Thursday, February 7, 2013

Boot Tip- Boot Care

The hunting season is now over for most for us.   Many of us have cleaned our gear- guns, clothes, decoys, dog gear, etc.- but we often neglect our boots.  In the past I have been guilty of this and its a serious mistake if you have quality gear. 

Boots need to be cleaned as leather is just skin and needs to be cared for.  The common enemies of leather are dirt, water and heat.

Dirt on the surface causes one of the most common problems such as cracking the leather.  Dirt is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water.  Once it attracts water, it expands and deteriorates from the inside.  If you improperly treat your boots, that is applying wax to dirty boots, you actually seal in the contaminants within.  Excess heat can cause separation of the sole/rand. Trying to speed up the drying process causes the leather to be stiff and brittle.  This can result in deteriorating the bond between the sole/rand and the leather upper, which will eventually cause a separation. 

Dirty boots need to be washed off.  Do not dry wet boots to any heat source (campfire, furnace, fireplace, sunlight, etc.) Wet leather burns easily and will be come hard and brittle.  When drying boots, remove the footbed.  Boots can be stuffed with newspaper to speed up the process.  Leave it to dry at room temperature in a well ventilated room.

Use some sort of wax or oil after heavy use.  These products feed the leather as well as reconditioning scratched and stiff leather.  I use Meindl Sportwax but it is hard to find Stateside.  When I run out and no longer acquire it I will start using Ballistol.

How to use Sportwax:
Using your fingers, apply a thin coat of wax to the entire leather boot (apply numerous thin coats opposed to one heavy coat).  Do not forget to get the seams, the fold of the tongue, behind the grommets and as close as  possible the rand and sole.

Between each coat, gently heat the leather after the wax is applied with a hair dryer under low heat.  You should be able to see the leather absorb the wax.  Four or five coats are necessary for new or neglected boots.  For well maintained boots two to three coats are all that are necessary.  Do not overheat your leather.

When cleaning boots with wax, after applying wax then heat, wipe the leather with a paper towel to remove any grit or dirt.  The goal is to displace dirt and grit that are embedded in the leather with the wax.  if you do not remove the dirt at this stage, the dirt left in the leather will accelerate the drying process and you will have to re-wax much more often.  Repeat the wax-heat-wipe steps until no dirt remains.

Apply a thin coat of wax to rubber rand periodically (do not apply heat) as the rubber may dry and crack without moisture.

Let boot sit for  couple hours.  If after this period the boot has a glossy feel to it, then it is ready for the trails.  If feels overly sticky or there is still visible wax on the surface of the leather, reheat and wipe off the excess, as too much wax will actually draw moisture and dirt into the leather.

When not in use, store your boots in a cool dry place.  Avoid storing boots in rooms/closets where a furnace, hot water heater or air vent is present as continuous exposure to heat and high air ventilation will accelerate evaporation of moisture from the leather and may lead to shrinking of the leather if not treated.  Leather boots left dormant (especially dirty boots) for prolonged periods of time (more than a couple months) can still dry out and shrink if not treated with Sportwax periodically.  Remember leather is just skin, and skin without moisture will inevitably dry out, shrink and crack.

Don't neglect your boots as they are your most important piece of gear in the field.  Yes even more important than your gun.  Unless you have feet like Cody Lundin, you better kept those tender feet safe, you do not want to have your boots falling apart in the wild (I have seen it happen and its not fun).

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