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Boots – again

October 22, 2017 · 8 comments

 

My last post about boots was nearly two years ago. I know what you are asking – why has he taken so long to update us on this very vital piece of kit? The answer is quite simple. I have been very happy with what I have had.  But then I got offered a pair of HI-TEC Ravine WP boots to review.  And who can resist having an extra pair of boots?

The boots that I have mostly been wearing for the last two years have been Merrell’s fabric/leather combination Mid Chameleon Shift (now discontinued)

Merrell Mid Chameleon Shift walking boot, photographed by Charles Hawes

Here pictured when new

Gore-Tex lined and with Vibram soles they are not very funky but I still liked the look of them. As you can see, the main part of the boot is leather (albeit still stitched in part), the fabric component coming in around the heel.  At 560 grammes each they are also quite light.

The new HI-TEC boots have an all leather upper, a Dri-Tec waterproof membrane and an unbranded rubber sole. They are definitely not funky and at 750 grammes a piece are noticeably heavier. The cost on the HI-TEC website is currently  £99.

Those of you with good memories will recall that my post two years ago was comparing the Merrels with another boot I was reviewing, the Grisport Saracen.

The Saracens tick all the usual boxes- waterproof and breathable (their system is called SPO-TEX) and with Vibram soles – these are also an all leather construction, though have several different pieces to make them look more interesting. At 700 grammes each, they are a little lighter than the HI-TEC’s.  They have a flexible padded toe joint, which is noticeable when you wiggle the toe area.

Grisport Saracen walking boot, photographed by Charles Hawes

What about waterproofness? After all, in our climate this is pretty crucial.  My first experience of the Grisport boots was that they were fine but then I had reason to doubt them and I stopped using them in favour of the Merrells. The latter have been good, but there is, I think, a real problem with being sure about this very important quality.

It’s quite easy to say if your boots leak if all you are doing is walking on wet days and splashing through shallow puddles. But if you are walking in heavy rain, or through boggy ground where you might go in up to your knee or have to cross running water the chances are that water is going to get in over the top of your boot, not from underneath it.

Your waterproof trousers might hitch up and drip into the boots. Gaiters might help here but are not infallible and won’t stop your feet getting wet if you give them a dunking in a foot of water.

For the moment I am going to put this question aside but I have come up with a plan. A three day walk on the Cambrian Way, crossing Plynlimon  and passing by the sources of the Rivers Wye and Severn and following some recent periods of very heavy rain ought to give me some evidence of how the three compare.

Walking boots photographed by Charles Hawes

Merrells on the left, HI-TEC in Middle, Grisport on the right

Paul and I (sadly Neil was otherwise indisposed) have booked three nights in The Star Inn at Dylife. 

This post will go up on Sunday 22nd October and we will walk on the 23rd, 24th and 25th, starting at Dyffryn Castell on the A44 and finishing at Mallwyd – a distance of around 30 miles. I plan to wear a different pair of boots each day and update this post at the end of each day as to how I have got on.  I will start with the HI-TEC’s carrying the Merrells in my backpack in case they are uncomfortable, then the Grisports and on the third day wear the Merrells.

The weather forecast is decidedly dodgy.

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UPDATE FOR DAY 1

And so it proved.

Day 1 was a long climb from Dyffryn Castell to Plynlimon and then open moorland before joining Glyndwr’s Way to end up at The Star Inn at Dylife. Around 13 Miles.

We arrived at Dyffryn Castell in light rain. I put on  my new HI-TEC  Ravine boots, gaiters and over-trousers . The ground was sodden from the outset and the stiles treacherously slippery; we made slow work of it. We couldn’t see more than 100 yards so the wonderful views from Plynlimon’s 2468 feet were lost to us.

Trig Point at Plynlimon, Wales, photographed by Charles Hawes

Paul is pointing to the trig point – you’ll have to take my word for it

We sheltered in the adjacent horse-shoe shaped walled cairn. My feet were still dry and were comfy in the new boots. So far so good. Paul’s left  foot was so wet he took the boot off to wring out the sock.

But as we splashed and squelched through the next few miles, occasionally dunking my boots up to my shins, the inevitable happened and I, too, began to feel my socks getting damp.

