Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Walking boot sole design

What’s the best type of sole for a hiking boot?

We regularly get questions and comments about the soles of walking and hiking boots:
  • What’s best for mud?
  • What’s best for roads?
  • Why do mine always slip on wet rock?
So, here’s a quick guide to some of the different materials and grip patterns we know of.


  • Historically used to give extra grip to leather-soled footwear on soft surfaces.
  • Very durable.
  • Good grip on snow and ice.
  • Poor grip on hard, flat surfaces.
  • Very poor cushioning.
  • Heavy.


  • Used on boots designed for fly fishing.
  • Excellent grip on smooth, wet rock.
  • Poor grip on mud.
  • Not very durable.

Smooth rubber

  • Used on rock climbing and bouldering shoes.
  • Excellent grip on dry rock, due to providing maximum surface area of rubber in contact with rock.
  • Dangerously poor grip on wet grass and mud.

Heavily cleated rubber

  • Open, ‘tractor tyre’ type tread pattern, used on some military jungle boots.
  • Excellent grip on mud.
  • ‘Lumpy’ sole makes walking less comfortable on hard surfaces.
  • Reduced surface area of lugs accelerates wear and reduces grip on hard surfaces.

Cleated rubber

  • Designed to give a good balance of grip and durability under most conditions.
  • Rubber grips hard surfaces, such as rock and asphalt.
  • Cleats give ‘bite’, providing extra grip on soft surfaces like wet grass and mud.
  • Used on the majority of modern hiking and mountaining boots.
  • Will not give the best performance in all conditions, but will give good performance in most conditions.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Climbing Kili as a novice

About twelve months ago, I accidentally fell against my iPad and ended up agreeing to climb Kilimanjaro in the company of ten teenagers, an ex-marine and a Real Tennis coach. I had done some gentle rambling in the Lakes, but never something as serious as this. Never something with so much 'up'. Never so many contours in uncomfortably close proximity.

Seriously doubting my inner Diana Ross and clutching an impenetrable equipment list that was four pages long (what is 'wicking'? Does it hurt?) I arrived at Lockwoods in a state of near-gibbering terror and confusion. Thankfully, over the course of several visits, Hayley was able to reduce the epic list into something more manageable and, with her calm and expert advice, sorted me out so that I was raring to go (well, squeaking with faint terror, but in superb kit). A significant part of my subsequent enjoyment of the experience is down to her and when I do it again I know exactly to whom to turn.

Here is a selection of her advice which proved so useful:

1. Feet

In ordinary conversation, the word 'Kilimanjaro' is usually followed immediately by the phrase: 'have you walked in your boots?' I had an old, cheap pair which I had had for years and which worked beautifully. Socks, however, were a different matter. Here too, I thought I was sorted as I went out and spent a fortune on a known market-leader. I strutted out wearing them for 14 miles and my big toenail promptly fell off. Hobbling up to Hayley, she prescribed some merino blend Teko socks which proved much more comfortable and which could be worn a couple of times up the mountain. On her advice, I also kept a clean pair in reserve for summit day. Despite taking enough Compeed to resurface Heathrow, I didn't have a single blister.

2. Rucksack

One of the most wonderful, but equally utterly galling, elements of Kili is the amount of porters you end up taking (Roman Abramovich took 105, by the way, and he still didn't summit). They will carry your pack with most of your kit and you get used to seeing it being whisked past you as the porters accelerate up vertical slopes, all the time calling 'Pole Pole' ("Slowly, slowly") to the Englishmen below who are climbing with the rapidity of moss. There are times when you will wear your bag however, and Hayley was able to suggest a range both in price, weight and complexity. I have a long back and she was able to select ones tailored accordingly and helped me to adjust it so that the straps fitted comfortably (to be clear, I only put it on upside down once). We settled on the Osprey Talon 33 and as it turned out, my pack was the smallest on the trip (some of the boys had brought ones worryingly reminiscent of bodybags), but ample for my needs and much less tiring for me (or, more usually, my porter).

3. Wicking

At least when it came to clothing, I felt I was on firmer ground. I had some old skiing base layers, some fleeces, a few cotton t-shirts to throw into the mix and a good solid jacket. When I explained this, the expression I received was as if I had kicked the family puppy. Cotton, it was declared, was verboten. If photos were to emerge of me wearing cotton on the mountain, then there would be repercussions, I was told. My jacket was also dismissed with a pitying glance. Apparently, attempting to wear it at altitude would be like boiling myself in a bag. If I wanted to emulate a sautéed potato, then I should go right ahead, but if I had sense then I should consider my ability to wick.

