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Tools of the Trade: Shoes

Tools of the Trade: Shoes

So last week we established that we’ve got a lot to do this year, but before we get into it we’re going to need some gear to make the most of our time outdoors. The most important of which is going to be a great pair of shoes for all the different applications out there. The style of shoe that will be right for you is going to be dependent on which subset of awesomeness you want to experience outside. For example, you’re not going to be wearing a heavily insulated boot while running the local spots. You would be  wearing a trail running specific shoe. So let’s make this simple and break it down into six different groups. We’ll be looking at hiking, trail running, backpacking, approach, insulated, and water specific shoes. There are other styles as well such as mountain biking shoes and climbing shoes but we’ll get into those more in depth at a later time.

Your hiking shoes are going to be the most adaptable pair in your closet. If you’re on a budget you can use backpacking, trail running, or approach shoes in their place dependent on the kind of trail you’ll be doing. What we want in a hiking specific shoe is going to be a light to mid weight body with a semi aggressive sole. What this means is that the tread on your hiking boot shouldn’t be geared only towards one surface like rock, dirt, or mud. You also want it lightweight so that you won’t have too much of a problem with stamina on those longer hikes. A few examples for this kind of shoe will be Merrell’s Moab series, Salomon’s Xa Pro 3d, and even Chaco’s Brio boot. Now for trail running what we’re going to want is a lightweight, breathable, upper as well as good support and an aggressive tread. You’ll find the most aggressive soles in these shoes since they’ll be the most athletic oriented of the styles we’re looking at today. These shoes are going to be designed foremost for speed with protection as somewhat of an afterthought. There are actually quite a few styles of shoes out there since trail running is’nt quite as niche as it used to be. A few are going to be Salomon’s Speedcross and X Ultra series as well as Merrell’s All Out Charge. Typically, since these are running shoes, their livery is also going to be very colorful as well.

Salomon X Ultra 2's being put to the test in the red mud of Palo Duro Canyon.
Salomon X Ultra 2’s being put to the test in the red mud of Palo Duro Canyon.

Now there is going to be a massive difference between the trail running style and backpacking shoes. Where the trail running shoes were light and minimal, the backpacking style is going to be more supportive and heavy duty. Since backpacking involves carrying an extra load of anywhere between 20 and 50lbs, these shoes are going to be more about support than anything else. You’ll typically find a mid rise boot with about the same kind of sole as your hiking boot but with loads of support. This is also where it gets tricky. With that extra support comes more material which will add weight to the boot. So you have to decide between the extent of support that you want and the stamina increase that comes with a lighter shoe. It’s an old adage that, “A pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back.” It’s an argument that no one but yourself can answer. If you’re going for a month long through hike, then support might be the way to go. Or if you’re doing a quick weekend trip, then the lightweight style can help you cover the most ground the fastest. This kind of thinking can show just how specialized gear for the outdoors can be, and our last three categories are as specialized as we’re going to get.

The approach shoe can also be used as a light hiker but is going to be mainly at home on rocky, technical terrain. These shoes are designed for getting a rock climber to the base of their actual climb while still being able to use some climbing techniques themselves. The soles are going to be stiffer and have a stickier rubber compound for smearing and edging. These shoes will also be lightweight and tend to have laces that run all the way down to the toe for maximum fit. Because of the stiff sole, these shoes wouldn’t be recommend for your all day long hikes. A few styles that are to be suggested would be the Vasque Grand Traverse and the Five Ten Guide Tennie. Insulated boots are going to be geared only for your coldest of weather environments. There are different thermal ratings for different shoes so be sure that the shoe that you’re getting fits the weather that you’ll experience where you’ll be adventuring. These boots are going to have a tread designed for traction in snow and on ice to help you stay upright and trudge through feet of precipitation. Most of these boots are also going to waterproof so that you don’t freeze when you accidentally misstep into a deep puddle of snow melt. You won’t be able to wear these boots outside of cold weather due to the fact that your feet would simply overheat and turn into a puddle of sweat. The exact opposite would happen if you were to wear your water specific shoes in insulated boot weather. Now your water shoe, or sandals, will be the least protective of any of the shoes that you can have. These will leave most, if not all, of your foot exposed to the elements. This is also what they’re meant to do so that it can allow water to flow freely around your feet instead of collecting in the soles of your shoes. Most of the styles are going to be designed for use on the river where you still want great traction and support. Chaco is going to come to mind simply because they are designed specifically for rafting and kayaking. They have a polyurethane base matched with a form that supplies plenty of arch support for use throughout the entire day.

Now all that’s left for you to do is to decide which activity is most intriguing to you and find the corresponding shoe that best fits your feet. If you don’t already have a pair then the hiking category might be the best place to start to get acclimated to the outdoors. Also keep in mind what kind of terrain you have access to and where you’ll get the most out of your shoes. Whichever style you decide to go with, be sure not to let your new pair collect dust in the closet but collect mud on the trails.


It’s the Little Things

It’s the Little Things

We’ve had a whole lot of people coming into the shop looking for backpacks. If people are looking for backpacks, that means they are backpacking. If people are backpacking, that means they want to carry the least amount of weight possible. But, most people don’t want to sacrifice their luxuries in the backcountry. There are ways to have your cake and eat it too.