HI-TEC Ravine boots, photographed by Charles Hawes

This degree of wet would be a challenge for any boot’s waterproofness

And from there on as we continued to paddle and wade our path over the boggy ground my boots became waterlogged.  Squelch, squelch.

So, it wasn’t the boots fault. They were perfectly comfortable (no rubbing or tight spots) . It’s just that they were overwhelmed. It was difficult to assess their grip, too. I didn’t feel secure on the rocks around Plynlimon but I think that might have been the case for any boot.

We arrived at  our pub somewhat forlorn, around 6pm.  The wet boot now weighed 928 grammes. So they have absorbed 178 grammes of water! There was no way that any boot could dry out by the next day – at least without applying direct heat and that would almost certainly damage the waterproof membrane.

In conclusion, then, I don’t think that this was a  fair test of the boot – I will try them again in more favourable conditions when they have dried out!

DAY 2

The plan was to wear my Grisport boots today but the forecast was rubbish. A glance out of the window revealed driving rain. Also Paul and I were both pretty knackered after  yesterday’s walk. Paul’s boots were still sodden. So at breakfast we decided to go to MOMA in Machynlleth and have a day off. There were some great rooms and we had a fab apple strudel in a nearby cafe. This Blog Post is not helping much, is it?  Here’s a nice sketch that Paul did in the tea room. Here’s a link to Pauls website. 

Sketch by Paul Steer

Notice how huge my hand is – this is a private joke of Paul’s

DAY 3

Hurrah!, the sun was shining. Paul’s boots were still very damp so I lent him a pair of waterproof socks – an excellent invention and perfectly comfortable. I decided to stick with my trusty Merrell boots. We walked around 10 miles on frequently wet, sometimes boggy ground and my feet remained dry and I was comfortable all day.  This is all I expect of boots, really.  Maybe I don’t have high enough expectations. Maybe someone should invent boots with built in GPS or software to help you walk more efficiently, or which say “You are tired, Charles, have a break and a cup of tea”.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

JPaul Steer October 22, 2017 at 11:26 am

I’ll bring the blister plasters !
Going to miss Mr Smurthwaite and his route planning skills – the detours will definitely test the boots .

Reply

Charles October 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm

I think I have a full medical kit apart from a defibrillator. Yes, we’ll miss Neil but I have the maps, the routes marked on them and loaded on my phone. What could possibly go wrong?

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John October 22, 2017 at 3:24 pm

If you’re going on a walk without Neil to guide you (and remember Paul’s short so can’t see over the hills, nor does he share Neil’s pointing skills), would you be so good as to schedule the remaining posts from your time in France with Bob first, please? Just in case.

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Charles October 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm

It’s funny you should say that. Rest assured they are written and scheduled. Retirement having some tangible benefit!

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John October 24, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Well if you will immerse your lower regions in water that is higher than the top of the boots, you must expect some incursion. Maybe the increased weight of the water is what entered down from up above and soaked into the lining but cannot now escape because the boots are truly waterproof. Noticing that Paul is now referring to himself as “JPaul” I’m wondering whether he’s hedging his bets with Him upstairs given that you are both relying on your locational skills in the absence of Neil. You can always blame the bad weather on Brexit. 🙂

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Charles October 24, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Indeed. Glad you are taking in my observations. You think they are so good they may never dry out? I hope not. The JPaul escapes me? You worry too much about Brexit. It’ll all get sorted. Eventually.

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Emma James October 27, 2017 at 5:46 am

My earlier comment didn’t register where I was wishing you both well for your 3-day adventure and so it proved. I’ve been falling about laughing at the comments and pictures on twitter. Look forward to hearing more about the HI-TEC Ravines. Absolutely my type of boot! The funky factor is not a consideration in Emma’s world. I like sturdy, full leather boots which are durable and ultimately fit like a second skin.

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Charles October 27, 2017 at 8:32 am

Thanks for the good wishes. Day three was fabulous – wearing my Merrells. Must find a suitable pic. I don’t think this post has been very successful, but I will come back to the Ravines in a future walking post. They are still drying out in my airing cupboard; changing from dark brown to tan. They are certainly sturdy. Not sure if they will get to 2nd skin status.

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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)