Monday, August 12, 2013


I made a lengthy list of boots that I like, and have listed on my potential "to buy" list for my long-term hiking boots to replace the trail-runner type shoes that I wear day-to-day already today, and which I don't want to really hash to death in the wilderness.  I also don't really want to hike in trail runners.  Although I know that it's all the rage to hike in shoes these days, I actually prefer hiking boots that aren't "low tops"--in part because I still have a pack that, when loaded with food and water and everything else, is going to be 35-40 lbs. so the ankle support is meaningful to me still, in part because I like the look of leather hiking boots, and in part because I'm just a traditionalist, and leather, higher topped boots just feel right to me for hiking in the wilderness.

Eschewing some of the modern trends (including the aforementioned hiking "shoes" as opposed to boots) what I really like, quite honestly, are boots that resemble old-fashioned leather combat boots (except that I don't need them to be in black--I actually prefer brown leather, which is good, since it's much easier to find unless I stray out of outdoor boots entirely and have a look at duty boots, or tactical boots.)

This leads me, actually, into the world of hunting boots (as opposed to hiking boots) which are, of course, very similar to each other anyway.  Hunting boots have a few other requirements that hiking boots do not--they are frequently engineered for much rougher conditions, since the assumption is that hunters will be bushwacking while hikers are assumed to be on trails.  This is good, especially since some of my goals may be off-trail destinations, like Glissade Lake in the Beartooth Mountains, for instance. Hunting boots also have scent-control (sometimes) to avoid giving away your position to animals, a feature about which I couldn't care less.  And because the hunting season and the hiking season are not the same, hunting boots are often insulated to keep your feet warm in weather much colder than I would ever be interested in hiking in myself.  Not only does this extra warmth bode ill for my summer-time (or if not during the summer, than in warmer desert conditions) hiking, since it'll make my feet sweat, it also offers the double-whammy of making them noticeably heavier.  The only good part about this is that with the assumption that you may be walking around in the snow, hunting boots are well-equipped to keep your feet dry.

Sadly, once you start winnowing out the insulated and/or extra heavy (over 4 lbs. a pair) hunting boots, you find that many times the all-leather and the insulated versions coincide.  While I'm not entirely averse to having a mixed leather/nylon construction, I do prefer the all-leather kind.  This is as much about personal preference (outdoor chic fashion, if you will) as anything else, but it also helps to reduce the number of boots that I'm considering, by changing the priority with which I view them.

In the first category, the under 3 lbs. a pair category, I have few that are all leather, except for Perfekt Light Hikers by Meindl/Cabela's (and they are barely under 3 lbs. at that.)  The Quest 7" Hunting Boots win on price (at just about $100) and the Under Armour Speed Freak Hunting Boots win on weight (and just barely over 2 lbs. a pair--and also a good price) but I think the Perfekt Light Hikers are my favorite.  I'll put up with .8 lbs more and $100 more to get them, but the reviews of their comfort and durability are tough to beat.

Although, frankly, if I'm wearing that much weight and spending that much money, I'm tempted to bump both up just a little bit incrementally and get boots that I like even more.  In the next category, the 3-4 lbs. boots, I've got several options.  Probably my favorites are the slightly taller 7" Perfekt Hikers (also by Meindl/Cabela's).  They add about half a pound and twenty bucks, but again; if I'm going that way anyway, that's not a major change on either front.  The Rimrock Hikers (from Cabela's) are just barely at 3 lbs, and have a nice rubber rand all the way around, to protect the leather, and the Asolo Fugitive GTX boots are highly reviewed and are also just over 3 lbs.--although I have to admit that I don't like the look of them nearly as much.  The heavier, more mountaineering Asolo TPS 520s are nice, but really pricey, and for that kind of money (and weight) I'd rather go with the Meindl's.  Not only are they extremely well-regarded, they actually cost about $40 less.  And I like the look of them better too.

Among the heavy (4 lbs. and over) boots, most are eliminated from consideration because of their insulation (and weight) but one stands out to me still, the Outfitter Pro 9" uninsulated hunting boots (again, by Cabela's.  I tend to like them better than REI or the other guys.)  Great looking, as light as they get in this category, and extremely highly regarded as among the most rugged and durable and "go anywhere" boots on the planet, the only downside is, again the fact that they weigh 4.1 lbs.  Then again, I'm not really one of those guys who thinks that an extra pound on my feet is going to kill me (yeah, yeah, I've seen all the biomechanical calculations that folks have done--I just disregard them as unimportant compared to my experience.)  They're only half a pound heavier than the Perfekt Hikers, even with two more inches of height, and are $70 cheaper too!

Right now, there are also a few sale prices on some items.  The Under Armour Speed Freak Hunting boots are the lightest on my list, at 2.1 lbs, and at the temporary sale price of about $130 (I round to the nearest five dollars, but don't include sales tax in these figures) they're nearly the cheapest.  That makes them highly desireable, but again, probably only if you pick them up while on sale.  Their normal price of $175 still makes them a contender, but not a front runner.  Next up, and a bit weightier and more expensive both, I've got either the Perfekt Light Hikers, the Perfekt 7" Hikers or the Danner 8" Pronghorn uninsulated all-leathers.  All three rank highly partly on the strength of their brands and reputation, but none of them are cheap--the Danner ones come in a little under $200, but only a little.  And the reviews of the imported versions are not as good as the original Made in America copies (and not just for patriotic reasons; the quality control does not seem to be the same.)  And the Outfitter Pro, on price and durability, have to be considered even though they're a bit heavier.

