Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wet feet suck! and other notes

A few notes from the weekend -

I finally succumbed and bought a decent dry bag for my Hydrogen - A Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Sack (medium). It is 8L (6.5" x 15" with a round bottom) and weighs 1.1 oz. It should fit my bag just fine.

Running is going just fine. I ran 8.5 miles today, most of it in a mild rain or a mist. On that note, I recently gave my wind parka (Marmot Ion) some tender loving care - I washed it with Nikwax TechWash and hit it with their TX Direct, a spray-on DWR. I ran with the jacket on today, and I was pleasantly surprised.

First, I know it is not a real rain jacket. For anything more than a quick passing mist, I should put on my rain coat. But the coat held its own for about 3.5 miles of mild misting. Water beaded up on the fabric very, very well. There are a few spots I need to hit again, but that's much better than when I got the coat. The fabric did eventually wet-out once the rain came harder. Even soaked, it kept wind out.

When I bought my new shoes, I tried them on at REI while wearing a pair of SmartWool mini-crew adrenaline hikers. These socks are low cut (not for above-ankle boots), and they have padding where it is needed and a thin layer of wool, almost like a mesh, where padding is not needed (top of the foot, for example).

I bought two pairs and tested one of them out today on the run. I got one small blister (the size of a pinhead) at the end of one of my toenails. This should be corrected by trimming the nail slightly. The socks are definitely quality, and I will take two pair with me on the SHT.

This hiking trip presents a first for me - this is my first well-thought-out backpacking trip. Last year's SHT could count for that except we carried too much food.

This year, I'm prepped for a finish. I'm trying to dial-in everything. I will be in shape. I will carry the appropriate amount of clothing (two shirts or one? I'm leaning toward one long-sleeve). There are many, many more. Maybe someday, I'll post questions this trip has developed in my brain. Certainly I'll do so before I leave.

All of these determinations involve eternal struggles for me - struggles that can only meted out on the trail, out in the woods.

A while ago, I conceeded to a good hiking buddy of mine that running shoes (a la Jardine) were better for hiking in than waterproof boots. I made this determination after running on a day when meltwater was flowing off the cornfields behind my apartment. I purposely got me feet soaked and kept going. The water was cold - it probably was barely above freezing, and definitely no more that 40 degrees F. But after a while, my feet warmed back up. They were fine.

The new running shoes are designed to hold a minimal amount of water. However, they will get wet, and until the rain stops, they will stay wet. This is my worry. I hate having wet feet, even if my feet are warm. But what happens when you stop for the day and it is still raining? Your feet are still wet. If you change into your second (last) pair of socks, you will soak them too.

It is for this reason that I may just bring my Keen Targhee II boots. These shoes do not rise very far (they are billed as trail runners, but they are too heavy and too clunky for that), but they do have an eVent lining.

Another slight problem - I bought the shoes when I thought I would wear X-Static socks with them, and that alone. After last year's run-ins with foot-stabbing talus trails, I need more cushion. This is were the socks come in, but the shoes are tight for that. They are 8.5, and with Keens, I may need a 9. I bought the boots at REI, but morally, I cannot take them back.

And here comes the eternal struggle - The Keens will probably be too warm for the daytime without rain, but the Salomans will be too wet if it does rain. I won't carry two pairs of shoes. (interestingly, Saloman makes a version of my running shoe with an XCR liner in there. It's $120, but I don't want to but another shoe.)

And this brings up the issue gaiters. I'm looking at three options for gaiters. First, a shortie gaiter similar to the REI Mistrals or Simblissity LevaGaiters. Second, waterproof gaiters a la Integral Designs eVent shortie Gaiters. Third, none at all.

The idea is simple - I need something to keep crap out of my shoe. I'm mostly concerned with mud. If I go with the keens, the gaiters are mandatory because without gaiters, the rainwater off my pants will run into my shoes.

If I go with the Salomans, gaiters are not essential and I probably will not bring them. I haven't needed them in the past, and until something shows me I need them, I'm skipping them.

And so, what to do? I'm probably going with the Salomans, even though rain sucks. The trick is that it eventually quits.

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