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What footwear for exteded winter trip with wet snow (Southeast US)?
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Christine Thuermer
(chgeth) - F

Locale: Germany
What footwear for long winter trip with wet snow (Southeast US)? on 12/07/2011 01:45:24 MST Print View

Although I have done a lot of long-distance hiking (Triple Crown) I do not have much experience with long-distance trips in winter. I want to change this and plan to hike a 900 mile loop combining the Pinhoti Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail and parts of the AT in December and January. The Northernmost point of this trip is Davenport Gap in the Smokies. After studying temperature charts and trip reports I am expecting to hike in temperatures around or above freezing during the day, but below freezing at night. Snow will be not much of a problem in Alabama or Georgia, but I expect snow up to ankle deep in the Smokies. Due to temperatures around freezing I expect lots of WET snow. And of course I want to be prepared for the odd snow storm that dumps 2 feet of snow and brings more extreme cold temperatures.

Usually I hike in low cut trail runners like Keen Voyager, but I realise I have to buy more robust footwear for this trip. I am pondering two options:

Specific winter boots like Salomon Tundra or Keens Revel boots that are made for much lower temperatures
Normal mid-cut waterproof trail shoes like Keen Targhee II combined with a waterproof sock (as the waterproofing in trail runners never seems to work on the long run)

Of course I would bring gaitors for both options. I do not mind spending more money on the first option but I am afraid that those winter boots might be a bit too warm for the conditions in SE US. On the other hand I am not sure that mid-cut trail runners would be able to handle a lot of snow in the Smokies. Please keep in mind that this trip will take at least 1 1/2 months and I want to be more comfortable and safe than UL. I am not asking what is doable, but which option is more comfortable.

Thanks for any input or thoughts on that topic!

Edited by chgeth on 12/07/2011 01:46:14 MST.

Matt Mahaney
(Matt_Mahaney) - MLife

Locale: In the District
What footwear for long winter trip with wet snow (Southeast US)? on 12/07/2011 02:07:31 MST Print View

Hi Christine
You may find useful information in these articles.
Spring Footwear and Vapor Barrier Liners
Also, check out Andrew's trip.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Smokies in January on 12/07/2011 08:08:05 MST Print View

You might get more than ankle deep snow at elevations in the Smokies.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: What footwear for long winter trip with wet snow (Southeast US)? on 12/07/2011 08:12:11 MST Print View

For conditions like that, I use:

liner sock (polypropylene or polyester)
thick wool sock
Rocky Gore-Tex socks (size 12 for a size 10.5 foot/shoe)
waterproof/breathable gaiters (Rab Hispar eVENT)
non-waterproof low cut trail runners

I've also been experimenting with using a strong antiperspirant (Certain Dri) on my feet for a week before the trip to keep my socks even drier.

Except for the gaiters, I used this on a 3 day trip last winter (West Virginia) where the snow was 0-25 inches (no snowshoes) and temps 15-63F. My only issue was that my pants were wet from the inadequate non-waterproof gaiters I was using. A partially wool base layer made the wet pants only slightly uncomfortable rather than being a serious issue. (I had waterproof breathable pants, but didn't really need them.)

Edited by AndyF on 12/07/2011 08:16:45 MST.

Matthew Bradley
(patojo) - F

Locale: Berkshire County
Re: What footwear for long winter trip with wet snow (Southeast US)? on 12/16/2011 11:12:07 MST Print View

For that general area daytime temperatures somewhere between 5°C–7°C would seem normal during the dates of your planned trip (altitude will be a bigger variable than latitude), but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see temperatures ranging from -7°C to 15°C. My recommendation would be for a lightly insulated leather or leather and fabric boot. I would recommend against a boot with a rubberized bottom. I would think they would be a bit miserable should you have to wear them through a warm spell. If your feet don’t run cold uninsulated footwear would probably do so long as you wear some warm socks.

In the Southern Appalachians if you are out more than a few days you will most likely get caught in a downpour at least once and on most days you will have to ford numerous streams both large and small. I prefer footwear that do not include a waterproof membrane because the chances that some of that water is going to make its way into my boots (yes, even while wearing gaiters) and turn them into buckets are pretty high. Of course, for a multiple day slog through wet snow waterproof footwear would be preferred, and there aren’t many non-waterproof insulated boots on the market.

Road Prong Trail, 13 January 2010.
Road Prong Trail, 13 January 2010.

Fording the Chattooga on New Year’s Day, 2011.
Fording the Chattooga on New Year’s Day, 2011.

Edited by patojo on 12/16/2011 11:56:21 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Light neoprene divers' socks for VBL on 12/19/2011 18:26:28 MST Print View

I've found that a pair of thin neoprene diver's socks (that I've seam sealed) are the best and most durable VBL liners I've ever used.

They give a lot of warmth with the insulating neoprene foam and always keep moisture out of my boots. At night I remove them and my thin polypro liner sox and turn the VBLs inside out to dry them before putting them in the foot of my sleeping bag. I put on a new pair of polypro liner sox and heavy "sleeping sox" for night.

Come morning I remove the sleeping sox & put the dry VBLs over the liner sox.