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Reviews > Footwear > Camp Shoes > Giesswein Vent Shoes > Test Report by Richard Lyon
GIESSWEIN VENT SHOES
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report March 21, 2017
Field Report May 29, 2017
Long Term Report August 3, 2017
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 70 years old
Shoe size: 13 US (46-47 European)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA
I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Though always looking for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Summer adventures are often centered on fly fishing opportunities; winter on downhill skiing or ski touring.
INITIAL REPORT - March 21, 2017
The Vents are casual wear slip-on shoes that are designed for outdoor use. I intend to use them as camp shoes after a day in hiking or (if weather conditions allow) ski boots.
Appearances can deceive. Out of the box the Vents look like slippers. But on a closer examination there's much more to them. The uppers are made of nubby boiled wool that is stiff and stout. According to the manufacturer it's been washed and rewashed in both hot and cold water for pre-sale seasoning. The uppers look a bit rough and fuzzy on the outside but the inside is smooth and soft to the touch.
The top of the uppers has a sewn-in chamber that houses a toggle-operated cinch cord. The toggle, at the front of the upper, allows fine tuning the fit. A small loop at the heel aids pulling on the shoe.
Sewn to the uppers are hard rubber soles with a tread pattern designed for gripping damp or slippery surfaces.
The most un-slipperlike feature is a removable footbed, made of cork and Latex, that looks very much like a footbed of a hiking boot. It has a shaped arch support and a suede covering on the upper side. Giesswein calls it "Ultra Comfort;" I call it a strong and sturdy platform. Giesswein notes that the Vent will accommodate third-party insoles.
Manufacturer: Geisswein USA, Lewiston, Maine USA
Model: Vent. It's found in Giesswein's Lodge Shoe line.
Size: 46 European; available in unisex European sizes 36-48. A table on the website has rough US men's and women's equivalents.
Color: Ocean (dark blue). Six other colors available.
Height at heel, measured: 3.9 in / 10 cm
Weight, measured: 13.4 oz(380 g) per shoe
MSRP: $134 US
Country of Manufacture: Austria. Reflecting the company's heritage Giesswein continues to use the German pronunciation - geese-vine.
TRYING THEM ON
I pulled the Vents on with the aid of the heel loop. The fit was snug, somewhat intentionally so as I had ordered the smaller of the two European sizes that usually fit my foot. There was no pinching anywhere and the top of the shoes fit nicely over my foot just below the ankle. Once again the insole was the greatest difference between the Vents and my slippers, my normal indoor footwear around my home. The insole gives support just like a trail runner or hiking or ski boot. I found that support to be therapeutic after a snowshoe hike and very comfortable.
Having once owned a pair of Giesswein slippers (what would now be part of the Houseshoe line, intended only for indoor use), what especially piqued my interest in the Vents was the opportunity to wear the shoes outdoors. I have done so just a bit since receiving my Test pair. This was in and around my home, collecting firewood from the stand behind my house. An early spring has made that path a bit damp, with patches of slushy or refrozen snow, depending upon temperature and time of day. The Vents held their own on the slick ice. The outers got a bit wet in puddles but nothing got through to my socks, and the outers were dry after fifteen minutes in the mud room.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CARE
Giesswein says that the shoes are machine-washable, with insoles removed, in cold water on a gentle cycle. Drying should be natural, with newspaper stuffed inside to maintain the shoes' shape. The insoles must be spot-cleaned.
They're great around the house - soft, comfortable, and supportive. I live in the country, on a dirt road with a long dirt driveway that is muddy from melting snow at this time of year. To minimize dirt and mud in the house I switch shoes when going out or coming in. The Vents are perfect in this service. I found them to feel soft and comfortable and easy to don and doff. As noted the support from the insole actually helps relax a tired post-hiking foot. I'm looking forward to seeing how much and how effectively I can extend the Vents' use to the outdoors.
FIELD REPORT - May 29, 2017
I have worn the Vents often, outside and in, over the past two months. They are very useful footwear for life in the country.
