Tag Archives: hiking boots

What Outdoor Clothing and Gear Should I Splurge and Save On?

Spring is (finally) rearing its pretty, sunshiny head, and as a result people are tentatively stepping outdoors again. It’s the season of mild weekend walks, morning runs and the anticipatory exercises for summer trips.

It is also the season of renewed fitness promises, as we leave the back end of the winter season holidays, and all its gluttonous festivity, and herald in our new, fitter selves.

For many of you though, this year might mark the beginning of your first foray into hiking (and may I say good choice!) and as you head to the various outdoor retailers to prepare yourself for the elements, it is understandable that your bank balance might shudder at some of the prices of the outdoor clothing and gear. While spending within a budget is important, it is just as important to choose the right outdoor clothing for your activities – otherwise it might cause you to end up disliking the sport, not to mention injuries or illness. Listed below are what I believe are the most important items to spend a bit extra on (knowledge gained from multiple unfortunate experiences by yours truly), followed by items you can get away with tightening the budget over.

Waterproof Jacket

If you plan on doing any walking over five miles, or spending a considerable amount of time outdoors in changeable weather, then this is the most important bit of outdoor clothing to splurge on. Comfort benefits aside, getting soaked in torrential rain in cold weather can cause all kinds of health problems, not to mention chaffing between a wet shirt and heavy bag. When looking for a waterproof jacket, look for one with a breathable membrane, such as Rab’s E-vent technology or the renowned Gore-Tex brand. Basically, these jackets have a thin film of plastic-like substance between the inner and outer layers that bears lots of small holes. These holes are small enough that water cannot penetrate it, but big enough that air molecules can pass through, allowing any hot air caused by exercise to ‘breathe’ through the jacket and prevent excessive sweating.

Cheaper jackets will be covered in a laminate coating on their surface. This will cause water to bead and glide off, but is not permanent and will need relaminating after awhile. This also means no breatheability, essentially trapping heat exerted through exercise close to your body and producing sopping wet base layers as a result. Unless you are looking for something compact to throw on while walking the dog, don’t be tempted with the cheap prices of laminate coats – you will thank yourself later!

Hiking Boots

Your feet are what get you up and down those mountains and trails, and they won’t thank you if you force them to do it in shoddy footwear. Hiking boots come in a very wide range of sizes and widths, and walking in the wrong shoes can cause serious damage to your feet. I have written previously on how to choose the right boots, so make sure you give it a read before visiting a store!

Rucksack

Rucksacks can come in a wide range of sizes, features and quality, which also means pricing can vary wildly. Before buying a rucksack, decide how you plan to use it and pick one that contains features that match your needs. Most importantly, choose one that fits well. A poorly-fitted rucksack can cause extreme back, shoulder and hip injuries, and the last thing you want to happen is your bargain-bucket rucksack to break and lose all your belongings in the middle of nowhere.

I can say I have learnt not to scrimp on these items from my own first foray into hiking. Being a relatively poor student and taking on the Ten Tors challenge, I decided to find myself some bargains, and went on a sojourn to Bath. After a quick dash to a discounted camping goods store I emerged an hour later, my purse £100 lighter and burdened with all the gear I could possibly need. Gleefully self-congratulating myself, I began to anticipate all the future camping trips I would take with the money I saved.

All seemed to go well, until the day before my team were supposed to take on the Ten Tors challenge. In the middle of a field in Dartmoor, the bottom of my bag decided to give, unceremoniously spewing my possessions over a particularly muddy patch of ground. We managed to patch it up, but uncertainty over how long this quick-fix would last loomed like an overcast cloud in my mind as we began hiking.

As for my boots – hot damn, I think I can truthfully say I have never cursed so much in my life at something as I did those few days in Dartmoor. At the time I assumed hiking boots were all the same size and style, and as a result picked the cheapest, widest, stumpiest pair possible. Turns out I have long, scrawny feet, and as we trundled our way round Dartmoor my feet at times literally swam in the shoes, repeatedly knocked against the end of the boot like a door-to-door salesman, and wiggled about in such a wanton manner I began to have visions of my ankles snapping like twigs.

