Sometimes old school is still the best. My favorite leather treatment is the eighty-year-old product of Sno-Seal.
Many outdoor products come and go. What was once the height of fashion or a “must have” item is now regulated to (sometimes!) fond memories: Neon one piece ski suits (eBay affiliate link)are rarely seen except during 80s revival days. The venerable Sierra cup is talked about with a tinge of nostalgia but rarely seen amongst today’s backpackers. And more than a few former Boy Scouts remember their scout master saying “DON’T TOUCH THE TENT!“ as they were sacked out in their sleeping bags waiting out a rain storm in their canvas tents.
But some items have hardly changed over the years and are still used by outdoors people: A Coleman two burner stove is still the same design sixty years later. An old fleece jacket is more than a few person’s “go to” item for warmth, ruggedness, and simplicity when modern insulated nylon shell jackets just won’t work. And cold feet are still fended off with Sorel Caribous many years after they were first introduced.
Add to this list is a simple and humble item: Atsko’s Sno-Seal for weatherproofing of leather.
Inexpensive, being made of bees wax Sno-Seal was “green friendly” well before the term was coined, versatile (use on gloves, shoes, jackets and many other products) effective and still lets the leather breathe, unlike modern products.
Several different ways to buy Sno-Seal. Pic courtesy of Atsko.
Sure, lightweight trail runners work well for most backpacking and hiking. But for ski touring, hanging around in cold weather (see the Sorels above), trail work and hikes in muddy/snowy conditions sometimes leather boots are still preferred.
After all this mud, slush, snow, rain and salts, the leather is abused. The shoes start drying out, the weather proofing is gone, and the poor shoes look all abused.
To take care of the shoes and prolong them, throw on some Sno-Seal. The leather again becomes weather resistant and supple. The boots last longer.
After an extended stay in Chaco Canyon in December 2012, my all-purpose leather boots looked quite beat up. Threw on some Sno-Seal? The boots looked all shiny and ready to take on another year of outdoor fun. And hence the inspiration for this article.
Hi Tec Altitudes. Just a simple,. all purpose boot that I’ve grown to love over the years.
Where to get Sno-Seal? Most hunting/fishing stores sell it. Along with neighborhood hardware stores and military surplus stores. And Amazon of course… Atsko also sells the same product in more mainstream outdoor stores branded as Tectron Sno-Seal (sounds more high tech for your average REI consumer. 😉 )
How to Use Sno-Seal on Boots
Using Sno-Seal is simple. Cleaner to use than other products and less noxious than sprays, it takes only a little time to make the boots (or other leather products) rehabbed.
As mentioned, I already treated my boots with Sno-Seal, so I grabbed an old pair of beefy leather mountaineering boots I haven’t used in a while/forgot about…and they looked it! :O Perfect for this article, though.
- Remove shoelaces and place inside the boot.
- Clean boots with a damp sponge or cloth. Try to get off any dirt, grime, etc.
- Place boots on a window sill on a sunny day to let the leather warm up a bit. Or use a hair dryer (someone has one. This bald guy does not…) You want the leather to be warm and not hot. Heated leather helps soak up the Sno-Seal more.
- Once the leather is warm to the touch, take a glop of Sno-Seal and work it into the leather. I like using my fingers vs. a cloth as the warmth from the fingers helps work in the Sno-Seal more
- Work in the leather until the leather can’t take any more Sno-Seal. You’ll know when there is enough when the leather feels a bit slick and has a shiny look
- Try to rub any excess Sno-Seal over the boot rather than wipe it off.
- Once the boots are done, I like to place them on the windowsill over the course of a day to let the warmth from the sun work in the Sno-Seal a bit more
- Done! Go forth, abuse the boots again and repeat the cycle. 🙂
Compare and contrast the two boots. Next time I will not forget about them in my closet… 😉
Warning: If there is a down side to Sno-Seal it is that it can darken lighter leathers. More a problem with dress shoes than outdoor shoes IMO