Once they have gotten wet, hiking boots can take a long time to dry properly. This can be frustrating if you want to wear the boots, because wet boots are uncomfortable and can cause blisters. Today we'll discuss how you should dry your boots, and share some tips for speeding up the process.
Don't Expose Hiking Boots to Heat
When hiking boots are wet, it may seem like the most natural way to dry them is to put them near a fire or heater to dry them more quickly. This does help dry them more quickly, but is extremely bad for your boots. Hiking boots should never be exposed to direct heat, for several reasons.
Damages the bonding
Many hiking boots have components that are bonded with glues and adhesives, which quickly break down when exposed to high temperatures.
Damages the stitching
When boots are exposed to heat, the materials of the upper and of the stitching dry at different rates. Direct heat puts extra pressure on the stitching as it contracts more slowly than the leather.
Damages leather and other materials
If leather (and some synthetics) is over-heated and over-dried, it is prone to cracking and splitting.
In other words, too much heat can damage all the components of a hiking boot, and reduce their durability and lifespan, no matter what they are made of. Gradual drying at room temperature is the best way to dry hiking boots, and worth the extra time.
How to Dry Hiking Boots Indoors
If you are at home or indoors and want to dry your hiking boots, follow these steps:
- Remove the laces and insoles, and open the boot for more ventilation.
- Place them in a cool room with low humidity and good ventilation.
- Allow them to dry gradually.
- To speed up the drying process, you may use a fan to blow un-heated air at the boots and remove moisture.
How to Dry Hiking Boots on the Trail
Of course, sometimes your boots will get wet while hiking, and you want them to dry quickly in order to wear them the following day. In that case, it can get very tempting to place them near a fire, but you should still avoid heating your boots unless it's an extreme situation.
If you are on the trail and in a hurry to dry and wear your boots, remember that it's more important to dry the insides, which naturally dry more slowly and have less ventilation.
To dry your boots quickly while camping outdoors, try these tricks:
Hang them up
If possible, remove the laces and insoles and hang them in a breezy, sunny spot to help them dry more quickly.
Stuff them to absorb and remove moisture
Since you are focused on drying the inside, putting something moisture-absorbing inside the boots helps them to dry more quickly. Here are some suggestions:
- Newspaper: At home, you can loosely ball up wads of newspaper and stuff them inside your boots to help them dry. Change out the newspaper periodically as it absorbs water and replace it with new, dry newspaper. Of course, most hikers aren't carrying a lot of newspaper with them
- Leaves: On the trail, some hikers suggest using dry leaves for this purpose, but that isn't recommended — dry leaves will get dirt and debris inside the boots, and aren't very moisture absorbing.
- Wool socks: If you have wool socks, or other socks that are thick and moisture absorbing, stuff them inside your boots and then change them periodically to keep on soaking up moisture. This method has the advantage that socks dry more quickly near a fire or hung up than boots do.
- A rice bag: Small pillows filled with rice are often sold as microwaveable hand warmers, but can also be put inside hiking boots to quickly soak up excess moisture. You can make these yourself by simply filling a small bag with loose rice and then sewing it closed, and they won't take up much space or weight in your pack.
- Wear them anyway. Some hikers say that the fastest way to get their boots dry is to wear one or two pairs of thick socks and just keep moving, changing their socks from time to time. This is slightly uncomfortable, but does dry the boots quickly without slowing you down.
Drying hiking boots correctly helps to preserve the condition and durability of your boots, so it's worth taking the time to do it right.