Hiking through the woods and mountains is great. There aren’t many activities that make us feel as connected to nature as we walk to the sound of our feet, breath, and nature. The paths we pick aren’t always very challenging, much less dangerous. But sometimes they are. Sometimes an easy hike becomes difficult with the change of terrain. At least that’s predictable. But the weather can change, too, especially in high-altitude areas.
Shoes suited to a light walk won’t work on jagged rocks, for instance. But if there is an easy section, you may want to cover it in light shoes before switching to rugged footwear. However, even an easy hike can turn rough in a heartbeat if a blizzard suddenly comes down. Under such circumstances, the right footwear will not only improve your comfort and pace. Adequate shoes may actually make the difference between being safe and being exposed to risk.
So, on some hikes, you need to go well prepared. Carry adequate clothes, and that includes adequate shoes, even if there is a possibility you may need them. Hiking boots or shoes are always the safest bet. There’s a huge number of brands and types. If you aren’t sure, reports such as this by the New York Times may help you pick the right pair for yourself. But if you really can walk the planned path with lighter shoes, you should. But the gear that you may need far away from safety and help also needs to come along.
You can pack the necessary stuff into the backpack. But there is no room for the big shoes. How to carry them? Simply attach your shoes to a backpack.
Strapping your shoes onto the exterior of the backpack needs to ensure several things. For one, you don’t want to lose them or even to watch one of them tumble downhill, forcing you to backtrack. They shouldn’t swing, bump you or even make noise that will irritate you and distract your attention from the path.
So, what is the most efficient way to strap and carry your shoes outside your backpack? Read on to find out!
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Lace ’em Up
The simplest solution: pull them through a strap or a loop on your pack. Pull tightly, so the shoes don’t dangle and tie a secure knot. Again, you need to make you don’t lose one or two shoes. The regular knot that you use every day to tie your shoes is not the safest for this job – it may come undone repeatedly.
And if your shoes do fall off a couple of times, you’ll probably just tie their laces into a knot because that will never fail. It will also never fail to complicate your life when you want to untie it. The weight of the shoes hanging on the knot will pull it very tight. Add some rain and perhaps cold fingers, dwindling light, and you’ll have a hard time separating your shoes from the backpack…
The Four Essential Knots
So it would be good for you to learn a bit about knots. You’ll need them for more, not only to tie your shoes to a backpack if you plan to get into serious hiking. Securing your tent or hammock, tying parts of gear and so on. There are dozens, if not hundreds of different knots, but a handful will do. Look these up, see the description and what it’s for, pick a couple that you’ll need.
- Square knot
- Clove hitch
- Sheet bend
There is a multitude of instructional videos on YouTube on knots, such as this one. Learn how to tie and untie the most important knots, then practice: at home, outside, in the dark, in the rain. Make sure you can untie and then tie the other pair of shoes in less than ideal conditions because you may have to do it under icy rain and in the murk.
Remember always to tie the shoes tightly to the backpack. The higher up the backpack you tie them, the better, for the most favorable mass distribution. Heavy shoes dangling low will both bump you with each step and pull on your shoulders instead of resting on them.
Lacing the shoes to your backpack is what you can always do. That requires some fumbling, less after you practice. But there are other ways to do this.
A carabiner is an affordable and simple solution. No-nonsense carabiners are priced from $5 upwards. For the sole purpose of holding your shoes on your backpack, even cheap keychain models will do.
Click the carabiner onto the backpack, at the handle or a loop as high up as possible. Then do the same with the shoe, as low down along the lacing as possible, to reduce dangling and loosening. And it’s done. You can even use two, one for each shoe on the sides. Clipping the shoe on will also keep the soles – and much of the rain – out.
- Motorcycle Straps
There are various straps for bikers to secure their luggage on top of their cases or the backseat. Most are adjustable or come in various lengths. They comprise one of several elastic bands and secure hooks.
The latter type is intended to form a net, so tying a pair of shoes to your backpack should be an easy job. They are, however, somewhat more expensive, unless you order from China. In that case, it’ll cost you no more than a couple of dollars, but you may wait a few weeks for delivery.
Another option: the simplest bungee cords with hooks. A bundle of three, possibly of different length, will set you back by no more than a dollar. If you remember to buy them when already on the drive to the starting point of your hike, every gas station will have them for sale.
There are upsides to any of the solutions with elastic cords. They will hold the shoes tightly where you want them and will also hold other items within easy reach: a water bottle, gloves, a scarf, and much more.
Additional Tips – How to Attach Snowshoes to a Backpack?
Maybe you’re planning a winter hike. If it includes sections outside trodden tracks, you’ll need snowshoes, which poses a different challenge. There are different kinds of snowshoes, so you’ll need to find what suits you. Snowshoes are laceless, so attaching them that way is not an option. And while carabiners could hold the snowshoes, they will be unable to prevent plenty of annoying movement.
If you can’t fit your snowshoes onto the backpack using the available strings and straps, definitely go for elastic cords. Though they are broader and longer than shoes, they are flatter and less bulky, so their shape may make it easier to fix them than the bulkier hiking boots shoes. You only need to figure out where’s most comfortable for you. So, depending on the type of your backpack and other gear you carry and your preferences, you can choose where to tie them.
- Side Carry
Strapping snowshoes to the side of your pack will keep their weight low and distributed to your sides, around the hips. You may look up a backpack with side pockets or elastic straps exactly for this to solve the problem. You only need to pack them as tightly as possible, or else every branch you pass will snag at you. And probably needless to say, but still: If they are a model with crampons, make sure they face outwards, so they don’t cut into your backpack.
- Front carry
Many backpacks have adjustable straps and big fixable flaps on the front. They are there to hold whatever you want them to: raincoat, bottles, gloves, rolls or whatever else may fit. Some are large enough to hold snowshoes. Line the shoes on top of each other, insert them into the pocket or the net and secure them by pulling the straps or the bungees.
The upside, compared to the side carry, is that you add no width to your pack. On the other hand, this solution is top-heavy. The snowshoes are relatively heavy. The more you weigh, the larger and more massive the snowshoes need to be to keep you from dropping through the snow surface. That mass on the front of the backpack, high and in the back, will inevitably drag you somewhat.
- Top Carry
If you slip your snowshoes sideways under the lid of your backpack or attach them there, it’s called top carry. Though the snowshoes will sit even higher up than when attached to the front, the center of their mass will be closer to your own, so the backward pull will be weaker. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which option suits you best. And again, the best way to find out is by trial. If possible, try all three methods, do a hike for that only and then decide.