How much should my pack weigh for backcountry hiking?A guide to backpack weights based on your body weight
How much should my pack weigh for backcountry hiking?A guide to backpack weights based on your body weight
There are several factors that affect a person’s comfort level when humping a pack into the great outdoors. The pack weight itself, the physical and mental condition of the packer, as well as the terrain and conditions within which one is traveling. When considering the topic of optimum pack weight, it is important to consider all of the above factors, holistically.Each person is unique and should spend time discovering for themselves their optimum pack weight(s). For instance, my 9.5kg 7-day pack (and 6.16kg , 3-day pack) are optimum for me. I invested the time to discover what felt best.
I am 6’1 tall and weigh 85kg I do not smoke (anything) nor drink alcohol. I am not overweight and stay in good physical condition. I work out daily & carry a pack several times a week as part of the workout. I do most all of my packing in the hills and mountains where significant elevation gains are routine and weather conditions run the gamut.
One of the factors that I considered when pursuing the optimum pack weight was % of pack weight to body weight. My 7-day pack is 1/6 (16.4%) of my body weight. That was my goal for a 7-day pack – 1/6 bodyweight.
Over the years, I’ve heard that 1/4 of a person’s body weight is an optimum pack weight and even 1/3 is okay, if you’re in good shape! In recent years, I’ve been aiming at 1/5 to 1/7 of my body weight. Currently, for 3-season mountain travel, I’m very happy in the 1/6 range. In the Winter, I add more food, more clothes, a beefier sleeping bag, extra sleeping mat, more fuel, heavier stove, heavier boots, and so on. In Winter, my pack weight is more in the range of 1/5 to 1/4 of body weight.
… but, actually, pack weight is relative! Depending on your weight, conditioning, terrain, etc., your optimum pack weight, at any given time, could be 1/4 or maybe even 1/6.
The main point is to figure out for yourself what is optimum – (and the pack weight to body weight ratio is just one factor to consider) .
The big take away ‘ounces count’
Backpackers travel for distance rather than for the purpose of summiting mountains, though both backpacking and peak-bagging might be done on the same trip. This type of travel allows you to access remote areas on your own power. Trips may range from a couple of days to months depending on your objective. Seasoned backpackers recommend carrying no more than 1/3 of your body weight.
Duration & Elevation: 2 days- multi-week trips over varying terrain.
Technical: No technical climbing involved
Pack: Carrying complete shelter, kitchen, layers, water and fuel. Pack weight ranges 16-25 kg
Fitness Attributes: Strong legs/”mountain chasis”, Endurance
Example Trip: The Overland Track – Tasmania
Peak baggers are in it for the summit. Peak bagging is done with a light pack and minimal supplies. Generally, these trips do not involve any technical climbing gear like ropes or harnesses. Rather, they are typically single day or overnight trips. Backpackers might add on a peak bagging day to their trip, in which case they will establish a camp and leave non-essential equipment behind while they summit a nearby mountain.
Duration & Elevation: Long, hard pushes over 1-2 days
Technical: Grade 3-4 scrambling possible
Pack: Carrying light packs with layers, first aid, water and fuel. Pack weight range 9-15 kg
Fitness Attributes: Strong “mountain chasis”, stamina and strength
Example Trip: Mount Kosciuszko, Mount Townsend, Rams Head
Alpine Climbing is done at high elevations in the “high alpine” and climbers will expect to travel over rock, ice, or snow. In contrast to hiking, climbing by definition means that your arms come above your head to help pull your body up an ascent. These ascents are “fast and light” and typically involve the use of technical gear such as helmets, ropes, and harnesses. Because of the need for technical equipment, these trips require a specific skill set and or a guide.
Duration & Elevation: 1 long, hard day, or as part of multi-day expedition
Technical: Grade 5+ climbing
Pack: Carrying layers, climbing gear, ropes, water and fuel. Pack weight range 15-25 kg
Fitness Attributes: Strong “mountain chasis” for approach, grip and upper body strength for climb
Example Trip: Cathedral Range State Park, Balls Pyramid , Mt Coolum
Reference: Mountain Athletics
Most of us master shoe-tying in primary school and don’t give our laces much thought after that. If your boots start to wear on your feet in uncomfortable ways, though, you’ll be glad to learn a few new lacing tricks that could help improve your comfort. Here are three simple ways to re-lace your boots to help relieve foot discomfort.
