why hike in mountaineering boots?

7:08 a.m. on March 18, 2015 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,994 reviewer rep
475 forum posts

Whenever I head off to more popular mountains for a day hike, I always spot people wearing proper mountaineering boots (B2 rated alpine boots) on terrain which clearly doesn't require it.

Is there something particularly romanticized about the thought that should you feel like it, you can go up Mont Blanc anytime? Are sales people just really good at pushing these expensive and fancy looking boots to unsuspecting buyers who want to make sure they get "the best they can afford"... even though it is inevitably the entirely wrong boot for the job.

For the most part, B2 boots are really uncomfortable for long distances, and unless you need to cover difficult terrain (and not difficult because it makes you tired, but actually technically demanding), you are better off with a lighter, more flexible mountain boot (B0). I get by just fine doing winter mountaineering in the UK with stiff B0's and flexi crampons when I know I have a long walk-in, yet I see so many people slogging up easy snow covered trails wearing stuff I would only take into the alps.


To be fair this seems to be more of an issue in the UK than from what I have noticed in North America.... perhaps UK sales people are just really good!

Or am I missing something/doing something wrong???!!!!


Rant over :)

11:37 a.m. on March 18, 2015 (EDT)
244 reviewer rep
5,376 forum posts

When I began backpacking in the late 70's I used to wear the heavy full chromed leather hiking boots that felt like a ton of bricks on my feet. But over the last nearly 40 years I have gone to hiking in running shoes no matter what I was carrying, they are more comfortable, and while the mountaineering boots offer more ankle support I have never gone back to them. I have not worn them in about 20 years.

12:37 p.m. on March 18, 2015 (EDT)
743 reviewer rep
1,432 forum posts

Gary, the OP is talking about mountaineering boots, as opposed to leather hiking boots of the '70s or so. There is a big distinction. A mountaineering boot, such as a Galibier Super Guide, has a steel shank, making the sole very inflexible. These boots will take any crampon, and the stiffness of the sole allows good edging. The uppers have some flex for frictioning and French technique crampon work. Conversely, something like my old Vasques, were good hiking boots, even though they looked similar to my Super Guides. The upper was more flexible and the sole had some give to it. They were not stiff enough for edging, but could take a hinged crampon, though you had to be careful, lest you break the crampon.

TJ, I rarely see folks wearing mountain boots here for hiking. Perhaps it is, as you say, a UK thing, that they want to be prepared for Mont Blanc. Most here wear lighter flexible boots or shoes. I often prefer a leather boot with more ankle support, because much of my hiking is off trail, and sometimes involves some scrambling to Class 2 or 3.

3:34 p.m. on March 18, 2015 (EDT)
244 reviewer rep
5,376 forum posts

My 70's boots had steel shanks as I bought them to use with crampons, mine were made by Vasque and had what they called the Norwegan Welt with the stitchings around the boots outer sold holding the Vibram soles on. They were extremely hard leather boots when I first got them taking 5 months of winter camping in Yosemite and pounds of Bee Seal or other water proofings and lots of hard crusty and soft slushy snow to wear them soft.

I also used mine on an old pair of cross country ski's as I alternated between them,crampons and snowshoes to get around the high Sierra for 5 months mid to late winter of 79/80.

5:20 p.m. on March 18, 2015 (EDT)
482 reviewer rep
324 forum posts

Back in the late 70’s or maybe 1980, I purchased a pair of Asolo Tundra light mountaineering boots. I found them on sale for about $200.00; a hefty price for me who was usually broke and down on my luck in those days. They were very heavy, over 5 pounds, and stiff with a ¾ steel strap shank. But, I wore them everywhere: mountains, flats, forested slopes and alpine meadows and even in a few towns and cities. I did this because, with the exception of winter mukluks, they were my only boot and, since most of the time I spent in places more suitable to the name, I really had no need for anything else.

When, in my 40’s, I returned to University and met a lot of young people who liked to dress like they were climbing mountains. I think it is called “mountain chic”. I wondered when this had happened. When did reputable mountaineering brands start to cater to the college kids who went into the mountains seldom or not at all? I even remember seeing someone walking down the hall to class one day with ice screws dangling from his day pack. What next, I thought, pitons in Organic Chem?

