As I mentioned before, using approach shoes worked very well in terms of comfort and grip. LB loves the Keen Targhee IIs and they’re almost unscathed. Of course she’s only 53kg (+3kg pack) to my 78kg (+14kg pack) so they took less of a bashing. Never the less, the Montrail HurricaneRidge XCR let me down pretty badly in some respects.
These were the third pair of Montrails I’ve used. The last two were great and took quite a pounding. With this pair, the waterproofing failed on the left one within very few days of wearing them (around four or five days from memory), then the right one started to leak on the third day of the walk. Oh well, I thought, Sealskinz are a better solution anyhow.
But midway though the walk, a total of about twenty days of walking for the shoes, the plastic eyelet at the top of the lace started to tear away. The picture shows me gently lifting it away. The slightly jagged edge you can see at the bottom of the bit of plastic is meant to be stitched into the dark grey band of material. But it’s now only attached at the top.
The emergency repair kit, consisting of a good strong polypropylene thread and a darning needle, was invaluable. I sewed the second eyelet back down to the shoe and it held fine. In fact I think it’s probably stronger than the original design. The “leather” needle I bought wasn’t up to the job and bent when I was using a 5 Swiss Franc coin as a thimble.
Also, I stumbled on a rock a couple of days later, and the rock went straight through the toe of the shoe. It tore a two and a half centimetre (one inch) hole through everything except the GoreTex XCR liner. Right through the tough-looking black rubber you can see in the picture above. It was a very slight stumble, hardly broke step. In fact since I was going steeply uphill I just stopped dead in my tracks with my toe in unexpectedly close contact with the rock and a shocked expression on my face as I immediately realised what had happened.
Overall I’m not impressed with the build quality of this model especially considering I took back the first pair I bought due to a nasty stitch fault I’d somehow missed.
This has convinced me that you need to carry more than the basic sewing kit that you happened to be given in a hotel once. I’m in the process of putting together an even better repair kit based on Kevlar thread at the moment. More on that later.
I’ve yet to send the shoes back. Oddly, it’s not just laziness. They are so comfortable and, apart from the obvious failures I’ve just mentioned, have been so good to wear I’m almost loathe to part with them!
But I must. I couldn’t trust them on another long walk. Which might happen quite soon since a contract of mine is ending. I’m at a third party supplier to Northern Rock at the moment! But the contract was ending anyhow, it’s just an amusing coincidence.
Rachel bought some brand new Smartwool liner socks before we left. They were great except that one of them got a big hole through the toe during the very first day it was used. She had cut her toenails properly before the trip and none of the other Smartwool liner socks failed her.
It just shows that no matter how good a manufacturer is you should always take new gear out for at least a couple of “shakedown” weekends first.