It’s important to note that the lacing techniques described here aren’t a substitute for getting the right fit when you buy your boots. For that you need to see a combat/hiking footwear specialist ie Crossfire . It is also important to note that these are not the only methods, in fact I am sure you will have your own tried and tested ones. If you do, please feel free to share.
Simple and versatile, it can keep your heel from slipping.
When your heel is slipping excessively as you stomp, you probably have too much interior volume at the top of your foot. Cinch down your boot and hold it in place with two surgeon’s knots: Once secured, these hold fast where they’re placed and won’t work themselves loose.
- Pull out any slack in the laces, snugging the boot over the top of your foot.
- Locate the two pairs of lace hooks closest to the point where the top of your foot begins to flex forward; you’ll be tying a surgeon’s knot at each of these pairs.
- Wrap the laces around each other twice, then pull them tight; be sure to run the lace directly up to the next hook to “lock” in the knot’s tension.
- Repeat Step 3 at the next highest set of lace hooks.
- Finish lacing the rest of your boot in your usual way.
Alleviates pressure points on the top of your foot.
If your well-tied boots start to create a pressure point on the top of your foot, window lacing (aka “box lacing”) can help alleviate the problem:
Unlace the boot down to the hooks that are just below the pressure point.
- Re-lace by going straight up to the next hook and then crossing the laces over.
- Finish lacing the rest of your boot in your usual way; alternatively, you can tie a surgeon’s knot at the lower and upper edge of your window for a snugger hold.
A stopgap remedy to get you back to the trailhead.
If your toes are in a world of hurt, this stopgap measure can help you make it back. This trick works by relieving pressure in the toe box:
- Completely unlace your boot.
- Lace it back up—but skip the first set of hooks; this opens up the toe box and takes some pressure off your digits.
If your toes always hurt when you put your boots on , it’s time to get a different pair of boots. A Crossfire footwear specialist can fit you in boots that will give not declare war on your feet and keep you in the fight or doing what you want to do.
Always carry a spare pair of laces or enough para cord to suit your boots. You just never know when Mr Murphy will raise his head.
Light Assault Boots
Light models with flexible midsoles are excellent for a fast moving environment that requires support but not at cost of excessive weight . Critical areas such as the outside shank area , sole compound ( Think VIBRAM) and abrasion level ? Is it a European or Hot climate boot (ie inner booties). Does it have features such as extreme abrasion-resistant materials like SuberFabic® to protect the boot whilst fast roping.
These range from mid- to high-cut models and are intended to operate in a close country environment. The jungle boot should be puncture-resistant to protect you from stepping on sharp objects. Roll-Stop Ankle Stability is critical to reduce injuries by preventing ankle roll while moving on uneven terrain and on long stomps. Avoid wet environment injuries with cutting edge tech like the Advanced Sieve™ technology from Rocky. It circulates air in and water out as you step out. The old one way outlet holes on the inside of the boot went out with the Mk111 SMLE.
These are designed to carry heavier loads on multiday trips deep into the boondocks across any terrain Most have a high cut that wraps above the ankles for excellent support. Durable and supportive, with stiffer midsoles than lighter footwear, they are suitable pretty much for everything.
Hiking Boot Uppers
Materials impact a boot’s weight, breathability, durability and water resistance.
- Full-grain leather: Full-grain leather offers excellent durability and abrasion resistance and very good water resistance. It’s most commonly used in backpacking boots built for extended trips, heavy loads and rugged terrain. It is not as light or breathable as nylon/split-grain leather combinations. Ample break-in time is needed before starting an extended trip.
- Split-grain leather: Split-grain leather is usually paired with nylon or nylon mesh to create a lightweight boot that offers excellent breathability. Split-grain leather “splits away” the rougher inner part of the cowhide from the smooth exterior. The benefit is lower cost, however, the downside is less resistance to water and abrasion (though many feature waterproof liners).
- Nubuck leather: Nubuck leather is full-grain leather that has been buffed to resemble suede. It is very durable and resists water and abrasion. It’s also fairly flexible, yet it too requires ample time to break in before an extended hike.
