One of our readers recently posed a good question: “Your guidebook, ‘Hiking from Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country,’ has several photos of you guys splashing through water. We’re wondering, what’s your footwear solution for dry/wet/dry/wet terrain?”
It’s now too cold for hiking through water in the canyons of Utah. But the daytime temperatures remain comfortable for water walkin’ in southern Arizona. Last year, for example, we hiked through Aravaipa Canyon in January. We were in water constantly. And we were very comfortable.
If you have plans for a winter hiking escape to Arizona, or if you intend to shop the winter sales for water-walkin’ footwear you intend to use in Utah next spring, we thought you might appreciate our response to that question about dry/wet/dry/wet terrain. Here you go:
After years of experimenting with everything from Teva sandals, to 5-10′s, to old boots we don’t care about, to paddling socks + sandals… ad naseum, we eventually found what we think is the optimal solution.
Start with a pair of all-synthetic hiking boots. In other words, regular hiking boots that have no leather in their construction. Non-leather boots do not absorb water, so they remain light rather than become sodden and heavy. Non-leather boots are not damaged by days of hiking in water. Plus they dry much faster once you’re out of the water. Here are a couple examples:
Salomon Cosmic 4D GTX
Kayland Zephyr Event
Whether you’ll be in water or not (or in and out of water), these boots will serve you well on almost any terrain. And they’re better in desert climes than all-leather boots, because they breathe a bit better and will therefore keep your feet a little cooler.
So, when you start hiking (presumably on dry ground), you wear your all-synthetic boots and your regular wool/synthetic blend socks. But in your pack, you bring a pair of thin, neoprene paddling socks (like the ones kayakers use). For example:
NRS Hydroskin socks
Glacier Glove socks
When you get to the point on your hike where wet feet are unavoidable, you stop, take off the dry socks, and put on the neoprene socks.
The neoprene socks will keep your feet warm, even in very cold water. And because you’re wearing boots designed specifically for hiking, you’ll be more stable and presumably more comfortable in rocky, slick, mucky streambed conditions.
Plus, you’ll no longer need two pairs of boots–one for wet, one for dry. And you won’t have to choose. Sometimes you don’t know whether you’ll be hiking in water or not. All you have to do is pack that pair of neoprene socks, just in case.
It works for us. Even on multi-day backpack trips.
Happy water walkin’.