Where these boots have taken me

by Jared

I can recall the day as if it was yesterday – although it must have been nearly 25 years ago. Deciding that my feet had finally stopped growing, my father announced that we would be heading to Trappers Trading, the local go-to store for all things outdoors to get my something. As an avid hiker himself, this was a rite of passage that he’d been patiently waiting to guide me through – buying me my first pair of hiking boots.

I sat proudly while the store attendant went through the various hiking options, and in consultation with my father, the right option was selected. My first pair of Hi-Tec boots would proceed to guide me through many years of happy mountainous explorations.

Perhaps the highlight of these was the greatest of all-day hikes in South Africa. The great ridge of peaks close to where we lived inspired both its names: Drakensberg meaning ‘dragon mountain’ in Afrikaans and Quathlamba in isiZulu meaning ‘barrier of pointed spears’. Once you’ve tacked one of SA’s highest roads from the Free State town of Phuthaditjhaba to the Sentinel Car Park, you begin the legendary ‘Chain Ladders Hike’ a six-hour roundtrip to the top of the Amphitheatre.

Once you’ve climbed the ladders to reach the plateaux on top, you can hike across to the top of the Tugela Falls – the second-highest waterfall in the world, plummeting almost 1km down over 5 drops. It’s a strenuous, but rewarding walk, and one I’m lucky to have done twice.

There are a hundred more tales to be told… you can imagine my delight in moving to Cape Town over a decade ago and discovering countless routes up and down the great mountain – all proudly tackled in my Hi-Tec gear. For now, a quick guide to three of the most important items for any hiking trip.

3 Hiking must-haves

  1. The Boots

It goes without saying that your boot choice is the most important of all since you’ll be taking thousands of steps over wild terrain. I’m proud to be wearing HI-Tec’s latest offering: the Altitude 7 boots. They provide waterproof leather uppers (few things are more frustrating than having to unboot and reboot for very shallow water crossings). The Michelin rubber outsole provides unbeatable traction (and gets approval from me since I’ve also recently upgraded my car tires to Michelin).

Hi-Tec has also just brought out a rather funky in-between boot option – the V-lite Psych – which still has waterproof capability – but is more lightweight and perfect for shorter day trips where you still want full support.

  1. The Jacket

With the unpredictability of weather conditions, especially hiking in mountainous areas, it’s always best to be prepared. Puffer jackets have certainly enjoyed a resurgence in recent years and a serve adual advantage – they’re lightweight so don’t take up hardly any space when unused, but when needed, provide necessary warmth.

My choice is the Nova Puffer Jacket – Hi-Tec’s latest puffer. They’re also ‘part jacket part planet’ – with around 26 recycled bottles used in the jacket. There’s also a reflective element, enhancing visibility during night-time activities. My tip is to fight the temptation for fashionable tight-fit sizing – you want some space to breathe and for mobility.

  1. Hiking Pants

At first, you might think them a bit gimmicky, but trust me a pair of Trail Zip-Off Pants are indispensable. The material is also quick-dry so even if you get wet (a light rain shower – or a quick dip in a mountain river) you’ll soon be dry again.

This versatility is important when back-pack space is limited, and believe me, I’ve been caught out many times thinking I’ll just bear the cold and wear shorts, and after minutes of hiking, wish that I’d had long pants.

PS – Festival of Hiking

Make sure you’re following Hi-Tec on social media for details on their annual ‘Festival of Hiking’. I attended this year’s event was at Meerendal Estate, where hundreds of other keen explorers participated in a variety of hikes. I chose the 12.5km option and enjoyed discovering areas I’d never seen before – and only 30 mins from Cape Town.

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south african travel journalist