Monday, March 27, 2017

FOOTWEAR - You Don't always get what you pay for

For years I have personally recommended a particular brand of footwear for those into more rugged backpacking.  Regretfully I have to retract the recommendation from anywhere I may have posted it.  I apologize to those that have bought and silently said "what is he talking about"?

Though I may still use the brand because of the shape of my foot.  My opinion has lowered.  It means I have to be prepared to expect less than expected in the longevity department.

This leads to experiences many of us have probably faced if you put on many miles trekking the trails, woods, deserts, and streams of the world.

I have always preferred footwear that is primarily comfortable.  Comfortable for the long distance.  I tend to push the limits some people will not. 

Second to comfort is quality and the ability to wear well and last.

With those 2 priorities met I had no problem paying a premium.  If it is made in the USA, even better.

This all leads to "You don't always get what you pay for".

While I have bought a line of differing styles of footwear from this company I sadly report one does not meet my recommendation any longer.  At least not for longevity.

Not when you combine the customer service I experienced as a customer.  The experience was way less than what I expected from a company that charges a premium for their product.  If you are charging a premium, your better have exceptional customer service.

It reminds me of the big three US Automakers dilemma.  Ignore the customers concerns and complaints like they mean nothing.  When they are telling you expectations are not being met.  Then face the Honda's and Toyota's of the world.  Expect to dig your way back to the top if you don't listen.  It is difficult to win back customers that  have left for a superior product.  Or left because of an inferior product. Superior often means exceptional customer service.  So when another company comes along and offers a shoe with the wider toe area that outlasts the laces and soles, I will be buying those.

While getting things together for an upcoming backpacking trip I noticed the stitching on my boots had come apart near the toe.  Oddly both the left and right boot stitching is failing at the same spot on both boots.

These boots are past the year warranty period, and I totally realize that.  I just find it hard to believe the stitching is "going" before the bootlaces ever wore out or broke.  Or the stitching is "going" before the soles have been worn down to anything close to what I term not usable.  In all my boots in the past (of many brands) my laces have gone first, and have been replaced a time or two before the boots are retired.  I have also worn soles down far enough to make it uncomfortable to walk in sharp rocky terrain.  So why is this stitching failing?  How many years to you expect your footwear to last?  Maybe I am expecting too much?

I filled out the companies on-line complaint from, with all the info.  Even attached a photo. The emailed customer service response apologized and said the boots where out of warranty but I could fill out a "warranty complaint" anyway.  But  that may or may not go anywhere.  They also know of no complaint issues.  This "Warranty Complaint" was an additional on-line form basically asking me the same exact information I had already submitted.  As a customer I thought this as nothing more than throwing up a hurdle to jump.

I must add I have never complained about previous footwear I purchased from this company.  Different pairs and styles have come and gone.  Worn out with what appeared to me as normal wear, with years of service, and many miles of wear.  Fully satisfied with those, or I wouldn't have been touting the brand all these years.

As a customer I think the customer service person should have taken my info forward to upper management, or filled out whatever internal paperwork requirement that may have been needed to fast track this, then responded back.  But who am I?  Not put this back on the customer, giving the impression of throwing up hurdles to make you give up and go away.

Go away I did.  They lost a long time behind the scenes cheerleader that spread free advertising for their product.

As a complaining customer I would have liked to see a new pair show up at my door.  Perhaps a voucher/coupon to buy a new pair at cost (If a replacement pair would break their bank).  Or even a substantial discount coupon if they were reluctant to siphon off any profit, on what I believe is a defect.  But that was not their response. 

So buyer beware since "You don't always get what you pay for".  I caution those looking to pick an acceptable brand.  Perhaps it is better to buy "cheaper" comfort, knowing you will get one seasons worth of use out of them?  Then throw them away and buy new again.  I am now hesitant to shell out bigger money thinking more expensive footwear will give you longer term use.  This pair was just getting to be what I call broke in and comfortable.

Also see article on Footwear & Foot Care
After this post went up another reader sent us this photo.  Same brand, different style.  Same area of the footwear, but at least the stitching held.

Any of you out there have more? 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Footwear & Foot Care (The single most important piece of gear)
This is collective recommendations of numerous experienced backpackers that have provided input.
If you have something that needs added please write to us with your thoughts.

The type of boot or footwear you hit this trail with will probably be your most important decision concerning gear on this trip.  Many people attempting this trip may have never done long distant hiking, let alone Backpacking under a load.  Hiking and backpacking are two different worlds.  Also the terrain and climate on this trip can be a challenge to many.  Add to those facts, the majority of people doing this trip tend to carry a pack that is way over weight.

