With two feet of snow on the ground, even my dog's wearing boots. There's a lot of gear reviews coming in the near future, but let's kick it off with the most essential item for any adventure: a good pair of boots.
I honestly hate most gear reviews, but maybe I'm not alone here. Is it just me, or have gear reviews just become a chance for folks to post a glowing writeup after one outing? Hell, after the unboxing even. How can you know anything about a product after one use? So I'm not going to do that. Breaking points, triple-digit mileage, working with the flaws, and lots of Beausage; these are the things you can expect in Everything Will Be Noble gear reviews. So, about these boots.
Danner's been making boots in the US for a very, very long time, and you can learn more about them on their site. The Bluelace Project, in contrast, ended its successful kickstarter in November 2013. As a backer, I was stoked to be one of the first folks to sport the Yellow Ribbon of US Manufacturing. Until that ribbon ripped, anyway.
My Danner's have been on my feet in pretty extreme conditions, locally and abroad. This pair has been my go-to boot for the past two seasons of salt, slush, and extreme cold that is bike-commuting in Chicago's winter. The soles have been incredibly impressive, and just refuse to wear down. The insides have stayed warm and dry through everything except NYC's monsoon season. I've never oiled them, and the snow cleans them up well enough that I've never bothered to do that either. I should mention I bought these second hand as well, since I can't afford $300 boots. Though these are the Grouse model, it seems they have a shorter ankle support than the current models, so I have no idea how old these boots actually are. Apparently it doesn't matter, since they just keep going.
The trade off though is the weight. These boots are super heavy, and you can feel every ounce of them after a day of hiking. I've also noticed that the leather when wet and subjected to temps under 10ºf loses all flexibility. Paired with the weight and it can feel like your feet are in casts compared to modern synthetic boots. I know lots of folks talk up Danners for hiking, and of course they were in the recent Pacific Crest Trail move Wild, but I'd prefer something a good pound (or two!) lighter. Still though, the PCT and Chicago winters are pretty extreme, but with a wool sock and the gore-tex layer these boots are an indestructible choice.
Conversely, these laces couldn't handle what the boots took in stride. Sorry about that pun. A shoelace doesn't tend to break when you've got other laces readily available, so you just tie it back together and move on. Six rips and a year later I was still wearing these damn laces. It's unfortunate really, that a product with so much press and good PR for US manufacturing didn't hold up. I'm sure Bluelace will be happy to send me a replacement pair, but before these laces I've never had a shoelace rip on me in my life, so I'm back to the brown, cotton laces that came with my invincible Danners.