The backcountry is calling, and bowhunters across the country are preparing to answer. For me, these final days are about fine-tuning my pack contents. Sure, I pay attention to weight and avoid stuffing or latching nonessential items to my pack. But after years of tromping across the West, I’ve also learned not to go too lean – to take a few sure-to-boost-comfort items. Whether your stint in the backcountry is three days or 10, staying comfortable is paramount. The more comfortable you are, the more focused you can stay on the task at hand.
One thing that will boost your backcountry comfort is dry feet. Nothing is worse than traipsing across broken, uneven, or up- or downhill terrain in wet feet. It’s like trying to walk on a slip and slide, and the skin on your feet can only take so much moving around in your boots before hotspots and blisters start. I’ve seen guys hobble out of the mountains, their hunts over and their dreams for a set of horns dashed, all because of a nasty blister.
You can only take so many socks in your pack, and a secondary pair of boots just isn’t an option. But what you can take to boost foot comfort is a pair of old carbon arrows (total added pack weight around 800 grains). I strap the arrows to the outside of my pack. Every time I stop for a break in the woods, I remove my boots and socks. I hang my socks on a tree to dry, stick the two arrows in the dirt, turn my boots upside down and slide them over the arrows. This accelerates the moisture-evaporation process greatly.
Want to know how much faster boots will dry using this method? I did. So I dumped 2 ounces of water into the bottom of my boots, turned the boots over to drain the water out and then set them upright to dry. I repeated the process with the exact same pair of boots (my secondary pair) and let that pair dry upside down on the arrows. The upside-down boots were totally dry and ready for use again six hours before the upright pair of boots. (Outside temperature ranged between 82 and 86 degrees.)
I repeated the same test after taking a three-hour hike (one three-hour hike in one pair of boots and one three-hour hike in the other) during which I walked through wet grass and crossed a small creek. My boats were damp on the inside, and the pair turned upside down dried at a rate two times faster than the upright pair.
If you’re headed off to the backcountry, strap a couple of old arrows to your pack for a more comfortable – and successful – adventure.