In the end my feet had so many blisters and sores, they had to be bandaged until I resembled a mummy.

So where can you afford to save some money on outdoor clothing?

Fleeces

We are talking about basic fleeces here, not the non-pulling, temperature regulating fleeces you will find in the mountaineering and climbing sections of stores. Fleeces are made essentially from the same fabric, but some might be more soft than others depending on the quality of the fabric and whether it’s been treated. Technically speaking however, there’s no difference between the £80 basic designer fleece that you catch non-skiers posing in by the chalet bar, and the bog-standard £20 range you can find in most outdoor stores.

Base layers

Now don’t get me wrong, base layers are important outdoor clothing. They help transfer sweat off the body and through the layers. But these too can cost upward of £40 or more, and if you are doing any multi-day treks then multiple purchases can easily add up.If you need to save a bit of money, then look at wearing any tops you already own that are manufactured from man-made materials. These are more breatheable than cotton, and will help transfer it through your layers, but you will be quite smelly by the end of your trek!

Do you have any tips on saving money on outdoor clothing and gear? 

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How to Care for your Hiking Boots

In addition to rucksacks, tents and sleeping bags, hiking boots are another investment of time and money towards any good collection of kit.  Buy the right pair and regularly maintain them, and they will last years. However, with the different fabric technologies and leathers available on the market in today’s boot collections, knowing the proper method for caring for hiking boots can be difficult to discern. Listed below are some helpful instructions and tips to properly care for your boots and ensure they will last for walks to come.

Before doing anything else, make sure you remove any excess dirt or clumps from the boots. Once any large clumps are gone, lightly wash down the outside of the boots and use a cleaner to begin scrubbing the dirt off. Make sure you choose a cleaner that is specifically made for hiking boots; household products contain harsh chemicals that can deteriorate the technical manmade fabric of a boot.

After you have finished cleaning the boots, put them in a cool, dark place to dry. DO NOT place them somewhere warm, like near a fireplace or radiator; the heat emitted from these will melt the glue that attaches the sole to the rest of the boot. If the inside of your boot is wet, stuff some newspaper inside the boots – this will help draw the moisture out from the inside.

Once they have thoroughly dried, leather boots will need to be moisturised. This part of the cleaning process is often overlooked, yet it is one of the most important parts. If the leather is not regularly moisturised, it will dry up, turn rigid and crack, leaving your boots with holes that no amount of waterproofing products or Gore-Text can fix. Not only this, but many boot designers add leather detailing to the sides of the boots to offer additional support around the arch of the foot.

After the polish or beeswax has been soaked into the leather of the boot, it is time to add a water resistant product to the boot. Even if your boot contains Gore-Tex, it is recommended to use a waterproofing agent; in some countries, like Britain, the water can very acidic and over time damage the adhesive or fabric of the hiking boot. Simply spray or wipe the agent over the shoe, and give it time to dry before wearing outside so it can effectively bond itself to the shoe.

Like moisturising the leather of the boot, the cleaning of the inside of the boot is arguably one of the most important aspects of maintaining hiking shoes, but is almost always overlooked.

After cleaning the outside of the boot, turn it upside down and knock any excess grit out of the boot. Make sure you thoroughly clean the creases between the sole, even if you need to use a vacuum, as this is the largest problem area. Grit collects in the seam of the toe box  and insole, and when the boots are worn, rubs against the Gore-Tex membrane and gradually causes holes to appear, effectively eliminating the waterproofing capability of the boots.

Every once in awhile, use a hiking boot-specific cleaning product, mixed with water to clean the inside of the boot. Simply tip the mixture inside the boot and give it a good shake. Afterwards pour the mixture out and stuff with newspaper to help the water evaporate from the inside more effectively. This helps improve the breathability of the boots by cleaning the excess sweat and dirt residue from the lining and Gore-Tex membrane.

Do you have any maintenance or boot care tips? Drop them in a comment below!

Photo credit: arnybo / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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Getting the dirt on….

….finding the right hiking boots.

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