Our Readers Write
Beating the Fog of Winter
By Tamia Nelson
A Note to our Readers
We're giving Ed and Brenna a short break over the holidays. "Trip of
a Lifetime" will return on January 9, 2001.
It's been three months since the debut of
"Our Readers Write." You keep writing. We keep reading. Every week
brings something new and interesting. Sometimes we hear from folks
who've never written before. Sometimes we hear from old friends. Ric is
one of our old friends, and, in the aftermath of the latest Atlantic
coastal storm, a couple of his recent letters are particularly timely.
So here they are, along with my replies. (I've edited everything for
clarity and brevity.)
The Fog of WinterAnd What About Snowshoes?
A question about using my
binoculars. It was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit today. I took Bobbi
(my chocolate Lab) for a walk. As I always do, I took my binoculars.
When I raised them to my eyes to glass some trees, the lenses fogged
over in a very short time. I am sure it was the contrast between the
cold glass of the lenses and the warmth of my eyes that caused the
fogging. Is there any way to prevent this from happening? Would
nitrogen-filled glasses help?
Also, is it possible to snowshoe in powder snow? Snowshoeing is
something I have always wanted to try.
I've never had this problem with my binoculars, Ric, but I have
had similar trouble with the viewfinder of my camera from time to time.
Just to be sure I understand what happened, though, I've got a couple
inside the binoculars? How about on the outer surface
of the objective (front) lens?
- Was the fogging only on the outside of the eyepiece? Did it go away
after you took the glasses down from your eyes? Was there any evidence
Were you wearing eyeglasses at the time?
Once I know the answers to these questions, I can make a better
guess about the cause of your fogging problem. If, as sounds likely
from your description, the culprit is condensation on the outer
surfaces of the eyepieces alone, I doubt that nitrogen-filled
binoculars would help. While "nitrogen-purging" minimizes internal
condensation, it's a short-term remedy at best. No pair of
binocularsnot even "waterproof" binocularsis so well sealed
as to retain the nitrogen filling indefinitely. The best tool for
dealing with internal condensation is a Zip-Lock bag (see below).
Now, what can you do about external fogging? In my experience, not
muchthough you might find it helpful to hold your breath while
using your binoculars. (Easier said than done, I know!) Sometimes a
muffler or scarf over your nose and mouth helps. Occasionally, it's
enough just to zip your parka up tight. (Warm, moist air can escape
through an open collar and fog your eyepieces.)
To avoid compounding the problem with internal condensation,
take a Zip-Lock bag with you on your walks. Before going back inside,
pop your binoculars into the bag and zip it up tight. Then leave them
sealed up until all the condensation on the outer surface of the bag
has evaporated. This will minimize the amount of fogging on the inner
surfaces of the lenses.
Now, about snowshoes
. Snowshoes are wonderful! They make
winter bearable. The best I've found for deep powder snowindeed
my favorite for every purpose except mountaineeringare
10 x 56 Ojibwa-pattern 'shoes. They're longer than the oval
bearpaws currently in fashion, but they're great on trails. You can
move along through unbroken snow almost as fast as a skier. And, while
it takes a little practice to handle them in brush, it can be done.
Expect to fall down a few times while you're learning, however. A
sturdy ski-pole makes it a lot easier to get up, by the way, and the
pole is useful for other things as well: turning in tight places,
testing ice, measuring tracks, etc..
There's just one problem with Ojibwa shoes: they're very hard to
find. Iverson used to make them, and they may still do so. (Both
Farwell and I have Iverson 'shoes. They're over ten years old and
they're still going strong.) If you're interested and if you can't
locate a pair for sale, however, you'll find instructions for making
your own in The Snowshoe Book by William Osgood and Leslie
Hurley (2d edition, revised. Stephen Green Press, 1975). Someone who
makes his own paddles should find it a snap.
All the best from both of us.
More About Fog, and More About Snowshoes
The fogging was only on the outside of the eyepieces. There was none
on the inside of the binoculars or on the large objective lens. I read
in a photography book about wrapping one's camera in a towel or coat to
prevent internal condensation, so I put my binoculars in their soft
case when I'm out and about in cold weather.
I wear a balaclava. If I do not pull it down off my nose before
putting the binoculars to my eyes, the binoculars fog up almost
immediately. But if I pull it down and breath slowly or take shallow
breaths it increases the time I have to glass something. In either
case, the fogging dissipates within a few minutes.
