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Author Topic: In praise of synthetic clothing  (Read 2066 times)

Offline 300winmag

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In praise of synthetic clothing
« on: December 14, 2018, 01:41:41 am »
I get it - wool clothes, fur ruffs and mittens, canvas mukluks etc. are all nice for that feel of the old Calvin Rustrum and voyageur days. It's nice to have that kind of get up that still works well in sub zero temps.

But I'm, by necessity, a cold tent camper, whether backpacking in the steep mountains of Nevada or hauling a pulk with skins on my skis.
And to do this I need synthetic clothes, in fact much prefer them.

BASE LAYER-
->mid weight or Polar weight polyester long johns, top and bottom W/ zip T neck top

MiD LAYER
->fleece lined synthetic shirt from LL Bean  (OK, sometimes my Norwegian wool sweater)
->200 weight fleece vest or jacket - depending on temperature
->Thermolite Micro synthetic fiber insulated jacket and pants for VERY cold weather

OUTER LAYER
->Gore-Tex mountain parka
->Gore-Tex OR brand mitten shells W/removable double layer fleece mitten liners
->Gore-Tex gloves W/ various thicknesses of removable pile liners
->DULUTH TRADING Dry-on-the-Fly fleece lined nylon cargo pants (Best general use winter pants I've ever found)
->fleece balaclava - sometimes under fleece Peruvian style hat
-> fleece face & neck mask if very windy or bitter cold
->ski goggles if very windy

FEETS
->US Divers brand closed cell 3 mm neoprene sox over thin polyester liner socks (NO wool socks needed. This is a VBL for my boots.)
**Even if you are a Bush Crafter you absolutely need these VBL divers' sox to keep your boot insulation dry and warm all day.
->Scarpa T3 plastic Telemark 3 pin ski boots  W/ Vibram soles and removable liners (that go into my sleeping bag at night)
-> or... Sorel "felt" pacs W/ liner of inner layer of polypro felt and outer wool felt - if snowshoeing

Yes, I do own a pair of Dachstein boiled wool mittens that did very well under nylon/leather shells at -40 F. They are amazing.
And I own another pair of Knut & Knut ex. Large wool gloves I boiled down to merely Large. Again very warm liners for my GTX glove shells.

I ain't "agin'"wool but usually the synthetics work better, are lighter and last longer. 

*The last time I used wool base layer was in the '80s and it was a Norwegian wool fishnet which worked well - until wifey put it in the drier!! That woman is no longer allowed to launder any of my clothing. She's ruined too many items.

Eric B.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2018, 04:15:07 pm by 300winmag »

Offline rbinhood

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2018, 07:20:27 am »
Use whatever works for you. It's all about staying warm and dry. Nature gives us some good materials to work with, and man has invented some good materials, too.
Personally, I love my wool long underwear. Have yet to find a synthetic pair that doesn't begin to stink and feel greasy after I sweat in it, or even wear it for a few days.
If you are messing with fire or a wood stove, synthetics are very prone to getting spark holes, no matter how careful you are. Even natural fibers will burn, so you have to be careful either way.
At the end of the day, it ain't a fashion show, it's all about function and being comfortable.
"Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify."
Henry David  Thoreau

Offline kinguq

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2018, 08:43:05 am »
I like a mixture of both. Love my wool underwear and wool pants. But I prefer a fleece sweater.

I've never understood why anyone would want a cotton anorak unless they were working around an open fire. Uncoated nylon works just as well and is a fraction of the weight and bulk. Dries much faster too.

Just try to keep an open mind, try new things and use what works best for you.

Kinguq.

Offline scoutergriz

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2018, 09:01:06 am »
I'm with rbnhood on this one! I've been winter camping for more than 50 years and done the transmission from natural fibers to synthetics and back to natural fibers. While synthetics have improved remarkably of the last 30 or so years, I find that they still have the same drawbacks as they've always had- that of windproofing and moisture transmission. While modern coatings like goretex may work at above or near freezing, once it gets seriously cold, those pores freeze up, essentially turning it waterproof and prevent its breathability. I also find that for the clothing to vent properly you need to rely on various snaps and zippers which can let precipitation in and fail at inopportune moments. fleece, by it's very nature is hydrophobic and displaces moisture through those pores.
Natural fibers such as wool otoh, are hydrophillic, and work by absorption and displacement- the warmer you are, the faster that heat drives the moisture out, and with no pores to clog, there is little to interfere with that process regardless of the temperature. Wool (especially virgin) is also a decent wind and precipitation shield, whereas fleece is extremely poor at both.
My standard gear, while it does contain some synthetics, is primarily natural fibres-
Merino wool long johns, wool blend shirt, a wool sweater or down vest, and wool pants, along with high-grade wool socks works down to about +5 F (-15C), a 60/40 cloth overjacket will get me to about -5F (-20 C), add a pair of arctic fleece long johns OVER the  merino ones, a second pair of wool socks, and a pair of thin nylon or polypro liner socks, and I'm good to -40, with a high windchill the cotton overjacket may be replaced by a down filled 60/40 parka.
My gloves are usually nothing more than leather work gloves with the Canadian forces cold weather mitten overtop.
The added bonus is that with wool or damp cotton as an over layer, I can snuggle up close to the fire with little concern for sparks or burn holes!

