warmer when wet, one more time?

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Re: warmer when wet, one more time?

#16

Post by Mophead » Thu May 12, 2016 11:43 am

Thanks for the additional links billybob! I don't take any of this stuff personally and am not claiming to have the answers, so feel free to call it as you see it. I agree with TXYakr that it would be great to know the conditions i which the wet vs dry tests were done. If anyone can manage to find that, please post. I think the biggest thing the two blogs I linked have going for them is that neither of them sell or make any money off of gear testing. While they might not be using best scientific practices or stringent controls, they are at least unbiased. Especially Adam who went in assuming the woodtrekker's tests were not valid and then ended up affirming them with his own test. Even he admits, though, that the test wasn't perfect since he wasn't able to replicate the amount of activity for the tests very well due to time constraints. He chose 68 degrees, I assume, because they say that is the temerature at which your body starts to radiate a majority of its heat.

I would say over 80% of the time when science turns out to be BS its because of money and self interest and not because of poor testing. I studied human nutrition where this is especially seems true. It is a CONSUMER science like textiles I suppose, and marketers are good at what they do. Even when things are sent contracted out to different analytical service companies things aren't perfect. Years ago when I worked for the CDC we would send things to 4 or 5 different major companies and then analyze them ourselves. This was to see if certain companies would try to return results favorable to you and be more likely to be selected for future contracts.

If we are talking about sleeping insulation I am assuming you are going to be sedentary while using it, but this might not always be true. Dry time is indisputable. If that is what matters to you then you should go with synthetic. Most of the time cost is much better for synthetic but some of the new synthetics like thermoball are just as expensive as down. Does their performance "when wet" really make them worth as much as down? Its probably going to depend on what "wet" means. I think when the salesman at REI tells you they are "warmer WHEN WET" they are assuming or talking about dropped in a river, rained on in your pack, or in some way close to thoroughly wetted out. This is distinct from "faster drying" because it assumes you will be using it "when wet" which I strongly suspect is not as good idea as the marketing makes it sound. Hypothermia is when your core temp drops to 35*F or somewhere around there. But numerous sources say if you are wearing wet clothes hypothermia can occur in temps as high as 50*F with wind. Even if your insulation is trapping some air could that make up for a that much water in contact with your skin? I am not so sure... I don't have much experience with different insulation very wet and if it was a grave situation I just didn't camp and packed out to my car. I've had a couple that I might share but I am trying to look up some more info on down so I'll just save my personal experience for another post.

Edit: Haven't had time to digest this article fully yet but there is some interesting stuff about wind shells and different insulation which all kind of play into this as well http://www.windowoutdoors.com/WindowOut ... 20Loss.htm One of the conclusions he draws or at leats re-affirms is that "conduction is important and usually dominant in heat transfer through clothing and may ultimately control the total heat loss". If this is true then water which has a thermal conductivity 240 times that of air would devastate pretty much any insulation... I think....



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Re: warmer when wet, one more time?

#17

Post by BillyBob66 » Thu May 12, 2016 10:14 pm

Mophead wrote:Thanks for the additional links billybob! I don't take any of this stuff personally and am not claiming to have the answers, so feel free to call it as you see it.
I didn't figure you did take it personally, I just figured you were presenting an interesting study. And even though I have called BS for that study as far as relating it to real life situations- because I have to go by my personal testing and use which totally contradicts the idea that there is no difference- I still found the articles very interesting and I thank you for finding and posting them. I actually think I understand how the original guy got his results, I just reject the idea that testing bears any relation to real life field use.

Mophead wrote:I agree with TXYakr that it would be great to know the conditions i which the wet vs dry tests were done. If anyone can manage to find that, please post. I think the biggest thing the two blogs I linked have going for them is that neither of them sell or make any money off of gear testing. While they might not be using best scientific practices or stringent controls, they are at least unbiased. Especially Adam who went in assuming the woodtrekker's tests were not valid and then ended up affirming them with his own test. Even he admits, though, that the test wasn't perfect since he wasn't able to replicate the amount of activity for the tests very well due to time constraints. He chose 68 degrees, I assume, because they say that is the temerature at which your body starts to radiate a majority of its heat.

I agree they are probably not biased. I think Adam's tests were more valid. And except for the mysterious and sudden 15*F drop in the last few minutes of the test, I think he actually showed a significant advantage to the wet wool vs wet cotton, as I would expect. Plus, since he was not continually re-soaking, I suspect that if the test had gone on for another hour, allowing the wool to dry faster than the cotton(if the cotton was of equal thickness and water absorption) he would have shown shown even more advantage to wool(and certainly synthetic) as it started to dry. Now, of course, if it starts drying out, then that's different than warm when wet(more correctly warmER when wet), right? But, that is one of the points: cotton takes so much longer to dry. That makes a big difference in the real world, as attested to by lots of people over many years. I found this comment to the bowl guy very interesting, naturally since it seems to jive with my testing and personal experience:
"2) There has to be something wrong with the experiment, as just today I disproved it.

