New Gear: Salomon XA Pro 3D

Last week, coming back from Zealand Falls hut, I was noticing that with every step, I was feeling an odd twinge in my knees. It wasn’t a pain, per se, but the fact that I’d been wearing a four pound pair of hiking boots all day was becoming acutely apparent. I’d read a paper describing research the British Ministry of Defence did back in the mid-80s, where they found that one pound of weight on the feet was worth an equivalent in energy expenditure as 5 pounds in the average soldier’s rucksack. It was obvious that with summer here, the boots needed to be swapped out for trail runners.

As a side note, the scale of “little things” in hiking becomes huge with every passing hour. A tiny ache last week when I was coming back from a 22 mile hike was multiplied by about 53,000 — the number of steps I took that day, per my step counter. One can’t ignore those little things, because they add up over the course of a day.

Also, I feel the need to emphasize: I don’t think of this as an upgrade; more of a side-grade. My Lowa Camino GTX boots are great at their job. In the colder weather, when I’m wearing some kind of traction device, they’re in their element. They give great support when I’ve got snowshoes on, or crampons, or what have you. And in the cold, they keep my feet toasty. Water crossing? No biggie, because of the Gore Tex. 10/10, I highly recommend. They’ve really done me well in the past 200+ miles, and I look forward to many more miles with them when the colder weather returns.

However, the water crossings these days, while still cold, aren’t “icy”, and the water levels are getting lower with each passing day. (Indeed, in another month, that cold water will become pleasant.) The argument for a heavy boot at this point in the season is thin. To be clear, the Lowas are four pounds, while the Salomons are half that. By the MoD’s math, I’ve just taken the metabolic equivalent of 10 pounds out of my pack.

I took the new Salomons out today on a quick couple miles up the Marion Davis Trail, and down the Wapack Trail, on Pack Monadnock. It was a quick hour+, but enough to suss out any major problems. While I still have questions about what might happen if the lacing system breaks on-trail, I’m happy to report they delivered the goods in all other regards. There was a slight issue with traction on wet rocks, but then again, water on rocks might just as easily be grease with any kind of footwear. On all other surfaces, they had great traction. I can’t say that they’ll make me faster, but I did notice I had a bit more energy than normal. So we’ll see. I’m planning a hike up Adams shortly, which will be a truer test.

Stay tuned.

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