Waterproof or Water ResistantIt’s not winter anymore and getting frostbite from wearing wet boots or hiking in the snow is not as much of a concern. Spring, however, happens to be mud season – as the old saying goes “April showers bring May flowers” as well as soggy feet.

Hiking in the spring can be tricky, as the weather conditions can change dramatically. Start out on Friday with beautiful weather and by Sunday you may find you have been hiking in rain for half the weekend, trudging through big puddles, swollen rivers, down muddy trails. Chances are you might have wet feet during a large portion of your trek. If you find yourself in a wet hiking situation, it is important that you have the proper foot protection. This means wearing boots that are either waterproof or water resistant.

The first step is to understand the difference between waterproof and water resistant.

  • Waterproof
    Waterproof means there is a waterproof inner bootie, like Gore-Tex® or other proprietary waterproof/breathable booties sewn into the hiking boot, which prevents water from seeping all the way to your foot, as will happen with water-resistant boots.

  • Water Resistant
    A boot that is water resistant means that the leather or synthetic materials have been treated to repel water, most likely with a silicone impregnation in the manufacturing process. But since the treatment will wear off rather quickly, it is up to you to maintain and treat the boots regularly.

Waterproof Boot

The TPS 520 GTX Backpacker by Asolo is the ideal waterproof boot.

Asolo Men's TPS 520 GTX Waterproof Backpacking Boot
The TPS 520 is a heavier weight backpacking boot and features a smooth, full-grain leather upper with minimal stitching used in the construction. Less stitching means there’s less of a chance that water will seep through. Full-grain leather boots are inherently hydrophobic, and with the added Gore-Tex® liner, it makes a boot like the TPS 520 waterproof. For lighter day hikes, take a look at the Merrell Moab Gore-Tex® Mid.

Water Resistant Boot

A great example of a water-resistant boot is the Moab Ventilator by Merrell.

Merrell Moab Ventilator Trail Shoes

Designed with vents and mesh materials, the Ventilator is better for breathability, not for wet conditions. While the materials have been sprayed for water resistance in the manufacturing process, the vents and the mesh will very quickly allow your feet to get wet. Though the Ventilator is not waterproof, it will dry quicker and be lighter. You may say, “yeah but I don’t want my feet to get wet”. Well, just add a Rocky Gore-Tex Sock for those really wet days, and your problem is solved.

Have any thoughts on the difference between waterproof and water resistant boots? Leave your comments below!