- Synthetics: Polyester, nylon and so-called “synthetic leather” are all commonly found in modern boots. They are lighter than leather, break in more quickly, dry faster and usually cost less. Downside: They may show wear sooner due to more stitching on the outside of the boot.
- Waterproof membranes: Boots and shoes billed as “waterproof” feature uppers constructed with waterproof/breathable membranes (such as Gore-Tex® or alike) to keep feet dry in wet conditions. Downside: The reduced breathability created by a membrane (compared to the ventilating mesh used on some nonwaterproof shoes) may encourage feet to sweat on summer days. Unfortunately unless your wearing gaiters no boot is waterproof if your up to waist in the wet stuff
- Insulation: Synthetic insulation is added to some mountaineering boots for warmth when hiking on snow and glaciers.
The midsole, which provides cushioning, buffers feet from shock and largely determines a boot’s stiffness. Stiff boots might not sound like a good thing, but for long hikes on rocky, uneven terrain they can mean greater comfort and stability. A stiff boot won’t allow your foot to wear out by wrapping around every rock or tree root you step on. The most common midsole materials are EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) and polyurethane.
- EVA is a bit cushier, lighter and less expensive. Midsoles use varying densities of EVA to provide firmer support where needed (e.g., around the forefoot).
- Polyurethane is generally firmer and more durable, so it’s usually found in extended backpacking and mountaineering boots.
Hiking Boot Internal Support
- Shanks: These 3–5mm thick inserts are sandwiched between a boot’s midsole and outsole to add load-bearing stiffness to the midsole. They vary in length; some cover the entire length of the midsole, while others only cover half.
- Anti Puncture Plates: These thin, semi flexible inserts are positioned between the midsole and the outsole, and below the shank (if included). They protect feet from getting bruised by roots or uneven rocks.
Rubber is used on all boot outsoles, the type and . Additives such as carbon are sometimes added to some different brands of boots to boost hardness. Hard outsoles increase durability but can feel slick if go you in rocky environments
- Lug pattern: Lugs are traction-giving bumps on the outsole. Deeper, thicker lugs are used on backpacking and mountaineering boots to improve grip. Widely spaced lugs offer good traction and shed mud more easily.
- Heel brake: This refers to the clearly defined heel zone that is distinct from the forefoot and arch. It reduces your chance of sliding during steep descents.
Your boots should fit snug everywhere, tight nowhere and offer room to wiggle your toes. Try them on at the end of the day (after feet swell) and with the socks you plan to wear.
Know your size. It’s best to have your foot’s length, width and arch length measured professionally Foot volume, another key to good fit, must be assessed. A good guide is your runners size and what brand it is ie Nike, Reebok.
You can also measure your foot length via a ruler measuring from center of your heel to middle of big toe to find your size. Double-check length later by pulling the insoles out of the boots and standing on them; you should have a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the insole.
Try on boots at the end of the day. Your feet normally swell a bit during the day’s activities and will be at their largest then. This helps you avoid buying boots that are too small.
If you wear orthotics, bring them along. They impact the fit of a boot.
Wear appropriate socks. Familiar socks help you more quickly assess the fit and feel of new footwear. Make sure the thickness of the socks matches what you intend to wear. And before you head out for that stomp go with synthetic rather than slow-drying cotton socks, which are more likely to give you blisters.
Spend some time in the boots. Take a stroll a home before venturing out into the wild blue yonder. Walk up and down stairs. Find an inclined surface and walk on it.
Fit issues to share with your footwear specialist: You don’t want to feel odd bumps or seams, or pinching in the forefoot, nor toes hitting the end of the boot when it’s on an incline. If the boots are laced firmly and you still feel space above the top of your foot, then the volume of the boot is wrong.
When shopping online, consider a brand you’ve worn before. Most boot companies tend to use a consistent foot model over time, so the fit is likely to be similar.
Change your knot strategy: How you lace your boots can change how they fit. See our previous blog on lacing to improve your fit.
Consider aftermarket insoles (a.k.a. Superfeet). Insoles come in models that can enhance comfort, support or fit—or all three.
