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Lythe 12-14-2015 12:51 AM

Dealing with wet snow?
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Yesterday I went snowshoeing in less than ideal conditions, and would love some clothing advice.

My staple route (4+ hours round trip) involves a lot of uphill for the first half, so winter or summer I sweat a lot going up. Normally I change into a dry layer near the peak, and am fine on the way down.

Yesterday's conditions involved lots of wet snow and wind, while breaking trail and navigating 3ft+ deep channels cut by recent rain (extra exertion = extra perspiration). My problem was I could stay warm but not dry.

My gore-tex wet out after the first hour. I only had a t-shirt and a thin long-sleeved shirt under, and I was chill, but still sweating. I then switched to a thin fleece and my more breathable DWR wind jacket, as with altitude I'd hoped to get dryer snow, but while warmer got soaked even more. My legs I usually wear wind pants over my regular pants for snowy conditions, but in wet flurries they soak through, and yesterday that was after 1.5 hours. I didn't try my goretex pants as I figured they'd be much warmer and I'd still get soaked (from sweat). If it hadn't been so windy I'd have pulled out my poncho, though there was a bit of bushwacking too where that wouldn't have worked.

Is there a good way to dress for this kind of weather? I suppose if I was in better shape and go a bit slower I might have an easier time staying dry, but as I'm usually going with limited time I tend to push harder on hikes.

trick 12-14-2015 04:13 PM

Try to get comfortable with being colder. Pit zips on a jacket can help somewhat, or using a hard-shell fabric that is more breathable than goretex. A hard-shell or beefy soft-shell pants, with little insulation might help too.

KARVITK 12-14-2015 04:21 PM

I have a problem with excess perspiration as well, I bring an extra set of shirts and sweater, and change into these dry ones once at a lunch or stop for some time. To avoid getting chilled, as that could get nasty.


vdg 12-14-2015 04:28 PM

Funny enough I was just talking the other day with some people about the same problems: in the end nothing is really waterproof and breathable. Only a plastic poncho will 100% protect you from the outside wetness , while creating a sauna underneath :)

I went for over 3h in cold wet snow conditions and I got completely soaked in a high end DryQ Elite jacket, with only one t-shirt underneath. I changed into a dry shirt as soon as we stopped for lunch and had some warm soup that I brought in a thermos container. This combination kept my body temperature warm enough to spent another 3h in those wet conditions. My 2c..of course.

StevenSong 12-14-2015 07:17 PM

This weather sucks no matter what you do. Avoid overnight trip all together and for day-trips I'd go with minimal rests. Food in pocket and you don't have to do a "lunch stop". Yesterday has similar weather on Mt. Kelly so we didn't do any rest stop from car to summit. Only 1 tart on the summit and then ski all the way down in one push... To keep myself (relatively) dry what I use is a thin rain jacket with nothing but t-shirt inside. I keep most zippers open, and keep the pace a little slower than your normal pace. But of course if you go in a group then the pacing could be difficult unless you're the strongest.

lowclimber 12-15-2015 05:24 AM

the breathability of goretex depends highly on the surface dryness - it stops functioning when it gets 'wet out'. so make sure your DWR is applied regularly; can't emphasize enough.

pick your inside layers to dry quickly when you slow down

were you 'chill' from being damp or the temps? i find a wool layer - just a long sleeve + gloves - work fine for me up to 0C no wind when moving fast uphill. and no sweat! i may be damp from falling snow but plenty warm.

mazeGirl 12-15-2015 03:30 PM

Gore-Tex hardshell Jacket and Pants, and extra dry base layer to change usually during the lunch break or when is needed. wear gloves and bring extra 1-2 pairs of gloves to change if your gloves get wet.

Put on warm clothing (e.g. Down jacket and a thick hat when you take a rest ), always bring thermos with hot drink, it helps a lot.......

Control your speed and keep a good pace, no need to be too fast & sweaty.

Do not wear too much when hiking during the winter season, a base layer plus a hard shell is totally enough IMO.

alexcanuck 12-15-2015 09:19 PM

Real old school with a modern twist.
Heavy wool bib pants (fabric, not knit) with slim thinner wool sweater, over a wool short sleeve, all heavily treated with "Polar Proof". A shell goes on if needed but often not. No possible way to stay dry in those conditions, work on warm and comfortable.

Wool when coated in smelly sticky sheep gland goo is truly great at keeping the weather out, washed clean it's still OK and people don't run or pass out, dogs don't start knipping your heels. Treated with Polar Proof it's both civilized and very effective. Much less absorbent, water beads up, snow slides off. It will shake dry to the touch, you can tell by the weight it's not truly dry but it feels dry, and is almost as warm. Treatment only lasts a few washes, but as wool is so naturally stink resistant you don't have to wash it as much. Wool has been the maritime favorite since before maritime was a word, and IMHO still beats any synthetic hands down when treated with Polar Proof.

Animal fat, especially bear is more traditional as a treatment and works, but I'll go modern on this one!

Dru 12-18-2015 03:03 PM

Warm but not dry is fine. Cold but dry is worse if you can't warm up.

One problem I see with your setup is you had a waterproof layer on over a thin base. So you sweat out directly onto that waterproof layer. The waterproof layer is cold because the outside is cold so you get condensation - basic physics.
"waterproof" can't breathe through a layer of liquid water. condensation inside garment makes you wet.

There is a solution. Put the waterproof layer further from your skin using thicker (not warmer just thicker) layering. If the vapour gradient is thick/wide enough, ie. freezing temperatures are far away from your skin rather than close to it, moisture will migrate out along this gradient and condense far away from your body rather than close to it.

Done properly (eg. Buffalo system) you can wear multiple layers of thick-ish fleece and pile with just a thin windproof over top and stay dry while moving in cold rain and wet snow.

I don't usually bother with that because I have a simpler system. In these conditions I wear a non-breathable waterproof over thin but high-loft fleece, and avoid sweating by moving slower. I stay dryish and not too warm. I keep a thick synthetic puffy in a dry pack and put it on over top of everything else (waterproof too) when I stop moving. this moves vapour gradient away from me and helps dry out waterproof layer.

dougz 12-19-2015 09:51 AM

I'm with Karl, the best solution is either don't sweat (ha!), or pack an 'emergency' baselayer and down midlayer top in a waterproof compression sack in addition to what you're wearing (wool or synthetic baselayer, fleece midlayer for rest stops). I take these 2 items even on day trips, as you never know what conditions will call for in the alpine, and it is well worth the extra bit of weight if you end up needing it.. If I'm working hard (fast and/or up an incline) I usually don't bother with my mid or shell layer unless I'm stopping for a while, even in -10 to -15. And like I say even if I screw up and get my synthetic fleece midlayer wet (of course my baselayer is always quite wet), I have an 'emergency' back-up (goose down).

For my lowers if it's going to be wet I don't bother with soft shells. I wear a hardshell with zips for ventilation and wool or poly baselayer pants under that, and I pack 'emergency' midlayer fleece bottoms and socks if it's really cold out - again even on day trips. I get stares from the 'light and fast' set, but I'd rather have it and not need it than the reverse!

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