There are many brands of footwear out there and it all boils down to personal choice, fit, and what you can afford.  This is one item that really falls in the category of  "You get what you pay for".  Don't go cheap (Cheap in terms of poor quality) because you think you will only use them for this one trip. 

There will always be those that will brag they backpacked this in sandals, flip-flops, or tennis shoes.  I can assure you I have seen many testimonials of people having extreme pain and long term injuries.  I have made multiple trips into this area and every time see people with inadequate footwear dealing with incapacitating foot and ankle injuries.  Some ruining the trip for an entire group that may have spent months if not years waiting and planning for this trip.

Many ignore the recommendation of bottom soles rated for backpacking.  Or ankle support to avoid twisting an ankle.  Shoes rugged enough and made specifically for backpacking.  These may also prevent knee injuries, or the unfortunate accident of going down with the weight of your pack on you.  Such a fall can result in finger, wrist, or arm fractures. Some people are lucky and haven't had this happen yet, and can keep bragging they backpacked in sandals. The mentality of not wearing a seat belt in a car because of never having a crash.

Open toed footwear of sort is a real hazard for catching and breaking a toe, creating blisters, or receiving punctures from sticks or sharp objects.  With punctures you now have to be concerned with tetanus or other types of infection.  You are on your own down here, and it is real inconvenient to seek any type of emergency medical attention.

Don't be that person that ends up suffering to save a few dollars, believing what some say of hiking with the lesser.  Or not heeding those with the life long experience that have contributed this collective of recommendations. If you aren't concerned about yourself at least be concerned about wrecking the trip for others that may be traveling with you.

Socks come in close behind your boots.  Cotton socks get sweaty and cause blisters.  There are high tech socks on the market that wick moisture and don't have sewn seams in spots that rub.  Some recommend wool. 

Check out socks such as:
Darn Tough Socks
Dry Wick type socks
Merino Wool Socks
Synthetic Fiber socks
Some suggest liner socks inside your other socks (make sure your boots are fitted to such)

I for one can't wear wool.  I successfully backpack, and have for years, using cotton athletic socks. They are not recommended and not recommended even by me if you have no problem with other types.  You have to  take precautions if you do end up using cotton.  I do several things.  I get new ones that provide lots of cushion.  The type with no sewn seam up near the toes that rub.  I wash them at least once before the trip.  I carry extra's and make a point of changing them during the hike down, and back up....whether I think they feel like I should or not.  They are either washed out and completely dried while in camp, or I carry enough fresh ones for the trip out.  The fresh ones are kept in zip lock bags so they never get wet or damp if it rains.   This might mean carrying 6 pairs of socks for this trip. (Consider the weight).  But if you can't wear wool or some synthetics you have this option.

Simply stopping 3 or 4 times during your hike in or out, pulling your socks off and shaking any sand out does wonders.  This includes dumping any in your boots. Rubbing off anything that may be stuck to your bare skin. You would be surprised what a few grains of sand can do to the ball of your foot if you don't practice this simple thing.  If nothing else, it will re-position everything in case something is rubbing. Often you will feel nothing until you have worn through a layer of skin, or a blister forms and pops.  By then it is too late.

For some preventatives concerning products to prevent blisters, first be aware of using products not made for this purpose.  Many homemade remedies don't work and can make things worse.  This is not the place to be "testing" out a product either.  Do that ahead in your conditioning hikes. Make sure you hike in dusty, gritty conditions.

Some products may block your pores and end up causing more problems rather than preventing them. Others, both home grown as well as commercial, will leave a layer that attracts and adheres dust and grit.  I have tried both commercial and recommendations of home grown.  I have found my method of changing socks periodically, and taking a moment every mile to take my boots off and re-position my socks works better than anything.

For those that believe a product may be a cure all here are a few to check into.   I only post this as info.  They come with no recommendation.  Remember you will be hiking in dry, dusty, and sandy terrain.  You don't want dust and grit being stuck to your feet, socks, or the insides of you footwear.

Check out products such as:
Two Toms Blister Shield

Many will make this trip and end up with foot injuries that range from blisters to sprained ankles.  Bad footwear, and improperly fit footwear (which includes socks) will result in incapacitating blisters and popped off toenails.  Any of these can result in the inability to hike back out of the canyon.  This may require you to fly out on the helicopter, or ride out on a saddle horse.  These emergency options may well cost you more than a good pair of backpacking boots.  So consider that before making your choices.

