As with many avid outdoors people, my enjoyment of activities tends to extend beyond one specialized endeavor. My first love of the outdoors is always going to three-season+ backpacking, but I tend to enjoy and participate in other outdoor activities. I love Nordic skiing and often combine that activity with backpacking. And I think some places, esp in late Fall to early Spring, are fun to explore by base camping combined with hiking.
And so I have different gear to support these various activities. Different packs for heavier gear or day hiking. And one shelter for solo three-season use but another shelter for road tripping or base camping.
And my footwear is no different. I’ll use one set of shoes for well-maintained trails but will grab something different if doing heavy trail work. And for deep cold-weather camping, I’ll want some warm boots in camp.
With all that in mind, here is my current quiver of footwear for outdoor use.
- Altra Superiors are a shoe I used extensively on my road trip throughout 2018 and like for backpacking on established and well-maintained trails. On a sixty-mile loop on the Appalachian and Bartram trails, they performed beautifully. And are quite possibly the most comfortable outdoor shoe I’ve worn. However, they do not work well for me when off-trail, scrambling, or in rough terrain. The Great Divide Trail chewed up a new pair in two-weeks. My current pair is about two-thirds of the way through its current lifespan. Assuming I base myself out of the Utah area with all its scrambling, off-trail travel, and red dirt that destroys gear quickly, I do not think I’ll replace this pair anytime soon. If I do a longer hike on an established and well-maintained trail, I will consider this shoe again.
- The Salomon Ultras are now my shoe of choice for my general backpacking use. Excellent for off-trail pursuits, scrambling, and rougher terrain. And a bit more durable for the red dirt that chews up gear in Utah. I finally replaced the pair that I bought in August to do the last half of the GDT and carried into Utah. I hope Salomon does not change the shoe too radically in the months and years ahead. A shoe that fits well and works for a particular hiking style is gold. If I find them on sale or discount, I’ll purchase multiple pairs!
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The Colorado Plateau – Where gear goes to die I did a 600 mile or so walk across southern Utah last Fall. In that time I went through four national parks, two national monuments, and other recreation areas. I saw sites still seared into my memory over a year later. And in a little over thirty days, I went through two pairs of shoes. This past summer, I hiked the Great Divide Trail through Canada. Though one pair of shoes did not last long, I did buy a pair of Salomons near Banff that did last the last half of the trail and then some. Now after nine weekends of hard use, these shoes are showing their abuse. It wasn’t the scree and talus hopping of the mountains in September. It was the sand, water, and red dirt of October that is hastening the demise of my shoes. “Unbreakable” Kevlar laces are snapping. Mesh holes are appearing. And the uppers are starting to separate. Red dirt gets everywhere. And acts like sandpaper. Stream crossing only add to the “wear and tear”. And shoes aren’t the only gear just showing the wear. The zippers on a favorite car camping tent needed some TLC. And my socks are getting holes. And at our humble abode we dubbed The Homestead, we seem to sweep all the time. And have become thankful for non-carpeted floors! Our gear room will never be completely clean. Despite our best efforts. A bit of grit seems to be ever present with all the packing and unpacking that takes place in that room. So we love where we live. And we are thankful for what we see even from the window of our home. We just realize that the price is a (seemingly) constant purchase of shoes and socks! … #hiking #camping #backpacking #coloradoplateau #utah
- The Hi-Tec Altitudes are a hiking boot whose design has not changed in many years. At about 2.5 lbs for a pair, light-ish for a leather boot. My primary use for this boot is for trail work, the occasional muddy or light snow day hike, and as general purpose outdoor footwear. They are very broken in at this point and are very comfortable. A couple of times a year, I treat them with Sno-Seal, and I am good to go for another six months.
