A path through the Giant Redwoods of Northern California.

An old Buddhist monk escaped from Tibet following the Chinese conquest. He was asked how he made the arduous journey through difficult mountain terrain and he replied: "One step at a time." He somehow made it without the aid of modern designer hiking boots. I think it's important that we remember just how important the feet are.

I prefer the old fashioned "waffle stomper" design when terrain requires. My current pair is the Merrell Wilderness. It is an extremely rugged boot with the big advantage of being repairable if you can find one of the dwindling number of shoe repairmen left. The Wilderness has a Goodyear welt and Vibram sole and seems to wear very well. Like any rugged boot, it requires breaking in before taking to the backcountry.

There are a number of great boots on the market today. Hiking boots are one item where you should not scrimp. I have cut corners on a number of camping items without problems but a bad pair of boots can turn a trip into a disaster in a hurry. I normally wear two pair of socks while hiking. My inner sock is a thin Cool Max style and the outer one a thick wool hiking sock. I have found this combination wicks perspiration away very well while maintaining good blister prevention. It is very important that you bring your hiking socks with you when shopping for boots. If possible, you may wish to try on boots in the late afternoon when your feet are more likely to be swollen and sensitive. I generally buy my boots from specialty camping stores. My current Merrells were purchased from the REI outlet in Berkeley, California. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $300 for an excellent pair of hiking boots. For lighter duty trails there are numerous other excellent brands and styles. Again, the specialty backpacking stores are going to have the expertise.

You should follow the manufacturers directions and suggestions for waterproofing and treating your particular boot. When camping it is very important to bring your boots INSIDE the tent at night. Little critters in search of salt can find leather boots irresistible.

Blisters are the bane of backpackers. Thoroughly breaking in your boots and wearing two pairs of socks can really help in prevention. However when you feel the unmistakable "hot spot" developing you should stop immediately. I like to carry moleskin in an outer pack pocket or somewhere easily reached. Moleskin is an adhesive felt which comes in various thickness and sizes. I use the thinnest thickness and usually cut the felt to fit the troubled area. Moleskin will sometimes stay in place for days.