How do you keep your feet dry while wandering the wilderness? That’s simple. You don’t.
Whether you’re backpacking, kayaking or portaging a canoe, the best way to start the day is to walk straight into the first bit of water you see. Get it over with. You’re wasting your time trying to dodge puddles on the trail or search retail stores for boots that will keep your feet totally dry.
The moment you stop to make camp for the night, however, you pull off your sopping boots and slip into something dry and cozy. My preference for footwear around camp is a pair of old sneakers or closed-toed water sandals. I usually prefer sandals. They’re lightweight in your pack and comfortable. Only problem is mosquitoes figure out how to bite through the exposed skin areas. Of course, you can wear socks with your sandals but according to my nine-year old daughter — a true fashion diva — that’s just wrong.
I really like the KEEN McKenzie or the new KEEN Gallatin shoes. Mosquitoes have a tougher time finding their way in but you’re still able to air your stinky feet out at the end of the day.
My daytime footwear may be similar to my camp shoes when kayaking, but it’s definitely not the same for backpacking or portaging. For that, I like something solid. An ankle-high hiker made of leather — or with a waterproof breathable treatment. In my opinion, leather is best. The idea behind waterproof-breathable treatments, which are more expensive, is that they will keep your feet dry. Again, forget that idea. These treatments, however, help with breathability, which in turn reduces the foot stench inside the tent at night.
If choosing leather, make sure the leather is not foam-lined or the boots will take forever to dry. Unlined leather boots are the way to go, with soles that have some bend in them. This is a huge advantage when wearing them while kneeling down in the canoe.
The KEEN Oregon or slightly lighter KEEN Glarus boot is a great choice. I like Keen boots simply because they have a wider fit than most, and their all-leather traditional-looking boot is totally solid. My last pair not only survived the 93 portages I completed while taking on Algonquin’s Meanest Link last season, but they also continued to excel on the numerous trips I did after. They’re lightweight but rigid, saving me more than once from a nasty twisted ankle.