Backcountry use has been limited to a single weekend overnight, a backpack to a Forest Service cabin Easter weekend. This trip was planned as a leisurely hike in shorts to check out some wildflowers from the nearby Battle Ridge cabin. I had packed the Vents for cabin and around-the-cabin use, but Mother Nature drastically altered the conditions they faced. A surprise snowstorm the previous evening laid a foot (30 cm) of fresh snow and the temperature dropped to about 25 F (-4 C), cold enough to keep the snow relatively powdery at first. At the trailhead we strapped on snowshoes for the short hike to the cabin, dropped our packs, and spent the morning on snowshoes in the nearby basin. The morning was all the snow time we had. The sun came out just before noon and by 5 pm what snow hadn't melted was heavy slush. Instead of hardpacked dirt and pressed-down grass the area around the cabin consisted of puddles, slush, slick grass, and mud. Chores and outhouse trips became an obstacle course to dodge the deep stuff.
I don't consider the Vents suitable for hiking with a pack; I have skinny feet and rely on lacing to keep my shoes on my feet. But the Vents have a designated duty on dayhiking days as my footgear to and from the trailhead, whether I'm driving or a passenger. Stout enough for street shoes when pumping gas, making a coffee run, or walking a few hundred yards/meters to the beginning of the trail, they are comfortable and warm before and after a trek.
Most frequent use has occurred in and around my home. My usual habit is to change shoes when leaving or returning to my home, which is set on about five acres in the Bridger foothills, to limit the dirt I must sweep or vacuum up and keep moisture off the floors. The Vents have been on my feet both inside, as house slippers, and outside, for bathroom trips for my puppy and occasional trips to the woodshed for firewood. Outdoor use has been limited since spring began, as frequent rain, melting snow, and the resulting mud and mud puddles call for water-specific footgear. On those days the Vents have been my indoor footwear.
Overall I estimate 30-40 days of wear, including two days' backpacking, although in spurts and never more than an hour or two of outdoor use on any day. All wear has been with wool or wool-blend socks of various weights and thicknesses.
Fit. The Vents fit wonderfully. I haven't had to re-adjust the toggle to pull them on or off, meaning that there hasn't been any stretching from frequent wearing. That's especially reassuring on those occasions when I've worn the Vents outdoors in the snow. The tighter fit means that a foot won't pull out of a shoe when straining to pull the shoe out of grippy snow.
Traction. The fact that the Vents stick in the snow attests to the good grip their soles hold on damp surfaces. That applies to wet grass and mud as well as snow. On pure ice that grip is as reliable as anything not containing cleats, meaning I must take care when such use is necessary. Fortunately freeze-and-thaw conditions have been infrequent over the past two months, though a couple of times I tossed the Vents into the car for indoor use after a drive. I'd walk through the parking lot on cleats, then switch to the Vents upon entry to the restaurant or grocery store.
In dry conditions the Vents' soles grip almost as well as trail runners, certainly well enough for outdoor chores.
Water. My reluctance to expose the Vents to puddles and slush has been driven by worries that I'll get my socks wet from water deeper than the Vents' low-cut cuffs and, to a lesser extent, that their wool outers will become saturated. Definitely the Vents are water-resistant; I'd rate them as good as loden at shedding snow and keeping out the occasional water splash. (And that's intended as high praise.) On the overnight trip the Vents did get moderately soaked, but not to the point of wetting through to the inside. And after a couple of hours of wearing them indoors they had dried out completely.
Comfort. The Vents' feature that stands out most noticeably from other camp shoes I've worn is arch support. The insoles and the heavy rubber soles give support that's more comparable to trail shoes than to sandals or slippers. I appreciate this the most indoors, when the support is easy on my feet and more therapeutic (at least psychologically) than any comparable footwear I've used.
The boiled wool means that these shoes keep my feet warm even outdoors and, so far at least, even when wet.
Care. I brush accumulated dirt from the Vents after outdoor use, using a stiff wire brush, and usually remember to remove the insoles for air drying upon re-entering my home. A couple of times I've hand-cleaned with soapy water spots where dirt or other grime has penetrated the surface. After two months the Vents look as good and perform as well as new.