I had not encountered wicking before and was concerned lest it was another element of climbing that I would be able to fail in. Luckily, I was provided with a couple of tight-fitting layers, some more generous long-sleeved base layers and a couple of light jumpers all in Merino wool by Icebreacker. Over the top of this went a breathable and waterproof Berghaus Paclite jacket, which was incredibly light.   I was also recommended a Rab Microlight down jacket but as I tend to over heat I refrained, but it looked very warm and very light!  When compared to the kit that everyone else had brought, I seemed perilously underweight. I had no heavy fleeces nor voluminous down jackets. As the night of the summit drew near, I began to fear, at the least, a frost-bitten nipple or two. However, the advice of Lockwoods was not to be doubted and stepping out of the tent at 4800m at midnight, I was toasty warm and continued to be, even up to 5300m in the clear, wintry, early hours. What was even better was that everyone else was dressed like a cushioned barrel, while I had the freedom to swing my arms; and when the sun rose over the roof of Africa - and I burst into tears and the boys burst into the Lion King (blame oxygen deprivation and exhaustion) - I could easily strip off as the heat rose rapidly.

4. Water

This tip was from Moira-Ann and was a life-saver. Unless you are taking a water purifying filter pump (I think this is what it was called) you will need to purify your water on the mountain. Chlorine Dioxide tablets are instantaneous and tasteless and so is ideal for the mountain. Unless you run out halfway up, like we did. We were thus reliant on the standard Katadyn water purification tablets which take half an hour and leave your mouth tasting as if a badger died only a little way upstream. Moira-Ann suggested taking Robinson's Squash'd as a lightweight way of flavouring the water. These proved essential and really helped some of the boys consume their 2 and sometimes 3 litres of water a day.

5. Toiletries and Mosquitoes

Strangely enough, personal hygiene somehow loses its importance by the fourth day. Everything - let's not get too detailed here, but believe me, everything - is covered in or contains the very fine mountain dust. However, as we discovered, a stomach bug can go round a group seemingly in minutes, so it's important to keep as clean as you can. Here the all purpose soap that Hayley recommended was very useful, along with a lot of hand sanitiser.

If you are staying below the mosquito line (which starts around the gates, usually), then many people recommend odour-free toiletries as ways of avoiding their attention. Hayley also provided me with an easily-assembled mosquito net.  Most hotels and hostels will provide one, but if you get a new one then the insecticide will still be fresh.

6. Sleeping bag

Finally, it seemed like a luxury at the time, but a black silk sleeping bag liner (again, just a little uncomfortably close to a shroud - perhaps buy the pink one next time) proved essential. We were hiring our bags from the tour company and we were pleased to discover on arrival that they had been freshly washed. However, this meant that they were VERY damp and possibly had been laundered due to the previous occupant dying in residence. The liner also added an extra layer of warmth, essential on mornings such as day 5 when my trousers had frozen to the outside of the bag, leaving me resembling a grumpy Jabba the Hutt.

7. Diamox

Just a contribution to the eternal debate on Diamox. None of our team took it and all bar two summited (the two that did not were due to the stomach bug and exhaustion). However, we did encounter a lady from China who had been taking it since arrival in country. She was being sick so frequently that she walked with a roll of loo-paper around her neck. We did not see her again after day 4.

Overall, I am very grateful to Hayley et al at Lockwoods for their advice which made climbing Kili such a fantastic experience. To put it in perspective, I was taking out some of my purchases from a Lockwoods bag I had with me in camp at 4800m, and my ex-marine tent-mate turned to me and said: "Lockwoods? Amazing place. Did you know they are the best boot-fitters in Britain? And great for  other outdoor stuff?"

Well, yes, actually, I definitely did know..

Posted by: Tom Barfield - customer

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

What to do in the Summer Holidays?

Its that time of year again when the kids are home and you have to find something to do with them!  Yes it’s the school 6 week holidays. 

So what do you do with them over the holidays? Well, we thought we would let you know of some of our favourite UK destinations that may help give you some ideas.

Amber, one of our walking boot fitters, loves North Yorkshire, in particular Richmond: 

“It is a beautiful part of the country with something for all the family.  The town has a bit of a buzz to it so that you do not feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, but at the same time there is enough countryside to make it feel a world away.  There are some fabulous walks in the Yorkshire Dales and hours can be spent exploring them”.

An interesting fact; the Alt-Berg factory is based in Richmond.  This is one of our main walking boot manufactures and they still have full operations here.  It is definitely worth a visit to get a feel for the love that goes into these great boots.

Carol, one of our clothing experts, has recently been to the Campsite Devon Cliffs and believes south is the way forward:

“The whole coastline around there is natural and untouched.  It is therefore stunning, with the dramatic cliffs dropping down to miles and miles of golden sand”.

For the keen walkers amongst you this area is part of the Jurassic Coast that makes up the South West Coastal Path.  This gives a slightly more challenging coastal walk but does allow you to get away from the tourist crowds and admire the sea views from different remote areas.  This is great for family walks as the coastline can be taken in bite size chunks that are perfect for all abilities.

If the beach life is for you then the miles of sandy beach at the bottom of the dramatic cliffs is where you will want to be.  The beach is big enough so that you can have plenty of space to enjoy quality family time without feeling squashed out by the other beach users.

