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I'm thinking of switching from old and heavy army boots to modern trekking ones.

Trying to choose between Gore-Tex and leather with waterproof coating only, I can't get over a simple question -

What do you do when water gets inside your boot?

It happens quite often when you cross swampy grounds (50% of my hikes) and occasionally find your leg ankle deep in water - usually I just dry inner soles and boots (since my old ones don't care about heat) near the campfire, but it's not an option with modern boots (I've read a lot of sad stories about those who'd tried it) so, as I see it, the only way is to take 'em inside the tent or even a sleeping bag for a night. This won't make them dry, but, well, at least less wet and not ice-covered (if it happens during autumn or spring).

But I feel pretty unsure that it will work with membrane-protected boots. So, once again - how do dry your boots when they get wet and you're far away from home?

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I'm all for preventive measures...Wear Gaiters! –  AM_Hawk May 6 at 2:45
I'm all for preventive measures...Wear Gaiters! Are there gaiters that will keep water out of your boot if you step in water? The snow gaiters I use won't. –  Ben Crowell May 6 at 21:10
@BenCrowell These Will! But you are correct most "Snow Gaiters won't, but there are also "water" gaiters available that create a great seal. –  AM_Hawk May 6 at 22:50
There are several gaiter models out there classified as 'water proof.' They're not designed to let you stand in a lake, but they're quite handy if you need to trudge through some swamps. –  hillsons May 7 at 18:35

5 Answers 5

I too recommend newspaper however you can also give the following a try:

Buy a pack of disposable diapers and empty the sodium polyacrylate into a sock or any fine mesh cloth/bag. Carry it in your pack for any absorption emergency.

You should make sure to pack it in a sealed waterproof bag until you need it. Otherwise it will suck the humidity from its surrounding while you carry it!

Sodium Polyacrylate is a polymer capable of absorbing 200-300 times it's weight in water.

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But you should make sure to pack it in a waterproof bag as long until you need it. Otherwise it will suck the humidity from its surrounding while you carry it. –  Benedikt Bauer May 6 at 19:30
@BenediktBauer Thanks for including that, I should have mentioned it in the answer! –  AM_Hawk May 6 at 22:18
@AM_Hawk It would be nice if you could edit your answer to include @Benedikt´s suggestion... It can easily get lost in the comments. –  Paul Paulsen May 8 at 8:02

You could use a towel or (if you can spare the weight) some old news papers.
Me and my friends dry everything except for the tents by fire. Just set a line about 3-4 meters away from the fire so it will only catch some of the heat (30-50 degrees Celsius is fine for anything).

I know this really doesn't give you an alternative and I'm interested to see what others come up with.

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The army solution is to have two pairs of boots so that one pair dries while the other is worn (yes, even in the field). Another solution is to use goretex socks so that it doesn't matter what state you boots are in. I find wool socks keep warmth even when wet, and don't chafe or cause blisters the way cotton socks can when wet.

You can air dry goretex (it's synthetic so dries faster than say cotton) and you can dry them near the fire, just don't get them too close.

I usually take off my boots at camp and put on a pair of slippers/flip flops, as it's good to let your feet breath after being in boots all day, especially if you'll be doing the same thing the next day. I keep my boots in the vestibule of my tent. NEVER put your wet boots (even if they don't feel wet) in your sleeping bag, as the moisture will stay in your bag and can have significant negative effects in cold weather.

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Good point, merino wool is expensive but it is extremely comfortable even when wet. –  EverythingRightPlace May 8 at 22:45

To go in a slightly different direction here...

The most practical way to dry your boots (in a warm climate), Gore-Tex or otherwise, is to wear them and especially to work hard while wearing them. Body heat does a lot to dry out boots and you don't need to carry any extra weight to put towels or newspaper or anything else in them.

Many people tend to have a camp towel with them on hiking trips, but I bring a synthetic shammy, like the one you'd use on your car. They are very light when dry or nearly dry and absorb water far better than any of the camp towels I've used. So I pat dry my boots or shoes inside and out with the shammy, wring it out, and repeat until I can absorb no more water with it. This takes care of much of the moisture and then wearing them will finish it out after a few hours.

Also, removing the insoles will speed drying of any kind of shoe. It's a good idea to do this every night, whether your shoes/boots have gotten wet or not.

Drying by fire is my last resort because the heat can melt synthetics and shrink & crack leather. Just making sure you can swap out dry socks will help tremendously along with these things mentioned already.

But...not all of this works that well in sub-freezing temps. Fire is about your best option when it's freezing and it's not a great one because of the high risk of ruining your boots.

So that's what I do for most of my trips. I have to deal with a lot of water where I am so at some point I just have settle for various degrees of wetness/dryness, knowing that my boots are just going to get wet again soon.

Just to add some pertinent info, getting your feet dry at night is super important, almost more important than drying out your boots. And it's absolutely critical when you're somewhere that just won't allow you to keep your footwear dry.

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I wore a 20 dollar pair of Walmart boots on a seasonal back country logging trip in the North Cascades in 2013. My crew lead was pretty concerned, I am a runner so I had no concerns about worse case scenario having to barefoot back 35 miles..at all.

The funny thing is my last minute emergency footwear solution held up. My boots spent the same time in front of the fire drying out as all the rest of the teams 100-450 dollar Gore Tex, Asolo, La Sportiva, Merrell's and Vasque boots. I mean, the exact time...never a minute longer.

In fact, to be clear: my boots stayed AS DRY..and I was the brunt of the manpower, I was the guy who got dirtiest the other 7 members were safety, navigation, coordinators, sawyers etc..

My foots actually dried faster usually because of less substantial insulation..less to dry.

I would never recomend doing what I did, and I did not win any popularity contest with that stunt..but when I replaced my footwear I saved myself about 180 dollars by not getting sucked into the Gore Tex madness. After experiencing first hand the totally over rated waterproof and quick drying properties of Gore Tex (used in all the above brand boots), I quit spending money on Gore Tex footwear.

If you are in snow, or if you are on trails overgrown with brush, going distance and it is wet: your feet are gonna get soaked, your boots will be waterlogged. You can try gaiters, my entire team wore them (I did not), but they are not going to keep your feet totally dry.

At best a hiking boot is what, 8 inches tall? So go get in 12 inches of stream, see how waterproof Gore Tex is then. Get snow in your pant cuff, [past the gaiters, get brush on your pant leg that works the way to your soak then wicks inside of your boot.

Gore Tex is not gonna make your choice worse...but it shouldn't be a driving factor to spend an extra 200 bucks.

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Well, actually that's what I always did - go to a second-hand store, get a pair of sturdy-looking army boots, wax 'em and be happy. As you say - nothing will help if you're standing knee-deep in the water. However, I've got g-tex boots by sale price (since you've mentioned that they're quite expensive) and going to give it a try - at least I'll have some knowledge about the subject ) –  Usurer May 23 at 17:31

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