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  1. #1
    RadicalHope's Avatar
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    How much do I need to worry about condensation?

    Okay, so I am totally new to winter camping. Prior to becoming a hanger I've only camped in mild weather, except for one car camping experience down to 32 F with like a gazillion blankets and a tent roommate who was a furnace.

    Now that I am a hanger, and the owner of a HG Incubator, I've been testing my winter limits. So far I've made it down to 16* F (with 10-15 mph steady winds and occasional gusts) and was toasty warm. It was an awesome experience. The more I cold weather test, the more totally hooked on winter camping I become.

    The night I slept out in 16 F, I woke up around 4 AM just a little cold because my top layers had gapped a little in my sleep, letting in some cold air. When I started to double check that everything was tucked back around me, I discovered that the top layer of my sleeping bag (I was using it like a top quilt) was absolutely soaked in spots. There were wet spots and ice crystals all along my bugnetting/weathershield as well, right above my head. I realized that I had forgotten to vent my weathershield. Oops. At this point, I decided to get out and pee, and when I unzipped, moisture and ice crystals sprinkled down on me like a mini storm.

    I considered calling it a night at this point and heading inside (I was backyard testing), but then I thought, well.... I'm not actually cold or miserable. The condensation did not affect my warmth or comfort at all. So I got back in, had another little mini storm as I zipped back up, and then I cocooned myself back underneath my sleeping bag liner and sleeping bag (using both as top quilts tucked around me). I made sure to tuck everything around me better so it would not gap in my sleep. Next time I will likely just zip into my sleeping bag to prevent drafts (which I often do, but wanted to test not doing this time). I did leave a vent in the weathershield at this point. (EDIT to add: I should clarify that when I vented, both the netting and the weathershield were open. But I did it at the side, next time I think I need to do it above my head.)

    Even though the top layer of my sleeping bag was sopping wet in places, I still got snuggly warm and drifted back off to sleep quite easily. I slept very well the rest of the night. When I woke up in the morning, the venting I had done really hadn't made too much of a difference. My sleeping bag was still wet on the top and more ice crystals were on the "ceiling". But I was still completely dry and quite warm and toasty.

    So all of that to get to my actual question.... If I was warm and comfortable do I really need to worry all that much about condensation? My sleeping bag liner is made of Climashield Combat and my sleeping bag is a combo of Climashield Apex and Prism. When I got up in the morning, everything dried out very fast. After breakfast I went to hang up my gear to dry it out and discovered it was already dry. I'm assuming if I was using a down top quilt that I would have to do something about this condensation issue or I will wake up cold due to loss of loft? But using synthetics, should I worry as much?

    I have actually been wanting to switch to a down top quilt because I love my down UQ so much, but now I'm not sure. This experience would have gone much differently had I not been using synthetics, I'm sure, especially if I had to pack up wet and then sleep again with wet gear that didn't dry out fast. How does treated down change these assumptions?

    My plan for next time is to remember to vent just above my head right from the start and maybe hang something made of fleece above my head to catch some of the condensation? Sound okay?

    What temps do I generally need to worry about condensation in? I've previously done some testing in the mid to high 20s and did not notice any condensation issues.

    Would appreciate some experienced feedback. I know this post is loaded with questions and issues... condensation management, down versus synthetics, etc etc. I have read tons of posts on these issues, just wanted to get some specific feedback on my situation. Thanks!
    Last edited by RadicalHope; 11-29-2013 at 09:12.
    With a radical sense of hope, I strive for the seemingly impossible.

  2. #2
    OutandBack's Avatar
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    Good post with lots of good questions.
    Here's one thing to try use a hammock with no net.
    Nets are condensation magnets.

    On damp down TQ.
    I've had condensation from my breath and frost rain from getting in/out on my TQ before learning the no net trick.
    I had no issue staying warm. Down doesn't just go flat and quit working if it gets a little wet.

    What over cover/sock are you using?

    hth
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  3. #3
    RadicalHope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OutandBack View Post
    Good post with lots of good questions.
    Here's one thing to try use a hammock with no net.
    Nets are condensation magnets.