This reached its apogee (no pun intended) when I saw a young man decked out in a pair of La Sportiva Nepal Evo boots. He was clomping his way down the University hall with a huge smile on his face. Now, these are technical winter ice climbing boots not something to wear during the heat of a prairie summer. If he wasn't so spotlessly clean and coiffed it would have been easy to assume that he just came back from some remote mountain range whose name I could not pronounce. But, I think I may have laughed out loud as I walked past him. It was all too much for me.

Seriously though, whether we admit it or not, fashion and marketing is a major influence on most of our purchases these days at a cost of billions of dollars annually. It all appeals to our vanity, of which there is no short supply. I don’t think even the most stalwart and bush savvy mountaineer or woodsman has not looked at themselves in the mirror when purchasing some essential item. Which begs the question, how much money do we spend on outdoor gear and how much of it can we do without?

7:25 p.m. on March 18, 2015 (EDT)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
3,173 reviewer rep
2,258 forum posts

well, I truly don't recall ever seeing anyone in actual mountaineering boots, anywhere I've hiked but I'm loving this thread

 

right-on

 

North1 said:

Seriously though, whether we admit it or not, fashion and marketing is a major influence on most of our purchases these days at a cost of billions of dollars annually. It all appeals to our vanity, of which there is no short supply. I don’t think even the most stalwart and bush savvy mountaineer or woodsman has not looked at themselves in the mirror when purchasing some essential item. Which begs the question, how much money do we spend on outdoor gear and how much of it can we do without?

 

9:12 p.m. on March 18, 2015 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
5,120 reviewer rep
1,060 forum posts

To play Devils advocate here....

I train in my mountaineering boots when I have a trip upcoming where I will be using them. Getting my muscles used to the weight of the boot (which most mountaineering boots are significantly heavier than hiking boots) and to get the boots broken in again after not having worn them for a period of time.

yes, I agree with you TJ, for the majority of the average persons day to day uses, they are ridiculously overkill. BUT I've gotta admit I've also been that guy wearing them when they are not technically needed (Although never in a university hall, as North said!).

10:26 p.m. on March 18, 2015 (EDT)
743 reviewer rep
1,432 forum posts

Gary, while your 70's boot could take crampons and had a steel shank, they were probably not technical mountaineering boots that the OP is talking about. He is referring to a technical boot. While there were many hiking boots of the 70's that could take hinged crampons, the technical boots of the day, like the Super Guides, Peuterays and the boots from Let Trappeur, have no flex in the sole at all. Most quality hiking boots of the day, including my first pair, vintage 1963, had Norwegian welts. They may look the same, but a few minutes wearing them would tell you the difference. In the 70's here in Seattle, a type of boot with the slang term "waffle stompers" became popular. They had soft uppers, looked like a scaled down hiking boot with a pseudo Vibram sole knockoff. They looked very much like the Fabianos posted in another thread. The style lasted a few years and roughly coincided with the back packing craze of the mid 1970's. Here in Seattle, REI saw a period of growth of membership, college students were carrying their books in packs made by Jansport, among others. We had Eddie Bauer making quality gear. Klineberger, REI, Early Winters, the North Face, Swallow's Nest. Larry Penberthy was getting MSR going. But within a few years the ads starting appearing. "Kelty B4, used once". Early Winters was the first to go, then Klineberger, Eddie Bauer got sold.

Fashion takes many forms. Filson is very hot these days, and yet, when I bought my first pair of tin pants in the late 1960's, they were only the clothing choice for a few well heeled loggers, foresters, and some hunters. Now, though you won't see tin pants in the city, Filson is everywhere, along with flannel shirts. It is new fashion trend " logger chic".

2:04 a.m. on March 19, 2015 (EDT)
38 reviewer rep
1,902 forum posts

When I was in college, a few of us wore French jump boots around campus. A great boot for winter because they have about a one inch thick sole on them. And yes, I did use them for skydiving, which how I found out about them. They show up on eBay once in a while. Unlike climbing boots, they were actually pretty comfortable.

FYI, there is a big North Face store in Beverly Hills, so North is absolutely right about fashion. 

I've told this story before, but it fits this topic-

Me, placing a Voile shovel on the counter at the then new REI in Folsom, "Hi there."

