I just got a pair of Vasque Summit GTX boots, an all leather, sturdy backpacking boot with smooth leather and a Gore-Tex liner. Whats the best way to break them in? And how can I keep the leather conditioned long-term? Mark Lawrence, Kansas
The Vasque Summit GTX ($200) are nice boots, and you should get many years of use out of them.
Vasque Summit GTX Backpacking Boots
Summit GTX Backpacking Boots
These days, lots of boots like the Summit are pretty comfortable right out of the box. But to break them in carefully, I suggest you start by wearing them while watching TV or something for a few hours. Then go for some walks around the neighborhood. Then try a day hike. If all seems in order, then youre good to go for a backpacking trip.
The key to ensuring long life for boots is to keep them fairly clean. Grit can abrade the stitching, so if they get grubby, wash them off with some warm water and a soft brush, and then let them air dry. Give the insides an occasional rinse as wellsweat is acidic and can damage the linings.
There are a number of good products to use on the leather. I like Nikwax Paste Wax ($8) because its easy to use and is safe for boots with waterproof inner linings. A spray-on version also is $8, but I dont think it holds up as well. Grangers G-Wax for smooth leather is similar to Nikwax and works well.
And, that amazing product Sno-Seal (developed in the 1930s and without question the longest-running item in the REI product lineup) works great. Its a natural beeswax material that wont soften leather. It does darken it some, however.
Thats about it. I really dont believe you need to invest a lot in cleaners, conditioners, and the like. A hand brush, some wax waterproofing agent (no oil!), and youre all set.
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