We review Hi-Tec hiking boots during one of our walks along the waterside.
How It All Started
It all began with a belated Christmas present for a friend – an OS map of the Blackwater estuary. To be more precise a paper based explorer map (the paper bit will come in important later). It arrived in a mundane manilla jiffy bag, like lots of shiny new things do these days.
I don’t know about you, but I can examine a map for hours. Obviously the first thing you do is find where you live (if it’s on that map) or perhaps a place you’ve visited. But once that’s over with, your eyes are left to wonder, following bridleways and footpaths – through places that you’d always assumed you had no right to go; across farmers fields, MOD land or even runways! On this specific map, there are two footpaths that fit the previous description. One of them called the ‘Broomway’ goes about a mile out to sea and ends up taking the brave traveler into the MOD danger zone, and eventually if you survive onto Foulness island. The other goes right across London Southend Airport’s runway and comes out near Hi-Tec’s head quarters, a path that would literally lead the way to our choice of hiking boots a little later in this tale! So after some time of staring at this map, (pointing out the footpaths that we never knew existed), the idea was mooted: lets walk all the footpaths on this map.
There was something oddly satisfying about the idea of being able to say that we have walked all the footpaths on this map. It was suggested that, after each one was “conquered”, that we mark the map in some way. But alas (not atlas), the owner of the map found this suggested defacement of his precious new cartographic wonder too much to bear and quickly snubbed out that motion before it became too popular. And so it was settled, we would walk all the footpaths on the map.
Here’s some of the ground rules we laid down:
- Each trip must start at a town or village, and finish in another town or village.
- Each trip must be more than 5 miles in length (any experienced walkers reading this may think that this is a very low minimum millage, but some of our party are less than fit.)
- We must leave before sunrise. (we have a sunrise-o-phile in our group who must post at least 1 picture of a sunrise on Instagram per day!)
In age (and life experience) order. Jon Kenyon
- Age: 50 something
- Hobbies: Tampering with his kindle, tech stuff, walking his dog and reminiscing about trips on the Nile.
- Fitness: Good, considering
- Walking Experience: As an ex merchant seaman, he’s spent a lot of time walking. He is the most experienced in the group – in fact, he is always wearing walking boots – and is the kind of guy that would bring to the office his new boots “just to bed them in”
- Age: 40
- Hobbies: Instagram (photography), cars, Solopress, rugby.
- Fitness: Moderate (oddly fast in a straight line sprint)
- Walking Experience: Mainly urban
- Age: 32(ish)
- Hobbies: America, American food, playing football (and manager), films
- Fitness: Pretty fit
- Walking Experience: Loves a walk in the evening and is well trained at walking around American theme parks (easily covering 15 miles in a day) – and malls trying to avoid the infamous Mall Walkers
- Age: 28
- Hobbies: Gardening, walking the dog, DIY, cycling, fad diets.
- Fitness: Not bad
- Walking experience: Does enjoy walking the dog, but would rather ride
- Age: 18 months
- Hobbies: Licking cats, stealing wooden spoons, food
- Fitness: Very fit, until put on lead
- Walking experience: Has been all over the place, mainly with his shiny black pug friend Fry
Our Hiking Gear
As you have probably come to realise, we are far from battle hardened, experienced walkers. So most of us (apart from Jon) have only the basic walking equipment, and the ‘cooler’ younger walkers at the very beginning only had canvas trainers to their name. It was a wet, windy, trudging, mucky mile into the first walk. We decided to invest in proper walking apparel for next time!
When we returned to base, our first port of call was Google, but then it dawned on us, as a hundred different brands immediately popped up in the search results, if we are using this map as our main inspiration, surely it should help guide us to our footwear? – and with the strange (slightly new age) mantra going round in our heads, we set about finding one. It didn’t take us long before one of us remembered that Hi-Tec was based in Southend, remember the path that lead to Hi-Tec? Perfect, we thought, but do Hi-Tec sell good walking shoes? We all had hazy memories of generic, white Velcro trainers… the kind your mum might get you for PE. So it was, with some hesitation that we logged onto the site, and were immediately taken aback by the vast selection of hiking boots, running shoes, and even trendy canvas trainers. Excellent! Now we just needed to find a pair we liked each. It was at this point that the burden of choice hit home: sometimes too many options make decisions difficult, especially for the naturally indecisive.
We all decided that we would get different shoes. This way we can asses which boot in particular was the best for walking. Plus we thought it would look uncool if we had matching footwear.