    On damp down TQ.
    I've had condensation from my breath and frost rain from getting in/out on my TQ before learning the no net trick.
    I had no issue staying warm. Down doesn't just go flat and quit working if it gets a little wet.

    What over cover/sock are you using?

    hth
    Well the way my hammock is built, when using the weathershield, (which I love because it really helps trap in heat), the netting is also in place just below it. I should clarify that when I vented, both the netting and the weathershield were open. But I did it at the side, next time I think I need to do it above my head.

    Thanks for the info about your experiences with a down TQ. Good to know. My sleeping bag was pretty drenched in places though, not sure how down would react to that. EDIT to add: It was so wet in there, that I think if the insulation had not been synthetic (quick drying/water resisting), it would have been saturated through as well.

    I don't use a sock. I was using the weathershield (top cover that zips closed) that is built into my hammock and an UQP from 2QZQ. I also had my tarp positioned to block the wind as much as possible. I did get rocked to sleep by the wind though!

    Thanks!
    Last edited by RadicalHope; 11-29-2013 at 09:15.
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  4. #4

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    There is a moisture management problem because:

    Your breath contains between a pint and quart of water overnight. Exhaled air comes out warm and wet. It loses moisture carrying capacity as it cools thus the rain/snow deposition depending on the temperature out.

    If you are too toasty and not using a vapor barrier you also perspire about the same amount.

    Some folks try to avoid the condensation effect with a lot of venting assuming the hot air will cool somewhere else. Sometimes that works. It depends on airflow and temperature.

    Some folks use a frost bib (Shug has one in a video) to collect the condensation. Some do what you did. A water resistant top cover will help keep your insulation dry by keeping the moisture out. As long as it has time to evaporate or sublime off your sleeping bag and any top cover you are OK.

    Perspiration will settle into your top and bottom quilts unless you have a vapor barrier that blocks the water vapor so it condenses out on surfaces like CCF pads or space blankets. The answer is to put an absorbent layer over them to pick off the moisture. I like polar fleece. YMMV.

    For people doing one or two nights this is not usually a real problem as most winter quilts hand hold the dispersed moisture with minimal loft loss. This is where the synthetic vs down discussion starts. If you watched the dri down video you also saw regular down would handle a reasonable amount of moisture or a while. After a night or two if one goes home and properly stores their gear it dries out. That is why some folks never see a problem.

    The problem really comes up on longer trips where there is insufficient time to dry gear so the moisture load builds up. The collected moisture decreases loft and the insulation's ability of the filler to block heat loss. That will be serious. The answer is to take time and arrange a way to dry gear properly. Part of that is the old idea of taking every third day as a short or camp day to dry out and clean up. Today's campaign hikers do it with town stops.

    BTW, this is also why you have to work to keep hydrated on the trail. ;-)
    YMMV

    HYOH

    Free advice worth what you paid for it. ;-)

  5. #5
    OutandBack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RadicalHope View Post


    Well the way my hammock is built, when using the weathershield
    , (which I love because it really helps trap in heat), the netting is also in place just below it. I should clarify that when I vented, both the netting and the weathershield were open. But I did it at the side, next time I think I need to do it above my head.

    Thanks for the info about your experiences with a down TQ. Good to know. My sleeping bag was pretty drenched in places though, not sure how down would react to that. EDIT to add: It was so wet in there, that I think if the insulation had not been synthetic (quick drying/water resisting), it would have been saturated through as well.

    I don't use a sock. I was using the weathershield (top cover that zips closed) that is built into my hammock and an UQP from 2QZQ. I also had my tarp positioned to block the wind as much as possible. I did get rocked to sleep by the wind though!

    Thanks!
    You mean one like this?




    Proper condensation control with venting prevents excessive wetting of your quilts so you don't have to worry about soaking wet down.
    At least I haven't.



    hth
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  6. #6
    RadicalHope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nothermark View Post

    Some do what you did. A water resistant top cover will help keep your insulation dry by keeping the moisture out. As long as it has time to evaporate or sublime off your sleeping bag and any top cover you are OK.
    Excellent. Just the info I was looking for. Thanks.


