Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Avoiding Hiking Shoe/Boot Seam Failure

By Will Rietveld

The biggest wear problem I have with hiking shoes and boots is seam failure.

I like to bushwhack and explore, and things like sliderock and scree are hard on boots, especially any exposed seams in the lateral (outside) footbox region. That region is subjected to heavy abrasion, which wears through the stitching, causing the seam to open. The first photo shows what I mean.

Any exposed seams on the outside of the toebox are especially susceptible to wear and seam failure. The shoe shown is the Montrail AT Plus, which is an excellent trail shoe, but its nemesis is its lengthy exposed outside seam. Note that the stitching is worn through at the metatarsal head region, where the foot and toebox bend.

Unfortunately, shoes and boots with seams in that region are fairly common. My first piece of advice is to avoid purchasing footwear that has exposed seams on the sides of the shoe or boot, or if you do, choose shoes with a minimum of exposed seams. An example is shown in the next photo.

The easiest way to avoid seam failure is to purchase shoes that don’t have exposed side seams. The New Balance 1000, an excellent lightly insulated lightweight hiking boot, is a good example. It has a protective rand around the entire boot.

However, we purchase footwear based on fit, support, and traction (mainly fit), so it’s not always possible to find the ideal shoe or boot without exposed outside seams. In that case you can greatly extend the life of hiking footwear by coating the stitching in the exposed area with McNett SeamGrip, which is available in most outdoor stores.

Coating the stitching on exposed seams with McNett SeamGrip greatly extends the life of hiking footwear. I prefer SeamGrip because it’s thinner and soaks into the stitching more, but FreeSole works well too. SeamGrip is liquid urethane, which is really tough. You only need to coat the stitching itself, and only partway up as shown, but you can do more if you like. It’s best to coat the seams when the boots are new, but it can be done later as long as the area is clean and dry. I like to apply SeamGrip with the wider end of a flat toothpick to do a neater job and work it in more. The boot in the photo is the GoLite TimberLite.

One thing you will discover is SeamGrip and FreeSole develops a dried plug in the opening after you have used it once, which is very difficult to remove. Rather than futz with that annoyance, I simply puncture the tube with a toothpick, squeeze out the amount I need, then seal the hole with a small piece of Scotch tape. Rather than squeeze out a larger quantity onto a piece of cardboard, I prefer to dispense it in small amounts directly onto the larger end of a flat toothpick.

This is probably the best piece of advice I can give to other hikers. Spending $7 on a tube of SeamGrip and coating the side seams on all of your hiking footwear is well worth the time and money. Your shoes will last a lot longer. Just be sure to do it before the seams come apart!

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1 comment:

  1. It's my pleasure to see your post there, your idea is working best for me. Thanks for sharing!

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