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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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3  
I'm all for preventive measures...Wear Gaiters! –  AM_Hawk May 6 at 2:45
3  
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
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@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
1  
You have touched on the major drawback of Gore-Tex Boots versus standard leather. Gore-Tex boots stay dry until water enters the internal structure; then they take an age to dry out. Leather Boots dry within a matter of hours from the heat of your feet as you walk. As a poster below touched on, in the Army we always used Gore-Tex socks and Leather boots combo. Keep the socks in a waterproof bag; when your boots fill with water, empty them, dry/talc your feet and put the Gore-Tex socks on. Put your boots back on. Your feet will stay dry in the socks & the boot will dry from the inside out. –  Venture2099 Aug 15 at 7:23

4 Answers 4

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

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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3  
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
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@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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Without having to carry any extra items and thus extra weight, this is what you can do to dry your boots, Gore-tex or otherwise, in the field, in above-freezing temperatures:

  1. Prevention: Make every effort to keep your feet dry in the first place. Sometimes it's just inevitable though.

  2. Absorb excess water: After removing your insoles, use a highly absorbent synthetic shammy (like those for drying cars) to pat down and dry the footwear by hand as much as possible, wringing out the shammy frequently. A typical camp towel will work, but not nearly as effectively. Repeat until no more water is absorbed into the shammy. Likewise, take your wet socks, roll them up in the shammy and wring the whole thing out. Repeat until no more water wrings out.

  3. Controlled application of heat: If still hiking, return the boots with insoles back to your feet and continue on. The heat from your feet will do a lot to dry your boots, but only if you've removed most of the water by absorbing it. Don't put fresh socks on yet. (Obviously if the boots still will be getting wet then don't bother drying them until you can get to camp.) When at camp, after absorbing the majority of the water, wear the boots around while setting up camp, cooking, etc. so that your body heat can continue to work on moving the moisture out. I'd recommend dry socks for this part, but no socks could also work if it's warm enough.

Another method to apply heat is to warm up some small rocks by the fire and then place them in your boots, making sure that they are not too hot, otherwise you'll ruin your boots. You should be able to touch them without getting burned. Periodically replace the rocks with more warm ones. A similar, possibly superior, method is to take two water bottles, fill them with near-boiling water and place one in each boot. (This is better suited to overnight drying.) The drawback with the water bottles is that you likely will use valuable fuel to heat that water, unless you can heat the water with the fire.

Finally, when going to sleep, put some freshly warmed stones/water bottles in your mostly dry/barely damp boots, place the boots in a stuff sack or two, then put the boots in the foot of your sleeping bag with you. This will keep them near heat all night. Although it won't be the most comfortable thing in the world, it's not all that bad. However, don't do this if your boots are still quite saturated. If that's the case, just leave them inside the tent/tarp.

I do not recommend drying boots directly by the fire. It's very difficult to gauge and control how much heat is being applied and you'd greatly risk destroying your boots. Too much heat will shrink and crack leather, melt synthetic materials, and melt the glue holding your sole to the boot.

In sub-freezing temps, the procedure is similar, but wearing boots to dry them is not the ideal option. Using the hot water bottle/stone method is the way to go then. I'd also note that having the boots near a fire is good, just not closer than you'd want to sit yourself. If it won't burn you, it won't burn your boots.

And one final thought: sometimes there are conditions where you just have to settle for various degrees of wetness/dryness in your footwear, making sure that at least your feet are dry when you sleep.

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I've tried warm stones few times, but found it inefficient. My best guess is that stones block the airflow and it stops humid air from escaping. Keeping boots next to fire seems to work far much better. –  Val Sep 30 at 8:56

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