Gear Guy

Will Nikwax inhibit the breathability of a boot liner?

Since my boyfriend is useless regarding backpacking info and only cares to remember such things as hockey stats, I come to you for advice on a pair of Kayland 1700s that I want for extended backpacking in the Canadian Rockies. These boots come with Proof, a factory waterproofing similar to Gore-Tex. Do I need to apply an after-market treatment like Nikwax to the boots, or will that inhibit the ability of the lining to do its job? Jessica Alberta

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I must confess, I don’t see much of a future for this relationship. On the one hand we have Hockey Schlub, sitting around the house watching packs of overgrown, toothless men skidding around a frozen pond in pursuit of a piece of rubber. On the other, Mountain Jess, far more interested in seeing the world, preferably on foot.

Be that as it may, I can at least do my part to ensure that you are properly equipped. Kayland’s Contact 1700 ($299 Canadian; $199 U.S.), is a midweight trekking boot designed for extended backpacking and hiking. It’s a nice-looking boot, with a mix of natural and synthetic materials, a rubber toe rand, and Vibram sole. They’re nimble and adaptable to a wide range of terrain. I haven’t worn Kayland boots, but Contact 1700s are extremely well regarded among footwear cognoscenti.

The Proof lining has at its heart a generic polyurethane-based waterproof-breathable material, and is competitive with Gore-Tex. Kayland says that the lining is built around a design “concept” aimed at wicking moisture away from your foot. Which may or not be B.S., but it’s a nice idea. In most cases, I’d rather boot makers worried more about the boot itself than a waterproof lining, but these days marketing requires most manufacturers to address this issue in one fashion or another. People think a boot with waterproof lining is “better” than one without, when in many cases it is not.

That said, you do need to care for the 1700 in a fashion similar to any boot. You want to keep it clean—scrub with a soft, wet brush after a hike—and treat the outer material with a waterproofing agent such as Nikwax Aqueous ($8 U.S.) or a spray-on, silicon-based waterproofing material. That will help keep the entire boot drier, reducing weight on your foot and enhancing the ability of the lining to perform as designed.

So there you go. Maybe on one of your hikes you’ll find a like-minded fellow, while Puck Boy sits at home in his drawersB.