While it continues to snow in the high Sierra, now’s the time to start preparing for summer hikes. Record California precipitation means lingering snow, full streams and hiking in wet feet are near certainties. But don’t get the blues hiking in wet shoes! Get prepared to hike with wet feet and turn it into a time-saving advantage. Read on for tips that will pay dividends this summer.
Dial in Your Footwear
On our multi-night high Sierra gear checklist we recommend everyone take two pairs of shoes. One pair is for hiking, the other is for water crossings and camp. In a typical year, our week-long Trans-Sierra backpacking treks to Mt. Whitney encounter between three and ten wet stream crossings where participants change out of their hiking shoes, put on water shoes, wade through the water, and then change back into hiking shoes.
We expect this year to be anything but typical. In 2017, our early season Trans-Sierra treks encountered over 25 wet stream crossings. Some sections of trail required wading knee-deep through overflowing riverbanks (pictured above). Crossing the Kern River took 30 minutes of slow and methodical teamwork. While hiking with dry feet was definitely preferred by most, by the end of Day 3 a majority had given up on changing into water shoes, opting instead to hike on through streams.
But what about blisters? Advanced preparation with footwear selection and conditioning can go a long way in reducing friction and preventing blisters. Here are some suggestions.
How To Prepare For Hiking In Wet Shoes Or Boots
First, make sure your shoes or boots are a half size too big. Your feet will expand on the trail and added moisture can make them feel even tighter. Second, avoid Gore-Tex or waterproof boots and shoes. Trail runners or hiking boots with lots of mesh that will allow water to quickly escape are preferred. Third, select and train in mid-to-lightweight socks made of synthetic fibers or merino wool that will quickly shed moisture. Fourth, follow our checklist and bring three pairs of socks for the rotation. You’ll have one pair to wear, one pair to dry, and one pair for back-up at all times. You can change into dry socks and your camp shoes each evening.
Here’s a trick you might use to break in a new or relatively new set of hiking shoes quickly and condition your feet to hike wet. Take your shoes out of the box, put them on with the socks you plan on using for your trek, and lace them up firm. Next, hop in the pool or fill a tub of cold water and step on in. Make sure your shoes are thoroughly soaked. Then go for a two mile hike around the neighborhood. Finally, unlace and let your shoes air dry. Repeat on at least one other day.
We hope this helps! With little extra preparation and thought, you can be well prepared to hike comfortably in wet hiking shoes this summer!