In order for a hypothesis to be correct, it must be able to predict an outcome
. So, based on your hypothesis, if I were to do a 4 hour trek in -17C weather, best case scenario, I would feel no temperature difference between removing all layers wet from sweat and wearing sweaty, wet layers. This means that I would get frostbite within 30-35 minutes and be in dire straits by the end of the 4 hour trek.

Instead, I had to continually remove these wet layers in order to cool off. I don't mind being hot, but I do mind my glasses fogging up. However, when I removed the last, wet wool sweater layer (leaving a cotton t-shirt and one wet wool vest), the fog on my glasses vanished and I quickly began losing heat. I was forced to put back on a wet (now frozen) layer to warm back up. My glasses quickly fogged up again, but to a lesser degree than previously. I did not get frostbite.

So despite wearing layers that your tests say should be worse than wearing no layers, the layers did, in fact, increase insulation and your hypothesis was unable to make a prediction. It is false, despite your evidence.

This means that some part of your experiment is flawed....................................." I would only agree that the experiment is flawed as far as predicting what would happen on the trail if I was wearing wet wool vs wet cotton, or even more so if I removed wet wool to expose skin to cold rain or snow. In my experience(and apparently that of many others) cotton is great for trying to stay cool in hot weather. Wet(or even just slightly damp) cotton blue jeans are the coldest thing I have ever worn. Decades ago a forest ranger involved in search and rescue told me that if they could just get summer time hikers(in the western mountains) to switch from cotton jeans to wool pants, they would have a lot more success at rescue. I still believe him. I have not experienced anything to prove him wrong. (well, maybe the two testers we are talking about, but that is why I don't accept their results as predicting what we should expect on the trail.)
Mophead wrote:...................................Edit: Haven't had time to digest this article fully yet but there is some interesting stuff about wind shells and different insulation which all kind of play into this as well http://www.windowoutdoors.com/WindowOut ... 20Loss.htm One of the conclusions he draws or at leats re-affirms is that "conduction is important and usually dominant in heat transfer through clothing and may ultimately control the total heat loss". If this is true then water which has a thermal conductivity 240 times that of air would devastate pretty much any insulation... I think....
I agree, but maybe there is another factor for real world applications? What if the synthetic(or to a lessor degree the wool) insulation drys very quickly- at least close to the skin- in response to body heat and/or a hot water bottle? And does so way, way faster than a cotton or untreated down bag? If so, drying faster- especially close to the skin- can effectively make insulation warmER when wet, especially if the soaking is not continuous.

Which takes us back to the OP of this thread. Not exactly laboratory science, but useful in predicting real world results? Maybe. They soak some bags, get in them, and see how it goes. And even though it took the synthetic bags longer to dry than the treated down bags, they still "kept me by far the warmest when it was wet". Plus "the material touching my skin felt warm at around the 15-minute mark." And this compared to treated down! I can well imagine what the results would have been had they had a nice kids back yard soaked cotton bag to compare to(or maybe also untreated down). Despite the results of the testing being discussed, I would be willing to bet some $ there would be a world of difference. Maybe it would not be actually warm, but it would be 10 times warmer than cotton.

Mophead, in your previous post about down and humidity, that well matches what I have observed with one of my friends on two different high humidity trips. Not one bit of external moisture on the shell of his down, but a significant loss of loft after 5 cloudy days.
Rom8:21the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption23..but..we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit.. groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body

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Re: warmer when wet, one more time?

#18

Post by Mophead » Fri May 13, 2016 11:03 am

I think at the point that you soak the bag it stops being valid in the real world because if you are soaking your insulation on a regular basis then you are doing something wrong other than choosing the wrong insulation. This is coming from a backpackers view on the east coast. That might not match everyone's situation but this is a scenario where the claim is often made and seems to worry people into choosing a synthetic bag because "down won't loft in humid environments".

Would my bag loft better in colorado or california in the dry season? Probably, but I have never lost a great deal of loft from a bag over an extended trip of 7-10 days with down on the east coast and I have used synthetic bags and down bags close to their temperature ratings and always been warmer faster and more comfortable over all in a down bag. I have slept, or done my best to try to sleep, in a damp synthetic bag before when my friends and I crossed a stream and ended up in a huge thunderstorm. The spot we were in turned into an island and we were stuck there for another day before any of the three streams were crossable again and I was down right MISERABLE in a synthetic bag. It never got soaked either. this was in my tent dwelling days and this was all from leaking rain drops and humidity that wouldn't escape the tent. Temps never got that low either this was early summer. Looking back I could tell you several things I did wrong and how I could have stayed warm, but if I did the same things with a down bag I would have stayed just as warm if not warmer I believe.