Gone are the days when backpacking/ hiking consisted of strapping on a huge external frame and lumbering through the sticks or up a mountain in the back blocks with an aching body. Trends in backpacks these days err towards minimalism and thoughtful, ergonomic design with the use of the latest and greatest in materials and space age polymers/ carbon ect ect.
Wilderness Equipment (WE) takes the approach simplicity, function and reliability are the priority. The constant problem with ‘design’ is that there will always be a better way. Since the beginning, WE have worked to improve the durability and function of all of their products whilst also reducing weight. Under demanding use in the outdoor education sector their packs and tents are uncomplicated in their operation, totally reliable during programs and, in the event of mishap, ‘field repairable’ without the need for special skills or training. The thing is, the harsh reality is WE also expect them to significantly out-perform other brands, something you can’t do by being just the same. Today WE are confident that all popular, current WE products can hold their place in the range, unchanged, for years to come.
Crossfire is a proud partner with WE with both sharing the same demand for excellence and providing a non nonsense equipment without compromise
Duty belt discomfort is a common complaint and a significant health and safety issue for uniformed police personnel. Pain in the low back, hip and pelvis can be caused by pressure exerted by the edges of the duty belt, holster shank and other equipment attached to the belt. Further compounding the problem is the length of time officers are required to perform their job behind the wheel of the patrol car.
Duty belts are designed to carry equipment in a readily accessible manner while leaving the officer’s hands free. The equipment is a necessary part of the job and must be carried on his/her body while working. Duty belt equipment can include a handgun, handcuffs, flashlight, latex gloves, baton, radio and pepper spray canister and can weigh up to 20 pounds (9.07 kg) when fully loaded dependent on duty vest configuration. According to a University of California, San Francisco/Berkeley Ergonomics Program study, discomfort from wearing a duty belt is driven by the amount/weight of equipment on the belt, the placement of those items against the body and the force exerted on the equipment when the officer is seated in the patrol vehicle.
Duty belts are typically 2.25 inches ( 5.71 cms) wide and made of leather. The rectangular brass buckle can be 2 inches ( 5.08cms) wide by nearly 3 inches (7.62cms) high and places uncomfortable pressure on the front of the pelvis and abdomen when driving and/or sitting for extended periods of time. Over the years, the discomfort felt from duty belts has gotten worse because of the increased time spent in vehicles and heavier gear carried on the belt. The addition of radios and extra handcuffs, handguns and spare magazines can add 3 to 4 pounds to the belt.
The belt itself is another source of discomfort. The more rigid the duty belt holster system, the more critical are its shape and location in obtaining a proper fit for the individual. Many leather duty belts can take several years to break in.
Patrol vehicle seats can be another factor in duty belt discomfort. Bolsters on the sides of the seats can produce pressure on the sidearm and radio, which tends to push the officer forward, reducing the amount of low back support. Worn vehicle cushions can exacerbate the discomfort by allowing the officer to sink lower into the middle of the seat.
- Alternatives for the duty belt
- Suspenders are effective because they distribute the weight of the equipment over the shoulders and chest rather than just on the waist. That also means that the belt does not have to be worn as tight, cutting down on pressure exerted on the stomach and waist area. There are safety concerns about suspenders because they can be used against the officer in a struggle, but newer versions act like a clip-on tie when pulled, reducing the risk of injury to the officer.
- Tactical vests or harnesses contain multiple pouches over the chest and back. A harness goes over the ballistic vest and can reduce the need for officers to keep reaching around for their equipment.
- Loading the duty belt
- Avoid placing hard objects (handcuffs) on the lumbar spine. Handcuffs carried on the back of the belt may create back pain from constant pressure on the lower back while sitting in a car. Although that may not be a problem for beat officers who patrol an area on foot, it can cause severe problems in vehicle-based “response” officers. Outside the car, they can be dangerous in a fall, where the spine can be injured severely by the handcuffs.
- Place a soft pouch over the lumbar spine on the duty belt. A good example might be a soft pouch containing latex gloves.
