Cold weather tips

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whitestone
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Cold weather tips

Post by whitestone » Fri Dec 18, 2020 3:15 pm

Following on from the bikepacking.com video causing the stir about fires I thought I'd post up some notes that I made at a winter training camp we did in Norway back in January. Obviously many are aimed at really cold temps but there should be things that apply at typical UK winter temps. There's no real order to things and possibly one or two things get mentioned twice.

Sweat is your worst enemy. Water transfers heat 7x more efficiently than air so modify your level of effort and your clothing to match your effort.

Clothing should be snug, neither tight nor loose. If it's too tight then it may restrict bloodflow. the baselayer should be snug rather than loose to avoid there being air between your skin and the garment. Contact between skin and the base layer is necessary to allow moisture to move away from the body and through the baselayer to the outer layers.

Consider the use of a mesh style vest as a base layer, it lifts the base layer off the skin but there's still contact to allow moisture to move and the "holes" trap air.

Extra insulation on the arms, like armwarmers, can help keep the hands warm while preventing the torso from overheating

Smell! bacteria don't like hair or wool so consider a mixed garment to avoid annoying others. (This may not apply to BBers :lol: )

Avoid bunching of clothing at points like boot tops. Try out new clothing items as part of the whole system to make sure it doesn't snag or create problems.

outer layers should be BIG! so they can be put on over everything else rather than taking layers off to fit them.

Skull caps often have a visor or peak, if you wear a balaclava over the top then the peak helps the balaclava move with your head from side to side.

Jacket hood that goes over your helmet to avoid having to take your helmet off. Similarly a zip-up jacket rather than a pullover.

Kineso tape or even duct tape on the bridge of your nose and the cheeks can be used to protect those areas from damp buffs, etc. sticking to them. Put on once and only take off after the race/event.

Monitor your warmth at all times and be prepared to add or remove layers in accordance with how you feel and the prevailing conditions. If you know the next section is exposed then layer up before you get there rather than fight with the wind, etc.

General point: ease of use of all items.

A big, full, beard isn't good as there will be a big build up of icicles that when you are in your sleeping bag will melt and get it wet.

Goretex doesn't work well in very cold temps as the dew point is inside the garment.

Gaiters for use in overflow and river crossings.

Multiple liner gloves. help avoid contact burns.

When really cold the glue on duct tape and the like doesn't work.

Boots should be walkable in. Don't constrict bloodflow by wearing too many socks. If it's going to be icy, fit tyre studs to the soles of your boots.

VBL socks, can use turkey bags. (I find it needs to be at least -5C for VBL to be practical)

Handwarmers need air to work. Foot versions say to put under arch of foot but this isn't good for pedalling or walking. Put in front of shin at top of boot

Hydration and eating.

Cold air is also dry air so you lose fluid just by breathing.

Poor hydration leads to feeling cold. pee when you need to, don't wait as that will also make you feel cold.

To stay warm you need exercise and/or energy. For energy you need food. Don't try to diet in severe cold.

Do the freezer test. Put whatever food you wish to try into the freezer overnight and then try and eat it. Things like Mars bars can be cut into small pieces which will melt in your mouth before you try to eat them.

Fat and protein have a high thermogenic effect, i.e. just by eating them you generate heat.

Keto diet is OK if you are used to it or start it at least a month or two before the event.

Cold vs. warm foods - some foods like chili are "warm", others like diary are "cool" in that they have that effect on you.

Oats, raisins, linseed oil and a bit of cinnamon. Blend and put in a bag, can be made into a drink or porridge/muesli.

headlight and handlebar light - Carry a light that is not fitted to the bike so you have something to work with..

handwarmers are useful when working on the bike, both to keep you warm and to warm the parts.

General point: PRACTICE!!!!!

A big ride isn't the place to try out something new. Do lots of short rides near home to work things out, even if logically it doesn't make sense in terms of the ride. So stop to make a brew, set up your bivy system - you might only be a kilometre from home so it doesn't matter if you are slow or get things wrong. The more often you do things the easier and more proficient you'll get.

Practice bike and tyre repairs, put holes and cuts in an old tyre and fix them.

Cooking:

In severe cold the only fuel that really works is petrol. The stoves of choice are the MSR stoves, the XGK and the Whisperlite. Both are reliable and field serviceable. (The XGK will actually run on just about anything - I've used "dry cleaning fluid" when in Kenya, don't know what it actually was but it worked even at 4000 metres!)

To melt snow you actually need a starter volume of water otherwise the snow evaporates rather than melts and you burn the pan. this generally means not using all your current stock. You'll need a bigger pan than in summer, probably two or even three litres in size, width is preferable to height.