Jon’s hiking boots
Jon loves tech and this boot is packed full of it. He was particularly excited by the notion of the “rolling gate system”. The boot is designed to actually help you walk, by literarily rolling the sole of your foot helping you to move. It also features a Dri-Tec waterproof membrane, and if there’s something you want from a boot, it’s the ability to stay dry. It’s not likely you’ll get trench foot on a 4 hour walk, but it’s a lot more comfortable if you’re not walking in your own shoe foot spa. These boots also made it to the top 10 best walking boots by the independent.
Andy’s hiking boots
Ok, it might be a strange choice to go for something described as a winter boot for a walking shoe, but Andy really liked the look of the boot, in particular the fur lining. The fact that they looked cool, and promised to be waterproof pretty much had him sold.
Shaun’s hiking boots
Hi-Tec Bergamo Waterproof Men’s Hiking Boot RRP £179.99
So Jon had chosen the critics choice and, as it turned out, Shaun’s first choice. But as we had made a pact that we would each get a different style, Shaun was forced to go back to the drawing board. Not wanting to be outdone, he sorted the list by price (highest to lowest) and worked his way down. It was not long before he stumbled upon these beauties – the grip on the sole looked fantastic, and they had a bit of tech that Jon’s boots lacked; an “Ortholite” insole for ultimate comfort.
Adam’s hiking boots
I was last to decide on my boots. I wanted to wait until everyone else had made their choice before making mine, hoping that the smaller choice would help narrow the selection. But all it did was highlight tech that they had that I didn’t want to miss out on! In the end, these boots stood out as the obvious choice. The ‘V-Lite’ technology is a special build which makes these boots really lightweight and they have Ortholite insoles for spongey comfort. Also the “Vibram” took me back a few years when me and a few friends used to practice Parkour (for those that don’t know, it’s the sport where people hurl themselves up, across, down buildings for fun). We were never very good – but it was great fun, and we had all the right gear. The reason I mention it is that a Vibram sole was something you’d specifically look for in the shoe, as all that jumping from silly heights tends to play havoc on your feet without the right protection.
I was torn between this boot and the Vi-Lite Peak. Whilst the other boot packed more features, this one just looked cool. I love the retro style, they are based on Hi-Tec’s first hiking boot, a British design from 1978. So that combined with DRI-TEC waterproof membrane, made the choice between them near impossible! In the end I decided, if Shaun could spend £179.99 in a pair of boots, then I could spend £154.98 on two… so I did! So we had made our choices, placed our orders and swiftly received our deliveries. It was time to put our boots to the test. We thought it would be a great idea to review our new hiking boots after each walk, as we felt that there is a lack of amateur, hobbyist reviews on the web – though there are plenty of great sites offering “proper” reviews, we struggled to find anyone who was new to walking giving their opinion.
Wallasea Island to South Fambridge Walk
I walked from Wallasea Island to South Fambridge, Hockley.
- Distance: 6.8 miles
- Average Speed: 2.4mph
- Calories Burned: 948 (that’s 1.93 Big Macs!)
By the time we had decided on our shoes, we had already partaken in two of our planned walks. Our first walk in Hi-Tecs was therefore Wallasea Island to South Fambridge. We decided the best way to review the hiking boots would be to focus on a different pair on each walk, starting with my Hi-Tec V Lite’s.
We awoke at what some may call an ungodly hour (4:30 am!) in order to see the sun rise over the River Crouch. Mycroft was reluctant to get up and out, particularly as it was a foggy and cold day, and the ground was laden with dew (he hates wet paws). The thick fog allowed for some spectacular, yet somewhat eerie photos, and we spent much of the walk taking pictures, which led to a low average speed. We opened our disappointing supermarket sandwiches at about 0800 hours. I would not recommend tuna before 10 am. Mycroft however, inhaled the remnants. Shortly after this, we were pleasantly surprised to see the shiny black head of a seal, bobbing along the river. The excitement was short lived as he quickly disappeared into the muddy grey water. (Possibly because I excitedly shouted “SEAL!!”). Luckily I caught a short film of the little chap.
We were back in Fambridge by 0900 hours, feeling pleasingly tired. Although not a remarkably long walk, the fog in the air and water on the ground made for a particularly atmospheric journey.
Adam’s Review Of The Hi-Tec V Lite Men’s Waterproof Hiking Boots
So, how did the boots fare? I wore the Hi-Tec V Lite Men’s Waterproof Hiking Boot. They were light to the foot – much lighter than my every day trainers. They gave great ankle support, which in all honestly took a little getting used to for a man who had never worn a hiking boot before. However, after a good ten minutes wear I adjusted to this additional support, and in fact found it reassuring when walking over wet and often very uneven terrain. Considering that the ground was positively saturated by dew (my jeans were soaked through at ankle level after just a few strides), my feet remained toasty and dry for the entire 6.8 miles.