Here is how I pack and use my down bag:
  • I use a garbage bag and only compress the bag as much as I need to fit, no compression sack.
  • Put the garbage bag into a pack liner so you now have 2 layers of protection.
  • Use a pack cover when it rains.
If you do the above three things it should survive a fall in a river and monsoon-like rain.
  • Hang it in the sun or in a breeze during lunch and at right after setting up camp.
  • In the winter you can put boiled water into a safe container, I use the opaque softer nalgeen, and put it in your bag
  • Before packing in the morning squeeze the air out and then shake it back out to loft again and hang it during breakfast before packing agian. Never compress it with any moisture like dew or condensation on the shell.
  • On extended trips in wet weather whenever you get to town put it in a dryer for at least 15min. AT hiking this is could be done about every 7 days.
In a hammock you dont have to worry as much about moisture not escaping the shelter so that's a plus for hammockers. In short, for anyone that would like to try down but is worried about wet performance my real hypothesis is that this phenomenon is exaggerated in order to sell synthetic bags and you can stay warmer with half the bulk and up to half the weight in a down bag. At the point your gear is soaked as if it were sprayed by a hose all insulation is equally worthless except for the dry time. But since your bag should never get to that wet in the real world I can't see this as a realistic benefit. I am going to have a hard time proving this outside of personal experience because the type of info I was looking for on down just doesn't seem available.

This is the moisture I put up with, you can see the fog blowing through in the video:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/3o4uc2aroiew0 ... M.mov?dl=0

The temp that night got down to high 20's with light rain during the day and some at night. I used a down bag converted to a peapod that was rated with a comfort rating of 25 F and never felt cold.

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Re: warmer when wet, one more time?

#19

Post by BillyBob66 » Fri May 13, 2016 3:37 pm

Mophead, I agree that if you are regularly getting your insulation soaked you are doing something wrong. But I have seen too many things happen to experienced, skilled outdoor folks to think that any one can guarantee their insulation won't get wet or damp. I could list 1/2 dozen things I have observed happen to other folks that I don't think anyone could prevent, and which no amount of dry bags would have helped. How about a snow loaded tree branch breaking and ripping through your tarp and dumping a big load of snow right down through your face/neck area, and plus now you have a big hole in your tarp at midnight during a snow storm. etc etc. Boom, you are wet. And you are probably going to get even wetter if you try to fix that tarp at night in the big blow. And of course there is always sweat and condensation. Like my friend whose down lost 1/2 of the loft on 2 different trips of about a week. No external moisture at all on his bags, sleeping in a hammock. Happened to me one time also on another trip, lost about 2" loft, no external moisture on my Marmot down bag at all. I was fine since the bag was rated much warmer than the coldest temp we encountered. But it's probably good the trip was over. No sunshine on any of those trips, at least not enough to dry anything.

But, I also have spent a wet miserable night in a synthetic bag, on a 30 day mountaineering course with NOLS out of WY. I had an inadequate rental bag for the temps to start with. It was extremely used and probably was once quite puffy and good for 20F, was once puffy but now was pretty flat. I rented it from them when they did not want me to take my down bag, or any cotton. So any way, I was fine until the 27th day of the trip(out of 30 days total), and on the 27th June a big snow storm blew in. I even have pictures!
Image

I woke up that morning of 062785 to a June snowstorm that had flattened my tarp. We packed up and hiked a few hours in the wind driven snow to make a Tyrolean traverse across some raging snow melt white water. Then hiked all day to make camp as this photo was snapped. Every one was wet either from sweat, external moisture, some fell in small creeks, and the falling tree branch got one guy wet after ripping his tarp. The next picture is waking up the next morning:
Image

The low that night was 24F and very windy, and we were all pretty debilitate by the end of the day. You maybe can tell my friend(on the left) is in 100% wool, and that is his synthetic bag drying out on the tree branch before we start another all day hike. His bag was puffier than mine, and he was warm enough all night. So was my other tarp mate, all wool or synthetic and an adequate bag. The damp did not keep him from doing fine. But me, I had a miserable night. But every one in the group went to bed wet or damp. That is really my only cold wet night in 30+ years, except my very 1st night in a hammock not far from this spot(not wet, just cold) 20 years later. I have somehow managed to stay dry or even if I was damp my gear was adequate to keep me warm. But that night, though I had an inadequate bag for the temps, that had lost a lot of loft before I ever got it wet, I was grateful the instructors would not allow us to take down or cotton. Since my down bag was rated way warmer than 24F, I might have been OK. But after almost a month straight in the wilderness, it might have already lost a lot of loft just from condensation, and then that day probably would have got damp. Plus, I was pretty damp myself when I crawled into the bag. A cold miserable night might have been much worse. My old, beat up synthetic bag might have been sort of flat to start with, but it never got any flatter after 30 days of abuse, or even damp.