When collecting snow for water create a "quarry face" type pit behind the stove so that the source is close to hand, discard the surface layer which will often have debris in it then just add enough snow to keep things moving. Depending on the size of your pan you might have to tilt it so that the water forms a pool in which to add the snow. Snow often has particles of grit in it so carefully pour into another container for cooking/drinking.

The commercial freeze dried ready meals take up a lot of space, the packaging is bulky and sturdy as it needs a long shelf life and to be able to withstand shipping and handling in the shop. Decant into zip-lock bags before the trip, remembering to take out the sachet of silica gel, bulk should reduce to about 1/3 of the original. In permanent marker write how much water to add on the side of the bag or, better, make fill-line allowing for the contents already in there.

in the morning if it's really cold then it's often best just to get moving and make breakfast after you have warmed up a bit.

Keep things simple
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Landslide
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by Landslide » Fri Dec 18, 2020 3:37 pm

Thanks for that, plenty of useful little thinking points.
Goretex doesn't work well in very cold temps as the dew point is inside the garment.
Do you happen to know if this is relevant to all breathable membranes, or just Goretex?

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by woodsmith » Fri Dec 18, 2020 3:47 pm

Thanks for an excellent read. Could you expand on the vapour barrier part as I thought Neil's description in the BP video was rather muddled.

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by whitestone » Fri Dec 18, 2020 3:57 pm

Dunno. Most of those points were just typing up what I'd written at the time. Unless another salient point was made in any subsequent discussion I didn't write down anything of that discussion.

Of course at ultra low temperatures you don't need waterproofs as such. I've a feeling that using anything like that as a shell layer will just see body moisture freeze on the inside of the jacket/trousers so it's possible that Goretex et. al. might be better as a mid-layer where there's a positive temperature gradient across the membrane and where any moisture is still liquid and not ice.

Though I didn't write it as such, dew point management is actually the key to much of how you dress and behave. That includes sleeping.

Providing you eat and drink correctly it's surprising just how little clothing you need when working/riding hard. The first time I went to Rovaniemi I was wearing less than I typically would in Scotland at maybe 10C higher temperatures. As soon as I stopped then I'd begin to rapidly cool. One of the instructors in Norway had those extra large Alpkit stem cells, they don't do them anymore, one of them had a primaloft jacket in - as soon as we stopped and her foot touched the ground she was pulling that out and throwing it on. She'd worked for that warmth, she wasn't about to lose it.

The vapour barrier layer/system works on the principle/theory that you don't sweat when the environment is 100% humidity - never seen a swimmer sweating! So you wear very thin liner socks then the VPL then a pair of thick insulating socks. Because your sweat never gets to the thick socks they don't lose thermal efficiency. Of course the liner sock gets wet, actually they only get slightly damp because the feet stop sweating pretty quickly. If you are going overnight then you need to swap them out for a dry pair when you camp. Because they are only damp you can dry them by shoving them inside your thermals when you sleep. I've used it climbing and it does work.
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by Cheeky Monkey » Fri Dec 18, 2020 3:59 pm

Fascinating stuff Bob. Thanks for sharing :-bd

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by benp1 » Fri Dec 18, 2020 4:14 pm

Great tips Bob, thanks for writing them up and sharing. Really useful stuff there

I spent a week in Lapland over xmas a few years back. A couple of nights in Rovaniemi and then mostly in Levi. It was a family trip though, not a bike trip

I didn't wear a waterproof once, it's not just cold, it's unbelievably dry there. In the morning I literally blew the snow off the car windscreen in the morning. You couldn't make snowballs, it would just fall apart. Obviously snow varies based on conditions but I was so surprised

I spent most days just layered up. I didn't buy any special kit for the trip, although I bought a fair few bits for the family. I even used B1 boots as my boots there. Put a felt liner in, only really got cold feet when standing around for a few hours waiting for the northern lights.

Once it's cold, it just feels cold. In some ways, I didn't find it as hard as the UK winter because it's dry and consistently cold. Doesn't really vary. Warm day was -15C maybe, cold day was -26C. So always cold, and always dry. And you therefore know what to wear. It's a faff popping out for a bite to eat though, spend more time getting dressed and undressed than actually walking over. I would pop out in shorts and t shirt to put the rubbish out and you really wouldn't want to be out like that for long!

I did manage to get a few hours out on a e fatbike, was ace. I wore a baselayer and a buffalo shirt I think. Baselayer leggings and walking trousers on my legs. Had icicles all over my face - eyebrows, eyelashes, stubbly beard. Really enjoyed it, although was a bit worried about getting lost as was out on my own

I think Bob's advice works great for when it's REALLY cold, but there's also a fair bit that works when it's just cold

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by whitestone » Fri Dec 18, 2020 4:50 pm

Yeah, the dryness is something that takes a bit of getting used to.