- Flashlights should be compact, light and powerful. Thinner and smaller lights are easier to control and are more likely to be carried at all times. Metal flashlights can be uncomfortable when left in the direct sunlight or held in an ungloved hand on a cold day. Flashlights are often placed on the hood or trunk of a car, so consideration should be given to one with an anti-roll capability. Long, cylindrical flashlights tend to be carried in a flashlight ring. Rings are simple and inexpensive, and are convenient for flashlights that are not regularly carried. Flashlights in a ring with a great amount of vertical and horizontal freedom can make the light insecure and uncomfortable to carry.
- Start with a better belt
The 2003 U.C. Ergonomics Program study found the following belt characteristics effective in reducing duty belt discomfort:
- Rounded, padded edges on the top and bottom. Belts with a hard edge tend to dig in under the ribs, whereas a belt with rounder, padded edges on the top and bottom conform better to the body.
- Lower profile, with a 2-inch thickness (top to bottom) of belt and buckle. Nylon belts that are 2 inches wide resulted in increased officer comfort with fewer complaints of the belt digging in under the ribs and on the rim of the pelvis.
- Washable, moderately flexible nylon material. Nylon duty gear is generally less expensive, lighter, and easier to maintain than leather gear of comparable quality. Leather gear is generally regarded as having a more traditional and professional appearance. One option might be to try a belt that combines both materials, one where the belt is a manufactured nylon duty gear belt that has the appearance of leather, with a ‘basket-weave’ pattern.
- Leather belts with buckle closures have less adjustability than nylon belts and have adjustment holes for the buckle 1.25 inches apart, which can leave the belt too tight or too loose. A belt that is too loose can be problematic in the event of a foot pursuit. A belt that is too tight creates excessive pressure on the officer’s pelvic and hip areas.
The following synopsis is from an ongoing research being conducted and kindly shared with Crossfire Australia. The author has asked not to be identified at this stage as yet as the research remains ongoing.
I have done work regarding injuries and pack load and also the impact of footwear on lower limb injuries. As far as shoulder injuries are concerned we assessed male and female service personnel to identify risk of shoulder injury as the pack they were carrying at the time was believed to be the cause of shoulder injuries. We found 43% of males and 38% of females were at risk of injury due to lack of appropriate upper body conditioning before commencing with training. Our research also revealed the type of pack being used may be a contributing factor to shoulder injuries. The pack being used at the time made use of an internal frame, and when worn without the belt a force in 3 planes is produced – the expected drag down, a rearwards force as the pack levers off the lower back, and also a distracting force or rotational component (the strap attachments are more central on a soft frame) . The difference with a framed pack is it does not lever off the lower back and straps are usually held wider on a fixed frame.
Shoulder straps of a pack usually cause a traction injury of the C5 and C6 nerve roots of the upper brachial plexus. This results in the entrapment of the long thoracic nerve causing numbness, paralysis, cramping and pain in the shoulder girdle, elbow flexors and wrist extensors. There are also numerous other factors which may cause shoulder injury to soldiers when carrying packs; these include the amount of load carried, duration of pack carriage, physical conditioning of the soldier and different pack types (badly designed packs not suited for military use). Studies have shown that soldiers carrying packs without a frame had higher incidences of brachial plexus palsy. Bessen et al (1987) reported an injury rate 7.4 times higher for soldiers wearing a pack without a frame compared to those using a frame.
A heavy load transferred through the shoulder strap of a pack to the underlying soft tissue may affect the neural performance of the upper limb due to trapped nerves or a reduction in blood supply. Load/pack carriage systems address this by transferring loads to the hip area through external rigid frames and waist belts, therefore the use of an external frame and hip belt will reduce the incidence of rucksack palsy by reducing pressure on the shoulders . Research has shown that framed packs with hip belts reduce the neuromuscular activation of the trapezius muscle whereas a frameless backpack increases activation of the trapezius muscle, subsequently a framed pack will reduce the incidence of rucksack palsy.
The wearing of a chest strap also appears to be beneficial for reducing brachial plexus strains by positioning the shoulder straps in a more medial aspect. The more lateral the placing of the shoulder strap, the less protection the clavicle can provide to the subclavian artery and the brachial plexus .
This in combination with inadequate upper body strength and stability is a significant risk for shoulder injuries.