That night you reported on when you were miserable in your damp synthetic bag? Just my opinion, I can't prove anything, but my hunch is you were very lucky you were in a synthetic bag, rather than a wet or damp down bag of similar temp rating at the start. You might have been miserable, but in wet down you might have ended up a lot more miserable. But I could be wrong of course.
Rom8:21the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption23..but..we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit.. groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body

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Re: warmer when wet, one more time?

#20

Post by Mophead » Fri May 13, 2016 8:36 pm

Looks like a fun trip despite the crappy sleep. I'm not sure how a down bag would have faired in that situation. I just know now I would have done a number of things differently and my bag would have not been as compromised synthetic or not. It's hard to get a comparison, too, because the info needed to make a good direct comparison in a "scientific" test isn't out there. Or at least not easily found.

All I know is I've got 4 years exclusive down usage with no wetness issues. I like to throw that out because it delayed me purchasing any down for a while and want someone with no down experience to know it can work. If my down ever does get super soaked my plan is to stuff it up the front of my shirt and stand like this:
Image

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Re: warmer when wet, one more time?

#21

Post by BillyBob66 » Fri May 13, 2016 11:34 pm

Mophead wrote:Looks like a fun trip despite the crappy sleep. I'm not sure how a down bag would have faired in that situation. I just know now I would have done a number of things differently and my bag would have not been as compromised synthetic or not. It's hard to get a comparison, too, because the info needed to make a good direct comparison in a "scientific" test isn't out there. Or at least not easily found.

All I know is I've got 4 years exclusive down usage with no wetness issues. I like to throw that out because it delayed me purchasing any down for a while and want someone with no down experience to know it can work. If my down ever does get super soaked my plan is to stuff it up the front of my shirt and stand like this:
Image
Appears to work for him, he looks warm when wet!

Oh, and it was a fun trip, the biggest adventure of my life. I have hiked those mountains many times since. I have had one cold night since. Not wet, just cold. And yes, I have used a lot of down, all untreated.
Last edited by BillyBob66 on Sat May 14, 2016 12:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
Rom8:21the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption23..but..we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit.. groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body

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Re: warmer when wet, one more time?

#22

Post by BillyBob66 » Sat May 14, 2016 12:08 am

While I may have had mostly great luck with my down(though I occasionally take synthetic and almost always have mostly synthetic or wool clothing), I have one friend who has had bad luck. I already mentioned the 2 trips where- though he did not appear to get any moisture on his sleeping gear, but by the end of the week both times his loft was way down. One of those trips I was also using down, a PeaPod, and I was not aware of any problem. The other trip I was 100% synthetic including HHSS, so even camped by rainy, misty, foggy, rivers with max humidity in the Olympics still zero issues. I did get soaked at the foot end 1st night from condensation, but still slept quite warm and dried quickly next day. But for him, both trips his gear lost a lot of loft and he was getting worried. And all with no external moisture getting on his gear. He kept it dry. I have wondered if maybe he was sweating. If it was condensation I wonder why I did not have it in mt PeaPod? Who knows.

But on a long ago trip to the same WY mountains in those pics, he had bad luck. 1st, he had refused my offer of a bivy sack- didn't want to carry the weight. I thought his down Marmot bag rated at 25F was a little marginal for the Wind River Mountains 1st week of September. So I thought the bivy sack might give him a few more degrees and a little extra external moisture protection. So our 1st 4 days were warmer than expected- no lower than 40F- and perfect dry weather. Then next to last night here came the rain. We wake up the next morning and the foot of his bag was quite wet. We thought rain some how got in the tent, but I have since decided t was probably just lots of condensation. My bag was not only much warmer, but had a WPB shell.

So we pack up early and hit the trail, and it rains all day. Finally the weather seemed to clear as we stop to make camp beside a giant boulder that had a big over hang. I was going to sleep outside under the over hang and let him have our little tent to himself. it was like the gods were out to get him. As he bent over to pound in stakes at the foot of the tent, the suspenders holding up his rain pants failed and formed like a big funnel just as the thunder clapped and in an instant something like a small water fall came over the over hanging rock. And it went right into the funnel his rain pants soaking him as night fell. Then it cleared and the temp dropped to 15F. Since he had to pack up his down bag wet, it was obviously still wet. Poor guy had a miserable night, and his boots froze into bricks making for a miserable morning. He was in a big hurry to get out of dodge and back to the car.

This was the trip where, once I got back home I measured and my bag had lost 1 1/2 to 2" loft out of a total loft of maybe 6-7". But even sleeping out sheltered only by over hanging rock, I was warm enough even at 15F. But I was starting to loose loft, apparently to condensation from inside.
Rom8:21the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption23..but..we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit.. groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body

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