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How to Dry Hiking Boots

How to Dry Hiking Boots

No other piece of equipment has to take as much abuse as your hiking boots. Not only do they provide essential protection from the elements, they also manage the temperature of your feet, offer a sturdy base against uneven and slippery terrain, and ensure that you return either back home or to your pitch with spirits intact. As any hiker will tell you, your enjoyment on the trail depends massively on how dry your feet are. If you’ve ever been on a multi-day hike, you will know that there’s nothing worse than putting on wet boots in the morning. Even coming back to your boots a week after a day hike won’t guarantee them to be completely dry. Therefore It’s important to know how to dry hiking boots even if you’re not in the business of using them on consecutive days.

Being forced to walk with wet feet will quickly turn an idyllic day on the trails into a nightmare which only gets worse with each sodden footstep. Not only does this make you question your choice of hobby, you will likely end up with painful blisters as your socks start to remove the layers of skin from your feet. As a result, it’s vital to understand how to dry hiking boots as quickly as possible. This guide will explain the best ways to ensure that you wake up each morning with a blissfully dry pair of boots for your feet to gratefully slip into.



Why is it so Difficult to Dry Hiking Boots?


As anyone who has tried to dry hiking boots will tell you, it takes a considerable amount of time to completely remove the moisture. The material of hiking boots is primarily designed to protect your feet. The downside is that they often hold far more moisture than the average shoe, and for much longer. The multi-layered construction of your boots means that the inner layers don’t come into contact with the air required to dry them out. Therefore you should begin the drying process as soon as you take them off. 



Clean Your Hiking Boots First


When you have walked for hours on end, you will probably want to kick off your boots and put your feet up, and with good reason. However, you are best advised to take a few extra minutes to remove all traces of mud and dirt from your boots beforehand. This prevents the waterproof element of your boots from degrading quickly. It will also preserve the aesthetic appeal of your boots. Nobody wants to trudge around in stained and discoloured footwear, and a new pair of boots can quickly start to look dishevelled when you neglect to clean them properly. Once you have cleaned them, pat them dry with a towel.

Leaving them caked in mud will only further prolong the time it takes to dry your hiking boots. Mud acts as an extra layer of insulation, trapping the moisture inside the boots. When you are learning how to dry hiking boots, this may not be top of your list of considerations, but it really does have an effect on how quickly you can wear them again comfortably.



Remove the Insole


Any decent pair of hiking boots should give you the ability to remove the insole. By doing so, you will be able to expose the insole to the fresh air needed to dry it quickly. Insoles can hold a great deal of moisture which is almost impossible to remove when hidden away within the boot. Equally, by removing the insole, it exposes the inner of the boot a little more to the circulating air which will speed up the drying process. Hang your insole on the washing line overnight. Alternatively, drape it over a tree branch if you’re camping in order to expose it fully to the fresh air. Leaving it on the ground or in the bottom of your tent will give you less than desirable results in the same time period.



Remove the Laces


Again, removing the laces will allow your boots to breathe more easily. Use your fingers to press and force as much excess water as possible from the laces in order to speed up the drying process. Be aware that if the laces are older and have been wet for a long period of time, the moisture may have degraded them. It’s worth carrying a spare pair of laces in your backpack in case the worst does happen.



Rest the Tongue Over the Toe of the Boot


Once you have removed the laces, you will be free to rest the tongue of the boot over the toe end. This is one of the main methods you will need to know when considering how to dry hiking boots. It effectively opens the boot up to allow much greater exposure and better air circulation. This will vastly improve your chances of putting on a dry boot next time.



Should you Dry your Hiking Boots in Front of the Fire?


When you first think about how to dry hiking boots, you might think that placing them in front of that wonderful flickering campfire would be the best way to go. After all, fire is the complete opposite of water, right? Interestingly enough, this method is not only less than ideal in terms of drying time, but can actually be damaging to your boots. The residual heat from the fire can degrade the material of your boot surprisingly quickly. This leaves them prone to letting in water or even literally coming apart at the seams. This is due to the heat from the flames breaking down the adhesive glue used to hold your beloved boots together.

Sure, they’ll dry eventually, but by no means quicker than if you had left them exposed to fresh air in a cool, dry environment where they will benefit from maximum air circulation. If you must put them in front of the fire, ensure you leave a good 2-3 metres to minimise any damage.



How to Dry Hiking Boots Quickly


There are a number of other methods which may speed up the process of drying your boots. Ultimately, the longer the boots are exposed to cool, dry air the better. If you are to leave them overnight, you should make sure to give them every chance of drying by the morning. However, you may find it helps to try one of the below methods, even just for an hour or two in the evening. This way, the bulk of the moisture can be absorbed so you can get ahead of the game.



On the Trail



How to Dry Hiking Boots Using Kitchen Roll or Newspaper


By using kitchen roll or a scrunched up newspaper, you can accelerate the drying process. Be aware that once the paper has absorbed the maximum amount of moisture, you should remove it from the boot. Otherwise, it will actually stop the boot from drying out further by becoming a barrier to fresh air entering the boot. Make sure to check after a short while to ensure your boots continue to dry effectively.



How to Dry Hiking Boots using Rice


Rice is great for soaking up sauce and bulking out a meal, but it also serves another useful purpose. It is great for absorbing liquid of pretty much any kind, and that includes moisture within your boots. Whilst you shouldn’t just pour from the packet directly into your boot, filling a sock with rice can be a handy way to kickstart the drying process. As before, you should remove the sock after an hour or two to allow the boot to breathe.



How to Dry Hiking Boots Using Cat Litter


Another unusual but helpful method of drying your boots is by using cat litter. You can put a handful in a sock and leave them in your boots to dry them out. What makes this method especially good is that it will also help to deodorise your well trodden boots. Your fellow hikers will thank you for that the next time you throw your boots in the back of the car.



At Home



How to Dry Hiking Boots with a Fan


Using a fan to dry your hiking boots is one of the most effective ways to get the job done. Angle your boots up on a bunch of old towels with the laces removed and the tongue resting on the toe. Face the inside of the boots towards the fan and leave it on a cool setting overnight, if possible. The towels will catch any excess moisture and your boots will be dry before you know it.



How to Dry Hiking Boots Using a Boot Dryer


Of course, we had to save the best method until last. This is by far the best way to dry your boots, and is one that the hikers of yesteryear could only dream of. By using a boot dryer, you are protecting your expensive boots and therefore maximising their lifespan. The dryer gently warms the inside of your boot through thermal convection, without subjecting it to excessive heat. You can then rest easy knowing that the waterproofing and adhesive glue of your boots will last for many miles to come. You can come back to them in a couple of hours and they will be ready to hit the trail once again.



Final thoughts


Knowledge of how to dry hiking boots is one of the most important things for any outdoor enthusiast to understand. Without it, at best you’ll be cold and at worst you’ll be miserable, uncomfortable and in pain. By keeping in mind the above, you can ensure that your outdoor exploration remains a memorable experience for all the right reasons.