Ben Fogle seems to have come from nowhere (literally, that island in the middle of nowhere) to become an adventurer and presenter well-respected for his endeavours in just a couple of years. Which is a bit like Carn footwear, which itself is only a few years old and growing a well-respected reputation. Indeed, Carn’s foot-pamperingly comfortable Cobra trail shoes won a GearWeAre Gear of the Year Award, such was my own love for them.
And now the pair of Fogle and Carn have teamed up to produce a pair of walking boots which are as interesting as Fogle’s accent and as innovative as as they are as difficult to spell.
The Kaieteur (A national park and massive waterfall in Guyana) boots are pretty unique looking, and as unique in construction too. Their uppers are made from an organic cotton canvas material, which pretty much goes against everything that the outdoor industry has been telling us about materials for the last decade.
“Cotton kills” they say… it soaks up water and saps your energy to dry it out. And the Kaieteur boots do soak up water (after the durable waterproofing has worn off) like a sponge, but despite several weeks of wear in everything from torrential Welsh rain to walking through streams, they have not once leaked to make my feet wet. The eVent waterproof membrane has been nothing short of superb, allowing my feet to stay comfortable and dry even after several hours of showers, long grass and stream fording.
Part of the styling of the Kaieteur boots, which I’ll admit to not jumping off the shelf at me, is a very large rubber toe-bumper which extends around the sides of the boot to the heel cup. It gives the boots a bit of a toy-like look, but works very well indeed to protect the cotton upper and your feet from sharp scree.
The sole of the Kaieteur is really interesting. It’s very grippy on everything short of wet rocks, and seems to shed sticky mud quite well. I’ve yet to experience any massive clodding of mud. The front of the sole is very flexible and easy to walk in, more like a trainer than a walking boot. The heel and midfoot however are much stiffer and feature two technical sounding things called the N1700 Stability Core and Single-density Bi-fit Board. I have no intention of explaining what they are, but the effect when spending several hours in dark, dense woodland tripping over logs and standing in holes is one of reassuring stability.
The lacing system is simple metal eyelets which work well and are very easy to thread. The laces, despite being round (pet hate) work very well to keep the boot tight and well adjusted.
Inside the boot is a very comfortable place to be. The lining is made with Cocona (coconut shell active carbon stuff) to reduce bacterial growth and keep your feet from doing a dead-otter impression. And the insoles are made from the excellent Poron material which absorbs a great deal of shock when you jump off rocks to impress the girls.
The Kaieteur boot is designed for low level walking with a little bit of scrambling thrown in for good measure. They’re not for mountain climbing (except on manmade tracks) and not crampon compatible. They’re a walking boot, rather than a trekking boot or mountain boot. And I like the way that they know what they are. They haven’t made things too stiff or unwieldy. I’m sure that Ben Fogle would have no trouble at all hoiking around some stiff hobnailed leather boots, but the Kaieteur boots prove that, for his less extreme adventures he doesn’t really need to.
I’ve very much enjoyed wearing Carn’s Kaieteur boots. The only criticism I could muster for them would be that the cotton upper soaks in water and stays wet for a long time. This is only really a problem if you need to put them away, since I have never had ingress into the boot. I suspect that the problem could be solved with a little application of Nikwax’s cotton proof.
SUMMARY: Carn Kaieteur boots are supremely comfortable right from the box. They look unique, but work superbly at keeping your feet dry and supported on mud, tracks and forest floors. They’re not suitable for mountaineering, but for the vast majority of walkers they’d be excellent boots. I really enjoyed splashing through streams in pouring rain in my pair this weekend, and I could quite happily wear them all day.
Price: £125 rrp