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The Tiny Item That Makes Hiking So Much Better

Photo: George Mcveigh/EyeEm/Getty Images

Hot Bod is a weekly exploration of fitness culture and its adjacent oddities.

Rack my brain as I might, I can barely think of anything as annoying as a blister. They are the oversensitive smoke alarm of human bodily pains, screaming constantly from their tiny perches. So small, so distracting, so irritating, so sharp, so demanding. Blisters are too tiny to bother as much as they do! And the worst thing about them is if you try to pretend they don’t exist and just keep moving along, they get worse.

The last time I got a treacherous little parade of blisters was in Wyoming, when my trusty hiking boots turned evil, suddenly ill-fitting in ways they had never been before. Luckily, in an immediate fairy-tale twist, I met my godmother for dinner in Yellowstone a week into my trip. She raised two accomplished competitive figure skaters and she knew blisters. Before my hike the next day, she gave me four squishy Hydro Seal (TM) Band-Aids in a plastic bag and promised my life would be different. I soon restocked at a grocery store in Montana. For this three-week excursion, these Band-Aids saved six of my toes and one stubborn heel. They turned my whole trip around. I felt about these blister bandages the same way I felt about antibiotics after I had strep throat a few years ago: modern medicine has saved me! This invention has changed my little life!

Band-Aids’ Hydro Seal bandages are about as thick as a tortilla and come in a few kinds: a tadpole shape for around the toes and an ovular shape for around the heels. My friend Sophie described their material as “flesh-like” which upset me, but we agreed they have a silicone “chicken cutlet” feel.

Before meeting these modest gel healing strips, I’d used moleskin on blisters, I’d used a patchwork of regular Band-Aids. These helped. They covered up my problem and usually bought me some more time to hike or whatever, but they didn’t ameliorate anything. Blister Band-Aids fixed all my problems. The Hydro Seal bandages do two things: they cushion your blister, so that even if you keep on the same pair of hiking boots, it doesn’t continue to rub; and they create a safe little environment underneath the bandage for your blister to heal. You keep the bandage until it falls off (“NO PEEKING” the box shouts at you), which in my memory is like four to five days. They’re waterproof and pretty firmly stuck. Once the bandage falls off, the blister has dissipated.

I should also tell you that these Band-Aids are, in the scheme of bandages, not cheap. At a semi-overpriced chain pharmacy, they run over a dollar a Band-Aid. (I’ve also tried cheaper, generic Hydro Seals. They’re fine! If the real thing is a ten and a regular bandage is a one, the knock-offs are somewhere around a seven). And if I hadn’t been given the first four as a gift from a godmother, I would’ve thought, no way, I’m being fleeced! For $1.33, I could buy twenty bandages that fall off and yet gather lint in a permanent ovoid outline around my skin. But these Hydro Seal Band-Aids are not bandages. These are pillow heaven strips of healing. And really, for the freedom from pain and pinching and limping, there is no cost too high.

I carry blister Band-Aids with me constantly. On every hiking trip, they come along in a zipper pocket. Once, when I had a different life, Hydro Seal Band-Aids afforded me confidence to wear daring new shoes to birthday parties. I’ve come to rely on this specific product, which is a relationship to brands (constantly reinventing things!) that always makes me nervous. This concern was phrased in a far better way in a five-star review of Hydro Seals on the Band-Aid website, a review that contains the same desperate love and fear that I harbor for these little squiggly things: “Please don’t change!!!”

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The Tiny Item That Makes Hiking So Much Better