How to Keep Your Feet Happy on a Backcountry Hunt
Your feet are everything in the backcountry and proper care will drive your hunt forward comfortably. Hot spots, moisture and soreness can make it painful and difficult to hike and cover ground in the backcountry. Preparing and keeping your feet safe and comfortable throughout the hunt is imperative and it can be the difference between a nice hike up the mountain and a painful one. Luckily, keeping your feet in good shape is simple and only requires a few basic tasks.
Here are some simple tips to keep your feet happy and healthy on your next hunting trip:
Wear Great Boots
Choosing the best hunting boots will have a major impact on foot health. Your boots should fit properly and be comfortable before the hunt. If your boots aren’t comfortable at home, they’re not going to be comfortable in the field. And remember that a foot issue can seriously slow down a hunt – so invest in high quality boots.
We recommend a full-grain leather boot with a full rubber rand for durability and protection. Waterproofing is also important on a British Columbia hunt. Boots with GoreTex or a similar waterproof, breathable membrane will help shed water and evacuate perspiration.
For more tips specifically on how to choose boots for a mountain hunt, see our previous article on that subject here.
Break in the Boots
Whenever you’re planning a hunt, start breaking in your boots early. Your brand new boots might fit great right out of the box. But if there are any issues, you want to discover it earlier rather than later. Always give new boots a break-in period and take them out on hikes to make sure they are going to fit and perform well. You don’t want to wait until you’re on the mountain to discover any problems.
The same goes for socks. Wear your hunting socks with the boots on at least a few hikes to make sure they fit and work well together. Don’t break them in and leave them idle for the last month or two before the hunt either. Wear the socks and the boots for a few weeks leading up to the hunt.
Socks come in many different varieties and it really pays to spend for top quality. Some hunters use thin sock liners to create a comfortable vapor layer. It’s not necessary but is worth testing a liner for comfort. Choose top tier merino wool blend socks from brands like Smartwool and Darn Tough because they are comfortable and durable.
Dry and Clean Socks
Ensuring you have clean, dry socks can make a big difference on multi-day hunts. While breaking in boots during the summer, your socks are always fresh and clean. But on the mountain, you’ll be required to recycle them throughout the trip.
Always keep a fresh pair of socks ready in your daypack. A mid-day change out of wet and soggy socks can feel great. Wet feet get cold easier and are much more prone to blisters. Packing along a fresh pair is easy and they will feel amazing when your feet are water logged and worn out.
When the day ends, wash your socks and hang them over the camp stove to dry. If you’re in a spike camp without heat, you can set them in the sun or hang them from your pack to dry. Alternatively, you can sleep with them at the bottom of your sleeping bag. Wring out as much water as possible first, as the moisture from your socks will naturally diffuse into your sleeping bag fill.
Don’t forget, it begins with quality socks. Go with a high quality Merino wool or Merino-synthetic blend. Don’t even think about bringing your cotton gym socks. The best boots in the world will perform poorly if you wear cotton underneath. Great socks will perform well even after days of use.
Wear Quality Gaiters
Gaiters are a nice addition for your feet because they help keep out moisture. They are especially useful in an environment like British Columbia. Even when it’s not raining, water from foliage will quickly work into your boots. Invest in a high quality gaiters with a waterproof, breathable membrane like GoreTex. This makes bushwhacking easier without coming out soaked. The gaiters from most high-end hunting apparel companies will perform well.
Treating Hot Spots
Hot spots form when your skin rubs against the boots, socks, or even when one toe rubs against another. If hot spots are left untreated, blisters will form. When that happens, your feet will suffer. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the hunt and forget to treat hot spots. Bit only requires a few minutes to cover the spot with a blister pad.
When a hot spot forms, stop and take a break. Remove your boot and your sock – this is also a great opportunity to fix bunched-up socks. We recommend the Compeed blister pads, which can be found at most pharmacies. They are effective and they’ll stay on for days at a time. Treating hot spots before they turn into blisters will save you serious pain and discomfort.
Put Your Feet Up
Long days on the mountain come with breaks for food, water and general rest. Glassing sessions can last for extended periods as well. If your feet are wet, tired or sore, use this downtime to air out and relax. Your boots and socks can dry out a bit while your feet breathe and catch a break until the next round of hiking. Even a quick ten-minute rest can have a major restorative impact on your feet.
Contact Us and Learn More
For more information on gear and other tips to prepare for a hunt in British Columbia, please take a look at our Gear Page. Otherwise, explore the rest of our website to learn more about our guided hunts or contact us for details.
Written by Zach Lazzari
Zach is an outdoor writer, a hunting and fly fishing guide, and very proud to be a part of the Kawdy Outfitters team. You can follow Zach’s adventures at bustedoarlock.com.