Say what you want about other gear — backpacks, raincoats, freeze dried whatever — but when you’re about 35 miles from the middle of nowhere, comfortable footwear can mean the difference between an unforgettable time in the woods and hell on earth.
I know this all too well. When I was much younger, I spent a few months living, working and playing in New Zealand. Hiking (aka tramping) was high on my priority list, and like most outdoor activities in the great, green south island, it’s not for the faint of heart — or the ill-prepared. I needed hiking boots that would handle rocks, dirt, rain, river crossings, a pair of crampons if needed and a long, sustained ridge line hike on year-round snow. In other words, I needed something like the Scarpa mountaineering boots my partner had.
Oh, but how young and naive I was. I was also on a budget, and so I bought a pair of $45 NZ boots with just enough tech to get by: leather upper, rubber outsole, metal lace grommets and little more. It worked for NZ legend Sir Edmund Hillary on his first trip up Mount Everest, right?
Wrong. Those boots lasted just two tramping trips before falling apart on the final day of a four-day hike along the Kepler Track, a gorgeous piece of forest-to-alpine hiking that passes through lush pine forests and skirts past fjords near Queenstown, the country’s winter resort Mecca.