Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Gear Talk: Socks and Footwear

Going lightweight inevitably means that at one point you're going to think about the shoes you're wearing. I was wearing German Army boots for much of my backpacking career before going lightweight, always with the same problem: usually getting blisters, in winter getting soaking wet boots which would freeze over night, and in summer getting wet boots which won't dry over night. I still have a pair of Timberland half boots, which I bought in 2000 in Honduras, those would need to get a little help from a shoemaker but are otherwise very good shoes - I walked from Costa Rico till Mexico in these shoes, so I have a lot of memories with them.

German army boots drying by the fire, April 2009 @ Helvetinjärvi National Park.

I was familiar with trailrunning shoes, as I wore them when jogging.
New Balance and Adidas were usually the shoes I wore, and I was happy with them for their purpose of trail running. So how would they work on the trail when backpacking?

As I was living in Spain last year, I bought a pair of Adidas Supernova Riot. I used them for running in the park, and also for some excursions into the mountains around Valencia. They worked perfect. I decided to try them as well in Finland, and I would have wished I would have been wearing them already on my Easter hike in Helvetinjärvi NP, where I still wore the aforementioned German Army boots (1000 g they weigh, per boot!). On my next trip in Isojärvi I wore the Supernova, and I had no problems covering the large distances, had no blisters, and the shoes dried quickly when they got wet. Also I was able to cover more kilometers, and my feet and legs never got super-tired; neither where there problems with twisting my ankle or anything similar - my feet are free to move like they were intended to, and muscles were getting stronger. From then on, I was only wearing the Supernova, and covered many kilometers with them. They have a great grip, also on wet surfaces, are light at 745 g and are available virtually everywhere.

Adidas Supernova Riot.

With Winter coming up I decided to keep walking in lightweight footwear, although some changes will be made. The Backpackinglight.com article on Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel, which comes in three parts, was an excellent introduction to the topic and described the basics and techniques way better than I could, so please have a read. Well informed, I decided for that the winter I will continue using unlined trailrunners. I'll be walking in a pair of Adidas Supernova Riot 2, the successor of the shoe I have been using since last year, in a slightly bigger size to accommodate liner socks, thicker merino socks and GoreTex socks, with options on a vapour barrier liner sock and neoprene sock if I get really cold feet. They weigh 710 g, so Adidas was able to shave some weight off the shoe but keep them as comfortable and grippy as its predecessor. Here in Finland I have seen them at Intersport and similar stores, and I reckon your running shop of choice would not have a problem with ordering them for you.

The Adidas Supernova Riot 2.

Together with new shoes came new socks. Its fascinating how much socks can change your experience from a terrible one (wet, cold feet with blisters) to a splendid one (dry, relaxed feet without blisters). Previously yours truly had cotton socks and German Army socks, but I can tell you, after experiencing the pleasure of walking (and sleeping) in merino socks I wouldn't go anywhere near other socks. Merino has the ability to be still warming when damp/ wet, which is a very useful ability for a backpacker's sock as he tends to get sweaty feet. Thanks to merino it usually also doesn't smell as bad (if at all). I use socks from Woolpower and Smartwool, both are equally awesome and I can recommend them if you want to do something good for your feet. In Finland you get them at Partioaitta, Partiovaruste and Retkiaitta. I use liner socks from the same companies, just check that they're made from Coolmax or a similar material and you're fine.

Because I use unlined shoes, and I don't like to get wet feet, I bought a pair of Trekmates Amphibian GoreTex socks. I bought them from Amazon.co.uk though I saw that Ultralight Outdoor Gear now also has them in stock. These come on when its raining or when I walk through wet terrain, and in the next coming months snow. Excellent they are, keeping my feet warm and dry. It feels funny if you walk and you're sure you got wet feet, but nope, they're dry. If you walk with unlined shoes, I would recommend you to get a pair of these.

Socks! Smartwool Hiking Mid sock 96 g, Woolpower 400 socks 72 g, Trekmates Amphibian GoreTex socks 73 g.

So, that's my socks and footwear. In the coming months I will be getting a pair of Inov-8 Roclite 295 which should be even lighter than the current shoes. For winter I am additionally looking for a pair of gaiters, VBL socks and/ or neoprene socks to accompany the Inov-8s. So, which shoes and socks are you wearing when your out on the trail?

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MSR Packsoap Raffle

Yesterday I wrote how convenient I find the MSR Packsoap, and today I'm giving away three bottles of them! All you need to do is leave a comment with your name and email address (if you want - see the edit below) until next week Friday, 16th of October. I will then randomly pick three lucky winners, whom I will send the soap bottle, so that they can stay clean on their backpacking trips! This contest is made possible by MSR, who provided me the three Packsoaps. I send anywhere on this planet, Japan, Australia, UK, USA - so take a chance!