In reality, I'd love to pick up all of the boots on my list, including the insulated, heavier ones (the heaviest pair of which are 11" tall and nearly 5 lbs. a pair) but there's no way I'm spending $3,000 on boots, only a few of which I will actually consider taking on a "real" hiking trip.

And frankly, the thought that I even want that many pairs of boots makes me feel shockingly too similar to my wife anyway...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


For many, many years, I've been a fan of wearing a soft, well-worn pair of jeans as casual pants.  I prefer carpenter style jeans, but that may also reflect a growing migration on my part towards cargo pants.

The big problem with jeans or canvas cargos (as most are) is that they're made of cotton.  Cotton, as the saying goes, is DEATH!  If you get wet in a pair of blue-jeans, you will DIE from hypothermia.

This is, of course, nonsense--or at least highly exaggerated.  If you hike when the weather is cold or even cool, then it's nice to have quick-drying clothes.  It's nice anyway.  And a change of clothes is important.  But I did plenty of mountain hikes in the summers (San Juans Chicago Basin, High Uintas, etc.) wearing mostly blue jeans and having cotton sweatshirts as my "warm clothes" backup.  Many non-cotton alternatives are fairly reasonably priced--you can get a fleece jacket at a place like Old Navy or Kohls (or heck, even Target or something like that) for about the same price as a cotton sweatshirt.  Merino wool hiking socks aren't terribly expensive--granted, I got mine on sale, but I got four pair of midweight merino wool hiking socks for about $10--$5 each for a set of two pair.

Now, a good pair of hiking pants on the other hand, seems to be a different kettle of fish altogether.  Now, you can get a pair of nylon track pants (or workout pants, basically) at a place like Target or Old Navy for about $20--about the same as a pair of jeans or cotton sweatpants, roughly--but is that really what you want to hike in?  If you trawl for deals and sales, you can probably get a pair of good, canvas cargo pants for $20-40 or so--but they're 100% cotton, so are they really any better than jeans?  I've had a look at specifically designed hiking pants, and they tend to run more on the order of $50-100 and don't often go on sale.  For that kind of money, you can probably be forgiven for questioning the recieved groupthink wisdom that cotton is the fabric that's lurking around the bend waiting to ambush you and kill you, but if you've ever had to walk very far in a wet pair of jeans, on the other hand, you can see why that might not be ideal.

The following pants are on my "short list" of desired hiking pants.  Some of them are still mostly cotton, so many in the hiking community balk at them as bad news.  But the alternative that they offer up are either too fragile, or too expensive.  And frankly, even these include some pretty expensive options--the Rail Riders are $100!  That's an awful lot for a pair of pants that are designed to be taken outside and beaten up (as far as I'm concerned, it's a lot for any kind of pants, but I'm a confirmed cheapskate anyway.  I think any article of clothing that costs more than $50 better be something really special, or a suit.  And I've only got one or two suits that fit me at a time because I hate wearing them anyway.)

1) These so-called Ultimate Outdoors Pants are mostly cotton.  Does a 2% spandex component really allow them to dry better or faster?  Doubtful.  Cabela's themselves don't consider them a fast-drying pant.  I like the look, and I like the price relative to the alternatives.  And I prefer shopping at Cabelas to REI, because I guess at heart I'm more of a redneck than a hippy (even though my preferred outdoor activities are hiking and camping, not hunting and fishing.)  I'm sure they're great as long as you don't get caught in the rain, or can put on some Frogg Toggs rainpants over top of this before they got soaked, at least.  Heck, I'd wear these around town as a casual alternative to jeans in a heartbeat.  But I don't know if they really provide what I need.

2) The outgoing model of Ultimate Outdoor Pants on the other hand, is 70/30 cotton/nylon.  While that sounds like a better solution, is it really any different?  Again, I don't know.  Other than the change in fabric (and a switch from a snap to a button fly) the new and old versions of these pants are nearly identical both in style and in fabric composition.

3) REI, on the other hand, is a distributor for Kühl, and these Revolvr "jeans" are supposed to be quick-drying.  As outdoor pants manufactured by a Seattle-based company, where it rains a lot, that claim should mean something.  I like the look of them, but honestly, they're not much different than the Cabela's pants.  Except that they cost more.

4) Rail Riders Weatherpants are extremely popular with the outdoor set, but are pricey.  And I don't love the look of them, really.  I'd rather have their Extreme Adventure Pants for looks, but they're the priciest of the models listed here.

Anybody (right, like anyone reads this blog...) have any favorites or comments?  I admit to being a little baffled by the options.  I'll most likely just end up picking up a couple pairs of the Cabelas and REI pants, because I can actually physically get them in person easily enough, being located fairly close to one of each of their stores (and because I like them) but I'm not convinced that they're really the "best" option for my hiking needs.