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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Kayland Convert > Test Report by Ray Estrella
Kayland Convert Boots
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Kayland, Outdoor Division of Novation S.p.A
Web site: www.kayland.com
Year manufactured/recieved: 2008
Size: Men's 11 (US)
Weight listed (each): 640 g (22.6 oz)
Actual weight of test boots each: 794 g (28 oz)
Color tested: Vintage Brown, also available in Blue
The Kayland Converts (hereafter called the Converts or the boots) were delivered to me in their retail box. They came in excellent condition and are what I expected after viewing the boots on the Kayland website noted above. The Converts are part of Kayland's Light Hiking line, but for the style of hiking I do and the loads I carry, I expect these to do expedition duty.
The soles, what Kayland calls "Active Sole features a high-traction rubber outsole, a molded EVA midsole, and molded TPU stabilizers in the arch and heel". Just feeling them, the lugs seem to be very pliant and could well live up to Kayland's claims of superior traction. (As I spend a lot of time on rock I will find this out, have no doubt.) They are attached to the boot with some type of adhesive.
The quality of my test boots seem to be very good. The stitching is all straight and uniform. There are no loose threads or blemishes other than the natural look of the leather. It has been a long time since I had a leather boot for 3 season hiking and it is kind of neat to be strapping something that looks like God made it rather than fluorescent man-made materials on my feet. (Thank goodness nobody has pictures of my first plastic-doubles in neon fuchsia…)
There is a lot more information about the construction and features on Kayland's web site but it is time for me to start thinking about getting the Converts dirty! I will be taking them for a break-in hike next weekend and two days later on a 30+ mile (48 km) backpacking trip with over 5000' (1525 m) of gain and lots of creeks to splash through.
Quick & Dirty Nitty Gritty
The Kayland Converts are some of the most comfortable full hiking boots I have tried with hands down the best traction. But the toe box is too wide and the insoles are lacking. Read on for the details please.
The Kayland Converts were used on the following trips.
The Kayland Converts got off to a pretty good start. I used them for a short overnight trip to break them in. I was very impressed by the comfort of them right from the start. I wore them with medium weight wool Teko hiking socks and my normal Fox River X-static liners. I had no major problems at all on this easy six mile (10 km) hike that only saw a total of about 1400' (430 m) of elevation gain and loss over two days.
The only thing I did notice was that the fold of the gusseted tongue on my right boot lands right on the top of my protruding ankle bone. I had to loosen it twice to make it stop aggravating me.
After I went home from that hike I changed gear, dropped my wife at the airport, grabbed a little sleep and met my brother-in-law Dave for a much more strenuous hike. This monster is described above at #2. The Converts did not fare well on this trip which saw me in the same liners and medium weight wool socks from Teko (1st day) and Fox River (2nd day).
Within a few minutes of hiking I could feel my feet were too loose in the toe area. I stopped and adjusted the laces tighter. (Still trying to keep the top from being to tight against my ankle bone.) But within a few miles of the huge descent that first day I could feel a hot spot forming on the outside of my big toe on my left foot. I stopped and put a blister pad on it. By the end of the day I could feel the other toe hurting in the same area. I did not stop to address it although I tried to tighten the laces some more to no avail. By the time I made camp I had a very bad blood blister on the left toe (the blister pad peeled off from the rubbing and then tore the flesh underneath making it fill with blood) and another not quite so bad on the right toe. I also had a huge blood blister on the back of my right heel that was a reoccurrence of a blister I had got 10 days before (so I won't count that) and two small blisters on the side of my left heel, a place I have never had a blister. I did some major work with moleskin and tape in my tent that night.
The next day saw us climb almost non-stop back to the trailhead. The insoles of the Converts felt like they were made of wood, not felt. My feet hurt very badly by the time I got done although I did not get any more blisters. I had tingling, shooting pains in the bottom of my feet, the right foot the most. I gave it the college try, but it is time to switch to after market insoles. I am going to try wearing a heavier sock also to see if that will take up some of the room in the toe box.
One good thing to report already is the water tightness of the Converts. Both trips saw plenty of wet spots for the boots. The trip along Mission Creek had 78 crossings (yes I counted them all on the way back) with only a few logs to cross on. I happily splashed across each one. I stopped to wet my hat or splash my face right in the middle of the creek many times. I slipped off a submerged rock once going in over the top of the boot but my gaiter kept the water from flooding in. I did not get a drop of water through the liner of the boots. Here is a picture in a creek at San Jacinto State Park.
I put custom moldable Ultra insoles from Sole Footbeds in the Converts, and took them to Minnesota to use on some long dayhikes with low weight to try to break them in further and test them out before the next big hike. I wore them with Fox River Explorer, heavy wool/synthetic blend socks.
I wore them on two (it was supposed to be three) day hikes of increasing length to make sure that I did not get more blisters. With the Sole footbeds in the Converts were much more comfortable and my toes did not slip and rub as they did before on the first hike, which was in cool weather. I had no hot spots and no foot pain or discomfort.
The next one was only two miles (3.2 km) longer in length but the weather warmed up and it had rained in the early morning so I was sweating a lot more. (I may be reaching here; I am trying hard to understand why these boots won't fit right.) I wore the same socks as the day before but at 7.5 miles (12 km) I felt my right big toe getting a hot spot on the side. A little bit further and my toes of my left foot were getting sore. By the time I got back I had a reoccurrence (again) of the blood blister on my right heel, which had been sucked back in. I decided not to do the planned 12 miler (19 km) the next day because I had too many hikes in the near future that needed my feet in walking shape.
At this point I decided that the Converts were not going to work for me as big distance boots. But as they had been very comfortable for short distance I decided to use them for some big-load, short-distance hikes I had planned.
So the next hike saw me in the San Gorgonio Wilderness where they did great for the fairly steep 6 mile (9.6 km) climb. The traction again was superb even through the snow we encountered up high. With the new insoles I had no problems with my heels getting hot-spots or any foot pain. They were comfortable enough that I wore them in camp.
As we had to collect a lot of water (as the nearest source was 0.3 miles (0.5 km) and another 300 ft (100 m) of elevation gain from the camp site) I spent a long time standing in Limber Pine Creek filling reservoirs. Not a drip seeped inside. Then while filtering water the collapsible bucket that I use for prefilter collection slipped off the rock knob I had it hooked too and flipped spilling its entire load onto my right shin, ankle and, of course, Convert boot. I felt the icy water seeping through the Wigwam Wool-Silk Hikers I was wearing. I decided to leave them on instead of changing into dry socks. Over the course of the rest of the day and evening my (considerable) body heat drove most of the moisture away from my foot and through the Event. At 8:00 PM when I took the Converts off my feet themselves were no different from each other. My liners felt the same too. I did notice that the right wool sock was slightly wetter than the left. I consider this a very good showing of the breathability of the eVent liner.
But again I was disappointed by the Converts. The next day we descended to the trailhead, an almost unbroken drop for 5.7 miles (9.1 km). By half way I was getting toe pain and feeling hot spots. I tried tightening them to no avail. My feet just will not fit snug enough in the toe box while descending. Here is a picture of them comfortably climbing on the way to our camp site.
I am going to use the Converts for a couple more short distance hikes that will see me carrying very heavy loads. At this point I see no good coming from trying the long distance stuff with them.
I have used the Converts for twelve days on the following trips during the last two months of testing.
Nothing has really changed in the past two months of testing. As may be seen above I have used the Converts in a limited fashion most of which took place on trails that did not have a lot of downhill travel. This is where I have got the most blistering from the loose toe box.
Pros & Cons
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