We wondered why every shop, café, restaurant, museum, etc. had masses of coat hangers and clothes racks just inside the door. The Finns dress normally then step into their porch and put on REALLY warm over clothing, head out shopping and at each shop take that outer layer off, hang it up, walk around in their normal clothes and put the warm clothing back on again when they head outdoors. A bit like us putting on waterproofs :lol:
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by ScotRoutes » Fri Dec 18, 2020 5:52 pm

Image

Yep. That's the icy beard thing. Scotland. January.

Beards are good for Winter though. They definitively cut down windchill on the face.

It seems to be around minus 12c that snow stops being compressible into snowballs. I've had that issue a few times (including when trying to clean a dirty windscreen).

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by RIP » Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:08 pm

What a valuable thread. As said above, that took a bit of time to type up, compliments to you. I'm going to go off and re-read further about dew point. Every time I do that I understand it but then forget it by when I need it, sigh.
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by Bearbonesnorm » Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:10 pm

Good stuff Bob. I do think people get confused about VB sometimes. I've tried to explain to a few folk that they probably don't want to be using a VB sleeping bag liner in the UK. :wink:
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by Cheeky Monkey » Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:29 pm

Kineso tape or even duct tape on the bridge of your nose and the cheeks can be used to protect those areas from damp buffs, etc. sticking to them.
Blimey :shock:

Images of idiot kids, licking cold metal things and getting their tongues frozen to them :lol:

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by ericrobo » Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:53 pm

Very detailed, very thorough Bob, thank you.

It brought to mind something else, especially if you mainly go solo like me (I’m too old to have any of my mates coming along with me :mrgreen: )....

Hypothermia

We get a lot of Atlantic depressions, not fiercely cold but wet and very windy...

About 3 or 4 or 5 degrees, and above, very strong wind, and wet, plenty of it is killer weather.

If you can keep going you’re probably ok, but you have to consider what happens if you have to stop.

If you’re not sheltered, not moving, that kind of weather will eventually wear you down and finish you off...

There may be no signal so rescue becomes impossible.

My experience in Glen Golly in 2015 just made me rethink everything (I wasn’t in dire straits, thankfully)...

Very strong gales, wet, and a constant roaring of the wind...
Any rideable bits were impossible!
It just blew you off...
7 miles took me 5 hours.

My rethink resulted in buying a MLD Trailstar*** and as soon as it arrived I took it up on the moors here (September, heather in full bloom).

*** many thanks to Stuart for suggesting this, as the best storm proof shelter

Could I pitch it in heather a foot high ?

Yes, I got it up in 10 minutes... that’s important,. The sooner you can get out of the wind and rain, the more you stand a chance.

Once inside I then wanted to see if I could cut the heather to make it possible to get the inner up (which is always attached inside).

It’s very difficult to pull up heather by hand.

I always carry in my kit a little blade inside a plastic sheath, and using this you can fairly easily cut enough heather.

You don’t have to be in Scotland to experience this either.

And....

That’s exactly why you need very good tent pegs.... at least 9 inches (as the actress said to the bishop)

:-bd :-bd :-bd

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by whitestone » Fri Dec 18, 2020 9:55 pm

Eric - hypothermia is another subject altogether. I remember seeing a Ray Mears programme where he was in Canada with the Mounties. They had done a whole series of experiments on, presumably willing, volunteers (AKA the lower ranks) where they worked out the effects of wind and precipitation at different temperatures. They concluded that wind driven rain at 4C were the most likely conditions to induce hypothermia.

Reg - I had a bit of time on my hand :wink: when we got back so could get things typed up from my notes. The Dew point is weird, it takes just a slight change in one of the parameters and everything's either soaked or dry as a bone. The piece of data that's important in working it out, relative humidity, is usually hard to come by. If you know it then:

Dew Point temperature = dry temperature -( 100 - relative humidity)/5

So if you've RH of 80% and a dry temp of 5C:

DP = 5 - (100 - 80)/5 = 1C

The dew point is always lower or equal to the dry temperature.

/geek mode :lol:
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by RIP » Fri Dec 18, 2020 10:05 pm

Ooh thanks Bob - those lovely equations will keep me busy all day tomorrow and out of Mrs P's way :-bd .
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by sean_iow » Fri Dec 18, 2020 10:12 pm

whitestone wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 9:55 pm
They concluded that wind driven rain at 4C were the most likely conditions to induce hypothermia.
From my own experiments I can confirm that's the case :-bd
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by Leerowe76 » Sat Dec 19, 2020 1:27 pm

Saw this, turns out its a good read and may give those who suffer with their hands and feet in the colder months some ideas
:-bd
https://www.bicycling.com/rides/a200229 ... nter-ride/
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by Bearbonesnorm » Sat Dec 19, 2020 2:46 pm

it just blew you off...
Where's this Eric?
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by ericrobo » Sat Dec 19, 2020 4:58 pm

Hiya Stu
I was doing a solo HT like I do =))

You will have read of the exploits of others on the HT in 2015, but I was a few days before them.