Offline Wilderwes

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2018, 12:54:49 pm »
Although I haven't posted much, I frequent this forum regularly to glean information from others. Part of that is learning from alternative viewpoints and experiences. Up until I starting reading this forum and watching Hoop's Youtube videos, I had been taught by the school of outdoor thought that says that synthetic is pretty much the only option. While I have since incorporated wool pants and a cotton blend anorak into my winter outdoor wardrobe, I still have synthetic base layers (partly because of the expense of purchasing merino wool) and wear fleece as a mid-layer. All of this is to say that I appreciate 300winmag posting this and as an example of "continuing education" from this forum, I am going to look into trying out his VBL system for my feets.

Offline 300winmag

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2018, 04:19:45 pm »
scoutergriz,

I hear you on GTX parkas and sub zero temps but I get around most problems with pit zips and venting the bottom with the two-way front zipper. So far only frost inside the parka lining on my back shoulder area has been a problem.

New Gore-Tex Pro breathes much better, more like eVent. Wish I had a parka of that stuff.

Eric B.

Offline yardsale

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2018, 05:22:23 pm »
Although I haven't posted much, I frequent this forum regularly to glean information from others. Part of that is learning from alternative viewpoints and experiences. Up until I starting reading this forum and watching Hoop's Youtube videos, I had been taught by the school of outdoor thought that says that synthetic is pretty much the only option. While I have since incorporated wool pants and a cotton blend anorak into my winter outdoor wardrobe, I still have synthetic base layers (partly because of the expense of purchasing merino wool) and wear fleece as a mid-layer. All of this is to say that I appreciate 300winmag posting this and as an example of "continuing education" from this forum, I am going to look into trying out his VBL system for my feets.

Virtually all of my clothing is synthetic save one pair of merno wool underwear, but if i had to be outside in 36 degree rain for 6 hours--I would choose wool over a single layer of poly every time.

Offline Bkrgi

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2018, 10:55:16 pm »
For cold I love my wool and the cotton Anorak....it shocks me at times how little I need on to stay warm.
Down for out right sheer warmth plain rules the day... night
Wool down cotton and a few pieces of leather for feet(winter mocs) and hands(gloves)...good to go..for me.
Living warm in North x Northwest BC
IMG-20161030-04037 by richardktm300, on Flickr

Online Moondog55

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2018, 09:47:24 pm »
I've never had a problem with any of my synthetics around open fires but having destroyed a good Goretex parka last season on my stainless steel stove I can really see the point of cotton and wool for use with traditional camping styles.

Offline Snowbound

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2018, 07:46:49 am »
Quote
...all nice for that feel of the old Calvin Rustrum and voyageur days...

Funny you should bring up Rutstrum.  I just reread Paradise Below Zero by Rutstrum and picked up a few "modern" things I missed on the first read.  He definitely uses synthetics in his kit.  He uses quilted down long underwear as a midlayer - sounds very similar to a Patagonia down sweater to me.  He also has a section talking about the modern (1968) mountaineering clothing and how the items coming out then were beginning to show promise for widespread use in winter trekking.  Fifty years later I think his prediction came true.

Rutstrum fashioned his own insulated air core sleeping pads by slicing open an air pads, injecting down, and them patching them back up.  Sounds like an Exped to me.  He also vehemently recommends double walled tents as the only way to go for comfort and efficiency.  Funny how single walled canvas tents has become thought of as the norm in "traditional" hot tenting. 


Offline 300winmag

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2019, 01:58:22 pm »
Snowbound,

Yep, in "Paradise Below Zero" Rustrum shows he too used "what worked best" but hw also was flexible in that area.

Eric B.

Offline yardsale

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2019, 06:09:43 pm »
I had a copy of that book at one time.  Sad that it is gone.

Offline Stonehouse

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Re: In praise of synthetic clothing
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2019, 11:16:13 am »
I switched to wool many years ago and thought I'd never look back. But this year I've developed this annoying rash, what the doc called contact dermatitis, from wool. Pretty bummed.

I can still use it, as long as I wear synthetics under it. That's meant changing up everything from head to toe to fingertip.

300winmag--how often do you swap out your socks throughout the day?