Camping Gear Checklist: 1. Pack A Good Pair of Boots!
How do you know you need to cut back on you hiking trips?
Your car has fewer miles on it than your hiking boots.
If the sole on your boots has reached that state when you can almost tell “head or tails” on a quarter you’ve just stepped on, I think a fresh pair of hiking boots is just what the “doctor ordered”.
"Campers, this is Wilderness!" "Wilderness, meet our campers!"
To put the best pair of hiking boots between our feet and untamed nature, we’ll need to have a short wilderness 101 crash course.
The best time for your initial wilderness camping plunge is late June throughout July. The black fly season already reserved early June, and cutting in that line doesn’t even sound like fun.
August is no good because kids from summer camps and other hikers will crowd the trails. All the shelters will be tightly crammed, so good luck finding a half-decent camp site near those areas.
September-early October can do nicely, but you’re still sailing too close to the wind there because crowded trails are still a likely prospect. It happened to me recently on the Appalachian Trail. The rest of the year is everybody’s pick between too wet or too cold (probably both).
These boots are made for hiking…
… So let’s see how they’ll do…
Wilderness has a distinct and beautiful simplicity about it. It’s what makes an ordinary camping trip so deeply rewarding and liberating. It will, however, amplify every little misstep you make or detail you overlook. This especially goes for your gear.
Since hiking boots are the entrée of our camping cookout today, let’s see how to choose the right flavor to go with our wilderness adventure.
No matter what your boots are made of, your feet will be soaking wet at one point. You can be careful all you want or count on Gore-Tex and leather uppers to keep the water away… It won’t work. The water will get in there from the top at one point, and you’ll end up with two cinder blocks on your feet for the rest of your stay.
In these kinds of situations, you will finish a 100-mile hike before your leather boots get dry again. The same can be said for Gore-Tex. You’ll end up a literal “wet foot”, no matter how much experience you have.
It might sound a bit counter-intuitive, but getting a light pair of boots with enough breath-ability to guarantee quick drying is the best road, but the one less traveled, I’m afraid. They’ll also get dripping wet, but at least they’ll be bone dry every morning.
Wearing tight-fitting shoes will bring you nothing but grief; something you definitely don’t need when you're far away from home, or civilization for that matter. You’ll be on your feet for days, and they’ll most likely swell up real bad, followed by a lovely array of blisters in all the colors of the rainbow. The chances of this happening rise with the temperature, so if it’s pretty hot outside it’s almost a given.
You’ll want to get a pair of boots with enough extra space for your feet to expand into. If you know they’re prone to swelling, you might even want to go a full size bigger. It’ll definitely pay off in the long run.
The wild, untamed scenery might be a glorious mental as well physical experience, but it’s definitely unforgiving on your feet. We’re expecting elements, sharp rocks, tree roots, gravel, dirt and mud, rivers, slippery terrain, forests, treacherous ground…
The boots you decide to wear must be an equivalent of a tank mixed with a workhorse. They need to be high-quality to withstand such abuse yet comfortable enough to keep your feet in good shape and have a “bomber” GRIP!
The lugs on the outsoles will make all the difference, especially on those slippery uphill climbs. You’ll want to make a firm stand with every single step, and grippy soles are the only thing to make it happen. You’ll want them made out of softer rubber, which will deteriorate faster than higher density one but will provide a superior grip.
Lugless under-the-arch area for heel breaks and flat toe-zone for climbing are a given.
There are things you can do to manage your “strange” feet in terms of hiking boots. I’m referring to the cases where some part of your foot is disproportionate to the rest, or the case of overly wide feet, and so on.
You CANNOT try on too many boots at the store to see which pair hits the closest to home.
You can later improve the experience further with special socks and insoles. High-volume support insoles should do the trick just fine. For buying a perfect pair of insoles, be sure to try them both outside and inside the boots.
The last tip I’m about to give you is not to skimp on the money.
You can save a buck here and there on your camping/hiking gear, but footwear is banned from that list. Every extra dollar invested will pay off after that proverbial “first step”, and every single one “saved” will be “a pebble in your shoe” amplified by the wilderness (remember what I said in the beginning).
I like writing about footwear for wilderness camping/hiking because a I get to debunk a lot of myths and a lot of my tips are pretty counter-intuitive. Who would’ve guessed heavy-duty waterproof boots with a tight fit aren’t a preferred option here?
I hope I’ve made the final choice a bit easier and more informed for you. I just want to wish you a happy adventuring until your new boots can’t pass “the quarter test” no more. Then just do it all over again.
James Menta is the Editor-in-Chief of SoleLabz.com, where his associates and him test and review the best hiking shoes and boots today.
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