WHAT I LIKE
Just about everything. The fit and support particularly.
WHAT I DON'T
A difficult choice this summer. As hiking trails open up I'm going to need footgear for water crossings, meaning either packing an extra pair of shoes for that purpose or leaving the Vents at home and using water shoes for around camp. While separate shoes for trail, water, and camp might suit my preference for base camp backpacking, should I undertake a difficult or lengthy backpack I expect I'll opt for the weight saving.
LONG TERM REPORT - AUGUST 3, 2017
I've worn the Vents much less over the past two months than during my Field Test period. This is mostly a consequence of my opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the shoes in warmer weather.
Since late May I took the Vents as camp shoes on an overnight backpack in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Camp temperatures were about at freezing, and I wore the Vents with my sleep socks. On July 4 weekend I wore them as camp shoes on an overnight to a nearby Forest Service cabin, again with sleep socks. This weekend was dry and warm, with camp temperatures no lower than 50 F (10 C). On a recent hiking trip to the Orkney Islands, Scotland, I wore the Vents around town on two evenings, at 40-45 F (4-7 C), on dry cobblestone streets.
Most use has occurred in and around my house, usually with lighter socks and a few times with no socks. In early June this meant in damp or downright wet conditions, in temperatures ranging from 40-75 F (4-24 C). They've been used as driving shoes to the trailhead for many day hikes and trips to the gym or Pilates studio.
Fit. The Vents have held their shape well over the past four months. I have detected a bit of stretch in the length, but nothing serious. I notice this when wearing the Vents with no socks. I recommend sizing down, as I did, to anyone who's considering purchase of a pair. In retailing terms, they'll stretch to fit. I've had no issues with lateral fit.
Comfort. As good as ever, and as noted in my Field Report that's great. After a hike the firm but substantial insoles almost massage sore soles. I can't recall ever being more comfortable around the house. The only drawback is that their thick boiled wool can make my feet warm very quickly when worn outdoors, with or without socks. Wicking is satisfactory but the Vents simply do not allow airflow comparable to that provided by waterproof-breathable membranes on mesh or even leather hiking shoes.
Water. More frequent use has reinforced what I reported earlier, that the Vents are water-resistant and don't allow moisture to penetrate the outers to the point of soaking socks and feet. Also as earlier noted, the greater risk of wet feet comes from their slipper cut. The Vents' low sides call for care in navigating puddles or slush.
Care. Once again, little to add to my earlier observations. The insoles, when removed, dry quickly in the low-humidity Montana air and have not required any treatment for accumulated odor. During the past two months I've refined my cleaning of the outers; after exposure to water and mud I'll allow the shoes to dry before brushing off the dirt. A few times I've also gently rubbed the outers with a damp cloth.
Durability. Terrific! The Vents look as good as new and continue to provide support and a comfortable fit as well as they did out of the box.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I'll do this by activity, given that I think these shoes are great for some uses and quite inappropriate for others.
As house shoes or slippers the Vents are wonderful.
The Vents are also wonderful for casual outdoor use, in just about any weather. In my case that's meant dog walks and training sessions, gardening, light chores, and driving.
I do not consider the Vents to be hiking shoes, even for moderate day hikes. That opinion is based in no small part on of my skinny ankles, which pop out of the Vents' heels on uphill stretches. Another factor is my longtime desire for solid ankle support when carrying a pack. I did try wearing the Vents on a couple of long [3 miles/5 km] dog walks. I really wanted more than slippers on my feet.
Water-resistant, warm, and comfortable, the Vents are ideal camp shoes, whether on the hardwood floor of a cabin or dirt or forest duff of a campsite. But with their low cut and heavy, non-quick drying wool, they cannot double as water shoes. When I'm backpacking on a route with water crossings water shoes are a necessity. I'd rate the Vents more of a luxury.
My Test Report ends here, with thanks to Giesswein and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these shoes.
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