I went to the Arctic in March this year as part of a convoy of 2 Bailey of Bristol caravans and a Bailey motorhome. It was cold, as you’d expect. But not the kind of cold you get in the UK. That’s a grubby, unhappy and hysterical cold that’s usually accompanied by wind and rain and slush and traffic jams and a partial collapse of infrastructure. It’s not good when the cold bites in our little island.
But in the Arctic, as I found out, the cold is crisp and clean and dry. It’s so cold that all the moisture turns to ice and falls as snow. There are no puddles or slushy hard shoulders, no black ice and no refrozen pavements.
The further north we drove, around the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea through Latvia, Estonia and Finland, the colder it got. In Latvia we found a beach where the edges of the sea were framed by a four foot high wall of frozen sea spume. Later, in Estonia, we encountered our first deep snows. But it wasn’t until we crossed over from Tallin to Helsinki that we woke up to whiteness.
That’s when the temperature plummeted and I needed to break out the big guns. I am talking big coats and snowboard pants (I loved my Patagonia over trousers and parka), woolly jumpers (knitted by a lady in Appledore) and layer upon layer of merino (Patagonia). And of course, something good to keep the tootsies warm.
Keeping feet warm is always a priority for me. As a surfer I have known cold, especially in my feet. They are the first thing to get chilly in the water - and on the ice - and always where the misery sets in fastest. Once my feet get cold I lose interest and can't concentrate on anything other than trying to get them warm again.
A few weeks before leaving I got a call from Hi-Tec. They were calling to see if I was interested in trying some of their walking boots. Always one to spot an opportunity I suggested they could support me on my Arctic Adventure with a pair of top end winter boots. Happily they obliged and sent me a pair of their Trail OX 200i Waterproof Winter boots. All black, and looking every bit technical they certainly appeared to mean business. Only time would tell.
My standard walking boots had been warm enough until we got to Helsinki. But then I felt the cold creeping in. They are great boots but not designed for harsh winter conditions. We are talking minus 3 or 5 at the least, with some days dropping as low as minus 10.
It was time to test of the Hi-Tecs. I pulled them out of my kit bag and put them on the morning we woke up in deep drifts in near Oulu and headed out onto the ice road. Because we were filming there was a lot of waiting around standing on the ice. And that was a great time to try out the boots.
What can I say? Well, the difference was noticeable in the warmth my feet were enjoying. Or rather, they were not cold any more. And that’s important. The difference between comfort and discomfort is palpable and vast. And on the ice road the Michelin rubber soles felt stable and unslippy. Is that a good way to describe how a boot grips? Who knows! But I never fell over when I was wearing them. Okay so I sank up to my thighs in snow drifts, when I went for a walk along a frozen river in Ivalo, but I never slipped over. And that’s what matters.
So, the verdict? There’s a lot of technical detail about these boots that you can read at the end of this post. But at the end of the day the thing I wanted was comfy, happy feet. I got them.
So, you know, this is an official endorsement, from the proving grounds in the Arctic Circle, that these bad boys do the job down to minus 10. And at just £109, it ain’t going to cost the earth to get them.
And you won’t even fall over.
TECH SPEC: THE FULL GUBBINS
- Leather upper combined with a tough ballistic leather protection, ensures durability and comfort
- Thermo-Dri and 200g Thinsulate insulation traps heat and stays warm
- i-shield repels water and dirt and is resistant to stains
- Padded collar and tongue provides extreme comfort
- Gusseted tongue keeps debris out
- Micro-fleece moisture-wicking lining keeps the foot dry
- Durable nylon and rustproof hardware ensures for a secure fit
- Extended lacing system offers a more personal fit and greater adjustability
- Molded heel chassis, offers additional stability, protection and durability
- OrthoLite® Impressions insole with slow recovery foam delivers superior cushioning
- Lightweight, durable ‘fork shank’ ensures stability and a controlled flex
- Ultra impact-absorbing, high rebound XLR8>> CMEVA midsole ensures long lasting cushioning and comfort
- High performance Michelin rubber outsole delivers multi surface traction and ensures stability and security in the toughest of conditions