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Dress(ing) for Success

How to keep your hunting boots in tip-top shape.

Dressing your boots not only helps keep your toes dry, but it also extends the life of your footgear.  Leathers are impregnated with oil or silicone during tanning to repel water and keep boots supple.  Under normal wear, those oil and silicone treatments migrate out of the leather and must be replaced to maintain the boots’ water repellency.

  Even Cordura nylon models and those Gore-Tex lined leather boots advertised as “waterproof” require periodic care. Although Gore-Tex loners do keep water away from your feet, they do nothing to help protect the boots themselves.

No matter what type of boots you wear, follow these rules to prolong their life:

1. Dress your boots regularly. Eight to 10 days of walking through thick brush may well scuff a pair of boots to the point where they need dressing .  You’ll know it’s time to re-treat your boots when water no longer beads up on the surface but begins to soak in.

2. Always follow the boot manufacturer’s recommendations when you choose a boot dressing or water-proofing.  Oil-tanned leather boots (which will feel oily to the touch) usually require an oil-based dressing.  Silicone-tanned boots should be treated with silicone dressing. Wax-based water-proofing products like Nikwax, Sno-Seal, and Montana Pitch-Blend work on all kinds of leathers but should not be used on Cordura boots.


3.Clean your boots thoroughly before treating them. Use cold water and a soft brush to scrub dirt off leather or Cordura boots.  If necessary, use mild dish soap diluted with water.

4. Dry your boots thoroughly. Crumple some newspaper inside the boots to absorb moisture, and leave them out of direct sunlight for several hours. Never dry boots by setting them near a fire or on a hot radiator; excessive heat will shrink the leather and damage the stitching.  You can speed the drying process by putting the boots in from of an oscillating fan or by using an electric boot dryer.

5. When you apply dressing, pay special attention to the boots’ seams.  Not only are the seams the most likely part of a boot to leak, but dressing keeps the stitches supple and strong. If the boots has a stitch-down sole(that is, if the sole is sewn to the boot), be sure to cover those threads thoroughly. Cover all the seams in the upper part of the boot from the backstay (heel) to the toe box with liberal amounts of dressing. Make sure you cover the entire toe box, where most scuffing occurs, and take care to treat the gussets on the boot’s tongue.

   Finally, if your boot has rawhide laces, soak a cloth with dressing, hold it around the lace in your first and pull the lace through.

Information taken from Field and Stream Magazine. Article by Philip Bourjaily, December, 2000


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