Clerk, "Hi, what's your member number?"

Me, "You asked for my member number, everyone else just asks 'Are you a member?' How'd you know?"

Clerk, "Oh, you're buying a member item, non members just buy clothes."

Me, "Hmm, very observant."

Don't forget, all those people buying just clothes make it possible for some of us to buy stuff we'd never find otherwise because the profits on clothes and stuff like that make the big stores that stock specialty items possible.

6:58 a.m. on March 19, 2015 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
6,906 reviewer rep
2,256 forum posts

Other than the training explanation, which I occasionally do also, or very cold conditions, I see no reason to wear mountaineering boots other than with crampons or in extreme weather.   by very cold, I mean well below zero.

Never see people on them in  maryland......    :)

10:45 a.m. on March 19, 2015 (EDT)
1,753 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts

I don't see that in the Southeast US, no surprise though as we just have really big hills.

I do see some people here wearing camouflage EVERYWHERE. Even to church or out to eat.

Who or what they are trying to hide from is unclear, but they are wearing woodland camo in town, not urban camo, so I stay baffled.

I think it is just a "look" that is popular.

11:12 a.m. on March 19, 2015 (EDT)
1 reviewer rep
712 forum posts

No reason.  And I hike in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

11:35 a.m. on March 19, 2015 (EDT)
743 reviewer rep
1,432 forum posts

Tom said, "Don't forget, all those people buying just clothes make it possible for some of us to buy stuff we'd never find otherwise because the profits on clothes and stuff like that make the big stores that stock specialty items possible."

I certainly agree, Tom. But this just applies to the stores that are big. When I first joined REI in 1963, it was a very small store. Big Jim fitted me with my first pair of boots, Reikers. There were still that way in the late sixties, with a lot of specialty gear from small manufacturers. Being small, they could get and sell from small batch companies. As they expanded, they and the others I mentioned, would have asked someone like Rivendell, "can you supply 500 Jensen packs". The response might be, "We have to hire staff, and that would take us several years".

In the end, yes, larger volume and profits on the sales to the masses, allows the big stores to get those specialty items we want. However, we should remember that the small stores with low volume and low overhead, are able to supply things that appeal to a very narrow demographic. That was how REI got its start. And those small volume sales allows companies like Rivendell to stay in business.

12:38 p.m. on March 19, 2015 (EDT)
148 reviewer rep
31 forum posts

Interesting thread. I suppose my next (AT preparation) piece of gear is on the opposite end of the spectrum...

http://www.russellmoccasin.com/minimalist-thula-thula/

2:26 p.m. on March 19, 2015 (EDT)
743 reviewer rep
1,432 forum posts

On some of my canoe trips, I carry a pair of Arrow mocs. Nice and light after a day in river boots. http://www.arrowmoc.com. However, many trips, my favorite camp shoe is a low topped rubber overshoe, worn over a pair of heavy socks. Foldable and waterproof.

11:42 a.m. on March 20, 2015 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
2,695 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts

I'm guilty of this sometimes, but these days I'm more inclined to just wear a pair or trail-runners if possible. Otherwise, I bring along my Vibram Five-Fingers or Dyer Moccasins for in-camp use. 

My mountaineering boots are the Salewa Vertical Pros, and while they're certainly overkill for trekking, they have a feature which allows me to change the stiffness of the sole to include a "walking mode," a system which, while ingenious and funtionally wonderful, requires one to have an allen key. It means I wear them when I sometimes shouldn't. 

8:43 p.m. on March 20, 2015 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
71 forum posts

my lowa mountaineering boots is designed to be hike in deep snow. I hike 20km in it.

5:43 a.m. on March 21, 2015 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,994 reviewer rep
475 forum posts

Picard said:

my lowa mountaineering boots is designed to be hike in deep snow. I hike 20km in it.

Didn't you also post a thread about you getting quite fatigued wearing them?

Your boots likely have a built in snow gaiter above the ankle.... which is great... but if you don't need to do actual climbing, the trade off for having an inflexible sole is not worth the gaiter (which you can just put on top of any boot anyway).

