Essentials: Boot Gear Basics

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Outside magazine, April 1996

Essentials: Boot Gear Basics
By Douglas Gantenbein

Leather, alone or combined with synthetic fabric, remains the best footwear material known–durable, breathable, and comfortable. But it absorbs water, and water dries leather out and leaves damaging salt and grit behind. So the key to boot care is to keep the leather water-resistant and well conditioned. It’s a three-step process.

1. Clean your boots thoroughly after each outing. Remove big dirt from the outside with a soft brush, and then use saddle soap according to the directions on the package. Wipe the interior with a damp cloth.

2. Let the boots dry–but not too close to heat. (Leather is skin. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your boots.) Shoe trees will help maintain their shape.

3. Finally, treat the leather. On the outside, use a preparation such as Nikwax ($6.50; 206-303-1410) or Biwell ($5.95; 802-985-5056). Avoid mink oil, which softens leather too much. If your boot has a leather lining, clean it with Lexol ($4.59; 800-241-6996) or saddle soap.

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