Money Well Spent: Shoes, Socks and an Umbrella

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If you cannot walk or are in pain when walking due to blisters or emersion foot also known as trench foot, or from a twisted ankle, or bruised foot because your boots or shoes offered no support or shock absorption, your survival may hang in the balance.

Boots and Shoes

While you may want your hiking boots to make a fashion statement, they also need to be practical and actually provide comfort and support. Are they waterproof or water resistant, do the soles offer a good gripping surface and do they provide the proper shock resistance, and most importantly, do they fit well?

Cheap boots will have cheap soles that can become dangerous when traversing wet surfaces and can cause stone bruises because they offer no protection against debris on the ground. Quality shoes or boots cost money, but it is money well spent when it’s below freezing and the ground is wet, cold and the terrain is rough. Twenty-five-dollar shoes or hiking boots from your local big box store will not hold up and they can immobilize you out on the trail.

There are hiking shoes, hiking boots and backpacking boots. The backpacking boots are for those of you that plan an extended hiking adventure with a backpack that would be heavier than a daypack, for example. Backpacking boots would offer more protection because they are sturdier, but are also heavier as well, so there are choices to be made when it comes to shoes, and much depends on your lifestyle, terrain, probable weather conditions, and fitness level in some cases.

Hiking shoes are ideal for short walks or hikes close to home where the weight you are carrying is minimal. Hiking boots are essentially hiking shoes that rise above the ankle to provide more support. They offer much needed support when on rough terrain, and anyone that has not been out hiking in a while or may have ankle or knee problems should start out with hiking boots to help prevent twisted ankles.

You can, of course, choose the type of shoe you want based on personal preferences, terrain, and length of hike, but remember things can change quickly out on the trail. Backpacking boots can be used on any trail, sidewalk, or roadway, while hiking shoes, for example, can also traverse all terrain, but the rougher it gets the less protection you would have with shoes.

Plan for emergencies, wet and cold weather, and plan to stay overnight in the woods. If you plan for the worst-case scenario, then you are also prepared for the worst, better to be ready and not need your survival gear than to need it and not have it.

Break your shoes in before setting out on any hike. Make sure they fit well, and some shoes/boots with insulated lining inside require you to size up by half or even one shoe size in some instances. Remember your socks combined with the insulation inside the boot could cause the boot to not fit properly.

Socks

Wool or wool blends are ideal if they are not too thick. Fabric technology has allowed manufacturers to produce wool blend socks that are thin yet offer the ever so important wicking, and insulation even when wet feature that we expect from wool, and then there is Polypropylene.

Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way first. Polypropylene is an incredibly versatile, bendable, thermoplastic polymer. Get all that?

Okay, what does this mean for you and your feet? Well, the material does not absorb water or break down when wet. The material holds more heat than wool, and will retain it for much longer, and of course, the material will wick any moisture away from your skin.

We don’t need to tell you that cotton is not what you want to be wearing in cold weather.

If your feet get wet, dry them, and every chance you get dry your socks. Hang them close to a fire and allow the smoke from hardwoods to penetrate the material. The smoke helps control bacteria, which causes odor.

Have more than one pair of socks so you can change them often. Wet, cold feet can cause blisters and of course, emersion foot, (trench foot), which can lead to amputation of toes or even the entire foot and eventually death from gangrene if left untreated.

Umbrella

Umbrellas simply put protect you from rain, snow, and sun. If it starts raining while you are hiking, you would typically put on your poncho or rain suit. Both offer protection, but they also cause you to sweat more, and in warmer weather, this can bring on dehydration faster and sweat soaks your clothing and this is not a good scenario if the nights cool off rapidly or if it is cold out, to begin with. People can get hypothermia at 50° F.

Have to stop hiking because the sun is beating down, well an umbrella can help keep the sun off you, thus keeping you cooler, and this allows you to continue hiking.

An umbrella is a mini shelter, which keeps snow and sleet off you as well as rain and the sun. Turn it upside down, if you have a shelter from the rain other than the umbrella so you can collect rainwater for drinking and bathing.

An umbrella can be an emergency walking stick/cane or weapon in some cases. They are light and can be strapped to any pack, and more than one umbrella would be ideal and they would not add any significant weight to your pack.

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