Every winter I brace myself for the inevitability of numbed toes. Despite thick wool socks, heavy boots, and high gaiters to keep the snow out, my toes stay chilled for at least the first half of any hike in the snow. As a result, I’ve just gotten used to the pain of freezing and thawing my toes.
Two years ago I read this article about Vapor Barrier liners at Backpackinglight, but figured VB’s weren’t for me just yet. I thought they were only for seriously cold conditions– sustained sub-zero temperatures and long expeditions. I was wrong.
Last weekend I decided to try something different, finally fed up with my popsicle feet.
The great thing about vapor barriers for your feet is that they are one of the cheapest pieces of equipment you can test. While a fancy pair of RBH Designs socks can run you about thirty bucks, I went to the grocery store and got a pair of turkey roasting bags for two dollars. Sandwich the bag between a liner sock and a normal weight sock, and you’ve got yourself a vapor barrier sock system.
Over that sock system I wore my usual pair of New Balance sneakers (usual for summer, that is), with a pair of gaiters to keep snow out at the ankle. Despite a high temperature of twenty degrees for the full day of hiking, and trudging through powdery snow all day, my toes stayed happily warm without any complaints. I’ve never had a success so resounding in testing a new type of gear. I’m a convert– no more boots and freezing toes for winter hiking. I’m sticking with my sneakers and plastic bags.
On a final note, one of the fears of using VBs is that you’ll end up with feet swimming in pools of sweat. I was surprised to find when I took the liners off that there was nothing more than a damp mist on the inside of the bag. I guess Skurka was right in his article on BPL that VBs almost completely stop you from sweating. It’s like magic!