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Though they are probably best known for their polar proven winter footwear, Canadian-based Baffin actually offers a comprehensive line of footwear for all seasons, as well as extreme weather apparel. With the very late (as usual) arrival of spring in Utah, I had the opportunity to test out the men’s Amazon shoe, which is from their Trail to Rapids series.
Constructed of what appears to be entirely synthetic materials, the Amazon is intended for hikers that plan on encountering water, or want to control foot perspiration. Described as “highly breathable”, this well-ventilated shoe has generous amounts of mesh along the sides and top. What makes the Amazon unique is that the sole contains a metallic grid for water drainage. This grid allows the water to pass through, but like the doorman at a snooty club, effectively filters out the riffraff. No one wants their shoes to become home to a small rock collection. Inside, the removable insole is perforated, with grooves on the underside that carry water out through the bottom of the shoe. The sole itself reminds me of a well-designed mountain bike tire, with large, evenly spaced lugs along the edge, and smaller, more flexible knobs down the center.
To assess these shoes, I chose to hike up and around Bridal Veil Falls, a popular destination near my home. With plenty of trails ranging from hard and loose packed dirt to broken up rock, it seemed an ideal destination. Naturally, there would be opportunities to try out the water draining abilities as well as test their traction when wet.
In preparation for my hike, my plan was to spend a day in the shoes first, just to determine if they are as indeed as comfortable as Baffin claims. Taking advantage of our casual dress policy at work, I threw them on Wednesday morning. Had I set my hair on fire, I would have gotten less attention. At the gas station on the way in, I got my usual greeting from the clerk, then he immediately asked about my shoes. And that was only the start. The downside to working with a bunch of hikers and campers is that probably a quarter of my day was spent with one shoe off, explaining the mesh in the bottom, and showing off the perforations and drain channels of the insole. Fifteen hours days in the shoes confirmed that they’re definitely comfortable. Unless you don’t like attention.
Enough of that, though. These are not for climbing stairs. When we arrived at the falls, we did some light hiking around the area to gauge the real world comfort and traction. I remained sure footed on ascents and descents, thanks to the grippy soles, which did well in all but the jagged edged, slate-like broken rocks. In all fairness, they were not designed for that kind of surface, and could have easily been shredded by some of the sharper rocks. Tackling the actual falls, I was able to effortlessly make it a good ways up, a testament to the effectiveness of the sole design. But rather than spend all my time climbing, I headed back down to the wet rocks. Crossing at a low spot, the cold water was refreshing on my feet. On the smaller rocks at the base of the falls, the shoes took it all in quite handily. It was only when I got to the larger rocks with their very slick surfaces that I slowed, then turned back. Of course, no shoes are going to get traction on anything that slippery. On the way down, I stopped for a photo op.
We took the long way back to the car, and there were no issues with friction from the wet shoes against my feet, they remained as comfortable as when dry. I could easily have been convinced to keep hiking, had we not had other things to do. An inspection of the shoes that evening turned up a bit of damage from the sharp rocks, and a large thorny seed pod of some sort wedged into one of the drains at the heel. The damage was not unexpected, as I had taken them where they were not intended to go, but they fared well enough. For hiking trails and water crossings, they should provide plenty of service. Overall, I found them to work as advertised, and based on feedback from complete strangers, they are as fashionable as they are functional. It’s refreshing when a product works exactly as intended. Note that I tested the brown – black is also available for more formal hiking adventures.
To see the full line of Baffin products, as well as read about Paul Hubner, (president of Baffin) and his trek through Nepal to the Everest base camp, please visit Baffin.com.