Overlanding Footwear – Meindl Desert Fox Boots Review
Before our trip out here to Central Asia I started looking around for a new pair of boots that would be suited to drier, hotter climes and would give me more support over a pair of shoes. I am carrying my leather Raichle boots which are great when the weather is wet/cold/temperate but when things dry up and the mercury rises you need something else…
Why chose a boot over a sandal or lightweight shoe? This largely depends on your method of travel. For me it was clear cut. I wanted a supportive boot that I could rely on from the moment I step out of the vehicle. When you get stuck out in the field you don’t want to be worrying about your feet when your using a highlift/winch/shovel/jack/tools. I’m also similarly quick to escape the cab for photographic opportunities. I can often be seen leaping gazelle like (no really I do) over thorny desert scrub and scrambling over crumbling rocks. Each time I do this I don’t want to be thinking about my foot placement (too much). The other factor is the wildlife one. Disturbing snakes, ants nests and other critters (with my stealth like movements) often in limited light might be a disaster in a pair of flip-flops (thongs for those who don’t know) or sandals.
Searching around I found these Meindl Desert Fox boots. Off the shelf they retail at over £100 like most other good boots on the market, but a little searching around revealed these are in fact being used by our boys and girls out in Iraq and Afghanistan. What does this mean? well it means that there are literally pallets and pallets of used ones sitting in a warehouse somewhere ready for the MOD to sell as ‘surplus’. Searching around on Ebay for a few months, biding my time (into Winter) I found a pair of reasonably well looked after ones in what I guessed would be the right size for Meindl for £30 delivered. I didn’t want to spend a great deal as I wasn’t sure how much I would wear them, or if the last (shape) was right for me.
Having been wearing them almost daily for the past month these boots have passed expectations (the reason for writing this post). The Clima lining is very breathable and you can often feel the air passing through the mesh uppers and cooling your soles (sometimes even your soul). The multi-grip soles have some bidirectional lugs moulded in too which gives exceptional grip even when the surface turns slippery. They are not waterproof but that is not what they set out to achieve. If you have wide feet or are a Scarpa boot wearer you may find the last and especially the toe-box on the narrow side. It would be worth trying different sizes to see what fits best. I sized down from my usual 8.5/9 (Raichle/Scarpa) to an 8 (Meindl) which works with thin socks but nothing 2 season or above. I have been wearing thin liner socks with them and have no problems. Another feature to note is that they have a flexible section just above the heel so when you crouch or kneel down they do not dig in to your Achilles and are comfortable in that position for some duration (when changing a wheel bearing perhaps?)
When I received mine they were in fairly good condition with little wear. I replaced the insoles with Superfeet Energiser versions (I had they laying around) which has given them more support and a comfier feel. I will continue to wear these for the months to come as we venture further east through more of the northern hemispheres dusty recesses and inhospitable desert landscapes.
Give them a try, even if it is a pair of scruffy surplus ones.