I said in Part 1 that I’d start my search for the PHB in Backpacker’s Gear Guide. But circumstances led elsewhere. For 3½ years I worked Downtown, near the site of the World Trade Center. A couple of weeks ago I met up with a colleague from that time (Peter Marney – see his great photography here). Pete asked if I’d been to Tent & Trails near our old office. I had not. He described it as a rambling, jam-packed store, and one where the assistants had all done something big like hike the Appalachian Trail.
I had to go into the City again last week, and took time out for Tent & Trails. It’s at 21 Park Place, and I can’t believe I never ran into it in years of lunchtime mooching. There was indeed a lot of gear crammed into its three narrow floors. Boots were downstairs, where I met Craig, an assistant. I explained how my Garmonts treated me well on my rain-soaked walk across Scotland, but that my feet did get wet. Should I even expect them to stay dry in all conditions? Craig said – well, more implied – that I should, as long as the water was not coming in over the tongue. I felt sure that in Scotland my feet got wet without that happening.
This conversation also established that I need a backpacking boot, a different animal altogether than for day-hiking on good trails. Craig was patient and knowledgeable. He understood I would not make a purchase today but steered me generally towards fabric and Gore-Tex boots, mentioning brands like Millet, Scarpa and Mammut. This would be a departure from my leather Garmonts. Leather – as I understand it – is water-resistant and durable. It may also offer a better fit after break-in. The trade-off is that it is heavy and not as breathable. I have never been bothered by weight or overheated feet (unless the lack of breathability contributes to the blisters I sometimes suffer). So could leather still be for me?
At the entrance to Tents & Trails there was a rack of fact sheets. The pocket for “Basics About Hiking Boots” was empty. I went back in and asked at the desk, where they printed one out. (I think it must have been a draft as the text is a bit disjointed.) But something at the end caught my eye – “Most cemented boots are resoleable…”. Hmmm, I wonder if my Garmonts are cemented. Next stop, back to where I bought them.