    Quote Originally Posted by nothermark View Post
    Perspiration will settle into your top and bottom quilts unless you have a vapor barrier that blocks the water vapor so it condenses out on surfaces like CCF pads or space blankets. The answer is to put an absorbent layer over them to pick off the moisture. I like polar fleece. YMMV.

    Okay, good to know. So far my perspiration hasn't been much of an issue. I tend to be a cold sleeper and don't produce a ton of heat. I do take care to not wear so many layers of clothing that I overheat. I have never noticed any wetness on the inside layers of my top or bottom layers.

    Are you talking about putting a fleece layer over the outside layer of my TQ/UQs or between my body and the TQ/UQs? In colder temps I do wear a layer of fleece over my base layers.


    Thanks for all the information, especially concerning moisture buildup and length of trip etc. Good stuff! Some of it I've already read, but you clarified a few things for me. Thanks!
    With a radical sense of hope, I strive for the seemingly impossible.

  7. #7
    RadicalHope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OutandBack View Post
    You mean one like this?
    Yes, very similar to the Dream Hammock overcover. The only difference is the zipper placement. My top cover zips into the bugnet, which then zips into the hammock. I have a Clark TX-250.

    Quote Originally Posted by OutandBack View Post
    Proper condensation control with venting prevents excessive wetting of your quilts so you don't have to worry about soaking wet down.
    At least I haven't. hth
    Got ya. If I want to use down, I need to manage the condensation properly and then it should be no problem.

    Next time the temps dip that low again, I am going to try venting right above my head and placing something fleece there to catch the condensation. I'm having a fun time tweaking my set-up.

    Thanks again for the info and help! Great pics, btw!
    With a radical sense of hope, I strive for the seemingly impossible.

  8. #8
    OutandBack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RadicalHope View Post
    Yes, very similar to the Dream Hammock overcover. The only difference is the zipper placement. My top cover zips into the bugnet, which then zips into the hammock. I have a Clark TX-250.
    I'm familiar with the TX 250. I like it much better over the NX cause you can use an UQ.
    If I recall the net/cover zippers are up at the head end so couldn't you just unzip both at

    the head and fold the material back leaving a 4-6" gap? That should be plenty to vent your condensation.
    O&B
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  9. #9
    RadicalHope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OutandBack View Post
    I'm familiar with the TX 250. I like it much better over the NX cause you can use an UQ.
    If I recall the net/cover zippers are up at the head end so couldn't you just unzip both at

    the head and fold the material back leaving a 4-6" gap? That should be plenty to vent your condensation.
    You can use a full length UQ with a NX, you just cover up all the pockets, no big deal really. My full length UQ covers the pockets that are on my TX. I chose the TX because I also camp/hike during the summer and wanted the added ventilation/bugnet option in the hood section and wanted less along my backside, as far as pockets go, during the sticky nights of midsummer.

    I have double zippers on both sides of the hammock. I can remove the topcover/bugnet as if they were one quite easily. So yes, very easy to create a nice vent at the head end right over my head. I just didn't do it.
    With a radical sense of hope, I strive for the seemingly impossible.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by RadicalHope View Post
    Excellent. Just the info I was looking for. Thanks.





    Okay, good to know. So far my perspiration hasn't been much of an issue. I tend to be a cold sleeper and don't produce a ton of heat. I do take care to not wear so many layers of clothing that I overheat. I have never noticed any wetness on the inside layers of my top or bottom layers.

    Are you talking about putting a fleece layer over the outside layer of my TQ/UQs or between my body and the TQ/UQs? In colder temps I do wear a layer of fleece over my base layers.


    Thanks for all the information, especially concerning moisture buildup and length of trip etc. Good stuff! Some of it I've already read, but you clarified a few things for me. Thanks!
    My bad. I meant fleece over the top of a CCF pad, space blanket or any other impervious layer. Really anything above the layer will get wet from it but some things handle the moisture better than others.

    You might want to read up on vapor barrier clothing or sleep systems. You will get a better understanding of how the body produces moisture and how to deal with it.
    YMMV

    HYOH

    Free advice worth what you paid for it. ;-)

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