Until recently a walking boot would be made waterproof either by fitting a waterproof lining on the inside or by regularly treating the outside. But are these the most eco-friendly or most efficient waterproof treatments available?
According to Hi-Tec, its new Ion-Mask treatment creates less of an environmental impact and does not require repeated application. Better still, it does not change the look of the boot or restrict the design.
Hi-Tec’s Ion-Mask footwear makes used of a plasma-based treatment to the outside of the boot that was first developed to protect the military against chemical attack … so a few puddles shouldn’t present too much of a challenge! The process works by permanently changing the surface structure of the materials at molecular level to repel water. So from the outside the boot looks the same as any other, but under a microscope, polymers are bonded to fibres in the material to make it waterproof.
On the hill
I’ve been using Ion-Mask boots for a few months for tramping around the Lakeland fells in all weathers. I tried my first pair of V-Lite Altitude Ultra Ion-Mask boots in the autumn of 2008. They are a relatively lightweight and flexible boot with a low ankle cuff. The design was ideal on valley walks and moorland, but not the best option for rocky terrain. The toe box is a little soft too, as is the upper. I noticed that even rocky bridleways in the Lake District were pretty uncomfortable while wearing these, because the sole just is not stiff enough to resist the twists and pressures exerted by stepping onto jagged rocks. If you don’t mind this level of discomfort then these are fine of course, as some people do seem to tolerate wearing pretty flexible footwear, but I’d prefer more stiffness.
In at the deep end
When it came to staying dry I found the first pair of boots started leaking after a couple of weeks of daily use. These were early production line samples, and indeed the manufacturer confirmed that they had tweaked the design to solve some problems. However I found the replacement pair also leaked in exactly the same place – at the base of the tongue – resulting in wet patches on my socks. A couple of Trail readers and www.lfto.com forum users reported similar difficulties, although there are certainly others who have not had any problems. Hi-Tec stated that returns for the boot are only 0.2 per cent, which is extremely low. Perhaps I was just unlucky.
So Hi-Tec’s V-Lite Altitude Ultra Ion-Mask boot certainly has a place, but I am not sure it is the best choice for hill-walking on rockier ground, while tackling wet, boggy moorland has not left me sitting high and dry either.
Upper Ion-Mask-treated full-grain leather
Sizes 41-47 (men’s); 37-42 (women’s)
Weight 1452g (pair, size 46)
Made in China
Stockist details – tel. (01702) 541771; www.hi-tecsports.com
Verdict: The Hi-Tec V-Lite AltitudeUltra Ion-Mask is relatively lightweight; excellent cushioning; low price; revolutionary waterproof treatment. But it’s not stiff enough to resist pressure from rocks on bridleways; our boots ceased to be waterproof after a couple of weeks. Overall, the Hi-Tec V-Lite Altitude Ultra Ion-Mask is lightweight and comfortable on soft, level ground, but not ideal on rocky ground; ours were not waterproof. It would have received a score of 3 out of 5 had our pair not leaked.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine May 2009