Going up Glen Golly was very probably storm conditions.
I’d turned left just before Gobernuisdach Lodge at 8:45am, and reached the top at Bealach Horn at 2pm (it was probably nearer 8 miles, and about 2500 feet of ascent)...
Early on there was a rideable bit, but after a few feet I was blown off, and my left foot landed in a ditch.... and it took about a minute of pulling and tugging to get it out again !

Sizeable waves on Lochan Sgeireach, but good to see it cos I knew I was on course.... in the mist as well.... how can there be mist and gale force winds ?

At Bealach Horn it flattens out, tried to ride but impossible because of the wind...

Went back for another dose in 2016 - what a difference !
Sunshine and no rain ... but that’s another story !

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by ledburner » Sun Dec 20, 2020 8:01 am

ScotRoutes wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 5:52 pm
Image

Yep. That's the icy beard thing. Scotland. January. Beards are good for Winter though. (including when trying to clean a dirty windscreen).
As my sleepy brain took in... 🤣
Alway moving forward some how... Maybe not the direction originally planned :cool: ....
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by ledburner » Sun Dec 20, 2020 8:11 am

Experience (once) when winter bivvi g in cairngorm near Bob Scott hut, it was full. Yo can bivi out at - 15.°c.
But you make if you put your boot, bagged, in bottom of your pit bag. You get a, crap night sleep. Your clever mate who put then just in this bivy, sleeps like a baby can't get frozen boot on in morning. :lol: :lol: :lol: Yeti or no Nerdhaus Yeti gaiters. :???:
The flask of hot water, to speed up an early brew, you made last night will bee frozen.
The foggy glasses in the local shop, erred you into getting oat meal, not rolled oat.
It makes crap porridge on a, MSRwhisperlite. Lemon tea doesn't make it any better, still lemon grit. :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Oh the steep learning curve & folly of youth. :-bd
Alway moving forward some how... Maybe not the direction originally planned :cool: ....
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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by Cheddar Man » Sun Dec 20, 2020 11:11 am

To add to the top post, as well as all those valuable hints and tips, learn to go the loo in the cold!

Weeing and pooing in the very cold is also a skill.

Weeing into bottles without getting undressed is easy, getting the bottle out without flooding your trousers is less easy :o

Pooing into a bag means that you don't have to go and try and dig a hole, or leave a pile of waste sat on the floor to freeze (I read an article once about how the thaw on the top of Ben Nevis each year used to leave a very interesting pile of human waste defrosting along with the snow :shock: ) and also means that you only have to take your trousers down a bit to achieve the outcome. In my experience I would say that planning dog poo bags is a good shout.

Thinking about it, maybe a 'PooBag' could be a separate addition to the range of bikepacking bags we put on the bike :lol:

Sorry to lower the tone, but lots of articles discuss getting food and hydration in to you, but few discuss what happens when it has to inevitably come out.

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by Gari » Sun Dec 20, 2020 1:04 pm

I always have dog poo bags in my kit(bike/hike/photo trips)? There is actually a drop off point at the Cairngorm car park for the very things. Or there was!

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by ScotRoutes » Sun Dec 20, 2020 1:52 pm

Yep. Dig poo bag/nappy sacks are in my "care kit".

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by voodoo_simon » Sun Dec 20, 2020 2:02 pm

sean_iow wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 10:12 pm
whitestone wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 9:55 pm
They concluded that wind driven rain at 4C were the most likely conditions to induce hypothermia.
From my own experiments I can confirm that's the case :-bd
I’m glad you said this, one of my coldest rides was in this temperature range. My gore active shell failed and I only had a base layer on below, was bloody freezing and took a couple of hours to warm back up after a hot shower

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Re: Cold weather tips

Post by htrider » Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:23 pm

Good stuff this - I posted a link to Aiden Hardings blog about this a wee while ago, unfortunately it seems his blog has disappeared. As I was reading your post I was thinking "-15, I wish!" 1-5 degrees and wet snow and sleet seems more likely round here.... Good waterproofs are essential for this range. I've done a fair few rides in the last couple of months in these temps and rain and sleet and actually been very comfortable. On a couple of walks in February I was in gale force winds and snow at about 0 to -1. It was amazing how much you still felt wind chill, despite wearing a heavy shell jacket and over trousers.

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