Friday, March 15, 2013
THERE ARE ONLY TWO things that are very valuable to me when I am outdoors: a functional knife and a good pair of shoes. Why the shoes?
Good question. The shoes protect my feet from sharp stones, pebbles and thorns. I cannot travel a good distance without a comfortable pair of shoes. I cannot climb a mountain or run down a trail without a sturdy pair with threaded soles. So now you know why shoes are tops in my list of items.
Used to own good and not-so-good pairs which I acquire either by cash or through hand-me-downs but due to constant use, compounded by heavy loads upon my back, these got damaged. There came a time when my need for a pair of shoes got so very critical that a first cousin in Sydney, Australia came to my aid and promised to gift me a pair.
Last August 4, 2011, that promise became true as it was personally handcarried by Alice Lavilles-Reyes to my waiting hands as we were having a gathering to welcome her and her husband, Ollie. It is a RIVERS 3514M Hike Boots in brown and tan combination. What timing! It came at a time when I really needed a pair of shoes to do a camp assessment at Mount Manunggal, Balamban, Cebu the following day for a wilderness safety seminar.
RIVERS is an Australian brand but their products are assembled and made in China with the materials provided and shipped by the company to their overseas factory. Basically, I don’t patronize goods coming from China due to its inferior quality, poor craftsmanship, the state’s propensity to use slave labor and for a thousand and one political reasons.
I try the fit of the shoes and I instantly liked the feel that I shoved my thousand-and-one-political-reasons down to the backburner. I am consoled though by the thought that the leather, fabric, rubber, glue, thread and the whole design are made in Australia.
So the RIVERS 3514M Hike Boots got its first test at the dirt road going to Mt. Manunggal on August 5. The first thing I noticed about the shoe is that it is very light. The three-tone earth colors appeal quite to me due to its simplicity and would go well with whatever I wear. Besides, I believe I am the only one wearing this brand here which gives a fine accent to my personality.
I begin to feel the quality of its material as I change gaits as often as I could to test its flexibility, comfort and craftsmanship. It fits my Size 9-1/2 feet perfectly as it is a Size 10. I try it on grassy grounds and wet trails and the threads grip the surface well. The real test would be the route going down to Tabunan. Kapiyoan Trail is a good testing ground as it is a steep route with washed out surfaces and an abundance of polished rocks and mossy stones.
I lose a bit of balance as I slip on a steep but slippery part yet I am able to recover without falling down as I start the descent. I was not able to dig a heel onto dirt as it is rounded and angled. I long for those old-school type of soles where it is in right angles and could dig deep into surface and stop your unintentional descent caused by gravity.
I slow my pace a bit and the soles held on the same surfaces until I pass by vegetated areas where presence of exposed roots and broken branches are numerous. Common sense dictates that no amount of good rubber would hold on wet wood especially along the grains so I chose my steps carefully but tried a step or two on bare roots. I use the foot arch but I slip dangerously sideways.
By now, boulders of all sizes begin to appear along the trail. This is the ultimate test. I start testing the grip on different kinds of rock surfaces except that which I find angled and very smooth. It held. I take steps on several rocks and I am satisfied. I used the sole edges on angled rocks and it held after a short slip of about an inch.
I jumped from one stone to another and I get to temporarily develop my confidence in my footing but when it came to a ridged rock my footing slid sideways. I stepped on it using the arch of the shoe which could not get a grip. The same result as when I step on a root earlier.
The sole is foam-injected to make it act like a soft cushion when landing on hard surfaces. The thread is of radial pattern with wave designs. One wave line run from instep to outer-heel tip and this causes slips when you step on rounded surfaces along the arch. I see no good reason why the designers decide to omit threads along the middle of the sole.
By now, I reach a stream. I opt to cross the stream with my boots on. The shoe strings are just too thin to effectively hold the boots together and they tend to slip or loose its tightness when pressure is applied or when it is wet. I may have to replace it with a thicker one from a discarded pair.
I used the same RIVERS 3514M Hike Boots the next day – August 6 – for work. I am amazed that the shoes dried quickly even as I walk a kilometer on an asphalt road that had been made wet by an early morning rain. I even walked intentionally on a wet steel plate tilted at thirty degrees but it held on and I did not feel a tell-tale sign of a slip.
I guess, this pair would serve me well in all my outdoor pursuits like multi-day hikes, crossing streams, running trails, climbing mountains or just teaching people survival skills in a bushcraft camp. I care my RIVERS like a baby and use it, as much as possible, only on the trail. It had seen constant use and work and is a sturdy pair.
But last August 26, 2012 – more than a year since I own these – the soles showed signs that it is going to dismember itself from the upper fabric, so I brought it immediately to a cobbler and have the sole sewn tight to the uppers for good. A gesture that would bring in more miles and years of its life.
Although it lived up below my expectations in a January 13, 2013 exploration of the last wild place of the Babag Mountain Range, Cebu City and, before that, it had taken me to a lot of mileage from Mt. Manunggal to Mantayupan Falls, Barili and walked on the Mananga River from Buot-Taup, Cebu City to Camp 4, Talisay City five times in a span of a year.
The RIVERS 3514M Hike Boots is, definitely, one of the best pair of hiking shoes I ever had. It had chalked up eight cross-country hikes for my Cebu Highlands Trail Project and will be ready when the ninth comes. I would purchase another pair soon as it is listed at an approximate US price of $30.41 which may change anytime but, just the same, it is quite affordable considering that it is within the P1,250-P1,350 range.
I would recommend this hiking shoes anytime for those who are into hiking among mountain trails for extended days and those who are into recreation camping.
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