One of the simplest steps backpackers and hikers can take to increase the longevity of their leather hiking boots is to perform regular maintenance such as cleaning and conditioning, along with ensuring that wet boots get dried correctly. Keep reading to learn the dos and don’ts of how to properly dry leather hiking boots, and to learn some tricks for speeding up the drying process.
Start immediately: The best way to dry leather hiking boots is to let them air dry. Since this is a time-intensive process, the sooner you start, the longer your boots have to dry.
Remove dirt and debris: You don’t need to give your boots a deep clean, but you’ll want to make sure to remove any mud, grass, leaves, or other debris that might slow drying and potentially stain the boot.
Remove the insoles: Pull the insoles out of the boots and allow them to dry separately. This exposes the maximum amount of surface area, increases air circulation, and speeds up drying.
Remove the laces: Similar to removing a boot’s insoles, removing the laces (or at least loosening them) increases air circulation and allows moisture to more easily escape the boot.
If you don’t have enough time to allow the boots to simply air dry, there are a few tricks for speeding up the process.
Newspapers: Newspapers are readily available, low-cost, and super-absorbent—making them a favorite, albeit labor-intensive, strategy in the fight against wet feet. To employ this method:
Fan: An everyday household fan is an awesome ally in helping dry your boots as it encourages airflow and moves moisture. Put your boots on a towel (to collect any excess water) with the laces removed/loosened, insoles out, and open them up facing the fan to speed up drying.
The temptation is often strong to dry your leather hiking boots with the help of a wood stove, campfire, heater, or blow dryer, especially on those occasions when you really need or want dry boots. Unfortunately, direct heat sources can damage leather along with other materials, like nylon, used in the construction of boots. Direct heat is equally bad for the glue used to hold boots together.
If you must dry your boots with a direct heat source—such as in front of a campfire on a backpacking trip—make sure to keep them a “safe” distance from the fire. A good guideline for finding a “safe” distance is to locate the spot where you can just slightly feel the warmth of the fire. When drying leather hiking boots near a campfire, beware of other hazards such as embers or hot rock rings that can damage and shorten your boots’ lifespan.
In addition to properly drying leather hiking boots, periodically treating them with a product such as Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather can help hiking boots resist water and reduce the amount of moisture they absorb, minimizing the amount of time needed to dry them out.
A good pair of leather hiking boots is an investment and showing them a little TLC is an easy way to ensure you get the maximum amount of mileage from them.
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