Something I always tell people when they are trying to be efficient in the backcountry is that it’s all about the little things. If you can make your packing process an exact science, then you’re backpacking experience will be something you can enjoy DURING the trip and not just a couple years after you get back. So here are a couple things I’ve learned about backpacking in my experience:


  1. You Don’t Need That

If you’re on the border line about bringing something on the trip – especially clothing – you probably don’t need it. The money you spend on synthetic or wool clothing is “money well spent” for a reason. This expensive clothing gives you a special freedom – the freedom to wear the same pair of clothes for days on end. So instead of packing changes of t-shirts, pants, underwear, etc., trust the clothes on your back. That being said, there is one rule that I can always count on. It is always colder than you think it’s going to be. So replace those changes of clothes with a down jacket.


  1. You Can Always Count on the Necessities (Food Matters)

Something I never skimp on is food and water. Some people really like to go “ultra-light” with these and I never recommend it. I WILL NOT enjoy my trip if I’m eating granola bars and olive oil for every meal and drinking 1 liter of water a day. Pack food you will enjoy and that can be made easily. You can still experiment with weight by looking at the little things (eating directly out of the cooking pot, making your own super spice instead of bringing multiple, bringing really starchy foods to fill you up easily). As far as water goes, the lightest system I have come up with is the MSR bladder/20oz water bottle combo. If you need 4 liters of water, you can use the bladder. If not, you can roll up the bladder and just sip out of your water bottle.

  1. It’s Fun to be Creative

A forgotten aspect of a backpacking trip is the ingenuity. If you consider backpacking a sport (I consider it the means to get to a sport), then you should enjoy getting into the science of packing and preparing. If you’re like me, then you’re not a wealthy individual. Anyone can pack light if they dish out thousands of dollars on the latest gear. Try experimenting with the equipment you have. Do you have buckles on your pack that you don’t use? Cut them off. Remember: ounces in the pack are pounds on your back. Don’t get to use your impressive sewing skills enough? Try sewing your own flannel sleeping bag liner (or even sleeping bag!). Want to try your engineering skills in the kitchen? Try making a stove (hint: all you need is a coke can). My point is that part of the sport is testing out what works and doesn’t work.


Those are just a few of the things that I think about when people ask me about packing their backpack. Like me, too many people forget about the “sport” of backpacking. It’s more than just a means of transportation in the backcountry. You can take pride in the way you backpack. It may not be the sexiest sport – but people can’t ignore that it is downright impressive when someone can have more fun with less weight.


Branching Out

Branching Out

Time for a little bit of honesty – not all of the information on a blog is original material. In fact, most of the information is gathered from different places across the internet. For myself, I have several different places I like to go to see what’s happening in the blog world. Every day I get online and go through my usual cycle of blogs, and maybe look for something new as well. Due to the nature of Hideaway Outdoors, there is an obvious theme to my normal blog circuit. So here are some of my favorite outdoor blogs. From these you’ll find extremely interesting material from latest in outdoor news, style and everything in between.

1. Semi-Rad

This blog by Brendan Leonard has one of the most honest descriptions of any I have seen:

“Semi-Rad is enthusiasm for things regular folks can do. It’s what can be done with 52 weekends and a few weeks of vacation a year. It’s adventures for the everyman and woman. It’s a web site for those of us crushing it, kind of.”

The author’s idea behind his content is that there is a plethora of information that tells us how we should be. We should be climbing 5.12 or BASE jumping off of waterfalls. But, most of us only have a limited time to train and get outside (especially here in Lubbock). It is extremely refreshing to read posts by a professional writer (Leonard has written for the Adventure Journal, Mountain Gazette, and Backpacker magazine to name a few) from the perspective of a non-professional outdoor enthusiast. It’s easy for me to get bogged down by not being the “best” at what I enjoy. But, this blog helps me remember what is really important. Not to mention this blog has great unique content and funny articles. This one is definitely worth checking out.

2. The Burning House

I’ll veer away from the outdoors very briefly, but this one is pretty good. The Burning House asks a very simple question for a simple blog:

“If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question”

This blog asks different individuals (artists, athletes, etc) to take a photo of and list what belongings they would grab in case of a fire. It is very interesting to see what different types of people choose to take with them. This blog doesn’t have a whole lot of information, but it is a really cool idea and I check on it almost every day.

3. Cold Splinters

Cold Splinters is probably my most frequented blog, mainly due to it’s very unique information. Written by Jeff Thrope, Cold Splinters is technically a consulting firm specializing in outdoor and lifestyle marketing (Danner Boots is a client of theirs). That being said, this blog is chocked full of interesting content. From art, music and random outdoor gear, you’ll always find something you didn’t know beforehand.

Also, there is a great “links we like” sidebar on this website. If you’re interested in finding some new blogs to get into, any one of the blogs listed under this sidebar are worth a gander. All in all, Cold Splinters is unlike any blog I have come across online.

adventure journal

the deeper you get, the deeper you get

4.The Adventure Journal and The Adventure Blog

Both of these blogs are really good for information. I think of them as my outdoor news channels that I check every day. The Adventure Journal is a little bit more in-depth and has more unique information, while the Adventure Blog is straight-up information. Both of these sites are top-notch and deserve a visit from anyone who wants to be in the know on outdoor sports, events, and features.

So there are five of my favorite blogs. There are countless others that are worth trying out, so get online and explore. As an individual who studied journalism, I’ve heard a lot of negative criticism about blogs. I can still hear my professors ranting on about how blogs kill journalist credibility and are ending the way our field functions today – and they may be right. But I don’t think they’ve seen some of the fantastic work that is being done in the blog world. If you want to see the new face of journalism, just check out any of these blogs I have mentioned. It’s only a click away.