Our results suggest a frameless pack being carried by cadets with unconditioned, functionally asymmetrical upper bodies are the causes of the high number of shoulder injuries. As a result of this the pack was replaced with a pack having an external frame, this reduced the injury rate significantly.
As far as lower limb injuries are concerned we have found that continuous wearing of military boots, particularly boots with stiff upper shafts and thick inflexible soles are a cause of ankle and lower limb injuries. We measured range of movement, electromyography, lower limb strength, balance and stability on military recruits before they were issued with military boots and re-tested them 12 months after being in the military and having worn military boots. This study documents the adaptations due to wearing the military boot for just one year.
- It significantly reduces strength and endurance of the gastrocnemius muscles in plantarflexion in addition to a reduced range of inversion and eversion motion.
- In tandem these changes cause a weakening of the ankle joint and increased reliance on the boot to support the ankle.
- The stiff and high shaft of the military boot restricts movement and over time decreases normal range of motion in all planes of ankle motion, so that the natural structures of the foot become weakened. This leads to the reliance of the footwear to support the foot and ankle
- When the boot is not worn there is no external support of the joint which would be a major contributor to injuries in activities of sport and running when wearing normal flexible and soft training shoes
- Ability of the muscles to respond quickly is decreasing
- Balance is significantly compromised, with larger movement of the centre of pressure in the medial-lateral direction
- Medial and Lateral Gastrocnemius becoming less active
- It appears Tibialis Anterior remains or is more active
- The lack of medial-lateral muscle engagement likely contributes towards the high rates of inversion injuries
- Tibialis Anterior seems to be overworking to maintain balance – can lead to medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) (shin splints)
- The boot is making the muscles crossing the ankle joint ‘lazy’
After 35 years building outstanding backpacks you would think Maley and Marshall deserve a break.
One to go boat building, the other back to forestry. Sadly for them it is not to be.
The DG 16 is designed with one thing in mind, which is to allow you be functional and not be completely fatigued prior to task. The DG 16 will not compress vertebrae, crush nerve groups and displace discs. Fit for the fight.
We had the mild hope that some of the firms copying our designs might actually achieve a half decent result. But they have copied the look, not the quality and function.
So instead of retiring we pushed the button on tooling for a very big step up in military packs.
The DG16 embodies everything we have learnt in three decades. Materials science, ergonomics, systems integration, all with endusers feedback. This pack has been engineered from first principles. There is nothing else like it, anywhere.
DG16 Polymer Frame
The trick is to source aerospace level resin and invest in vastly expensive high pressure injection moulds. Then use finite element analysis to tune the frame to flex at the same rate as the human back. Too little flex, like metal frames, forces the hips and shoulders to fight with every stride. Fatiguing. Overflexing forces the shoulders to fight angular momentum as the load swings wide with each step. Waste of energy.
The DG16 flexes just right, hips and shoulders move freely, stride is longer and less exhausting. Active ventilation keeps things cool, reminds you of ALICE? The window shape snugs over a body armour plate. The harness system can be quickly set at different levels to accommodate different torso lengths.
DG16 Shoulder Harness
We don’t slap some fabric over a piece of foam and call it a shoulder strap. We would call that rope.
The harness arms are laminated from multiple layers of speciality, expensive materials.
Plastic plate reinforcements distribute heavy loads, memory foams to customise to the user.
Shoulder straps are shaped and tapered to work over CBA and smoothly transfer load away from the brachial plexus nerve group. The whole shoulder harness yoke assembly can be quickly extended up or retracted down with three height settings built into the webbing attachments.
It is our belief that any pack which uses a 25mm plastic side release buckle as a load element is not fit for service. Such a culpable object should be recalled and destroyed before it injures the user. Such buckles were never intended for heavy, load-bearing use. They can release or break inadvertently, slewing the fully loaded pack and wrenching the spine. The DG16 shoulder harness uses reliable, strong yet easy-to-release-under-load military-proven buckles. Because we really do care.
Hip Belt System
Choose the set up according to personal preference and type of rig. There are three plug-in adjustment levels for the padded components so they can be tuned to back length, set high to clear a belt rig, or set low to hip load.
Or remove hip fins and use lumbar loading
DG16 Pack Bag
User designed, just brilliant.
