How to Not Get Blisters When You Hike

prevent hiking blistersBy Heather

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Fitbit that said in 2015, I walked 5.14 million steps. I knew I walked a lot in 2015, but my jaw hit the floor when that number came up.

In all of those steps, I never got a single blister. Every hike I took, from Half Dome to  Mt. Baden Powell to Mt. Whitney, ended with nothing more than some sore feet.

Here’s how you can do that too:

Don’t be a cheapskate

Above all else, the number one rule is: don’t be cheap. Don’t take a shortcut. The fact is, good hiking boots and good insoles are going to cost some money. You don’t have to go broke, but don’t think you’re going to get away with $30 hiking boots from Payless and $10 Dr. Scholl’s insoles. That is not enough.

It feels good to save money, but whenever you’re tempted to cheap out, picture yourself 10 miles from the trailhead with a painful blister. You can also read Darren’s post about the consequences he experienced after not taking care of his feet on our earliest hikes.

Expect to spend about $250-$300 for all of your footwear and blister prevention needs. The good news is that most of this stuff should last you a while!

Good footwear

What footwear you get is up to you, since it’s such a personal choice. My first “real” hiking shoes were some Merrells, which were great until they wore out. Now I hike in some waterproof Keen boots, which I love.

Every shoe type has its pros and cons. I have waterproof boots; they’re not breathable and they may be too confining for some, but they’re perfect for me and give the stability a klutz like me needs.

The best way to find the right shoe for you is to head over to an outdoor store and try on some different types and see what feels best to you. REI has a little ramp in their shoe section so you can get a sense of how your shoes will feel going uphill and downhill, too.

Don’t be shy about asking questions, either! You’re about to make an investment, so make it a good one.

High-quality insoles

Your hiking boots will come with insoles that will be decent for a few hikes, but they’re one-size-fits-all. High arch, low arch, whatever. Consider getting insoles that are made for your type of foot. They’ll make such a difference.

I use the SOF Soles insoles, and I have zero complaints! They’re like walking on a cloud and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Head to an outdoor store to find out more about different insoles and what type of support you might need.

Have some sock liners

This is embarrassing to admit, I did not know that sock liners were a thing until around May of last year.

Darren got a blister on our way up to Cucamonga Peak. The band-aids I had weren’t staying put. He was miserable.

On the peak, we met some kind strangers who gave Darren and some moleskin and then introduced us to the miracle of sock liners. (These are the sock liners I use, in dark blue). I swear, you meet the most helpful, informative people on the trails.

Sock liners are thin socks made of a moisture-wicking material that serve as a dry layer between your shoes and your regular hiking socks. Moisture, if you don’t know, is what causes friction and friction is what causes blisters. Sock liners also help your band-aid stay put if you do develop a blister.

How effective are sock liners? After we climbed Mt. Whitney—more than 26 miles of walking—my socks and my feet were completely dry.

Another reason to love sock liners: they’re one of the cheaper things on this list.

Get really good socks

Regular socks will not do when you’re hiking. No, no, no. You need really good, thick socks.

My favorites are Thorlos, but there are lots of good ones out there. The styles differ, as well, depending on how you hike and where you need support and extra cushioning.

Lace your shoes properly

You can have the best hiking shoes in the world, but if they aren’t laced properly, you can still wind up with some foot problems.

Did you know, for example, that you can tie your shoes in such a way to hold your foot back and prevent your toes from jamming into the front of the shoe? You can! Once you master it, it’s a game changer.

This Backcountry Edge video explains some different lacing techniques well.

You can also go to REI and a staff member there can demonstrate various techniques to you.

Review: Coleman 5-Person Instant Dome Tent

By Darren

Another camping season, another tent…

Heather and I have been camping now just shy of five years, and in that time, we’ve owned four tents.

