There was a lot of snow, rain, slush, and mud at Overland Expo 2015, and we weren’t prepared. Luckily, we passed an REI on the way and stopped in to get a few things like fleece gloves and wool caps and waterproofing for our boots. To our surprise, the products actually worked, and I’m ever so grateful as my boots are a treasured purchase from 20 years ago and not replaceable.
They sold for around $250 back then but today would sell for twice that. I have worn them on hikes and on the street paired with tights and miniskirts and with my jeans tucked into them. They’re lovely and sturdy I get compliments every time I wear them. They’re not nearly worn out yet and I wasn’t about to shorten their life with a slog through mush without some serious protection.
Being a California girl I’d relied on oils to protect my boots from the short light rains we have here, but the level of damage promised by the Flagstaff skies begged something stronger. The shoe guy at REI recommended the Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather, which you can also order from Amazon. For Jonathan’s suede desert boots – the only footwear he’d packed besides flip-flops – we bought a sponge-on waterproofing without much hope. Because, you know, generally suede + snow + rain + mud = wet feet + ruined boots. But read on.
The Nikwax for leather is actually a soft wax and I slathered it on with a one of those thin hotel washcloths – sorry nameless hotel chain, but it was clearly at its end of life anyway – working it in especially at the seams. Like the oil treatments I regularly give the boots, the wax turned it a shade darker. Unlike the oils, which actually allow a bit of water to seep in, the wax created a solid barrier. I slogged and splashed around the grounds for three days without a drop of water darkening the leather of these boots. In fact, the mud didn’t even stick on them, but seemed to bead up and slide off.
Apparently this stuff also works on wet leather. So if you’re in the middle of a camping trip and your boots are already wet, you can apply it and no more water will get in. They claim that the wax does not impact breathability. I don’t know how that can be true, but I’m sold.
Now, as for the future, I don’t know if I can use a leather treatment, or indeed, if one is needed. I suppose that after a time the wax will wear off and I’ll see. I didn’t even have to wipe the boots down. They’re in perfect condition.
Now on to Jonathan’s desert boots. Nikwax also has a product for waterproofing suede, Nikwax Nubuck & Suede Sponge-On. Really, we didn’t have much hope for this product, especially after opening it. You literally sponge this stuff on, pressing and dabbing the applicator directly onto the suede, which darkens it significantly and flattens the nape somewhat.
Jonathan sighed and didn’t even quite finish the job properly, resigning himself to wet feet and ruined desert boots. It was a sad sight – he loves his desert boots. To make it worse, people at the event would look down and tsk tsk at his choice of footwear. However, three days later his feet were dry and his boots, though darker than their original light tan color, are in perfect condition and all ready to wear in their destined terrain… the desert.
It was a crazy, freak storm for late May, but Overland Expo participants are a hardy and adaptable group. 2015 will forever be known as Snowverland Expo, and standard footwear fashion was the plastic bag and duct-tape gaiter. Were you there? How did your footwear cope? Even if you weren’t, do you have favorite products for keeping your feet warm and dry? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.