Walk through the gallery photos or read on down the comprehensive list of design features follows, and be amazed just how diligent we are in providing the features required in the infantries home away from home.
There it is .
Crossfire should register as a charity .
There is no money in this project, we make these outstanding packs because we can. And no one else does.
Our troops deserve to train and go to war with gear which enhances their combat capacity.
You are welcome.
Ian Maley and Peter Marshall
Here is a letter recently sent to an OS military who requested a Combat Boot Briefing. I think it gives you an insight into the depth of experience behind our boot designs.
Crossfire ( Aus ) P/L PeaceKeeper Combat Boots.
The PK +(PeaceKeeper +) is a bit unique in that it was designed from the very beginning to be worn by the only occupational group we know of which actually runs, on any terrain, carrying half again their body weight.
The biomechanics of that task go far beyond the shock and stress ablation abilities of most footwear construction methods and materials.
Which is why we went back to first principals to build the family of Goodyear Welted boots.
My previous firm, Wild Country P/L , was in the mountaineering and cross country ski trade in early 1980s.
We were importing boots from Europe . Beautifully made , but they hurt . It was almost accepted in those days that if you needed boots good enough to climb Mt. Aspiring you would be losing a few toenails.
Didn’t seem right to me , so I went to Europe and spent a lot of time in factories in France , Austria , Italy and Germany learning about last design and boot making .
Firstly I found that the low instep , narrow , rotated lasts were the fit problem . They were just the wrong shape for big wide , high instep ANZ feet .
So we invested in a full suite of lasts to our recipe . 27 years later we still use them .
Next I learned about the three main methods of boot construction .
- Welted . Goodyear or Norwegian .
A ribbed midsole board is the heart of the boot . Two main welted sewing lines engage the ribs and ‘ close the upper ‘ .
- Cemented .
Upper is made up over slip or curtain last . Bottom of it is buffed and glued to sole system .
- Injection moulded .
Molten rubber is injected into negative mould tool and cools onto upper .
The best of my visits was to an excellent firm in Germany. In 1984 I worked with them to make hiking and telemark boots of great quality . The Goodyear welt enabled us to include all the lining / Goretex / anti torsion shanks / shock absorbing foam etc needed to cope with the big stresses of skiing . And importantly it gave the midfoot flexibility for a long XC stride( this became vital for Combat Boot performance , more later ).
The boot was a huge hit in the US and Australian markets . I still see some on the slopes.
However , like most European factories ours was looking at new technologies to reduce the use of highly trained craft workers and to speed up throughput . They went to unitised cement construction , and we learned a painful lesson . A platoon of Australian Defence mountaineers who experienced a batch failure of the sole glue at Annapurna . A very bad day in the field .
It became impossible to get the Goodyear Welted boots we wanted out of Europe so I got back on the road to investigate the US . After some years and a dozen factories of false starts we were delighted to find Dick Martens of Weinbrenner Shoe Co Wisconsin . The firm was a perfect fit with us . It is a century old and now employee owned . So the management has no interest in easing out highly trained workers , as they are the management . Consequently they have kept alive and thriving the Goodyear Welting skills , with capacity to do a half million or so pairs pa .
After the ADF climb of Everest in 1998 we shifted company work from Mountaineering to Military Gear .
In 2000 or so it was time for ADF to get new Combat Boots . Our early PK was in a trial of a dozen boots from worldwide, and did very well . However the tender was written only for injection moulding construction ( the Commonwealth had bought injection tooling already ) so our boot was excluded from consideration . For the next 20 years the issue boot has damaged feet , careers and combat capabilities . It has been defended by the system( see BRIG Nikolic interviews in the papers 2006 ) and hated by many troops ( thousands have told us so ).
Crossfire ( Aus ) P/L was placed in real bind .The system had no simple protocol for dealing with people who were hurt by the issue boot , or those who simply could not be fitted ( too big or two small ) . We became a defacto medical support Co . In the process we had acquired a good research cadre and priceless feedback.
So we made a non commercial decision to support the war effort by staying in production.
Some 1,000 people a year receive foot care help from Crossfire of a quality that the system cannot provide , but finally has formalised . People can now obtain medical approval to access non issue boots.
