Best Footwear Tips for Winter

Icy pathA big concern of people who are new to winter hiking is “What do I wear on my feet?”

And who can best answer that question? Seasoned hikers!

We’re not going to tell you the best boots to buy, because we wouldn’t dare. Instead we’ll give you our best tips that come from years of “research” and knowledge.

And you’re going to discover that it’s not all about the boots.

Warmth and fit

So, do you actually need “winter” hiking boots? That’s up to you.

Some hikers wear the same boots year-round. Others have boots in a size or half-size larger to accommodate extra socks.

But when you buy hiking boots—for any season—use this tip from the University of Alberta’s Mountains 101 course. Pull out the foot-bed from the boot, place it on the floor, and step down on it. If your foot doesn’t fit neatly on the foot-bed, the boot does not fit.

Grips…spikes…cleats

A 2016 Canadian study found that very few “anti-slip” boots are effective on ice. (You can check the rating of several brands at ratemytreads.com.)

We believe every person who lives on the prairies should have an ice-gripping product that fits on the bottom of their boots. To find products that stand up to hikes and long walks, visit stores like Campers Village (Waskahegan members get 10% off), workwear stores, and Canadian Tire. There are many sturdy solutions in a wide price range that pull on or strap on.

Waskahegan member Jim Wilson adds, “I have been operating with leather hiking boots insulated with Thinsulate—this is my year-round choice. For winter I install 6 screw-in cleats per boot. It gives better security on hard pack.

“They are a little funny on pavement…and stay out of the house!”

Gaiters

Even “waterproof” boots can get wet inside through snow accumulating on top of your boots.

Gaiters not only keep the moisture out of your boots, but they keep the lower half of your pants protected from snow and slush.

We wear our gaiters on hikes all year round, as they keep us clean and dry from wet grass and mud.

Socks

Hiking socks must be made of a moisture-wicking material, like wool or nylon.

Cotton is trouble, as it holds moisture and keeps your feet damp.

Wet boots

A former member, Marilyn Bourassa, told us she had spent a Saturday at trail maintenance in a boggy area and soaked her boots right through. That evening she tore up sheets of newspaper, balled them up, and packed the balls tightly into her soggy boots. The next morning, she pulled out the balls. Her boots were perfectly dry for wearing to the Sunday hike that morning.

I’ve used this technique—paper plus pressure—many times to dry out boots. It always works.

 

We believe that everyone would enjoy winter more if they had the right gear. For winter hikes and long walks on local trails, your safety and comfort start with the feet. If you find these tips useful, go ahead and hit one of the share buttons below.

 

 

What to do about ticks

Now that we’ve learned that ticks are going to be a problem this year, what do we do now?

Carissa Wasyliw, a Natural Area Manager at Nature Conservancy of Canada (and Waskahegan director-at-large) gives us her recommendations about preventing ticks:

Rabbit with ticks

It is recommended that a person covers up when they are in areas such as long grass, bush, and other areas where ticks thrive. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to keep your skin protected from ticks. Throw on a hat (make sure to tuck your hair under it), and wear high boots-tucking your pants into your socks or boots may provide extra protection.

Use insect repellent on areas of your body and clothing that may come in contact with grass and brush. Deet products have proven to be highly effective in repelling ticks. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any natural repellents on the market, but I know they are being researched and developed. Finally, check your clothes and body for ticks after being outdoors. They like to be in warm and dark places, such as the waste-band of your pants, or in your hair, etc.

If you do find a tick, remove it!

Gently grasp the tick’s head and mouth parts with tweezers. Slowly pull the tick straight up off the skin – do not squeeze, jerk or twist it. Clean the bite area with soap and water or antiseptic. Save the tick in a clean, empty container. Add a small piece of tissue or cotton ball, lightly moistened with water, into the container. You can submit the tick in for testing to find out if it is a carrier of lyme disease.

Don’t apply matches, cigarettes or petroleum jelly to the tick, or squash it.

Caution: ticks

Waskahegan member Ron Robertson posted this warning on our Facebook Group:

***ATTENTION HIKERS AND DOG OWNERS***

I was out for a walk today along middle Coal Lake which is just east of Leduc. I saw a couple of young rabbits and was able to get some photo’s of the two of them. When I got home and looked at the photo’s the two rabbits are covered with Ticks!

If you’re a land owner or if you are in any public areas along the lake and are walking your dogs, check them over really well for ticks before you bring them into the house.

If you’re out for a walk or hike, check your clothing so that you don’t bring these nasty little bugs home with you!

Thanks, Ron for posting this warning.