 Keen's extra wide toe area

One of the most asked questions is, "Can I wear sneakers".  Some claim they do successfully.  Some try and pay the price.  If you are asking seasoned backpackers for advice they will generally recommend buying high grade boots that cover the ankle, and have sole protecting bottoms.  Boots rated for backpacking.  These take into consideration that extra load you will carry and the extra foot and arch support required.  As an avid life long backpacker I am personally against ever recommending sneakers, sandals, or any open toed footwear, etc, for backpacking.  Remember an injury may ruin your trip, as well as for others in your group.  Don't be that person.

Over the ankle footwear is better when used while backpacking under load or used to walking in rough terrain.  The terrain on this trip can often cause you to misstep and twist or sprain an ankle.  Wearing low cut shoes can raise the chance of injury. Going down with a pack strapped on can cause broken arms, fingers, wrists, and the list goes on.

When backpacking under a load your foot tends to spread out and swell to some degree. Many of us have found boot styles that compensate for this.  I personally recommend Keen's brand after trying many brands over the years.  When being fitted you want to take the socks you will hike with.  Have the boots professionally fitted.  Don't just grab a pair of cheap boots off a discount rack, in your size, and head out the door for home...or worst out on the trail.  They also need broke in!

To avoid toenails popping off trim them 1 week to 10 days prior to your hike.  Long nails will rub inside your footwear and can cause the nail to come off.   Even if they don't pop off, many will experience severely "bruised" nails.  Very painful!   This is a very common injury.  Don't let your nail trimming go until the last minute.  Cutting one way too short right before the hike can result in a painful trip perform this task carefully a week o 10 days in advance.  I am sure you will pass some ill prepared people that are doing this hike in everything from tennis shoes to flip-flops.  I have seen them limping to get on the helicopter too.  Backpack smart, enjoy the trip, and don't ruin it for someone else that is traveling with you.  It is too hard to get permits into this area.  You want a trip you can brag about.  Not one you complain about.

Break the boots in long before you ever do long distance hikes or backpacking.  Try them out soon.  Wear them around the house, to go shopping, etc.  If they don't feel right take them back while you still can.

Eventually work up to walking several miles in the boots.  Then start hauling around some weight in a backpack to prep for your actual hike.  Somewhere in your planning and prepping stage you need to be doing several conditioning hikes in the 12 mile range.  Don't do this trip cold turkey with no conditioning.  Again some macho types will have you believing going cold turkey is possible with no pain.  When you wake up the next morning after your hike in you will know what some of us are talking about.  Hiking/Backpacking down, and uphill works muscles you don't normally work when traveling on flat terrain.  So include some inclines are stair steps in your conditioning.  Remember you have over a mile of down incline going in (the switchbacks), and the same incline going up, on your trip out.  Going downhill in the case is almost as difficult as going up.  Carry your 800mg of Ibuprofen!

The secondary benefit of breaking in your footwear, and conditioning with weight, distance, and incline, is the fact you will be toughing up the skin on your feet.  This especially benefits people not accustomed to long distance backpacking. We aren't talking about building up any super layer of callus. But those that put in miles constantly have definitely built up hardened skin that provides a huge protection factor.  These people fair much better than those with soft feet.

Water shoes
Water shoes are recommended, in addition to what you hike in with.  You will want these if you will be doing any wading or swimming in any of the pools.  The travertine dams in the stream are often destroyed during flood conditions.  These dams break into hard sharp pieces that make up the bottom of the stream.  The stream bottom equates to crushed tile in many places.  You can use any type of slip on footwear that will protect your feet.  I don't recommend flip flops....but have seen it done.  Again its a long hike out with foot trouble.  There are more expensive water shoes that will double as camp footwear to allow your hiking boots/shoes to air out. Open tops invite sand and small sharp pieces to end up inside your water footwear. So the closed style provide you better comfort and more protection to the sides of your foot.

Friday, February 24, 2017


Submitted by: Slim Woodruff 2/24/2017
                     A "Leave No Trace" Trainer
Havasupai has been called a paradise, and deservedly so.  Havasupai is  a favorite destination for the first time hiker.  However some of these new time campers, and admittedly many of the old ones, do not seem to understand the idea of Leave no Trace.

Leave no Trace is a system of ethics regarding the use and protection of public lands. It is a system of ethics, because often one may follow rules only when there is a possibility of getting caught. Ethics are what one does when no one is watching.  There are seven principles of Leave No Trace.

