Venturing into the hills and it always used to be about the boots: plenty of dubbin’ and a couple of pairs of thick socks and ‘you’d be reet’.
But come the end of a day sloshing around the uplands, your feet would be murder and your quads would tingle from hauling those substantial leather ‘boats’ around all day.
Times change, and these days you are more likely to see hill goers in cross trainers or fell running shoes (me included) dancing deftly along rocky paths.
For all of my ‘proper’ hillwalking, save for winter, I’m happy in my Inov8s… wet feet now comes with the territory and they soon dry.
But fell shoes aren’t to good for ambles with a camera, or when I’m loaded up with fishing gear for the day. In these situations, I prefer dry feet and am prepared to suffer a weight/comfort penalty as I’m not walking as far.
About a year ago I bought some new boots for this purpose, ‘cheap’ Karrimor KSB Orkney IIIs.
Karrimor used to be a great outdoor brand and I still have a Hot Rock rucksack tucked away in the garage somewhere. This served me well for nearly a decade.
Sadly, the brand was sold on and its product lines it became the mainstay of bargain bins.
The KSB Orkney III has an optimistic retail price of nearly £100, but I picked up mine for £34… and that’s for a ‘full grain’ leather boot and a Vibram sole. User views on the web ranged from satisfaction to misery (generally from those who seemed to have taken the demise of Karrimor personally). Nevertheless, I still thought they would be adequate for my needs.
The boots have Karrimor’s own Weatherlite membrane. Nothing fancy, then, and I wasn’t bothered. I’ve always treated leather boots to maintain the waterproofing and the condition. Manufacturers’ determination to feature a membrane on leather footwear seems surplus to requirement and driven by the marketing teams rather than user need.
So how have they performed the past year? The first trial of these boots was over the rough boggy hills of Kylesmorar.
The Orkneys were good. My feet never got wet and I wore them solidly for the week. They did scuff badly though and no amount of treatment since has remedied this issue (unlike my old Scarpa SLs which used to buff up rather well).
Since Scotland, I’ve used them in the Dales, across boggy Peak moorland with gaiters and in snow. They have remained waterproof and surprisingly comfortable at all times.
The Vibram sole has been reassuring in varying terrain and there are no signs of it delaminating. In fact, build quality, as a whole, has been good.
There are drawbacks, though. The ankle cuff is made from a pretty nasty plastic material that squeaks when rubbing against the boot tongue. This part of the boot also tends to get rather sweaty . I remedied the squeak by applying Vaseline to the rubbing parts.
The insole is dreadful, too. In use, it migrates to the back of the boot leaving a gap under the toes. I’ve replaced it.
The Orkney III is pretty lightweight which has got me thinking about the merits of boots versus fell shoes again. If a manufacturer were to produce a quality lightweight leather boot without a membrane (can you hear me, Brasher?) I might be tempted to go ‘old skool’ again.
For long days on the trail, I still prefer the lighter option. For knocking around, the Orkneys do a pretty decent job.