How to Dry Hiking Boots

To begin with, it’s normal to have wet feet when hiking. It is not uncommon to step in a puddle, stumble while crossing a stream, cross a river in a ford, or fall knee-deep in a swamp. You don’t have to be afraid of it, but you just need to be mentally prepared. In this material, we will consider several ways to dry boots on a hike.

The first thing we do is to clean the shoes of dirt and remove excess moisture by the absorbent method. You can use socks as an absorbent. You stand in the shoe, the socks absorb the moisture, take them off, wring them out, and put them back in the shoe. Socks can be periodically dried over a burner (recall the safety precautions of using an open fire in a tent).

Better than socks is a special towel from microfiber. It’s compact, lightweight, and absorbs moisture in seconds. This towel will be useful in any case during the campaign and dries faster than socks.

A classic kitchen towel absorbs moisture beautifully. For best results, you can use toilet paper. Just don’t forget to calculate its quantity per your squad.

If you are in the woods, you can dry your trekking boots with dry moss. It absorbs moisture like a sponge.

Boots dry without insoles or laces, and this rule is universal for all drying methods. Insoles trap moisture and increase drying time, so they are much easier to dry by removing them from the shoe. Laces, in turn, just get in the way when drying, they tend to fall into the fire and do not allow you to fully open the neck of the boot.

Next, we offer you ten ways to dry your hiking boots, you can choose one or combine them.

How to dry trekking boots by the fire

Let’s start with the first and most logical way that comes to mind of the owner of wet boots. This method is not only the most popular but also the most dangerous: how many tourists have been left without shoes?

We advise you against this option, no matter how carefully you do it. Not all hiking boots can be dried by the fire. Most modern materials do not tolerate high temperatures at all. Membrane shoes can completely lose their properties, it is recommended to dry them away from heat sources.

What happens to trek boots when drying at a campfire:

  • Your shoes may “shrink” and you simply won’t be able to put them on your foot.
  • Your boots may burn from the sparks of the campfire, which easily leave holes in the synthetic fabric.
  • The shoes will burn completely if you, having chatted with a friend, leave them unattended for a long time.

If you still dared at your own risk to apply in practice the method of drying hiking boots by the fire, you must remember a few rules:

  • The boots at the fire dry in the hands, and not put out next to each other and not nestled on a pebble or log. You must take into account that a careless movement, a gust of wind, or a more heated fire can leave you without shoes.
  • The boots should be kept at such a distance from the fire that you can hold your hand without burning yourself.
  • The most effective way to dry your boots is to point their neck toward the source of heat, i.e., the fire.
  • If you follow these rules, the risk of losing your shoes is reduced. Nevertheless, you should think a few times before resorting to this method of drying hiking boots, because walking in wet shoes is much better than walking without them at all.

Sun or wind drying

This is one of the safest ways to dry your shoes. If nature has decided to bring you nice weather after a wet crossing, you just unlace your shoes and put them in a sunny place, and the sun does all the work for you. This method gives you the opportunity not to watch the boots and mind your own business. On top of that, the sun will do almost no damage to your shoes. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is changing the position of the shade during the day – the shoes which were recently exposed to the sun may end up in the shade, and then their chances to dry noticeably decreases.

It is worth remembering that if your hike is in an area inhabited by all sorts of poisonous creepers, after such drying it is worth checking your shoes for all sorts of evil things, such as scorpions and spiders, which are attracted to the shade of the boot’s neck.

Drying your boots on yourself

This drying option is also effective and safe. It is enough to pour the water that has accumulated there, squeeze out the insoles, squeeze out the socks, and put the boots back on your feet. The body, heated by physical activity, becomes an excellent “battery” and over time dries wet shoes.

This is the method used in summer hikes by the author of the article. Of course, this method is better not to use at low temperatures, so as not to get frostbite limbs.

How to dry hiking boots with stones

For this method, we will need small stones, which are stacked in a kettle or in an old tin can and put on a fire or a burner. When the stones are well-heated, but not yet white-hot, we pour them into the boot. If you are afraid to stain your shoes from the inside, you can wrap the stones with a handkerchief. The shoe with the stones should be constantly and quite actively shaking so that the stones roll over all the time. It is important not to leave the stones in one place for a long time, otherwise, they can spoil the shoe.