Three Packsoaps, looking for a new home.

/edit: If you don't want to give your name or email address for fearing Spam, it is OK as well, just leave a comment and I will announce the winners afterwards, and then you can contact me via Email. Thanks for Chris to bring that to my attention.

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Gear Talk: Camp Hygiene

If I go backpacking, I like to take a dip in the lake or river in the evening and wash off the sweat and dirt, or at least have a quick wash. And also keeping the teeth clean is important. Before going UL, I carried a full blown towel with me, a pouch for all the goodies and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Now that I'm lightening up, that's a no go. While I won't invest into an awefully expensive Titanium toothbrush like James, and neither cut my toothbrush smaller, I had a look around of what's available on the market.

Left UL, right UH.

Lets talk soap. Dr. Bronners is the name you read most often on other packing lists, and while its now available at Backpackinglight.co.uk for a reasonable price, I find I don't need 118 ml, though it would be a good choice because its made of some organic ingredients and is Fair Trade certified. So what else there is, in smaller sizes? I found what I was looking for at MSR with their Packsoap. Its half the size of the Dr. Bronners, thus 59 ml, and weights 79 g on my scale. Its biodegradable, so you can use it in nature and don't need to worry that you leave dangerous chemicals behind (you still should try to wash yourself away from water ways and lakes, if possible - I usually take a swim and then wash up and take a dive, though). Its for sale at Ultralight Outdoor Gear for a very reasonable 4,25€. It doubles up as detergent for the dishes as well, and I reckon with normal use you should be able to go for two to three weeks with one bottle; a drop or two is enough to get a nice lather.

MSR Packsoap.

Next up the toothbrush and paste. My normal toothbrush weights about 15 g, and the toothpaste in its huge package was about 100 or more gram. Here huge savings can be made. I had a look around in the department store, and was very happy to find the Jordan GO Travel kit. The whole kits, including toothbrush, paste and a toothpick in a container which protects them from dirt weights 41 g - WIN! I usually carry the case, as there is a smart mechanism to press out the paste and keep it closed; but if you prefer you can leave it away and save an additional 26 g and just take the paste and brush in a ziplock bag, as you can see in the photo. You need to come up with a method to keep the toothpaste in the tube, though. It cost me 5,50€ with two tubes of toothpaste, which you hopefully also can buy separately.

Jordan GO tootbrush kit.

Keeping the hands clean is another issue I pay close attention too, especially if it comes to preparing and touching food. Previously I carried around a 250 ml bottle of liquid hand sanitizer, but it was just too heavy. I was happy as I found in the pharmacy a small 50 ml bottle of hand sanitizer gel, which weights a reasonable 55 g. It works as you would expect it to work, though of course you should wash your hands before disinfecting them. I got it at my local pharmacy, where they had it in neutral and birch smell, and it costs between 2,20€ and 2,50€.

Anti Bac Hand Sanitizer.

Finally, I needed to replace my towel. It was a whopping 165 g, and even more when wet. It also needed ages to dry, as cotton usually does. While you can use certain kitchen rugs/ clothes I preferred something more refined, and again found what I was looking for at MSR with their UltraLite Packtowel. The towel is Size Medium which is enough for me, and weights 40 g. It absorbs a lot of water, and while after drying your skin feels a bit funny and still wet, I was dry. It has a loop so you can easily hang it to dry, or if you want to leave the 5 g pouch at home you could clip it to the outside of your backpack and let it dry there. Its available as well at Ultralight Outdoor Gear for 12,-€. Juha had a good point, the size of the towel is 30 x 76 cm.

MSR UltraLite Packtowel + pouch.

So, what originally was close to a kilo now got down to 221 g, without losing any comfort and useability. If I would leave the towel pouch and the toothbrush box at home, it would be 190 g. It only gets lighter with time as I use the soap and hand sanitizer, so I am truly happy with the current setup and now can put my attention towards Winter.

The complete UL hygiene kit, clocking in at 221 g - that's full bottles of soap and hand sanitizer and a dry towel!

/edit 09.10, 7.40: Juha raised a good point, the size of the towel is 30 x 76 cm. To save further weight on the bottles, one can use small dropper bottles which usually can be found at the pharmacy. BPL also sells them, and at various UL shops you're able to get small bottles as well. Baz made me aware of Muji bottles, or to ask hayfever sufferers for their old bottles. And instead of paste you can use powder. Lighthiker made me aware that a similar toothbrush is available at Shelbys. Read the comments, many useful information there!

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