I went on a 5 mile hike through snow-packed trails in Yosemite this week. It was a somewhat wet hike. There were several instances of snow break-through, hidden streams / puddles, and even a bit of water fall from above. By the end of the hike my feet were soaked. Although this was not a gear test hike, it might have confirmed reports that I have heard about waterproof shoes.
I wore my Keen mid-cut Targhee II boots. Now, I’ve had these boots for a few years now and had zero issues with them, so I was surprised by how wet my feet got on this hike. The more I thought about it, though, I realized I’ve never done a serious snow hike in them (Yosemite Falls was mostly ice). I wasn’t wearing my gaiters, but I did have on my Marmot rain pants (which were great!) and they provided full coverage over the tops of the boots. So maybe it was a snow break through letting some in through the top or just a splashy step into a puddle – but whatever it was, I spent half my hike squishing.
I began to wonder if the Keens were actually waterproof. So when I got home, I did a search and I saw that “Targhee” is basically just Keen’s hiking boot/shoe line – a few of which did not claim to be waterproof. I noticed the “Keen Dry” tag on the product picture (above) and thought maybe mine were a non-waterproof variety.
This picture was taken nearly 24 hours after the boots were removed and left out to dry. As you can see, they are still damp!
Worse, although I got them off by 3pm to air out, the next morning they were still damp. Like damp. Seventeen hours of air flow and they would still soak a sock if I wore them. It’s now been over two full days and there is still moisture in the toe boxes.
For comparison, my Altra Lone Peaks got completely drenched (on purpose) late one evening and by the next morning they were bone dry.
Waterproofing: The Eternal Struggle
Now, I realize we won’t be hiking through snow on the Camino. But snow is actually far less of a problem than mud (which the Camino seems to have an abundance of) or straight up flooding:
As discussed on earlier posts (see Magic Shoes), many people have reported bad experiences with waterproof footwear. The waterproofing works only in ideal conditions and once your feet get wet (which they will either from incoming rain, leg runoff, material failure, splashing, or sweat), they say it’s better to have shoes that will dry quickly than to squish for several days.
Over-ankle flooding or fast running water of almost any depth are going to wipe out any shoes / boots – probably even with gaiters. The question then is, how long do you want to wait for those shoes to dry?
The weird thing is, Camino walkers are divided on waterproofing. Some thank God they had waterproof shoes because of all the water / mud, while others say that’s exactly why they did not go waterproof. Thru-hikers, on the other hand, seem almost unanimous on not going waterproof when they spend 6 months on brutal trails. I am still undecided but may be able to give both a test run in the near future.