When Afghanistan started the DMO reacted without thought and bought an inappropriate Mountaineering Boot with many problems . Which mean our workload of helping hurt individuals increased , as did our incentives to improve our boot and intensity of feedback .
20 years after the first models we now have a boot of a sound original concept , on a unique last , which has been continuously refined and includes materials developed specially for us .
Even better the Goodyear welt construction has made it easy to offer a family of boots , all built on the same last , with alternate materials for different tasks . Eg Navy boots , Flight boots , Cold weather , Jungle , Firefighter , Police etc .
The US Army has bought over 900,000 pairs of PK+ Steel Toe .
The PeaceKeeper + Combat boot Design Brief
We wanted a boot to allow efficient ( and safe ) running , jumping , twisting , going to ground etc.
This required a last which promoted midfoot articulation for a ‘ strike and roll ” running gait . The boots underside is ‘ rockered ‘ like the foot wearing it . Not flat bottomed to ease popping out of injection tooling .
Note most work boots use a steel shank . Sole flex zone is just in front of the shank , well back from the midfoot . Promotes Plantar fasciitis , stresses the metatarsals and flattens arches.
PK+ has a doubled up synthetic athletic type shank which flexes progressively and in the right places . It allows big toe flexion for ‘ spring off ‘ . Each stride is longer but less energy demanding as the toe acts as a spring lever . In offhand stance the improvement in marksmanship is surprising . Better muzzle control when firing from the hip . Tendons and muscles from big toe to lower back can work as designed.
Ankle fore and aft flexibility is designed in by orientation of the fabric panels . Sideways and torsional stability is not compromised by this .
In other construction techniques there is very little , or none , antishock material between foot sole and the road . In cemented types this is because of the difficulty of glue stabilising totally different materials to each other ( our Annapurna experience ) . In injected types it is because high quality foams would be melted by the process and thee is no room to fit them in .
Welting permits us to use the highest quality of preloaded foams which last the boots life without bottoming out.
Also , the space inside the welt rib is filled with cork compound which breaks in to the shape of the foot sole , dispersing load and eliminating ‘ hot spots ‘ .
Watch a soldier walking away from you . Nine times out of ten the boot heel will be breaking down sideways ( usually outwards ) , throwing out ankle / leg / spinal alignement . It is often an accelerating problem . As sole wears on one side the heel box breaks even more and injury becomes yet more likely.
PK+ Heel box is a water resistant styrene which is structurally sewn into the welt . No side collapse , no breakdown.
Once again , the simpler construction styles preclude use of the best quality linings .
Wet skin is more likely to blister . Skin comfort is determined by relative humidity at the surface . For foot comfort and health it is important to move water away from the skin as fast as possible . ” Walk Yourself Dry ” .
Flat non woven liners , low quality leather and coated nylon panels all slow breathing . PK+ uses a 3D free2air mesh to surround the foot surface with a moving layer of air to waft away humidity . Mesh is some 2.8mm thick which also gives over 5mm of size tolerance during break in .
We are ambivalent about waterproofing layers , using them in Alpine and Arctic boots . Sympatex , Goretex and eVENT are all good . In military use they can’t protect from water pouring off wet tussock and down the ankle , and actually slow down the drying process .
Liner socks made of stretch Lycra / Goretex are a very valid alternative . Sealed against the leg to resist water pouring from above , light , non blistering and super drying .
Decades of trials have taught us where the good materials come from . We are not constrained by the Berry Amendment .
Outsoles come mostly from Vibram . PK+ uses Sierra sole , Flight Boot -Matayur non FOD , Police boot -Polypillow etc .
Side Panels . We specify non coated Cordura for better breathability . We are experimenting with Nextec encapsulation .
Lacing . Tight woven laces to resist nasty corkscrew grass seed . Free running through quality hooks .
Anti intrusion Plates . Anti-nail plates of ceramic / Kevlar . No extra weight , protection right out to the welt line .
Toe boxes . PK+ is crush resistant vacuum moulded nylon . Safety toes steel or composite .
Haven’t met a soldier we can’t fit yet .
Sizes 3 – 16 . Half sizes up to 12 .
Two widths standard ( 85% Australians go W ) .
Custom fits to order .