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What are Vapor Barrier Liners and Should You Use Them?

For many hikers, outdoorsmen, ice climbers, and hunters, there is a bit of mystery that surrounds the use of vapor barrier liners. Because they are not very commonly used by most people, there is a large amount of misinformation about VBL’s and who should use them. Even if you are typically only traveling during the warmer months, it is good to know basic information about what these liners are.

However, if you are planning a long trip where you will be hiking or going on an excursion in colder weather, then you should know what VBL’s are and how you could benefit from using them. So, we have gathered some basic info on the subject to give you an idea of what a VBL is and who should use them for their next winter expedition.

What is a VBL?

A VBL is a material that does not allow for the transfer of moisture by being non-breathable. These liners are commonly made from polyurethane-coated nylon, silicone-impregnated nylon, or mylar and can come with multiple layers. These liners are fairly difficult to find, so if you are need of one, a homemade option can be fashioned from a plastic trash bag or a mylar balloon.

Any fabric that does not breathe well will typically work well enough to use. However, if you do find them in-store, you will find that they come in the form of gloves, socks, pants, jackets, and even as sleeping bag liners for overnight trips. Although the homemade options may work, the store-bought options work better because VBL’s material has no transfer of moisture and has no breathability.

Other materials may work in a rush, but a VBL is the best option. This is because the other materials will still offer some breathability, even though it is low, and a small transmission of moisture.


VBL’s seem to have a layer of mystery to them because of their low availability in the market. These items are tough to find because no major outdoors stores carry them. The only way to find any VBL’s is to find a small local business that offers some options to choose from. Although they may available, there is typically a very limited selection when you are able to find them.

This limited selection and availability may seem strange, but the reasons why VBL’s are not widely available to the public relate to the reasons why someone should use the product. Which leads me to my next point.

Why Should Use VBL’s?

Finding VBL’s is a tough job for many people unless you have purchased one of these items before. This is most likely linked to the fact that not many people need them. VBL’s are used for long trips that last multiple days and are meant for use in freezing temperatures. This is a very specific type of trip that the average person will not likely go on.

Common trips, like a hike in the winter with 30-50-degree weather, wouldn’t even require the use of a VBL. So, this is an item that is not often needed. However, those who take multi-day hiking trips in areas with extreme weather during the winter will likely need to purchase a VBL to use for their trip. Mountain regions with frigid temperatures for the duration of their winter season still see hikers, which should have a VBL.

Why They Should Have a VBL?

Traveling in freezing weather makes things more complicated for the adventurer than in warmer climates because of the dangers that come with being unprepared for such weather. Hypothermia and frostbite can potentially harm a hiker if they are not able to protect themselves from these extreme temperatures, but the reasons are more specific than you might think.

Although it might sound like adding another layer of clothing may just be a way to keep a person warm while traveling, that is not the case. VBL’s actually keep your perspiration from seeping into the outer layers of clothing. This is important because the sweat can cause your jacket or gloves to get wet after some time, which can cause heat loss and make the outer layer of your clothing colder.

This can be a negative thing when in colder weather because any heat loss can cause potentially harmful effects on the body. However, another benefit of a VBL is the fact that it will keep you from overheating. Even in freezing weather, under many layers and with lots of movement, you can sweat profusely. This could cause you to overheat without thinking, but with a VBL you are more aware of your perspiration.

This awareness can help you better regulate your temperature and avoid removing layers due to feeling hot from overheating.


With the information from this article, you now know what a VBL is, and what its purpose is. So, if you ever choose to go on a hike or excursion in frigid weather, you will be better prepared, and armed with a VBL for the long trip.

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