Plan ahead and prepare. 
Make sure of the regulations before starting down.  Don’t go without a permit.  Day hikes are not allowed.  Alcohol and illegal drugs are prohibited, and use of same is disrespectful.  Yes, there are those who indulge and they usually get away with it.  However when visiting a friend’s home, one respects the wishes of said friend.  The Havasupai do not allow alcohol.  The same goes for cliff diving, drones, and professional photography.

Travel and Camp on Durable surfaces
Stay on the trail.  Admittedly, most of the trail is in a wash, but in those last, long, sunny switchbacks, do not take shortcuts between said switchbacks.

If visiting certain waterfalls, be aware that the newly-cut creek bed is unstable in places.  Respect those signs which tell you to stay back from the edge.  Climbing cliffs and rocks is prohibited.  Hiking anywhere but the one established trail is prohibited. This is the home of the Havasupai people, and they don’t want trespassing. 

Dispose of waste properly.
Simply put, this means carry it out.  If you can carry it in full, you can carry it out empty.  Do not toss it by the trail.  Do not leave it in the campground.  There are those who decry the use of pack horses to carry gear.  How do you think trash which is left there gets out?  On these self same pack horses.  Trash containers in the outhouses are for feminine hygiene products, not your camping trash.

If some of your equipment breaks or tears, carry it out. If clothing or shoes get too dirty to ever use again, carry them out. The only exception is leftover stove fuel.  It is permissible to ask the rangers if they can use this.  But ask first.

Soap does not go in the water, period.  Not biodegradable, not hemp soap, not natural, hand-crafted by Buddhist monks soap.  Biodegradable soap is designed to be dumped on the ground, not in the water.  Would you like to drink water with soap in it? Soap affects not only fish and other aquatic wildlife, but the microbiological systems in the water.

Leftover food must be carried out.  Animals will eat it, yes, but that trains them to become dependent on humans and thus pests.  Buried food will be dug up. 

Use the outhouses provided.  Yes, sometimes it is a long walk, particularly after dark.  Yes, sometimes there is a line.  But if people do not use the outhouse, the campground will start to smell like a cat box. 
Hanging food from trees is a good idea, but take down the ropes when finished.  I collect several yards of cord and rope every time I am down there.  This could be a hazard to birds or to climbing animals. 

Leave what you find. 
No collecting rocks, flowers, or any artifacts.  You may, however, pick up as much trash as you wish.

Minimize campfire impact.
This one is simple: no campfires are allowed.  Yes, you may see fires, but they are illegal, rude, and inconsiderate.  You will notice leftover fire rings and blackened ground from these illegal fires.  These marks will last for decades.

Respect wildlife.
Do not feed the animals or leave leftover food.  See above. If you bring a dog, keep it on a leash.  Regarding Supai dogs, it is temping to feed them, but do you feed junk food to your own dogs?

Be Considerate of other visitors.
Not everyone wants to hear your boom box or your external speakers.  Some hikers take to their bed sooner than you so as to get an early start on the trail hiking out.  The campground is very crowded and close quarters.  Keep the noise down. 

Stay within the confines of your camp.  The campground is almost always full.  If you have a smaller group, do not spread out over several tables.  If someone camps right next to you, it is usually because there is no other place available.  Play nicely and share.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Many seasoned backpackers are aware of this.  This might just be a review or reminder for many.  To those new to the joys of walking off into the woods, or into a remote canyon, this may be a life saver.

In addition to leaving itineraries with rangers, and making entries on trail logs or at trail check points, 2 things are normally stressed. 

#1  Leave your itinerary and contact info with a loved one.  Provide them contact info for rangers, park personnel, etc.  Have an arranged time that a call is made to notify that loved one you have completed the trip, or a leg of a trip safely.  Stress that they call someone in authority if you fail to call in at your designated time.  Then stick to your plan.

#2  Number 2 is the point of this article.  Make a "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY CARD" you carry on your person.  Some phones have a app for this but I would not depend on an electronic device when backpacking or hiking.

There are bracelets available that can be engraved.

There are new bracelets that have a code.  The code gets called into an 800 number to retrieve details you keep updated.   Bad in my judgement for many of us.  You have to depend on phone service with some of these options.  So they may not be feasible for many "remote" Backpackers/Hikers.

Nothing works better than good old fashion paper.

Remember you may become unconscious due to an injury or medical episode.  This can happen not only on the trail, but also while traveling in a vehicle, or just going about your normal day.  Medical and Police first responder's will need this info and may look through your things in an attempt to care for you.

So the advice is; Don't leave home without it! You are a rookie if you do.

