The AKU lesson.

My favorite pair of boots of all time were a pair of AKUs. I got them in 1992, on sale, at a store I was working at while in college (MainPeak Australia, still a great store!).

I loved them because they fit my feet.

This is a deceptively simple concept, but it turns out that is the number one, best, most important reason to buy a pair of boots. They felt GREAT the minute I put them on. Thank goodness they were also on sale.

The other reason I loved them was because my boyfriend at the time got some that matched. We looked so cool, or I thought we did. Turns out that is probably the number one, worst, reason to buy anything.

As time went by, and I wore them on bush-walks and beach hikes in the south- and north-west of Australia (my stomping grounds at the time), the boots molded to fit my feet even better, and their other strengths began to show.

I came to appreciate the GoreTex lining, the Vibram soles, the double stitching in all the places that matter.

They were so versatile - they could go ANYWHERE. In the 20 years that I used them, I hiked in snow, sand, water, on rock, in the desert. They stayed dry, managed my foot temperature well and were always ready to go. The best hiking partners a girl could wish for.

I came to appreciate that they laced up quite high.  The top of the boot came to about 2 inches above my ankle. Even when I was tired, I could feel the support and leverage that comes from having a boot that securely laces above the ankle. In my early twenties I had zero appreciation for how this might extend my hiking days, and years. Many mountains and thousands of hiked miles later, I get it!

I had to retire those old boots recently. My dog had chewed the top ankle support (in 2002...). I left them a moldy basement two winters ago, and the suede outer became a new shade of green, but I kept wearing them! The final straw was that the Vibram soles became so hard that they hardly flexed at all, and I began to slip when heading down the sometimes slippery rock I hike regularly in the hills of Maine.

This year I spent the summer wearing my son's cheap Timberlands (bought at Reny's department store), which are remarkably comfortable - with great ankle support and soft sticky soles. They won't do much for me come winter, though.


I am on the lookout for a new pair to replace the AKU's... I am ready for this search to take a while... but those boots taught me a lot about what to look for.


The boyfriend can choose his own...

Gear Review Philosophy

As I set out to write a series of gear and clothing reviews for my Happier Outside Tribe, I want to make these reviews a little different...

I want the reviews I do to be of stuff I have used well. Stuff that may, by now, be on it's last legs or had at least a few seasons of adventures under its belt. I may also do reviews of newer versions of products and items that I have previously owned, but only if I can get my own hands on it first to see how it may have changed, been improved (or in some cases, cheapened). I want to review useful stuff - little or big.

I won't use a rating system.

I have owned a lot of my gear and outdoor clothing for more than 5, sometimes 10, in many cases 20 years... and so it all has lots of stories attached to it. I will tell you how I got it - acquired it, bought it, had it handed down etc. I may not be able to tell you where to buy it now, although I will if I can... and if I can find a way to get you a smoking deal, I will.

We will have guest reviewers, and I will ask them to write according to these guidelines, too.

So, if this appeals... check out the posts below! They are all tagged by type of gear, reviewer name and season. Enjoy!