- Speaking of general purpose footwear, the Kamik Fargo boots I purchased back in 2009 are what I wear on winter camping trips for moderate cold, around town winter hikes (quite literally leaving from the front door!), and typically driving to winter trailheads. Not as warm as the Bunny Boots below (the -40F rating seems optimistic!) , they are a lot less bulky and more suited for general purpose footwear. Suitable for snowshoeing if I somehow don’t wish to backcountry ski. Though these boots do not have a removable liner that is ideal for winter backpacking, some down booties and VBL socks could easily mitigate this issue, too.
- And if I am winter camping, or perhaps schlepping in gear via sled, I’ll take Bunny Boots. Bulky, heavy, and probably best for in camp or very short walks. But about the absolute warmest boots you can purchase and weatherproof to the extreme. A typical use for me? The Badlands in December as one example. I’ll have these boots for years to come. And even if Iwind up for a bit somewhere with moderate weather, I won’t get rid of these boots.
- My first love in winter is Nordic touring..or “hiking on skis” as I often describe this type of skiing. And to enjoy this type of skiing, I use Crispi Mountain Nordic boots. Essentially large leather hiking boots, these non-insulated boots are light enough to facilitate gliding, stiff enough for basic turns, and lighter than something with insulation. I can wear a heavier sock or use a VBL depending on the temperatures. I pair them with my Asnes Combat Skis or my Fischer Europa BCX skis depending on the type or touring I am doing as well.
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BagTex – The Poor Person’s VBL … With estimated temps hovering around 10F or less up in the La Sals today, we had a brisk ski tour for me and snowshoeing for Joan. For you kick wax skiers, the green wax came in handy! … My usual attire of a base layer, fleece, and thicker softshell-type pants (I rocked old school wool pants while Joan borrowed my thicker running pants I now favor), and a warm hat worked just fine. … However, for both of us, our feet and hands needed a little something extra today. We both wore thicker boiled wool mittens. And on both our hands and feet used a poor person’s version of a Vapor Barrier Liner. Or a VBL for short. … And this magical equipment? Simply exam or kitchen gloves and oven roasting bags. Simple, effective, and inexpensive for when the cold weather hits and the hands and feet need to be warm. .. Oh, and the views weren’t bad today, either. I knew Moab abounded with red rock delights. But a blanket of snow on the surround 12k ft peaks certainly makes winter a good time to be in Moab! … More details about how a VBL works and the quick and dirty way to make a VBL in the linked article found on my profile. .. #moab #Utah #skiing #snowshoeing #LaSals #Lasalmountains #nordic #winter PCO @ramblinghemlock
- Increasingly rare for me since I’ve left Colorado’s Front Range, is the more technical skiing where I skin up and then go down steeply. I am not the best technical skier, but I do enjoy it occasionally with friends. For that type of skiing, I use a pair the venerable Scarpa T2s a friend scored on a pro-deal for me. I’ve also used an older version of these boots in the past. Looking more like what people think of as “real ski boots”, these large plastic boots give a lot of control but aren’t meant for covering distance. If I want to earn my turns, these are the boots I’ll use.
And speaking of increasingly rare use…
I used to do a decent amount of trad, and, to a lesser extent, sport-climbing after work with my buddy Mark. I’m a 5.8 climber at best and don’t lead climb. While the Moab area has a lot of climbing, I do not have any friends who are climbers in this area. Also why I did enjoy climbing from time to time, but when I have time available, I tend to experience less equipment intense activities
For these after-work climbs, I purchased a version of the Scarpa Helix. Described in more than one review as an all-purpose shoe suitable for beginners or those who need a decent “quiver of one” type climbing shoe.
But the climbing I enjoyed and would enjoy it more so in the future, is alpine climbing. Long hikes on talus, rock, and scrambly areas with climbing that is typically within 5.6 or below in grade. For this mix of hiking, scrambling, and easier climbing, I’ll use the Scarpa Crux approach shoes. Approach shoes have sticky rubber as with a climbing shoe, but a stiff edge for jamming into rocks and cracks easier unlike a hiking shoe, but can still hike comfortably. Various routes on Grand Teton are classic examples of where approach shoes work well.
So, that’s my quiver of outdoor shoes. Not the best per se. But they are what works for me.