When the stones cool down, you can repeat the procedure several times until the boot is dry. This method is very effective and allows you to dry even very wet boots in a few dozen minutes. But you should understand that this method is not suitable for shoes with a thin synthetic lining and a membrane – the stones will simply melt the delicate synthetic.

Drying boots on a hike with sand

For this method we need sand. It is poured into a kettle or any other container, which is then put on the fire. After that, the heated sand is poured into a worn sock. The sock with warmed sand is sent inside the boot. Such sand warmer dries the boots perfectly, as it occupies the maximum area of the boot. For the best effect, the operation should be repeated several times.

Drying with a water bottle

For this method, we need two half-liter bottles. If you dry your shoes one by one, one such bottle will be enough. The bottles are filled with steep boiling water, and then the bottle is placed in the shoe. This method requires quite a lot of time, because the water cools quite quickly, and in order to dry the boots, the heating pad will have to be filled more than once.

How to dry boots in a sleeping bag

This method is suitable for the most rugged hikers and climbers – wet boots are placed directly inside the sleeping bag and dried by human body heat again. This is more of an extreme method of drying because you can forget about being comfortable sleeping with wet boots in the sleeping bag.

Classic shoes drying with newspaper

Drying with newspaper is a method known and widely practiced since the time of our grandmothers. To this day, some hikers wear newspapers to dry their shoes on their hikes. Newspaper really absorbs moisture very well and can dry damp shoes – you just need to put enough of it inside the shoes. The downside of this method is obvious: the extra weight of newspaper in your backpack. Obviously, taking newspapers with you on long hikes is not very rational. In some cases, the newspaper can be replaced by some dry and absorbent natural material that can be found directly in the hike, such as dry leaves, moss, or grass.

Drying your boots with heat and salt warmers

Warmer pads and salt warmers are usually used to warm up cold hands, but they are also great for drying shoes. There are even special models of warmers in the shape of an insole. Warmers are usually small sachets filled with a chemical compound. By reacting with oxygen, this composition releases heat. The disadvantage is that the thermoids are disposable, and therefore not very practical.

Salt warmers, in turn, are usually silicone containers filled with a supersaturated salt solution, inside which floats a small metal element. 

It is this element that “triggers” the heating pad – it is enough to bend this metal part a little, and the salt solution comes out of the quiescent state, starting the process of crystallization. During this process, heat is also released. After the use and cooling of such a “crystallized” heating pad, it can be put for ten minutes in boiling water, and it will return to its original liquid state and will be ready for reuse. Such a heating pad is a reusable thing, due to which this element of equipment has a big advantage over thermoids. But again it is an extra weight in your backpack.

Drying hiking boots with silica gel

This method is not often used in hiking, but it should be included in the list for the completeness of the picture. In this case, the moisture is removed from the boot with silica gel. Most likely, this substance is known to you in the form of small paper bags with transparent balls, which are placed in boxes with new shoes. The task of silica gel in this case is to absorb excess moisture and not let the shoes get damp. Usually, the following phrase is written on these bags: “Throw away. Do not eat,” but campers often neglect the first of these two rules and keep these bags for camping purposes.

Of course, it is not at all necessary to try to accumulate the right amount of silica gel by buying up shoes. Silica gel can be bought in any quantity online or in shoe stores. Our experiments with drying shoes with silica gel have shown that this method is more suitable for slightly damp shoes, but really wet shoes with silica gel is extremely difficult to dry. In addition, such drying takes a long time, and the presence of silica gel in the backpack again increases its weight.

What the manufacturer says about drying shoes

Let’s turn to the recommendations of shoe manufacturers, which is the most correct way to dry your boots in conditions of hiking and at home. Most manufacturers indicate in their care instructions that even direct sunlight can damage footwear, not to mention drying over a fire or with heated stones. They recommend that you dry your shoes in the wind. Some manufacturers do not recommend speeding up the drying process. Every tourist finds his own balance between the desire to walk in dry shoes and the desire to prolong their service life for as long as possible, and depending on their priorities they choose the most suitable way of drying.

There is one more piece of advice: buy quality trekking shoes suitable for the conditions of your hiking and do not neglect the leggings. In cold and wet conditions, not only your enjoyment of the hike itself, but also your health, or even your life, may depend on the quality of your gear.

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Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by travel. I inherited this passion from my parents. Since my college years and to this day, I have had a passion for traveling in a motorhome. I am here to share my experiences with you.

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