First seen on We Are Sole Sisters
Unathletic and skinny-weak Sole Sister Julienne broke out of her sedentary lifestyle three years ago and threw herself into the wild outdoors
By any means, I don’t consider myself a bonafide hiker or hardcore trekker. I don’t trail run. I can’t read coordinates. I don’t have a compass or headlamp on me (I wish I did). I can’t speak “hiker’ talk (MUDS = mindless ups and downs, haha!). And I don’t think I’ve even ascended more than 2,000 metres ASL (above sea level… :)) ). I usually depend on other people to build fires and pitch tents (I mean I could probably do it, I would just be 10 times slower than the more experienced people around). All this said and done, I may not be great at hiking, but I love it, and have not stopped since late 2013.
You should have seen me when I began. I couldn’t walk uphill without whining and gasping for breath, calling for a rest break every five minutes. My heart was not used to the exertion, and my legs would scream in protest in those early days. I have my ex to thank for being patient with me all those months of struggling up Hong Kong’s hills. Back in the UK, he was a long distance runner, so it was probably boring as hell for him to have to keep waiting for me when he could run up The Peak in 30 minutes when it would take me an hour and a half.
But as shitty as I was at it, I loved it. I loved being in the outdoors, especially living in Hong Kong and being cooped up in an office day in and day out, in the heart of the world’s skyscraper capital. We would even do night hikes up to Victoria Peak, where we’d catch amazing views of the sparkling city below.
I loved all the new things I would see, and never would have seen had I not hiked. I loved being able to take my mind off things and enjoy nature, getting “fresh” air (as fresh as it could get where we were). It was especially rewarding to end at a great beach, preferably with delicious food by the sea.
So after getting into the hobby for a couple of years, I thought it was finally time to get some proper gear. It began with a backpack, and then most recently the boots. I may not be doing anything extreme yet, but when the opportunity arrives, I’d at least be prepared, right?!
I could have used those boots in Daraitan, where normal trainers lose all grip in the mud.
I admit I was jealous of my sister, who got her own heavy-duty pair to climb Mount Pulag. I wanted nothing less than a waterproof yet breathable, mid-cut shoe… like the one she had. Sole Sister Lois put me in touch with R.O.X. Philippines, who forwarded me to that legendary outdoor brand – The North Face.
Never in my life did I think I could get that excited about hiking boots
So the very same weekend, I tested them out in Mount Ulap, a 40-minute drive from Baguio City in the North of the Philippines. I decided on Benguet Province because of its high altitude, and thus cooler clime. I find it unbearably hot to hike in the Philippines otherwise.
- Grip is excellent. I was able to tread on unstable and gravelly terrain with more confidence, less risk of losing your balance.
- Ankle support: You’re less likely to twist or sprain your ankle thanks to the mid-cut.
- Get the next size up (I’m a US size 8, but initially I had gone for the EU38 which translated to US7, too small).
- The shoe price, at 7,290 PHP , is a bit on the steep side. But I saw other styles and boots on sale below 6,000 PHP at The North Face stores in Glorietta, Shang Plaza, SM Megamall, and SM Aura.
- I wasn’t able to test its waterproof abilities as – February being dry season – the river we crossed was dried up. But I’m going to update this post when I get the chance.
The one drawback is that despite the shoe being the right size for me, my feet are wide and my toes hurt at the end of the 4 hour, 9 kilometre hike. Further reading on choosing the right hiking shoe, though, has led me to the concept of breaking it in, which gives me hope.