Everyone says that the army is issuing better kit all the time, and that's very true, but sometimes it's worth shelling out those extra beer tokens to ensure you get the best of gear.
Looking at the old Black Cadillac's, it's time to upgrade to a Porsche, and that comes in the form of the Altberg Sneeker MkII.
Boots fall into a very specific category, in that they are one of the few items which has so many boxes to tick. It has to be light, it has to be comfortable, it has to be durable yet flexible and as always, able to keep out the water without making your feet sweat buckets.
The Sneeker Mk II manages to hold its own in these categories, proving that it can be done without having to look like you're wearing a pair of trainers or moon boots.
The boot comes in at around £150-£130 depending where you shop, and at that, it sounds pricey, but it comes with a few bonuses that'll give you plenty of future proofing.
Firstly, it's made by, funnily enough, Altberg, and they have a factory in Richmond where you can go to have a custom fit or even to send old boots for a professional re-soling. No need to buy another pair three years down the line, just send them back and get them repaired by the same guys that made them.
That's all good and well, but how does it actually feel to wear?
Well, as is often commented on, boot sizing can vary wildly from company to company. What is a 10M in a Lowa might be an 11M in an Altberg, and with Altbergs, specifically the Sneeker, whilst I wear a 10M, I would suggest trying an 11M, as the tops of the toes tend to be slightly crushed. This is a problem throughout the industry though, and it's to the stage where Clothing Stores now state the relevant size adjustments for what boots you're being issued with.
The actual boot itself is incredibly light weighing only 640grams, with a very close fitting feel once tightened and tied up. The sole flexes nicely whilst tabbing and excels when you start to run. This is a feature the company mentions several times on their website and is obviously a big thing. It also has very good ankle support, having gone over several times on patrols but without injury due to the support provided.
Stitching is also to a very high standard, with little if any fraying of stitching. As mentioned before though, thanks to the Altberg factory, any problems with stitching and the boot can be sent straight back to be repaired or replaced.
They claim it's not waterproof and is fully breathable, and whilst there was little sweating whilst marching and running apart from what would naturally occur, it also took quite some time for water to begin to seep in. This though is down to your boot maintenance just as much as the boots design though as everyone knows that a good application of polish and waterproofing can protect against water seepage.
Another bonus to the boot is that unlike many other boots, there is no rubber seal around the base of the boot and the sides of the sole, which means there's nothing to peel away as tends to happen with other companies boots. The only possible point for peeling to happen is at the toe end, where a small ridge comes up half way. However after all this time that's yet to happen.
The only issue I had with the boot is the eyelets for the laces. There is an eyelet on both sides that sits much further back along the boot, and I tend not to use it, but I find when running that they catch on the back of the opposite calf and causes bruising. Maybe it's because I'm running in an odd fashion, but it does happen, and it is not only irritating but painful too.
However, that's only a slight problem, and not one that everyone who wears the boot experiences.
So overall, when you add in the reputation of Altberg, the services provided such as custom fitting and repairs, and the fact that this boot is possibly one of the best, if not the best, I have ever used on Operations and Exercise, then the Altberg Sneeker MkII rates above the rest.
UPDATE: Six years on, a follow up shows that the Sneeker model stayed true to the promises made by Alt-berg. A boot to last that'll take all challenges. I did have a small recurring issue with the Sneeker over time which saw me lose a big toenail a few times, however I never made the move to a size up - they grow back after all!
The one big change to the Alt-berg brand is that the company halted any refurbishment of old boots a few years back, which lost a large chunk of appeal. They basically stated it wasn't economically viable to repair old boots, they were losing a fortune from it.
So whilst the AKU boots are my personal favourite for all general conditions, when you need a military or police boot that's going to protect you and get the job done, the Sneeker MkII still wins through in my books.