There’s no white Christmas in Wales, just a gorgeously golden day that, of course, slides behind ominous Boxing Day clouds just as soon as I can get my boots on and get out properly. The boots in question are Haix Scout trekking boots, for hikers covering a variety of terrain. We have plenty of variety in Wales, for sure, and my no-longer-so-waterproof leather boots have been leaking and creaking through it for some months. I cross fingers I’m on Santa’s ‘nice’ list and order the Haix.
Immediately I put them on, they are reassuringly snug and supple. Superbly lightweight, they have none of the clumpiness of my current pair, nor that usual new-boots stiffness. I have tried high-cut hiking boots previously and found them too stubbornly rigid to walk in with ease, but these are flexible and giving, all the way around my living room. The chimney sweep arrives for the annual service, spots the box and gets super-excited. Haix are the best boots he’s ever had, he declares, and we talk about kit for 20 minutes before he gets around to the fireplace.
The Scouts’ first test is a blast up the sharp side of the Garth in a take-your-breath-away gale and heavy rain. I deliberately slosh through the deepest puddles but the boots win the day with ease, and my socks remain bone dry. Next up is a loop around Pen Pych, where the Rhondda meets the rest of the world. We’re lucky with the weather, but this is after weeks of heavy rainfall… oh, and by the way, Pen Pych’s a waterfall, with a number of other impressive falls along the trail and a river or two to cross. At the end of six miles, the boots are 2-0 up.
Made of Nubuk leather and laminated with three layers of Gore-tex, the Scout Lady is without a doubt waterproof, yet highly breathable (sorry, sweaty old leather boots). With blister-resistant lining and a fleece midlayer, they are soft and cosy, with just the slightest rub on one heel during the first couple of wears, as I’d expect with any new shoes. The toe-to-heel movement is so light and easy that, although I had them in mind firmly as ‘winter boots’, I suspect I’ll be wearing them year-round, come rain or shine.
The rubber Vibram sole is claimed to resist slippage on stony ridges, icy roads or a muddy forest floor, while the above-ankle cut is designed to protect joints and avoid twists and sprains. This brings us neatly to that Boxing Day stomp across Rhossili Down, where our ‘look-it’s-brightening-up!’ optimism evaporates before we reach the trig point and the wind whips my photo-ready phone clean out of my hands.
According to Haix’s product info, “This is a robust trekking boot which will keep your feet dry, even after hours spent hiking through the rain and sludge.” Teetering our way down the steep path above Hillend Burrows, we find the ‘sludge’ Haix surely had in mind, but the Scouts are fabulously grippy and dependable. As we turn along the coast path into a fierce wind, the determined drizzle turns sharply into that Welsh weather category officially known as ‘proper wet’. But, finally back at the car, I’m toasty and dry stepping out of the boots and my Mountain Hardwear jacket, and we settle behind windows of steam for well-earned hot tea and rum-laced Christmas cake.
The testing continues into the new year, by which time the Haix fit as familiarly as, well, a favourite pair of gloves. The two-zone lacing system allows different levels of tightness around the feet and calves, depending on individual size and comfort, and there are even neat, tiny ‘pockets’ at each side to hold laces securely (Haix must have read all about my ability to trip over my own laces on the flattest of paths).
The only fault I can possibly pick has nothing to do with the boots themselves and everything to do with the fact that the Germany-based Haix currently delivers via UPS, which ranks as the least helpful courier I have ever encountered – and that’s quite some claim. Two pairs are dispatched in succession and end up in different locations, which – in the absence of postcodes, tracking numbers or barcodes on the scraps of paper shoved through my letterbox – remain a mystery. Haix and I carry out some serious detective work and I contact UPS via Twitter while the tumbleweed rolls by, to a symphony of ringing silence. It’s a couple of weeks until even one pair is located; Haix is investigating and I do hope another courier is employed soon, as customers investing in these brilliant boots deserve a correspondingly brilliant service.