Russell, another of our walking specialists loves to go walking, and suggests the Elan Vally. 

It is one of the areas of Wales that caters for all levels of walking, as well as loads of mountain biking.  All the main walks start at the visitor’s centre and head of from there.  This means they are well signposted and easy follow so only basic map reading is needed.  However there is also plenty of areas for the more adventures out there to go and explore.

“A must see is the Nant-Y-Gro-Dam which became famous thanks to the Dambuster Bouncing Bomb.  This dam was used to test the bomb during its design and with out it the Dambusters raid would not have happened”. 

It is also in a beautiful area so if the historical pull is not enough for you we are sure that the pictures area will.

For those of you who cant get enough of the ski slopes, Robin one of our boot fitters and also a Ski race coach and instructor, has in the past spent summers race coaching in preparation for the following winter.

“Summer is where the basics are consolidated and new equipment is tested.  For a long time in the UK this was done on the Dry Ski Slopes, of which there are still over 50 throughout the country.  However there are a growing number of indoor snow slopes which provide more natural and better training facilities.”

You don’t have to be a racer either.  Facilities such as Tamworth Snowdome, Xscape at Milton Keynes and the Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead provide a wide range of snow-related activities during the holidays, including beginner ski lessons.  Get ready for that first winter holiday!

Away from the snow Robin takes the family to St Andrews with hills nearby for waking and great beaches of Chariots of Fire Fame.

Many More…. 

So there are a few ideas to get you started on things to do over the summer holidays.  Hopefully this will help you plan a fab 6 weeks with the kids.  But if you need a few more ideas we will post a few more later in the month

Friday, 20 June 2014

Camping at a Festival

It's Glastonbury time and whilst there are many seasoned festival goes out there not everyone is a regular camper.  Everyone knows that they need a tent, sleeping bag and some form of mattress to go camping but it’s the other little things that they may not be so sure of!  There are lots of lists out there for the “essentials” but most of these are for your personal hygiene and safety!  So we thought we would put together our 5 camping tips for a festival so that your tent becomes your home for the few days that you are raving in a field.

·     Groundsheet

Most tents, whatever their quality level are waterproof, however there are different levels of waterproofing!  We understand that you wouldn’t want to take an expensive tent to a festival as it may get ruined so any help in making a budget tent waterproof is a good idea.  Even if it does not rain whilst you are at the festival (rare in the UK!) dew and ground moisture can easily seep into your tent so pitching it on a groundsheet is a great way to ensure that you have a dry grounding.  Remember, you lie on the ground so a dry base means a dry bed, and there is nothing worse than after a day of hard dancing than getting in to a damp bed!  Also if you get a groundsheet that has a bigger footprint than your tent this will give you a good doormat, a space to remove your shoes before entering your inner sanctuary.

·      Mallet

Now we know this sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many people we have seen trying to put tent pegs in with their shoes as they have forgotten a mallet.  If you are not a regular camper you may not know that a tent does not include a mallet and without one, especially if the ground is hard pegs will fight back.  Please take a mallet and not a hammer!  This is so that you do not break every peg! A hammer will quite easily bend a peg instead of allowing it to slide into the ground!  So a wooden or rubber mallet is essential!

·      Camping Chair

Some people may think a camping chair is a luxury for a festival but we would disagree. This is not a luxury, it is a must!  This is not a school assembly! Anyone over school age, sitting on the floor all day will soon have aches and pains they just don’t need. This is also a British summer, and so the ground may not be an inviting place, so having a safe haven of a chair is a godsend.  The chair does not have to be expensive but do remember the more you pay the more likely the chair will survive the weekend and will be lighter to carry!

·      Cooker

The morning after the night before needs a cup of tea. Heading out to face the queues, especially if it is not the best of weather, can be avoided with one nifty little piece of kit.

If gas is allowed at the festival you are going to then a portable cartridge gas stove is probably the safest one to have.  This gives a nice wide base so the stove will not fall over and also a large flame so a kettle boils quickly

If gas is not allowed then a solid fuel pocket stove is the way forward.  The little burner is sturdy enough that it will not fall over and 4 squares of fuel is enough to make your kettle whistle in know time.

Just don’t forget the kettle!

·      Water Container

Water is always available at a festival and is probably one of the only free things on offer!  Having a larger water container that you can keep at your tent for drinking, washing and cooking is a great time saver!  The best kind for this is a collapsible one!  This means it is small to carry when empty and so easy to get into the festival ground.  Then when your tent is all pitched and you have made a little home for your self you can go fill it up and be sure you have water to quench your thirst when returning home.

So there you have it our 5 tips for making camping at a festival bearable.  However we are sure there are many other tips out there so please feel free to comment and add your "festival camping survival" tips.  There is know reason why camping should be slumming it and with a few carful purchases it can feel like the Ritz!  A festival should not be survived or endured it should be celebrated and loved.  With these few tips it will be!