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Spring - the "season" that we who live and play in the mountains generally refer to as Thank-God-winter's-over - offers unique challenges as we hang up our skis and begin again to fantasize about walking long distances. In my trekking home - that high swath of mountainous land in Southwest Montana and Northwest Wyoming known as Greater Yellowstone, "spring for trekkers" comes to our foothills sometime in March and lasts into the high country well into June. Foremost among the challenges that spring hikers face is the presence of melting snow and the prospect of continuously wet feet. As such, finding hiking partners to join me in these conditions - and help me test my theories about ultralight footwear - is challenging!

Unlike during the winter, when insulated, waterproof footwear is a must, spring offers some latitude in your footwear choices.

In the spring of 2006, I evaluated many different footwear systems while I trained for a trek in the Western Arctic. Temperatures, which were generally above freezing, meant that keeping my feet warm on dry trail and hardpack snow was not a great challenge. But the presence of moisture-heavy snow, the prospect of postholing, and the need to wade cold creeks flush with melt water meant that having footwear that managed moisture was important. Waterproof footwear systems keep external moisture at bay but result in hot feet in drier, milder conditions. And, the well-draining footwear common among summer hikers fails to keep feet warm at colder temperatures. Selecting trekking footwear for spring walking can be a great challenge!


  • My Challenge
  • My Options
  • The Overboot System
  • The High Gaiter System
  • The Warm Sock
  • Conclusion

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