Jump to content

Issue 53 has been released! Download your own high definition PDF copy with a TrailGroove Premium Subscription or read online in standard definition here.



Hardshell freezing/frost on inside


fredygump
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello everybody.  I just got back from a quick 2-3 mile snowshoe outing in -2F temps, and when I got back I was surprised to discovered that my gore-tex pro hardshell had significant frost on the inside. 

I thought I was dressed appropriately.  I was wearing a mid-weight fleece/poly baselayer, a loose fitting 100gram fleece mid layer, and the gore-tex shell on top.  And I was wearing ski pants with just a thin lining.  Fleece hat, polartec stretch gloves...  Boots are lightweight hikers, not insulated.

 Any advice on what to do to prevent this from happening?  Is it a mistake to use a hardshell in cold weather?  ...But I thought hardshells  were meant for extreme weather, with similar hardshells to mine market for "expedition" use?!  When I hear "expedition", I think sub zero temps...but is that my mistake?

 

  My goal is to stay active all winter long no matter what the weather.  I decided that if I learn to dress right and pay attention to conditions, I shouldn't have to be cold and uncomfortable in the winter...  It's a work in progress, and I'd appreciate any feedback y'all can give me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't deal with sub-zero temperatures very often, but non-breathable clothing is terrible for high-intensity activities.  Hardshells are okay for low-intensity activity in precipitation or brutal wind, but that's about it.  For aerobic activity, wear multiple breathable layers like wool and fleece, keep your hands and feet warm, and bring an insulated parka to put on when you stop and rest.

I don't think you'll be able to completely avoid being cold and uncomfortable, but you should be better off than with a hard shell.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Aaron Zagrodnick

Lately I usually go with a wind jacket (I use a Patagonia Houdini) as my outermost layer in cold conditions and it's been working really well - blocks the wind but is more breathable than than going with a waterproof/breathable shell. I combine this with the really breathable layers that @seano mentioned, and since snowshoeing and hiking in the snow generates a lot of heat, usually I'll start with the wind jacket and layers on (easier to stay warm than get warm) but then I'll regulate temp with the zipper and eventually take it off if needed as soon as it gets too warm - likely putting it back on towards sunset or on the long downhills where the chill starts to creep back in. I like to manage layers, activity level, and venting to run just slightly cool while active (not sweating) but not cold while winter hiking...a bit of a fine line. Once stopped, then I'll put my layers back on and add a down parka to seal in the heat.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks.  yeah, more breathability seems logical.  

I've been using the hardshell on all my outings this fall/winter to learn how it reacts and how to manage it and how to dress with it.  I've been impressed with how well the hardshell has performed.  But that last outing taught me an important lesson.   I've been pretty successful at staying warm and relatively dry under the hardshell, as long as I wear a fleece mid layer. 

 

Aaron, how is the hood on the Houdini jacket?  It looks like it is really light weight jacket?   Would it hold up to snagging tree branches?

I like the looks of the arcteryx alpha comp hoodie--their "storm hood" looks ideal for cold and windy weather, and it's combined with soft shell fabric around the torso.  And being a close-out at REI, it's significantly less expensive than it would be otherwise.....

 

When it comes to layering, what types of layers are you wearing?  Are you talking about adding or removing thick layers like a fleece jacket, or layering a couple thin t-shirt type wicking base layers?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How long do you plan to be out there, @fredygump?  If you're out for a full day or more, it's worth reading what Andrew Skurka has written.  If you're out for a continuous effort of just a few hours, your task is easier.  Wear bread bags between your wool socks and your shoes.  Bring both light and heavy gloves, and store the pair you're not wearing next to your skin.  Maybe bring a spare base layer in case you sweat through the one you're wearing.

In any case, Arc'teryx gear is ridiculously overpriced, and ice climbing is very different from cold-weather hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Aaron Zagrodnick
17 hours ago, fredygump said:

Aaron, how is the hood on the Houdini jacket?  It looks like it is really light weight jacket?   Would it hold up to snagging tree branches?

I think the hood is fine - no issues there that I've noticed. The jacket is indeed pretty light - just a few ounces. As far as tree branches go, probably wouldn't hold up to snagging as the norm but I take it off trail and haven't had any durability issues which includes going through the trees and brushing against limbs etc., but I guess I try work around any snags and usually my pants and shoes take the majority of any abuse between fallen trees hidden under the snow, rocks, brush, etc. I did shred a previous Houdini, but that was from the result of a crash on my mountain bike, so that was to be expected. (It's also a great jacket for running and biking) 

As far as the other layers go I like to combine some variety of light and medium to heavy weight thermal type synthetic layers depending on temps, I find zip-neck shirts to work well here also just to help dial things in along the way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@seanoI actually did read a bunch of stuff about hard shells before I bought mine; I'm not sure if I read that exact article, but I'm aware of that perspective. 

