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Hiker Equipment for the Trail


Essential Equipment | Taking Care of Footwear | A Bootlace Knot to Stay Cinched



Whether you plan to walk in the city or throughout the countryside, your feet are all you have going for you. They can stand a little care and consideration. Walking is free, you can afford to spend a bit on your feet.

Boots: Great hiking always begins with the right boots, well fit and properly broken in. Obviously, terrain will decide the type of boot best suited to you. There are many impressive- looking climbing boots on the market. The danger is that what might impress your head may really hurt your feet. Many climbing boots have extremely rigid soles and stiff uppers. They are designed for specialized mountain work where precise foot control is needed and they are not recommended for simple hiking.

Try to choose a boot that offers good lateral support with reasonable forward movement. Good boots have as few seams visible as possible, and do not leak easily as a result. Good boots are almost always leather. Leather breathes, gives comfort to your feet. Most good boots feature heavy lugged soles (Vibram) which give good grip in most conditions (see examples in graphic). Soles imageMake sure your boots fit you properly. Your heels should not lift when the boot is laced. The boot should fit rather snugly with two pairs (one light, one a little heavier) of socks. To prevent your toes from being jammed into the front of the boot when descending on the trail, purchase a boot size that allows for toe movement while at the same time, when laced up, fits tightly (snug) around your ankle to prevent your foot from moving forward in the boot when inclined in descent mode. See Footwear - Taking Care of Hiker's Most Important Equipment for information on how to take care of your hiking boots.

Socks: Whether you walk in the city or country, on pavement or through wooded glades, wear wool socks. They may be reinforced with nylon at toe and heel but they should be at least 85% wool. Wool is warm, wet or dry. Wool does not chafe. Wool wears well. Wool absorbs sweat and does not bunch. Even in the heat of summer, light wool socks are the most comfortable you can wear. Always take an extra pair of socks.

Clothing: Loose-fitting clothing is a necessity for the serious walker. Nothing will impede the stride or insidiously cause fatigue like tight-fitting jeans. As much as possible, try to wear clothing made of natural fibres next to your skin. They will breathe and keep you cooler. Jackets and anoraks can be treated nylon for water repellency. Bright, deep colours are said to attract insects.

Poncho: A poncho is one of the simplest forms of weather protection you can carry on a hike. It is a rectangular waterproof sheet with a hood in the middle. It will cover you and your packsack during showers. It can also be used as a ground sheet, and weather-break.

Backpack: Your walking ambitions will determine the size and type of backpack you need. There is an astonishing number on the market. Any good backpack is light but strongly constructed, and should keep contents dry.

Walking Stick: The myth about it being harder to walk uphill will quickly evaporate when you negotiate your first extended downhill hike. More injuries occur on the downhill because of the repetitive impact at heel strike. The stress on the legs and low back is more traumatic than the stresses of going up. To navigate the downhills, try carrying a walking stick. It will provide support and can also be used for balance on uneven terrain.

Telescoping poles are recommended – preferably the three-section type. They adjust nicely to your stature – your arms should be at a 90 degree angle when holding properly-adjusted hiking poles. In addition, it is important to be able to adjust your poles when you are traversing a hillside – the short pole on the uphill and the long pole on the downhill, to help you stay balanced.

Tip. To keep your poles telescoping okay squirt some silicon on poles next to tightening fastener and then work pole up and down a couple of times.


Taking Care of Hiker’s Most Important Equipment

A hiker’s feet take a lot of punishment and it is important that they get as much protection as possible. Part of that protective package is the footwear – proper, well-fitted hiking boots. (Boots with upper leather are best.)

But those boots also have to be taken care of if they are to do their job in protecting your feet. Here are some helpful tips to take care of those boots.

  • Apply a water repellant. An effective and easy to apply repellant is silicon paste wax (liquid silicon is not recommended). Apply the silicon paste liberally at least 24 hours before using the boots – you can buff the wax if desired 24 hours after application. Another effective repellant is beeswax, but its application takes a little more effort. Warm the footwear to about 100o F (use stove oven) and then apply the beeswax liberally. Allow to stand for at least 24 hours for the beeswax to cure in the boot leather.
  • Remove mud from the boots. Mud is the worst enemy of leather boots for as the mud dries it draws the water repellent out of the leather. Carry a little scrub brush in your pack so you can remove the mud from your footwear.
  • Dry inside of boots as soon as possible. Should your boots become wet inside, open the top as wide as possible and place in an open area with good air circulation. Prior to doing that, you can stuff the boots with newspaper to absorb excess moisture. (For a quicker dry, place sole side down on a heating register.)

   Boot laces...

A Knot to do the Job

The bane of all hikers is boot laces whose knot does not stay cinched to keep one’s boots snugly fitted around the feet. And the problem in recent years has been compounded by bootmakers using rounded laces versus the flat laces of earlier days.

Not to despair, there is a solution – Bernie’s Double Loop (Bernie learned to tie this knot while in the Dutch army). This shoestring knot is guaranteed to hold its tension under all types of hiking conditions, and yet is easy to undo when time comes to take the boots off.

Boot Lace Knot

Here are the 5 easy steps to tying the double loop knot.

  1. Place the right-hand end of boot lace over and then under the left-hand end, and cinch.

  2. Double over the two ends of the boot laces to make each of them double strands.

  3. Take the right-hand double-strand and place over the left-hand double-strand.

  4. Loop the right-hand double-strand twice around the left-hand double-strand.

  5. Take the loop-end of each double-strand – “A” in above figure – and pull to cinch the knot.

  6. Voila! You now have a boot lace knot that will not work itself loose.

To undo the knot, simply pull on the ends labeled “B” in the above diagram.

(Top banner photo: Loon Lake viewed from Crossover trail.)

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