snowshoe then yes, merely breathable footwear will work if the snow is not wet.

If it's wet then waterproof breathable footwear is necessary. There's always a warm house or cabin to return to to dry the footwear and get clean socks.

At the 1979 Lake Placid Nordic World Cup ("Pre-Olympics") events it was -20 F one day and -40 F the last day. Nordic patrollers had to ski anyway. We had low Nordic racing ski "boots" with foam insulated overboots and gaiters over the overboots. That combo barely kept us warm in -40 F. and we had to keep moving. The skis kept our underfoot insulated, amazingly. (We wore full nordic clothing under full alpine insulated clothing plus mittens.) But at the end of the day we had a warm hotel to return to and dry our gear.

For several days of winter camping there are "RULES":

1. Keep as much of your footwear insulation as dry as possible (inside and outside)i.e. from perspiration and weather.

2. Inside the footwear> A VBL is absolutely necessary to keep perspiration from your insulation.

3. Outside the footwear> Gore-Tex, eVent, heavily coated nylon or rubber keeps out environmental moisture.

4. footwear MUST be kept warm overnight to avoid frostbite or worse in the morning. This is best done with removable insulation like heavy neoprene or feltpacs removed from overboots and placed in the sleeping bag overnight.

Insulated boots W/O removable liners must be placed in a large stuffsack or plastic bag and placed inside the sleeping bag. This will be inconvienant because of the bulk but it must be done.
***********************************************************
Now comes the decision-making part. Namely, choosing the correct footwear for the type and duration of cold exposure expected.

For ex. For lighter extended stay footwear system:
>liner sock - polypropleyne or Cool Max polyester
>VBL of thin NON-breathable neoprene or ripstop
>feltpack W/ insulated arch-supporting insole plus possibly a felt undersole layer beneath the feltpack.
>NEOS waterproof knee-high overboots

When using VBLs an extra pair of thin liner sox can be carried for each day.

Edited by Danepacker on 10/27/2010 18:41:29 MDT.