For this trip, I had some new bits and pieces: Salomon Exit Peak Mid 2 GTX boots, Rohan Core Silver T-shirt, Rab Aeon Long Sleeve shirt and a pair of Wiggy’s waders. I’ve actually had the waders for some time, but this is the first time I’ve used them. As the blogoshpere is so exercised about disclosures, all these were purchased with my own hard earned cash!
Salomon Exit Peak Mid 2 GTX boots
Click to enlarge
I used these more or less straight from the box. Salomon boots seem to fit my feet perfectly and the Exit’s were no exception. As usual, I substituted the footbeds for some green Superfeet ones. Compared with my favourite Fastpackers, the Exits are a bit more like boots. They are slightly stiffer, but still very flexible. Because the uppers are part suede, they have a firmer feel and cradle the foot securely. While the suede is more water-resistant than the textile uppers of the Fastpackers (which wet out quite quickly), the downside is that they take much longer to dry out when soaked. The Goretex lining kept me completely dry though. The sole pattern is more aggressive than the Fastpackers, giving better grip, although perhaps not quite as good on wet, slippery rock. Are they better than the Fastpackers? On balance, I think I still prefer the Fastpackers as they are more like wearing high sided trainers, but the Exits are still very comfortable. If you prefer the feel of a more traditional boot but want flexibility and lightness, they are worth a look.
I would like to digress briefly to make a defence of “mid” boots. Back in August backpackinglight.com published a State of the Market report on lightweight mid-height trail shoes. Most BPL SOTM reports are professional and well executed, but this one was completely useless. I was especially annoyed by Roger Caffin’s comment that he couldn’t see the point of mids. Normally Roger is excellent, but his comments seemed to be coloured by the fact that none of the shoes he had been sent had fitted him. He is also a very committed user of running shoes (especially New Balance). If he prefers running shoes that’s absolutely fine by me and he is totally entitled to his preferences, but what was the point in giving a selection of mids to someone who clearly hated mids?
My own personal preference is for mids. I’ve tried running shoes but I prefer mids. I don’t like wet feet and I like the protection that higher sides provide. The low cut of mids helps greatly with ventilation so a Goretex liner is nowhere near as hot as it is in a conventional boot. The use of textiles (or textiles and suede) also helps breathability. Last year, I walked on a very hot day in my Fastpackers and was delighted to find that my feet didn’t overheat, but were very comfortable. I admit, they would have been even more comfortable in mesh shoes, but if it had been cold and wet, I would have preferred my mids. Another situation where I prefer mids is contouring on a slope. I find I get a much more secure grip with mids. Overall, I just much prefer walking in mids. They are not for everyone, but they are the compromise that I have chosen and it suits me. Rant over!
Rohan Core Silver T Shirt
While this is a very comfortable t-shirt, I’m not sure it’s quite right as a backpacking base layer. I felt it was a bit cold when damp with sweat and didn’t dry quickly enough. It’s by no means bad, I just prefer either merino or a thin T like the Ultra T. It’s nice as a casual T-shirt, so all is not lost.
Rab Aeon Long Sleeve shirt
My GoLite Wildwood shirt has been a great lightweight layer for wearing around camp and sleeping in. However, I don’t like being an advertising hoarding and some of the threads have “caught”. The Aeon is very similar, using a lightweight silky polyester material and weighs a meagre 93g. It has a slightly more relaxed cut and a less hard core styling. The silk weight material is very versatile as a base layer for walking, leisure or sleeping. I was very pleased with it. Longevity might be an issue but so far the material seems to be more robust that the Golite shirt.
I’ve had my Wiggy’s Waders over a year and not used them. I finally got a chance to test them. I really bought them for walking in Scotland, where stream crossings are more frequent than in England and Wales and often need to be waded. I’ve used Drywalkers before and found them to be quite liberating, but they are a bit “Heath Robinson”. The Wiggys are much more professional. All I can say is they worked really well. I used a couple of velcro straps to secure them above the ankles and below the knees, to stop them billowing. They are very quick to put on and take off. Weighing 300g, they are a reasonable weight for the convenience of being able to cross streams (or rivers) dry-shod and warm.