5:44 a.m. on March 21, 2015 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,994 reviewer rep
475 forum posts

pillowthread said:

I'm guilty of this sometimes, but these days I'm more inclined to just wear a pair or trail-runners if possible. Otherwise, I bring along my Vibram Five-Fingers or Dyer Moccasins for in-camp use. 

My mountaineering boots are the Salewa Vertical Pros, and while they're certainly overkill for trekking, they have a feature which allows me to change the stiffness of the sole to include a "walking mode," a system which, while ingenious and funtionally wonderful, requires one to have an allen key. It means I wear them when I sometimes shouldn't. 

I really like those Salewas. I tried purchasing them several times but I couldnt find my size to try on.

7:23 a.m. on March 22, 2015 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
71 forum posts

my fatigue came from my lack of vitamin B12. I took B12 supplements after this trip. I since felt much better. I just hike 15km in this same boot without any problems.

12:49 a.m. on March 26, 2015 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
680 forum posts

trouthunter said:

I don't see that in the Southeast US, no surprise though as we just have really big hills.

I do see some people here wearing camouflage EVERYWHERE. Even to church or out to eat.

Who or what they are trying to hide from is unclear, but they are wearing woodland camo in town, not urban camo, so I stay baffled.

I think it is just a "look" that is popular.

 

I think it may be possible that the human need to have a "look" is written into our genetic code. That is, having a personal identity and the desire to project that identity to others seems to me to be part and parcel to self awareness and our own unique self. It says, this is who I am, and, we seem to need to do this. Although the uniqueness is getting somewhat lost in this era of mass population and mass merchandising. Where I live in Colorado, almost everyone looks like REI patron so strong is the desire to fulfill ones desire to have an outdoor identity of one sort or another. Also interesting is how we idolize the manufacturer's of the accoutrements of our chosen or desired identities. Its hip in the climbing circles to have stickers of our preferred or any manufacturer of gear plastered on our chosen roof top cargo boxes which are themselves an expression of identity. I feel it is so much apart of being human it may be inescapable. We could switch identities now and then just for the experience and fun of it!

Anyway when I bought my first pair of hiking boots, ultra stiff and stout Raichle's, my father-in-law protested that I didn't need those boots. That he could hike just well and as far in his Herman's work boots. He may have been right but at the time my identity wouldn't hear of it!

11:37 a.m. on April 1, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,944 forum posts

Great comments by North and Erich. When I went to school in Seattle in the mid 1970s, there were lots of people that we called "city farmers" and "city mountaineers".  It was a form of self-expression in an era of awakening environmental awareness.

I have only seen logging clothes in the bush, but do not doubt that there could be "logging chic."  Filsons are now so expensive that the rich people are now probably one of the main demographics for the brand. 

My own opinion is that some of the keen interest people have for equipment is related to the above discussion.  Specialized, unusual and certainly expensive equipment does indeed make a statement.

I am still confused by discussions about large, heavy packs in the age of ultralight equipment.  Maybe it suggests future long expeditionary trips.  That is also a type of statement.  Fortunately we live in free country with the best outdoor equipment in the world. 

 

 

11:50 a.m. on April 1, 2015 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,994 reviewer rep
475 forum posts

I suppose it is a statement. To be honest, I would just feel silly heading out in my mountaineering gear for non-mountaineering related things.... kind of like showing up in a tux when everyone is wearing shorts and t shirts.

12:07 p.m. on April 1, 2015 (EDT)
253 reviewer rep
193 forum posts

I guess you can tell by looking at how they are otherwise dressed whether they are breaking in the boots or training vs bought the most expensive boots in the store?

12:30 p.m. on April 1, 2015 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,994 reviewer rep
475 forum posts

DrPhun said:

I guess you can tell by looking at how they are otherwise dressed whether they are breaking in the boots or training vs bought the most expensive boots in the store?

Struggling and visibly out of shape on an easy/moderate path while wearing $400-$500 boots makes me think they likely arent getting ready for a climb in the alps... more like an easy target to a good salesperson.


Unsurprisingly these are also the people hiking in fair weather with an expensive goretex shell that again was likely sold to them as the top of the line jacket for outdoor use.

October 19, 2019
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: You make the call - Need Hardshell Newer: Have you ever seen this tent?
All forums: Older: Is there a good hiking/trip time/distance calculator with map routing? Newer: Father & Daughter Trailspace Team