My first ever pair of walking boots were some Hi-Tec Matterhorns that I got while in college nigh on 17 years ago. When I returned to hillwalking about 6 years ago it was in a pair of Hi-Tec Rangers, so I have a little history of this brand. I was really interested to see how the brand had moved on from those basic offerings to the more technical boots on offer today.
The Cascadia Event WPI boots that I have reviewed are an interesting offering as they are neither fabric nor leather but made from what Hi-Tec call ballistic Nylon. Now everything that I have worn previously that have ballistic in the name, have not been what you would call comfortable as they are normally on issue to prevent you getting perforations. This material is a stiff Nylon with an almost corduroy effect though very faint. Using this material makes the boot feel as stiff as a leather boot with the light weight of a fabric one.
Starting at the bottom, there is a Vibram sole that is made specifically for Hi-Tec; the tread provides an excellent level of grip in the dry, only diminished a little in the wet. The one thing I will say is that they gum up with mud quite quickly and do require you to clear them especially if you are thinking of heading down a slope. The sole is fairly stiff which provides for a nice walking platform on the rough stuff.
The insole is of good quality and is made from three parts - first there is a hardened section to the rear that holds a full length foam insole topped a soft cloth. This insole incorporates vent holes and channels underneath that is an attempt to prevent overheating of the foot. As far as I can tell it seems to have some effect, but as with all these type of things it is hard to be sure whether it is more in the mind.
The upper of the boot has a rubber rand around the toe to protect the front of the boot and a rubber plate that runs almost all the way up the back of the boot to protect the heel. By using the Ballistic Nylon for the upper the company has created outstandingly light boots which feel like they could take some punishment. The boots incorporate Event lining which according to the companies website 'Event waterproof technology provides maximum comfort for activity in harsh environments and keeps footwear DRY INSIDE by venting perspiration vapour through millions of unimpeded microscopic pores engineered into a durable waterproof membrane.' All I can say is that I have had my feet almost to the boot tops in streams and bogs this last month and my socks have been dry at the end of the walks.
The lacing system is different to ones I have seen before, With hinged metal eyes made of rustproof brass that seem to hold the laces in place quite well, with 2 sets of hooks at the top. I have had to re-tighten the laces a couple of times each walk, but that may be down to new laces stretching.
Now, down to the two points that prevent me giving these boots a higher score, both of these points are to do with the tongue. The first point is that for all this waterproof technology and Event lining and the rest of the gubbins, the tongue is not webbed all the way to the top of the boot. It stops at the point where the lacing hooks begin, approximately 4-5cm from the top of the boot. Now as I said before they kept my feet dry but it does seem to be leaving an obvious entry point for water.
The second point I find stranger, as shown in the photo above there is a seam that runs across the back of the tongue just in line with the ankle bone. Now as far as I can see there is no point to it being there, but it is and at each end of this seam there is a small hardened lump where it has been sewn off. When the boots are laced these lumps are pushed into the front of my ankle bone which after a few miles does start to hurt a fair bit. Now according to the company website one of the technologies that these boots benefit from is XCM which from the website is 'XCM Technology elevates the V-Lite design & build philosophy. After extensive research and development, Hi-Tec introduces innovations that take seamless construction to the next level.' So seamless technology? I really don't believe that this seam has a function. Surely the tongue backing could have been made from one piece of material?
If this problem was not here I would have had no problem giving these boots a better mark. It really let them down, to the point where if these lumps don't soften in the next couple of weeks I probably wont bother with them anymore which is a shame.
Hi-Tec Cascadia Event WPI walking boots kindly supplied by Hi-Tec.