Around about now, it’s time to pull out your hiking boots and get ready for the approaching season of hiking adventure. Do your boots look rough? Give them some TLC now before you abuse them over the coming months.
It’s simple. Rain gear should keep you dry. The best rain gear keeps water out while allowing moisture on the inside (read: your sweat) to escape. The former is straightforward. The latter is often difficult to nearly impossible, a fact obscured by the marketing hype that surrounds many waterproof-breathable materials. Understanding both features is essential to selecting—and having realistic expectations for—your rain gear…
Wash them, scrub them, love them
First objective is to give your boots a thorough washing to remove the dirt and grit that has become embedded in the leather or fabric.
This is especially important if you’ve been wearing them around town through the winter, when salt on sidewalks and roads is everywhere. Salt crystals are sharp and act like a million microscopic razor blades, damaging leather and fabric in the process. (Tell-tale white streaks and patches are a sure sign that your boots need a good cleaning.)
Give your boots a thorough scrub-down with warm water; don’t use any soaps and detergents, which can leave a hydrophilic (water-loving) residue behind. Use a rough sponge and a smaller scrubbing tool (a toothbrush works well) to get out the dirt that gets wedged in tight places. If you’re motivated (or your boots are really dirty), you can also invest in a specialized footwear cleaning solution (such as from Nikwax).
And make sure to give your boots some extra love and appreciation as you go. They are one of the most important pieces of gear you own and essential to your hiking happiness.
Let your boots air dry and then apply a conditioner to the leather. This will help keep the leather supple and prevent it from drying out and cracking, especially in high-flex areas such as those in the forefoot.
A variety of conditioners are available — Nikwax leather conditioner is a reliable standby — that will help extend the lifespan of your hiking footwear.
Note that it’s also possible to increase your boots’ water resistance by treating them with a waterproofing products such as Tectron Heavy-Duty Silicone Water Proofer or Granger’s Footwear Repel. Such products add durable water repellency (DWR) to your footwear, which causes water to bead up and roll off, but does not make your boots completely waterproof (only an impenetrable barrier like Gore-Tex can accomplish that).
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.