My perspective is that gore-tex is a known quantity--we know what it is, we know what it does, and we know how it works.  If we plan accordingly and manage our expectations, we can win...

I have found that I can stay "warm and dry" while wearing the shell.  When I say "warm and dry", I'm referring to the concept as described by Andy Kirkpatrick.  He explains how a glove only has to feel dry, rather than actually being dry (or waterproof).   In this situation, the inside of the shell is the damp glove...the gore-tex will transfer moisture out of the jacket, but for it to work there needs to be more moisture inside the shell than outside.  And my point is that the higher moisture inside doesn't mean you have to feel wet, but of course it can make you feel very wet if you don't dress right.  I have found that my very normal fleece jacket (old Columbia jacket) wicks moisture very well, keeping me feeling warm and dry, despite the moisture inside the shell.   Of course I'm not "actually" dry, but I'm dry enough to stay warm and comfortable.

I should have explained...before the incident I posted about, I had worn the shell in a wide range of temps down to 10F.  I snowshoed 10 miles in temps around 10F over varied terrain, including several steep climbs and descents.  During that hike I noticed light frost on my jacket collar, but I didn't have the freezing problem.  So I was surprised when I had a problem in temps that were not that much colder.  I guess I found the low temperature limit for wearing a hardshell? 

 

My trips so far have been up to ~4 hours.  I am interested in doing mountaineering in the future, but right now I'm limited to state parks near where I live (southern Minnesota).  I'm focusing on just getting out as much as possible, regardless of the weather.  I'm also trying to learn what does and does not work in various conditions.  I might get around to trying winter camping this year, but that would require buying yet more gear...  

And your tip about plastic bags--I did that when I was a kid.  But now my outdoor footwear is almost always waterproof.  Kind of just because...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
Aaron Zagrodnick

In regards to footwear for winter, I like using plastic bags or something similar as a vapor barrier liner / VBL even with my boots that have a waterproof / breathable membrane. I wear a liner sock, VBL of some sort, and then a thicker sock inside my boots - helps to keep my boots from getting soaked from the inside out. Works quite well and definitely goes a long way towards keeping the toes warm!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting point, @fredygump -- I hadn't considered that at some point, the temperature between your fleece and your shell would drop below freezing, completely changing how the shell performed.  It makes me think of how important moisture management is for polar explorers (reading about how the Scott expedition's sleeping bags gradually turned into heavy blocks of ice was vivid and chilling).  If you're spending whole days in sub-zero temperatures, it might be worth investing in a vapor barrier liner to go between yourself and your insulation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@seano, yeah, the freezing could be very dangerous.  I'm hoping that breathable fabric helps, but I keep thinking that moisture on breathable fabric can freeze in sub-zero temps?  Maybe it would freeze worse?  I don't remember having a problem with moisture in the past, but in the past I usually avoided outdoor activities in the coldest weather.

Probably the safest thing is to manage activity as @Aaron said?  That sounds so simple, but I don't like going slow...  And I have trouble differentiating between when I am active enough to be warm, and then when I am warm enough to start sweating.  Sometimes my core is warm, but my legs are a bit chilly...other times my skin can feel chilled when my core is warm, because I'm over dressed and sweating...at the same time my legs are a little cold.  But if I dress to keep my legs warm, then I heat up too quickly and start sweating. 

On the frozen hard shell issue, I found a blog that was interesting.  The blog listed advice about gloves given by six climbers.  One of these climbers commented about shell gloves with no built in liner, because when ice builds up inside the shell he can hit them on a rock to knock the ice off.

So if ice build up inside shell gloves is treated so trivially, then is frost on the inside of a hard shell also trivial to those who are accustomed to such cold conditions? 

 

I did buy the soft shell, and I wore it today during a ~9 mile snowshoe outing.   It does "breath" much better, as it should.  I guess it has a wider "sweat spot" for comfort, but it isn't magical.  It's best feature is the "storm hood"--I'd say it's the perfect hood for blocking winter winds. 

This weekend promised to be perfect for testing layering--today was in the mid 20's, tomorrow will be around 0F, and Sunday will range from -10 to -20.  But my car started acting up driving home today, so instead of hiking, I'll be sitting at the garage.  Hopefully I will get some "play time" in tomorrow anyway.  :)

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share





×
×
  • Create New...