Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gear Closet: Chaco Trailscope Waterproof Hiking Shoes

Chaco is well known for making their iconic sandals, which are a favorite amongst outdoor enthusiasts. But not everyone knows that they also make a line of excellent hiking shoes and boots that are worthy of attention too. Recently I got the opportunity to put their Trailscope shoe to the test, both at home and on Kilimanjaro, and what I found was an incredibly well made light hiking shoe that is just as capable on the trail as it is running errands around town.

When shopping for a light hiking shoe I always look for something that is comfortable, versatile, and durable. Those are three words that aptly describe the Trailscopes, which are built for use in a wide variety of environments. These qualities make them an excellent choice for the casual hiker, adventure traveler, or just someone who needs something that is tough, but looks good in a casual setting.

The Trailscope shoes come in two varieties – standard and waterproof. I tested the waterproof version and found them to have all the necessary components for keeping your feet dry even in very wet conditions. They are made with a water-resistant leather upper and have an integrated waterproof bootie as well. Both of those items work together to repel moisture in a very efficient manner. In fact, I wore these shoes in a late afternoon rainstorm on Kilimanjaro, as well as in snow and ice back home, and never once had my feet even feel the least bit wet. I'd venture to say short of complete immersion in a stream, or getting caught in very heavy downpour, they'll manage to keep out all water.

Chaco puts a great deal of emphasis on making their shoes very comfortable, and that starts with the well cushioned footbed that they call the "LUVSEAT." This thickly padded liner molds nicely to the foot over time, and actually does make a difference in the level of comfort that you'll feel when wearing these shoes. I'd go so far as to compare the fit and feel of these shoes to being closer to a sneaker, rather than a hiking shoe, with just the added weight that comes along with the thicker heel belying the difference.

Speaking of the heel, the Trailscope provides solid protection for your feet, protecting it nicely from the sharp rocks, rough ground, and uneven terrain that comes with a hiking trail. I was impressed with how they felt while walking on a variety of surfaces, providing the wearer with a protective shield that doesn't make you feel detached from the ground in any way. This is important on long hikes, as it keeps your feet feeling rested but still allows you to trek with confidence.

On Kilimanjaro, the Trailscopes served as my camp shoes after a long day of hiking on the rough trails. They were excellent in that role as they allowed me to shed my heavier boots for a much more comfortable shoe that was lightweight, yet still managed to keep my feet warm and dry. They were so good at their job in fact that at times my feet felt a little too warm. If I were to complain about any aspect of this shoe it would be that the waterproof versions could possibly breathe a bit better, which would regulate the temperature of your feet more evenly. This is mostly a small nitpick in the greater scheme of things, but it is important to point out none the less, particularly if you suffer from warm feet already.

It should be noted that Kili is a challenging environment on gear. It features multiple climate zones, plenty of rocky terrain, and weather conditions that can vary greatly. But that said, when I returned home my Trailscopes looked like I had just taken them out of the box. There wasn't a scratch, scuff, or ding on them despite wearing them on most afternoons on the mountain. I think that says an awful lot about their long term durability, and their ability to survive in tough environments.

As mentioned, these shoes also served double-duty while at home just kicking around town. We had a few late-winter storms blow through our area, bringing snow and ice to a city that normally doesn't have to deal with those conditions. The Trailscopes performed very well however, with the excellent waterproofing keeping moisture at bay. And as the temperatures dropped, I appreciated the fact that these shoes were able to add a little extra warmth to my feet.

Beyond that however, these shoes just happen look nice and are perfect for wearing in casual situations. They have an understated design that is perfect for the trail, but doesn't scream "outdoorsy" when you just want to wear them around town too. If you like to wear your hiking shoes for a variety of occasions, I think you'll find Chaco has delivered footwear that will keep you happy both on and off the trail.

The waterproof version of the Trailscope runs $135, which makes them competitively priced with similar boots from other manufacturers. Considering the high level of comfort that they deliver however, I'd say that they are a relative bargain. This is a great multipurpose, light-duty hiking shoe that will keep your feet happy and safe on the trail or around town. They are durable, good looking, and well built, which should make them a great addition to your gear closet too.

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