They really did do what they said on the tin, and gave me as much water protection as wellies without the discomfort that comes with walking in wellies for more than half an hour. My feet felt comfortable throughout the walk, thanks to the Ortholite insole, and did not feel in any way achy or sore when I got home, even after 4 hours of walking.
I felt the overall quality of the boot was good, hopefully to last me for years to come. If I had the choice again, I would certainly pick these boots- the fact they kept my feet dry is a huge plus- there really is nothing more likely to spoil a walk than a soggy foot. I’m looking forward to wearing these on many more walks to come, and must admit am feeling a little smug with my choice! I’m keen to see how the other boots measure up on our next walk.
I give these 9/10. The only reason I knocked them down to a 9 was because they took me a while to get used to the extra ankle support.
South Fambridge to Hullbridge
I walked from South Fambridge to Hullbridge
- Distance: 8.2 miles
- Average Speed: 2.7mph
- Calories Burned: 1,144 (2.33 Big Macs!)
I must mention at this point that sunrises were becoming earlier and earlier, and after our last walk waking up at 4.30am in order to catch one (having the subsequent effect of resetting our body clocks for the rest of the weekend) – we decided to give the sunrise a miss. That said, we still decided on an early start and arranged for the 4 of us to meet and start the walk at about 5:30am.
So, we started our walk in South Fambridge. Following the footpath along the coast. Again the route was plagued by long (wet) grass, but we were now joined by a cloud of blood thirsty gnats, a short swift jog would lose them for a while. But they’d always track you down in the end. After about 45 minutes of walking, we were approaching Brandyhole Reach. At this point, I should mention that earlier in the week we had spent a little time looking at the map and cross referencing our route with some satellite images. During this research, we had noticed that some of the published footpaths appeared to cross over large expanses of water. However, we laughed this off and said that it would be alright on the day, because the maps must be correct.
How wrong we were! It turned out that the footpath that is supposed to follow the riverbank is completely impassable, with large inlets of water and many acres of completely impenetrable marshland in our way. So, we decided to go ‘off piste’ and forge our own path.
This was possibly not the best idea that we’d ever had. The very wet grass soon became waist high and at times we had to force our way through what seemed like impenetrable jungles, (but were in reality just a few small trees). On top of all this, on several occasions we found that what had seemed a good way to go was eventually blocked by water and so we had to backtrack several times.
Whilst all of this sounds like a bit of a nightmare, it in fact turned out to be quite an adventure, and we eventually arrived at Brandy Hole feeling wet and tired, but quite pleased with ourselves overall. The next section of the walk took us from Brandy Hole along the waterfront at Hullbridge. The interesting aspect of this was just how many extremely expensive looking houses we passed. And even more amazing was the fact that many of them looked to be uninhabited! The highlight of this section was the packed lunches that Andy had kindly made for us. Mine consisted of peanut butter and jam and were simply scrumptious. For the final march into Battlesbridge we had to resort to walking alongside the road. This was most disappointing, for as well as being boring, it also felt a little dangerous as we constantly had to keep our eyes open for the early Saturday morning traffic that seemed intent on running us down. We all made a mental note to try and plan all future walks so that they would not include any roads. We rolled into Battlesbridge at about 11am, tired and weary, but with a great feeling of accomplishment. The River Crouch had thrown its worst at us and we had triumphed. And now, it’s onwards to the next walk.
Jon’s Review Of The Hi-Tec Altitude Pro RGS Men’s Hiking Boots
I must say from the outset that these boots can be worn ‘out of the box’. By this, I mean that there is absolutely no ‘wearing in’ required. They were completely comfortable from the get go. These boots are advertised as waterproof. Today’s walk was an excellent test for this claim, and I’m happy to report that they passed this test with flying colours. My feet were kept completely dry and warm throughout – not a drop of water made it into the boots. The big feature of these boots is the ‘Vibram RollinGait System’, (RGS). By means of a curved sole, this claims to reduce muscle fatigue and ankle strain. Once again, I can say that these boots performed admirably in this area. During the detours that we had to make during this walk, my feet were always getting great traction, even when the terrain was particularly uneven. On the whole, I can’t fault these boots at all and wouldn’t hesitate to give them a 10/10 recommendation.