Steve donated the first one to us. It was a Coleman… um… blue tent? There was some white on it and zippers and a floor and some poles? Okay, I don’t know what the model was, but it looked like this:

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That gently used hand-me-down held up really well under all kinds of conditions. But eventually, the years and the mileage caught up with Ol’ Blue, and she provided her last night of cover to us sometime in the summer of 2014.

Then there was the Coleman Weathermaster II. I detailed its short life in an earlier post.

After that came another even more gently used tent from Steve, the Coleman Evanston 4-person tent:

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This one is probably my favorite one that we’ve owned. It came with a screened in front section (I called it “the mud room”) that was perfect for storing gear when it was just the two of us or for providing a sleeping compartment for Nabby and our niece when she was visiting us.

Unfortunately, this tent’s life was also short-lived. The front zipper came off track from almost the get-go and never did zip up right after repeated attempts to fix it. About halfway through the brief year and a half that we owned it, one of the tent stake rings started to tear loose from the seam, followed by another a few months later. It seems like something else went wrong with it that I can’t remember now. At any rate, we left it behind in a dumpster at Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree last year.

Now, you might be thinking, “Why don’t you just put some real money toward a tent that you won’t have to replace every 18 months?”

Hey, slow down there, Mitt Romney! Not everyone has $500 to spend on a fancy REI tent with a gold leaf rainfly, screens made of spun diamond dust and built-in speakers that hypnotize woodland creatures into singing you softly to sleep at night. Heather and I are blue collar, working-class Coleman people, dammit.

No, actually, I agree with you. However, we’re Costco members, and Costco sells a different, affordable Coleman tent every year. Costco will also take back nearly anything without question. Therefore, we decided we’d just keep buyin’ ‘em, wreckin’ ‘em and tradin’ ‘em in until Costco wises up and changes its return policy.

Which brings me to our 2016 – 2017 tent, the

Coleman 5-Person Instant Dome Tent

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The Coleman 5-Person Instant Dome Tent during its inaugural trip to Death Valley National Park, March 2016.

That’s her the one and only time we’ve used her. If you want to see prettier, more varied photos, visit the tent’s page on the Coleman website.

In a nutshell, here’s what you get:

  • 10 x 7 ft.
  • 5 ft. 4 in. center height
  • Carry bag included
  • 1-year limited warranty

The features that caught our eye included:

  • Instant setup in about 60 seconds
  • Pre-attached poles for quicker, simpler setup – just extend and secure
  • Integrated rainfly doesn’t require separate assembly

We’ve envied our friends Kim and Kent’s instant setup tent the last couple of times we’ve camped with them. While instant setup feels like cheating, Heather and I have lost so much time to unfolding, threading and securing poles in fading light that we thought it was time we pampered ourselves.

But we’ve been burned by this “instant setup in about 60 seconds” claim of Coleman’s before. If the tent (or canopy) has been properly folded and zipped up in the bag then, sure, you can put it up pretty quickly. But if the item has been crammed in there willy-nilly, it’s like trying to untangle a ball of Christmas tree lights.

Guess how Coleman packed our tent.

There were two main problems with this tent upon freeing it from the bag: 1) One of the pre-attached poles had either been installed backward or had become twisted. Either way, I had to unscrew the joint with my pocketknife and put it back together the right way.

2) The poles came free of the center “hub” at the top of the tent and had to be forced into place several times.

Oh! And!

3) We were in Death Valley National Park. Between the brief window when we pulled up to the site and when we began putting up the tent, the outside temperature went from a pleasant 60-something to hot as balls ˚F.

Let’s compare and contrast the Coleman version of how this should have gone with the reality:

Coleman:

Fuck Yeah Camping:

Coleman:

Fuck Yeah Camping:

Coleman:

Fuck Yeah Camping:

Coleman:

Fuck Yeah Camping:

Coleman:

Fuck Yeah Camping:

Pros

  • Reasonably priced at $79.99
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to pack
  • Comfortable interior
  • Take down was considerably easier than putting up

Cons

  • Setup produces spontaneous bleeding of the eyes