And we pay for this…


Couldn’t sleep again this morning so got up and have been pottering around for a few hours now. I came across the latest Consumer magazine (NZ consumer watchdog magazine for overseas viewers) and had a read. For a while now, I’ve been thinking that some of the reporting has been rather superficial, if not downright inaccurate in some areas, and the article in the October 09 issue on tramping boots and jackets is a ripper – written by their technology writer, no less!!

High and Dry

  • One would expect Consumer to be able to source more empirical comment than from a company that is in the business. There are numerous resources available, including Google, that should allow a staff reporter to draw their own conclusions without relying on a single commercial source.
  • The implication in the ‘a boot to match’ paragraph that synthetic material boots may be more prone to leaks may be true but it is not as simple as that as many boots from synthetic and natural materials feature built-in waterproof membranes to provide waterproofing. Any boot, synthetic or natural, will let water in sooner or later – if dry feet are that essential, then find a pair of boots with a breathable waterproof membrane, or get a decent pair of Goretex socks. On a decent tramp, though, your feet will probably pump out enough moisture  from the inside of the boot that damp feet are almost inevitable – trampers should plan on drying feet, having spare dry socks, for the end of a days walking…
  • More important than insoles for the comfort of your feet is the support structure of the boot, of which the insoles are only a relatively small part – like any form of footwear the internal structure of the boot is what really defines the comfort of a boot, not the insole.
  • Soles should avoid rounded edges on the sole and at the heel so as to better dig into soft ground. The article should define what an open tread pattern actually is instead of leaving it up to the reader to interpret. Looking for a name brand sole is also a good idea.
  • It is false to state that boots with higher uppers offer more ankle support – while a higher upper may offer better protection to the lower leg and also make it more difficult for water to come in over the top of the boot (thus negating any perceived advantage from natural material boots!), they provide little in the way of extra ankle support and possibly, if laced too tightly, have an adverse ‘splint-like’ effect in restricting the natural movement of the foot and lower leg. This is why many, if not most, experienced trampers still stick with traditional ankle style boots. Ankle support comes in a rough line from the heel, just below the ankle bone to the top of the foot a la a shoe – this is why modern boot designs with extended uppers often have a lock eyelet at the ankle to gain ankle support at this point and to eliminate a requirement to tightly lace the upper part of the boot.
  • Cheap does not equal uncomfortable for footwear anymore that it does for any other items of clothing – people should buy for their requirements and shop around for the best item at the best price – I would offer that most NZ tramping shops do NOT offer the best price; or even the best advice or items in a number of cases. I have just finally worn out a pair of quality name brand leather European boots that I bought in 2000 for around $200 and replaced them with a like item for around the same cost.
  • Cheap jackets don’t necessarily equal poor or non-breathable jackets and vice versa – sometimes the label and not the material is the more significant contributor to the retail cost; there are also some quite good and inexpensive breathable fabrics around should one care to search. It is more important that the buyer select a jacket made from a material that meets their needs – in many circumstances, the good old Kiwi Swanndri still does the business as well as any high-tech material. Seam sealing in garments made from Goretex and similar materials adds considerably to the cost – I have worn both sealed and unsealed garments over the years and experienced few leaks through the seams. There is no panacea for comfort in the bush and if someone really wants to stay warm and dry then they should probably stay at home.
  • Goretex is but one of a number of different technologies for breathable waterproof materials – it is however the best and most aggressively marketed but this does not make it the best for any specific purpose. Certainly Goretex is less effective in dirty dusty environments where an osmotic membrane would be better. It’s performance is also downgraded if it is not regularly washed.
  • Under the ‘Lots of Layers’ heading, the three layers that are most important in a  breathable waterproof garment are the outer and inner layers to protect the breathable membrane, and the relatively delicate membrane itself. Without and sometimes even with especially if heavy packs are being carried, the membrane will wear through at pressure/rubbing points very quickly and with it goes the waterproofing. Any inner wicking layer is an extra and would probably be better off as a separate item as part of a structured layered clothing system (an important concept for comfortable and safe tramping that it not even mentioned in this article). The quote from Dave Stewart in this section is a blatant commercial plug that deserves no place in a supposedly neutral public service publication. I have dealt with Goretex and a number of its competitors and the statement is simply not true.
  • It is not unreasonable with 21C technology to expect a new pair of boots to be wearable out of the box. A quality boot of good design, with prestretched leather, that has been properly fitted, should be able to be worn pretty well immediately – it’s not like big boot users like the Army can get soldiers to just wear their boots for a couple of hours a day if a pair has to be replaced in the field.
  • Footwear should be cleaned and maintained with the products recommended by the manufacturer. many waxes and other cleaning products also seal the seal and prevent it breathing and drying. This can lead to a problem in boots with a built-in waterproof liner where moisture gets trapped between the outside of the waterproof membrane and the leather, leading to accelerated degrading/rotting of the leather – in worse cases with results in the tongue pulling away when the boot is being pulled on – not good in the middle of the Kaimanawas!
  • The footwear table on p24 contains a number of the inaccuracies listed above. It is also not true to say that four season boots are ‘not suitable for lighter walks’ – a good pair will be able to cover the spectrum; or to list the requirement for boot maintenance as a ‘con’ – that’s much like describing the need to periodically check a car’s oil and water as a ‘con’!

I found this article not just superficial but inaccurate and not the sort of item that Consumer has established its reputation on. Perhaps in a country like NZ, Consumer needs a specialist staff expert on the outdoors, instead of roping in its technology writer? It really gets up my nose that an organisation like this, that is a Kiwi icon for standing up for the under-dog has come to this; even more so when we pay a subscription for crappy product – maybe it’s time that Consumer reviewed itself???

In other news, Coming Anarchy has an comment on AG Parody videos which it suggests would be a great way to undermine AQ; I disagree as this reeks of once again applying a Western solution to a non-Western problem: “Agree that this may help discredit AQ in cultures like ours but I do wonder how such attempts may be viewed in the Islamic and other non-Western cultures where they may be perceived as denigrating the ‘sacrifice of the fallen’ and thus have a contrary effect? If Al-Jazzera started running pisstakes of fallen US, UK, NATO, etc soldiers, how well would it go down at home?

It also has an item on what is calls deviant globalisation i.e. when globalisation goes bad, or gets even worse depending on your POV…like the post says, possibly nothing new but also a side of globalisation not often covered articles listing globalisation as the root or a contributing cause of the world’s evils, failing nations, the price of cheese (seriously) or the demise of Coro St as serious TV drama…there’s no way the slides or video will be viewable here at home (if the internet is the information superhighway, we are on a little dirt road way up the back of Hazzard County!!) so maybe some follow-on comment when I go back to work and have broadband access again next week…

There’s been some great discussion re the Birmoverse Axis of Time on Cheeseburger (well, as good a discussion as you can get within the limitation of blog comments) – a number of contributors have been lauding the B-52 as the best bomber for the US to develop in the AoT alternate universe to polish off the bad guys in WW2 and there have been numerous statements that it’s speed and manouevrability would enable it to easily avoid German air defences like the Me-163 rocket fighter – this has been nagging me for a couple of days now and it strikes me that the Me-163 and similar in the same vein are not much different from the SA-2s that wreaked havoc over North Vietnam and parts of the Middle East in the 60s and 70s except for having a slightly brighter guidance system…so I still reckon that a. even in the AoT universe, the Germans would still have given the Allies a good run for their money in air defence and b. the B-49 would still be a way cooler option that the B-52…

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