As the school summer recess approaches, students from K-12 and their families, those taking a break from their college studies, along with the everyone else with a hankering to spend time in the great outdoors, will be heading off on adventures in U.S. National Parks, such as Lassen Volcanic National Park, where day-hiking and backpacking are top visitor activities, or taking a “Big Trip” up or down the Pacific Crest Trail.
But if your feet ache or are covered in blisters at the end of a day on the trail, you may wish you’d opted for a trip to a tropical beach resort instead.
And that means you need to pick the right footwear in order to put your best foot forward when you go hiking.
Here’s my suggestion for a good all-around boot to check out, and tips from recreation retailer, REI, on making sure your choice in hiking boots is a good fit.
Imelda Marcos I’m Not
When it comes to hiking boots, my “collection” is far from as extensive as was the shoe stash of the infamous Imelda Marcos of the Philippines.
Right now I’ve got three pair of boots in my closet, all from the same manufacturer, but I only regularly wear one—the other two are “emergency spares.”
Low Cut, Light Weight
My hiking shoe of choice over the last half-dozen years has been low-cut, relatively light-weight, “sneaker-style” boots from Merrell. They don’t have the ankle support of a higher-top boot, but the low-cut style means they will fit in shoe covers, and more easily pack in my roll-aboard suitcase.
My current Merrell’s are “Moab Waterproof Hiking Shoes” which work fine to keep my feet dry. But there’s also Merrell Gore-Tex” shoes and boots, if you feel it’s important to pay a little extra to have that brand name of waterproofing.
I used to wear two different styles of Merrell’s: A Gore-Tex or waterproof variety during wet weather, and a pair without waterproofing during the dry season.
But even though we have two fairly distinct “wet” and “dry” seasons where I live near San Francisco, creeks usually don’t completely dry up in the summer, and you can encounter muddy spots on the trail year-round.
So now I only buy and wear waterproof Merrell’s. Besides always being prepared for steam crossings and stomping through marshy areas, the waterproofing means I can safely scrub the trail dust off my boots without leaving their insides soaking wet when I’m done with my clean-up chores.
I hike about 200-250 miles a year in my Merrell’s. When I bought a replacement pair about a year ago, they had probably trekked over a thousand miles here at home and throughout the Western U.S.
If the Boot Fits, Wear It
Just because I love my Merrell Moab hiking shoes doesn’t mean you should run right out and buy yourself a pair. To put your best foot forward on the trail, your boots need to fit you.
Trying Your Out New Boots Out on the Pacific Crest Trail
Okay, so you’ve got yourself a brand-new pair of hiking books and are hot-to-trot along the 2,650 mile long Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. What do you need to know before you set out an that epic journey?
First, read what others have experienced “through hiking” the PCT, so your romantic notion of escaping urban chaos for wilderness solitude gets tempered with a big does of life-on-the-trail reality.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed’s New York Times bestseller and Oprah Winfrey Book Club pick is one memoir of time spent trekking the mountainous spine touching all three North American countries and traversing the three West Coast states.
The Cactus Eaters by Dan White is another great tale about the up and down challenges of tackling the PCT. Be prepared to laugh your brains out reading about White’s adventures in “temporary trail insanity.”
Four recent newspaper travel stories by Barbara Egbert published by the Bay Area News Group (in the San Jose Mercury News and other BANG papers) are worth a read. In “Pacific Crest Trail finds itself wildly popular this year” she quotes a number of PCT experts. In “Shorter hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail,” Egbert covers four sections of “the California portion of the trail [which] can be crafted to fit within a one-week or two-week vacation.
“FAQ: Advice for women hiking the Pacific Crest Trail” is geared toward women planning to hike the PCT alone as Cheryl Strayed did.
“Pacific Crest Trail: By the numbers” provides stats, such as number of bears spotted, from the six-month PCT hike she did in 2004 with her husband and her 10 year-old daughter. (You can read the full account of their trip in Egbert’s book Zero Days: The Real-Life Adventure of Captain Bligh, Nellie Bly, and 10-Year-Old Scrambler on the Pacific Crest Trail.)
Last, but not least, consult the “Discover the trail” section of the Pacific Crest Trail Association Website, a trove of useful information for those planning to hike the PCT, including information on trail conditions and closures. You can post stories of your own Pacific Crest Trail adventures in the “Trail journals” section of the PCTA Website.
(Dick Jordan has day-hiked short sections of the Pacific Crest Trail in California and Oregon. Purchases made from Amazon.com through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories. Merrell boots and shoes are available from Amazon.com, directly from the manufacturer, REI.com or REI stores, or other retail stores in the U.S.)