One Foot at a Time
Quality aftermarket insoles. This is another step you can take that has more to do with providing good support and keeping your feet from getting fatigued from heavy pack weights, but they also provide extra support that helps keep your feet in place and not sliding around inside when on uneven terrain. Iíve used several good insoles, but Iím a fan of the orange Superfeet.
Pre-hunt clip! Trimming your toenails before a hunt is a must in order to reduce potential toe pain and also avoid more possible blisters.
Internal moisture management. Moisture management is tough, because you have to deal with it from both inside and out.
Itís a good idea to remove the insoles each night to aid drying more thoroughly, because there is moisture trapped underneath the insole. However, donít make the mistake of leaving your boots out to dry at night without making sure they are under your vestibule or some sort of cover. Even if itís nice weather, youíll often get enough dew at night to cause some unnecessary moisture build-up in your boots.
Try and let your feet and boots air out as often as possible during the day. Anytime I stop to glass, eat, or rest for at least ten minutes, I at least unlace my boots at least and ideally remove my boots to allow moisture to escape.
Weíve discussed how to dry things out a little, but you can also minimize the amount of moisture with foot powders and even antiperspirants. I douse the inside of my boots with foot powder at the trailhead, and on extremely warm hunts Iíll pack a travel-size powder dispenser. Foot powder not only absorbs moisture, but also helps control odor! Iíve used Gold Bond with good results and when Iím feeling particularly psycho about scent control, I add Scent Killer foot powder in as well. There are also good foot antiperspirant products available. Iíve used some of the unscented roll-on types and it worked well enough, but it wears off quickly.
Dealing with Mother Nature. The other moisture you fight is all the ways Mother Nature dishes it up. You really have to be extra carful with this one, because sweat will seem like nothing if you fall in a creek or are unprepared for a rainstorm. Rain can be a disaster that can leave you with wet feet for the rest of the hunt, with no surefire way to dry your boots in the backcountry.
Itís mostly common sense stuff, but donít underestimate things like how much water is left sticking to the plants after a quick rain squall that only lasted a few minutes. Keep your rain pants or gaiters with you all the time and donít get lazy; use them! I hate putting them on and taking them off, but Iíve learned too many lessons the hard way.
If your boots get soaked all the way through, itís going to be a long hunt, especially with limited heat sources. Drying boots next to an open campfire isnít a real good option; Iíve melted the rubber rand on accident, causing it to shrink and smash my toes, giving me blisters when hiking out five miles just to get fresh boots.
Boots are best dried from the inside out, which is tough in the backcountry. One of the best things you can do is slip some heat packets into them if you carry them. This is as good a chance to dry them out without damaging them as you might get. You can also wrap them up and sleep with them inside your sleeping bag get a small amount of additional heat, but it isnít exactly cozy.
You should really start taking steps the moment you start to feel a hotspot. Do not wait until you have a serious blister! Adjust your socks, cover the area with some protective layer, or whatever it takes.
Should you end up with one - and Iíve had my fair share - here are some items I pack with me that perform well:
ē 2nd Skin Adhesive Knit is my favorite. Itís fairly thin, breathable, flexible, and does a good job of staying in place throughout the day, even when sweating. They also make padded blister treatments, but Iíve found that most of the padded option rolls up on my boot faster.
ē Moleskin (non-padded) is another product I take along, as it offers just a little more cushion in case I get a blister in a spot where I might want a little more cushion, such as between toes.
ē Finally, I pack I small amount of duct tape. It can be used for a variety of purposes, but it works well if I need some extra attention on keeping some 2nd Skin or moleskin in place if itís in a tough spot. I also, use duct tape on hotspots and keep the other stuff for if I actually get a blister. I donít like duct tape directly over blisters and since it doesnít breathe well, itís not ideal for healing. Even when using the 2nd Skin and moleskin, itís best to remove it each night to allow air in and then replace it with a clean piece the next morning.
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