Unless you’re a professional hiker it only seems logical to buy boots that are suitable for working and hiking. First, I’ll discuss two kinds of working and hiking boots I recommend and then tell some working and hiking stories to explain my reasoning.
Dunlop Purofort Explorer
C922033.05 Unisex Safety Wellington Boots
These boots have been described as excellent snow boots, but I had no problem wearing a similar pair in an underground mining environment where the wet bulb temperature would sometimes exceed 26° C/78.8° F, which is extremely humid (steam bath). In summer these “wellies” have been designed so that you can roll the tops right down quite easily.
These Dunlops have a safety rating, so they are definitely suitable for any workplace. They’re flexible and the sole curves up slightly at the toe which allows you to run on the balls of your feet quite nimbly. They won’t feel “clompy”.
One innovative feature of the Dunlop Purfoot Gumboot you can see is the gap or slot before the heel. This feature allows you to feel perfectly secure when climbing a ladder when conditions are greasy or icy underfoot. Also, if you were to look at the sole, you would see that it has been made by Vibram (yellow trademark) who produces soles with an, especially “grippy” rubber compound (they also make the running slippers you may have seen).
An accessory that would go well with these boots are the Bama Sokkets described as ideal for wellington boots; keeping your feet warm in the cold, or dry in the heat. These Dunlop “wellies” are a good solid boot and well worth the money if you find your self working, camping, or hiking in the cold or wet.
Argyle Zip safety steel-capped work boots
Since I don’t usually wouldn’t go hiking or working in the cold or wet, my choice was the Steel Blue Argyle Zip Safety Steel Cap Work Boots. They are half the price of the wellingtons, though still relatively expensive (around $175). They’re very popular in Australia.
Workboot Quality: Well worth the cost!
My working-underground-days were back in the 1980s. Although I never bothered to find out the exact price, I was 100% certain that the footwear issued by the company (Dunlop) was top quality – workplace safety was taken very seriously.
A few years ago I bought a pair of Asics running shoes to replace my old ones. I bought a pair that was $100 cheaper than normal thinking they must have been on sale. I immediately got blisters which had never happened before. I didn’t think much about it at the time, I just slapped on a bandaid and ran in my old runners until the blisters healed.
A few months later, I noticed that these new runners had put red bumps on my heals and I was still experiencing some pain while running. I decided to cut out the lining at the heel with a pair of side cutters. I considered that I had purchased the wrong size.
While checking on this, I discovered something I hadn’t considered. The “new” runners had been made in Vietnam, and the many I’d worn before had been made in China.
The next pair I bought were the more expensive ones. I realized something worth remembering; there are probably many brands today that source manufacturing in more than one location, and my advice – when it comes to purchasing a so-called “trusted” brand of footwear – always go for the more expensive model.
Good boots – A valuable possession
I grew up in the mining town of Broken Hill in far western NSW, in Australia. After finishing high school, I took up an electrical apprenticeship with a major mining company. In those days the unions were still strong and in terms of work gear, we were relatively spoiled. Every 6 months we were issued 2 sets of work clothes and boots. One pair of these boots lasted me more than 2 years. After 6 years I had quite of these steel-toed suede Dunlop work boots – nothing fancy but they were hard to wear out and good for camping and hiking, or working in the garden, for example. I sorely missed them later after selling the unworn boots before leaving Broken Hill.
Hiking Near Broken Hill
One of the best hiking expeditions I’ve ever had was hiking to the east of Broken Hill.
We were dropped off outside the old Royal Flying Doctor Base. It was a hot windy day, there were three of us. Our leader organizer may have had a compass but he knew where he was going. We had three days and two nights ahead of us. We could carry enough water for 5 or 6 hours, so our course needed to be form water source to water source.
Not only was it very hot and windy, but it was also very dusty so it was difficult for me to pay much heed to where we were going. Fortunately, we had insect repellent because another major difficulty would have been the flies. The flies around Broken Hill can drive you crazy. Our first landmark was a rail line which we were able to follow to Stephen’s Creek Hotel where we were able to refill our water bottles.
We set camp about 200m further down the creek in the dry creek bed. In a dry climate the afternoons cool off relatively quickly, and the wind had died down. The temperature had been 100 degrees, according to somebody outside the pub. That night the wind picked up again, so we spent the night huddled together in a two-man tent through a terrible dust storm.
After the dust storm
On the second day, it was much cooler and easier. We made our way to Stephen’s Creek Reservoir and then on to a windmill and tank we were able to have a swim.
We set some rabbit traps and slept under the stars. Our method of cooking was to open a can and place it in the coals of the fire. The cans could be handled with a fork slotted where the lid is still attached to the can (like a handle).
On the last day, we climbed to the top of Mount Can where there was a large pyramid of rocks that contained a glass jar full of messages. We left messages and made our way down to the pick-up point and had lunch in a dry creek bed.
On the way down we started talking about hiking boots. Our leader had propper boots (slow but comfortable), my other friend had sports shoes (fast but uncomfortable), and I was wearing school shoes (slow and uncomfortable). My problem was that I was only 10 years old and only owned three pairs of shoes: cricket shoes, football boots, and battered school shoes. My feet were hurting badly coming off that high hill, I’d been okay till that point, but it was such a great adventure.
The Milford Track
This was a five-day trek, from Lake Te Anau over the mountains and into Milford Sound, and it was very instructive as far as hiking footwear was concerned.
Mum and Dad, my brother and sister, did the Milford track the easy way.
I was fourteen and my brother and sister younger. We stayed in huts along the way, but we still had to cover the same distance as the walkers who were roughing it.
From memory, we did about 10 to 12 miles a day. If you go on the internet looking for pictures of the Milford Track, It’s kind of funny because it’s never raining, which is a lot different from reality.
As “hotel walkers” (there were also “freedom walkers”), we got to stay in huts where we would have dinner and breakfast and then onto the next hut for lunch each day. At night we would play Scrabble and cards. I think I enjoyed the fellowship with the other kids just as much as the scenery.
We were also given canvas backpacks and ponchos. We all loved our ponchos because it rained and rained, and rained; very heavily most of the time. The only people who didn’t have to dry their socks at the end of each day were these New Zealand farmers who wore gumboots. Us kids treated the whole thing as a race, but nobody could keep up with those farm kids. These gumboots looked to be fast and comfortable, and I knew they kept their feet dry! As far as I was concerned gumboots were far better than expensive hiking boots any day.
Working at North Broken Hill Mine
At a depth of 1 mile, No. 3 shaft at North Broken Hill was the deepest mine in Australia. It was a silver, lead, and zinc mine. I did an electrical fitting apprentice there. In my third year, I was assigned to the underground electrical gang.
A lot of water gets used underground, plus there is water that seeps out of the rock walls. There is water everywhere, can you guess what kind of footwear is worn by everybody. Steel toe gumboots of course.
How about you
Do you have any adventure stories you’d like to share?
I trust you found this interesting, I’ve had a lot of “boot” experience. If you have any questions or comments leave them below and I’ll get back to you.