I was having trouble seeing clearly the other day. After returning
home, I discovered that the lenses of the eyepieces were dirty. They
were covered with white spots. So I carefully cleaned the lenses with
lens-cleaning solution and a cotton Q-Tip. I also refrain from keeping
my binoculars in my jacket to prevent internal condensation from
Changing the subject a bit
. I just bought a pair of pac boots
from Schnee's Boot & Shoes in Montana. Can I snowshoe in pacs or does
it require special footwear?
Thanks so much for all of your time. You guys must have a super
library at your cabin.
Hi, Ric! Good to hear from you. Let's take things one at a time,
Sounds like you've already found your problemexternal
condensation. There's not much you can do that you're not already
doing, I'm afraid, though you might try turning down the rubber eyecups
on your binoculars and wearing untinted or lightly tinted eyeglasses
when you're out in the cold. Farwell wears eyeglasses all the time,
and, while I don't envy him his bad eyesight, he's never troubled with
Wearing eyeglasses also cuts down on the number of times you have to
clean your lenses. (The "white spots" you noticed on your eyepieces may
have been oil from your eyelashes.) Of course it helps to cover the
eyepieces when you're not using your binoculars. I "wear" mine on a
neckstrap and tuck them under my shell parka on cold days. This keeps
snow* from collecting on the eyepieces, but the binoculars don't get
too warm, either. I almost never use the case, though if I'm going to
work up a good sweat, I sometimes slide an upside-down plastic bag over
the binoculars (I make two small slits for the neck-strap) and then
carry them outside my parka. It works pretty well. The
binoculars don't get as steamy as they might if I carried them
"inside," and it only takes me a second or two to slide the bag off and
bring them up to my eyes.
Oh, yesif you're going to depend on a neckstrap, check it
often and replace it if it becomes frayed or starts to crack. Look at
the buckles, snaps and other fittings, too. Sometimes they let go
Can you wear pacs while snowshoeing? You sure can! I do. I switch
over from uninsulated rubber
wellies to felt-insulated L.L. Bean pacs at temperatures around
zero Fahrenheitor even a little higher, if I expect I'll be
standing around a lot. It's important to choose the right binding,
though. The old-style "H" binding (an open toe-piece, with instep and
heel straps) is perhaps the most versatile, though it requires careful
adjustment and feels floppy until you get used to it. Newer
"mountaineering-style" bindings with rigid frames or plates give better
control, but they don't work as well with soft boots like pacs.
(They're designed for rigid climbing or hiking boots.) You'll find a
good discussion of bindingsincluding "recipes" for a couple of
home-made versions, in Osgood and Hurley's Snowshoe Book).
Yep. We've got a pretty good library. It's not very big1,500
volumes maybebut it reflects our interests. That's the important
thing. It helps us get through the long nights and semi-isolation of
winter, too. (Farwell's reading War and Peace now. That ought to
keep him occupied till spring.)
* This is another possibility where your "white spots" are
concerned. Each snowflake has a tiny condensation nucleus (usually a
microscopic crystal of mineral salt) at its center. When the snowflake
evaporates, it leaves the mineral behind.
I went out on a walk with Bobbi this afternoon and tried keeping my
sunglasses on while I looked through my binoculars. They didn't fog up.
The sight picture is different because of the distance from the lens
but it's nothing I can't get use to. Thanks so much for the suggestion.
I enjoyed your
Christmas greeting last week. We were out on a walk the other
night. The air was clear, crisp and still. The clouds were whippy and
appeared like gossamer. Everything was wanting you to stop and spend
time just listening to the quiet. The kind of night to take a long time
for a short stroll. Those are the type of nights I love to just be out.
Thanks again for the advice.
You're welcome Ric! I'm glad to hear that you've beaten the fog
of winter. (Don't forget to turn down the rubber eyecups on your
binoculars when you're wearing eyeglasses. You'll get back most of the
field of view that you'd otherwise lose.)
And thank you for your delightful portrait of a winter's night.
"Listening to the quiet." That's exactly on the mark. It's good to be
reminded now and again that there's beauty in every season. All we have
to do is take time to look around us. In fact, I'm going to show your
letter to Farwell right now. That ought to be enough to tear him away
from War and Peace!
That's it. Next week, we'll be rejoining Ed and Brenna as they get
ready for their "Trip of a Lifetime." And keep writing. Tell us what
you're thinking. It's a reader's right!
Copyright © 2001 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All