There aren’t many bits of kit that you carry or wear that doesn’t serve a practical purpose, in fact apart from little mascots and good luck charms I can’t think of anything on my body or in my daysack that isn’t important and is possibly lifesaving. When I can, I like to spend a bit more money when replacing gear as I am a great believer in the saying, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ and after all the difference of £30 on a pair of waterproof trousers may save you years of soaking wet legs.
Recently I have decided that one of the most important items of walking kit I own needs replacing. They have served me well and we’ve been on many adventures together I feel almost sad to have to replace my boots!
I remember the day like yesterday when I ordered my trusty Merrell’s, 15 years ago I was sat at in my flat in Osnabruck, Germany looking at my Karrimor KSB’s thinking they looked knackered and sick of endlessly having to treat them. To be fair they too had served me well, many a time they’ve been battered and bruised up and down Pen y Fan and Snowdon. They had survived hiking around places like Oman, Norway, Italy and a 3 week expedition to the Rockies. But the time had come to replace them and as I had the extra 20% off when ordering from abroad and being in the forces I thought now was the best time. I decided to come away from my normal fabric boot and try the leather, so browsing through my latest Cotswold catalogue I studied hard. Many friends had leather boots and swore by them, and when we’d been out together wading through the streams of south Wales and falling through frozen becks they seemed to come out with feet nice and dry, I used to say my feet were ok too but in all honesty there were sometimes my socks were less then dry and toasty. Scarpa had, and still does, a great reputation I was swaying towards them as they had a few leather boots that looked the part. But tucked away at the bottom of a page was a nice looking pair of Merrell’s. I’d heard of Merrell but all the talk was ‘Scarpa’ and did I dare go off the beaten track and order these lovely looking boots. Now you have to remember the internet wasn’t as popular as it is now so I’d have to send off the order form and wait ages for the delivery, about 3 weeks!! So I decided to phone in the order cutting down the wait to 2 weeks, it’s a week less that’s all I was bothered about.
Less than a fortnight passed before I went to BFPO 36 to collect a boot box shaped parcel and the start of a great relationship. I couldn’t wait so I sat in my silver Ford Puma (also tax free) and unwrapped the paper and gazed on my new boots. “Jesus Christ how f**kin big are they?!” I seem to remember thinking as I held the massive leather structures up and stared. The tread looked like a land rover tyre and they weighed a ton. But, after a bit and after feeling inside I grew to love them and they were to take me through thousands of miles of walking.
They’re first outing I can remember was a steady 12 mile blast around the forests near Osnabruck, a regular low level haunt for squaddies training for P company and SAS selection, not too many hills but lots of fallen trees and mud…. lots of mud! Even though they felt heavy in the hand, they didn’t feel much different weight wise to my KSB’s, and the good thing was, my feet were dry.
Year 2000 saw me back in the UK and pounding the Yorkshire moors and miles and miles of hills and heather. And all these boots needed were a good clean and a polish with boot polish to keep them in good working order, no need for ‘spray from 12 inches away and leave to dry for 2 hours blah blah blah’. The uppers kept that lovely brown battered look and the tread, which initially shocked me, was still deep and going strong.
So back to present day and the last few fells in the lakes, as well as completing the Teesdale Way and the Weardale Way, have been testing, the tread has started to disappear and the slips have become far too often and when you’re trying to scurry across edges and coming down spiky rocky crags, you can’t take chances. So from the first walk in the lakes up Skiddaw, and completing 73 Wainwrights, the Fairfield horse shoe saw the last outing for my trusty Merrell’s who can now rest.
I’ve had a good time over the last 15 years with my old boots; they’ve seen ice, rain and sun. They’ve had to wade through all manner of faeces and have seen peat from a couple of feet below the surface on a number of times. They’ve out lived countless lace changes but I’ve never had to repair the body. Let’s hope the ones I replace them with are just as trustworthy.
Now, time to do some shopping!