Trying new things
As the weather finally begins to dip below the freezing point I have been experimenting with new clothes that will keep me warm and dry in Alaska. The two big areas of interest to me are my feet and my core. For my feet, I have been experimenting with Reed Chillcheater wading socks as a Vapor Barrier Layer (VBL) and the Reed Chillcheater Transpire Fleece as a mid-layer.
While I have a set of RBH socks, which work fantastically, they are bulky. The result of this bulk is that you are forced to move up at least one additional shoe size just to accommodate your VBL. As a long time user of Reed gear for my kayaking exploits, I have always felt that their kit had direct applicability to other cold weather, high aerobic activities. The Aquatherm layer is smooth and form fitting which makes for easy layering. It is very warm, and definitely waterproof, something that is critical for overflow. Because there is a fleece lining, it feels good on your skin and does not saturate through to the outer layer.
My initial testing with the socks as a VBL has been positive, although it has not been anywhere near cold enough for a proper evaluation. Things that I immediately like are that they don't take up extra room in your boot and they are easily layered over. The down side is they are form fitting and have 0 breath-ability. On a long trip, you will need multiple sock liners because you are going to soak your liners each and every day. The up side is liners of wool will easily dry out overnight. My first ride in them, with the temps slightly below freezing was a success in terms of keeping my toes nice and warm.
The other two pieces of Reed kit that I am playing with are their Transpire Fleece socks and the Transpire Fleece zip top. I love the socks, and imagine that they will definitely become a part of my AK kit. I am still waiting on the colder weather, but I anticipate being able to layer them over the wading socks and under a mid weight wool sock. The combination will give me a good deal of flexibility in insulation layers. New Wolvahammers should be here in a day or two and I will see how it all plays together.
The Transpire Fleece top is a warm piece of kit, and really only usable on the bike in frigid temps. It will be interesting to see how it works once I can really get out and use it. Yesterday's ride was right at the freezing point and I simply wore the top with my Patagonia Houdini top and I was very comfortable. The caveat is that I really was just out for a casual ride and my work load was minimal, thus no real sweating involved. The two real weaknesses that I see are the overall temp rating and the fact that the zip is really too small. The gold standard for zips is definitely the Patagonia R1 or C4 pieces, where that zip goes down to your belly button, which really allows you to vent off the heat.
More details to come as I play with the gear and sort out my cold weather gear.