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2011-04-18 09:49:17
Boots and conventional wisdom.
Earlier this year we were on the Paps. On the east most of these we met a farmer's daughter who had walked the entire way from the western access via the west Pap. In wellies. Come to think of it, almost every farmer I have seen on the hills wears wellies.
Some years ago I interviewed that grand old gentleman of Irish bagging, Brian Ringland (you can see the article in the More | Resources section.) We went walking on the Comeraghs. Brian who is the only person I am aware of to have climbed all of the 500m summits in Ireland (his own list, substantially similar to the Arderins) believed in and used wellies. Brian was seriously fast in his wellies which certainly worked well on the boggy ground of the Comeraghs.

So finally I decided to try some wellies out on a short walk on the nearby Little Sugar Loaf, a low quartzite ridge in east Wicklow. What types of conditions are they any use for? Can you walk quickly in wellies without problems? How are they on rough ground? Do the benefits of dry feet more than balance the disadvantages?

My preliminary report: not great grip on land but not too bad either, great in low furze, less protection from rough stones underfoot. A disconcerting sloppiness as you put your foot down caused I think by the fact that wellies' soles are quite narrow by comparison with boots. There was some dampness in the boot after walking for 90mins but nothing excessive - something Brian insisted to me was his experience.

The biggest benefit of wellies is dry feet and the weather and ground didn't let me test this. I will when possible. Certainly I helped lead a walk for one of my walking clubs in Feb and it was a non stop 15k of slushy ground which wellies might easily be much better for. And a lot of walking in Ireland is on soft boggy ground. Could the conventional wisdom simply be wrong? Or at least wrong not to consider wellies for soft boggy ground which we often encounter on this island.

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