I create a card using card stock grade paper, using my computer and printer.  It is a front and back thing.  As small of font as possible that is still legible.  I make it slightly less in size than a credit card.  When I am satisfied with the info I laminate both sides and allow a little of the laminate to extend past all edges.  It is then trimmed to the size of a credit card.  You can use the self sticking type of laminate on both sides.  Or the heat type if you are fortunate to have a machine for that. If you have more info you think should be known you may have to create multiple cards.

In my case it is carry mine in my wallet, or with my ID.  I carry it 24/7 even when I am not out in nature.  I have to replace it from time to time.  Check its condition and readability prior to each trip.

I have altered my card over the years.  I once had a signed statement spelling out who was authorized to make legal, medical, and life support termination decision on my behalf should I become Incapacitated.  That was before I was married. 

Things to consider having on your card:
Your Full Name
Social Security Number
Emergency Contact Telephone Numbers, the persons name, address, their relationship to you
     (The more the better in case someone doesn't answer)
Medical Insurance Info. Tel#. Policy #, Group #
Medical Conditions  Such as being diabetic, Seizures, Anemic, on blood thinners, etc
        Perhaps what a first responder needs to do if you are having a medical episode and can't talk
Allergies to Medications/Food
Medications you take, amounts, intervals

Thursday, March 31, 2016


No two packs are the same in comfort or in weight.  Often times comfort is sacrificed to reduce weight.  In my experience reducing weight is far more important in the long run.  Especially kicking through gravel trails, doing switchbacks at high altitude or in the heat, stepping up endless rock stairways, and just clicking away 10 miles or more a day.

I have backpacked many years, many miles, and with a wide selection of gear.  In a pack I look for 5 major things. 

(1) Weight is my main factor.  The dry weight must be in the 2lb or less range.

(2) The pack must have accommodations for a bladder.  i.e. a compartment or pouch, and a slit in the pack to extend the bite valve and tubing through.

(3) Pack must contain many external pockets.  Preferably zippered compartments to prevent loss.  Also enough external compartments that I can access most of my items without digging through the pack.  If my tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag, can fit in the main compartment, and I can spread my other items to the external pockets, that is ideal.

(4) Must have a padded hip belt for distributing most of the load on the hips.

(5) Must have padded shoulder straps and a quick-release breast strap.

As a comparison of the packs I morphed from and to.  My carbon fiber external from pack was extremely comfortable short term. (Which is very deceptive when trying on in a sporting goods store)  I even had extra quick connect straps attached all over to strap down my tent, bag, and pad.  But long term, and long miles, the extra weight takes its toll.  Simply changing choice of packs, and no other gear, shaved 6.5lbs off my total carry weight.  I then went to a ultralight bag and tent.  It was easy to drop 15 lbs.

Taking this approach to everything you stuff in your backpack, will soon reward you in carrying a pack of 25lbs verses 40 or 50 lbs.   Believe me....after 10 or 12 miles of backpacking you will definitely notice the difference.

My current personal recommendation on backpacks is a GossamerGear Mariposa 60. They have a unisex ergonomic harness for both men & women.  The pack itself is less than 2 lbs.  It is capable of carrying gear for 3 to 7 day trips.  They also make a small version for kids. GossamerGear website.

Friday, March 11, 2016


A new docuseries is looking to showcase stories of every day heroes.

Specifically, they are looking to feature the story of a young man who was rescued after a cliff jumping accident at Havasu Falls on May 25th of 1998, which was Memorial Day Weekend.

This man wants to thank the unsung heroes that helped save his life that day.

They are hoping to locate someone who may have been there at the time, so that they can track down the good Samaritans who helped this man until emergency services arrived.

If anyone has any information at all, please do not hesitate to contact the production team.

Even the tiniest bit of information would be a tremendous help in their search!

Please contact Katie Hance at

Monday, March 7, 2016


One year in an effort to go light, and go cheap, several of use built what is commonly referred to as a beer can stove.

They are virtually weightless if you are only talking about the stove.  They burn denatured alcohol which you have to factor in.  Also the weight of a leak proof fuel container.

There are plans all over the internet.  So we will not go into the details of construction.  Build and use at your own risk.  The flame from the alcohol is virtually invisible especially in bright sunlight.  But they put out some incredible heat.

Wind makes them difficult to light and maintain.  Carry some type of wind screen even if that might be folded up aluminum foil.  Lighting is a bit tricky until you get the hang of it.  Burn your fuel before you hike out and you carry nearly no stove/fuel weight on your return trip.

Regardless of whether you end up using one, they are fun to make and try out.