For the untamed country
Gear reviews are normally pretty straightforward ... you get a product and use it for a bit and pretty much see if it works. If it's something like a gun or an item of clothing I'm going to look it over for any aesthetic or obvious faults; there are many tell-tale signs of poor manufacturing, depending on what the item is.
In rifles this is going to be poorly-finished metalwork, where the tooling marks are still clearly visible, and manipulating the action has a gritty feeling like eating ice-cream with sand in it ... I can give a comprehensive list of the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself. The point is, given a day with a gun, I can pretty much tell you whether or not it’s worth buying.
With some products it's a little harder though; you just can't do a quality review of some items in a day, or a week - or even a year!
Why? Because durability plays such a huge part in what we expect out of some products!
And we are justified in doing so! If I drop upwards of $500 on a pair of boots I’m going to want them to last. Certainly, while features and comfort are important, these can be established at the outset. And when choosing a boot it's largely on me to make sure they fit well, with just the right amount of space and support.
One thing you can't tell from a spec sheet though, is whether they’re going to last. What's that nice shiny boot going to look like after it’s had some very hard use?
The boots under the microscope in this article are the GZ2 LOW SPX produced by the Andrew Footwear Company of Italy.
These boots are almost entirely handmade and Andrew Footwear rates them with a mid-sole rigidity of soft-medium. However the ratings given by different manufacturers often vary, and to me they seemed a little stiffer than this.
As soon as Dave arrived with the boots I spent the next two days with them on, walking around in the shop to help break them in. I had a guided hunting trip to do that started midday on a Friday so I was keen to see how they would go out in rugged terrain rather than the shop’s carpet. When we were gearing up to go out for our first evening hunt my new boots started to cop a fair amount of attention, possibly due to the colour as like me they hadn’t seen a black pair of grunty looking hunting boots that had small blaze orange panels. One comment from one of our hunting party about unproven hunting gear on the hill was soon turned into humble pie when the first deer was taken within 15 minutes on our first hunt.
It wasn’t much of a test for the boots but they felt comfortable enough anyway and with the first little hill endured at least they were now no longer “unproven.” The next day we headed out in the morning and put in a solid effort. I carried a sika hind for a while, which was a good load up a better sized hill to challenge the boots. They performed great and felt just as comfortable, especially under the load.
I have continued to hunt in my new boots right throughout the season and they have done quite a few miles over a lot of different terrain. Their biggest test was going to be when I ventured to the South Island on a guided tahr hunt with my client Jane Dunkerley. We arrived on the property that I guide on with the forecast not looking that flash, although it was improving. We had a brief scout on our first evening to see if there were any tahr around on a ridge that we had picked out but the weather wasn’t going to allow us to see too far. The next day we were up before dawn and there were stars out everywhere so we set off after a quick breaky and we were soon at the base of the mountain glassing. It didn’t take long before we found some tahr so we made our way up the spur, glassing as we went. We spotted a few deer a young stag and some hinds as we continued to climb. The tahr we had spotted were busy feeding across a tussock face and there were a couple of young bulls with them. We pushed up higher and made our way up to an area, which we decided would be good spot to have lunch and a nice area to glass from. Just as we were about to have lunch I caught a bit of movement directly to my right; a mature bull tahr then walked out onto a bluff. I quickly ranged him and he was only 400 yards away. Lunch was now postponed and we went into stalk mode and closed the gap to 285 yards. Finding a nice spot to have a shot from I got my 300 Win Mag guide rifle ready to go for Jane and we checked out the bull through the spotter. Jane had a look through the spotter also and was happy with him and got set behind the rifle and then took the shot. Jane hit the bull hard and he sat down so a quick follow up shot did the business and he tumbled down the face. The tape read 12”; Jane was rapt with her bull so after a few photos and finally some lunch we caped him out and made our way back down the mountain. Back at the truck I unzipped by gaiters and then remembered my new boots. “Wow” I thought to myself. “I had forgotten I even had them on.” They had been comfortable both up and down the mountain and also when sidling which was an excellent test for them.
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