Lowa tramping boots

The little known tramping relation of mine, Slowboat McTavish, decided it was time to stretch his legs on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and donned his super-comfortable kid leather-lined Lowa tramping boots and took off. He hadn’t worn the boots for ten years and after 40 minutes realised he wasn’t going to be wearing them much longer. The rubber padding in the soles perished, and crumbled as he walked. Tying the soles on with bootlaces was not a comprehensive solution. I could mention that many years earlier he had tried that remedy with his John Bull D-Rings, too (for younger readers, John Bull D-rings – otherwise known as Taranaki Cow Bailers – precede the Internet and so you won’t find reference to them there). Back at work, McTavish heard a similar tale of boot woe from a colleague.

The local boot-maker said nothing could be done, but the Lowa distributor in Auckland, John McMath, came to the rescue and for $120 nicely resoled them. McMath also provided a pamphlet describing how to look after your boots and an explanation that ‘sole units will degrade when your footware is used only occasionally and is stored for long periods of time. Frequent and regular use minimises that prospect; hydrolysis is a normal material aging process that occurs in all footwear with a cushioned PU midsole, irrespective of the manufacturer. It goes on to say that the process also occurs in automobile tyres, ski boots or helmets. I can agree that frequent use will fix the problem – in my experience I get to comprehensively wear out my boots within six years.

Coincidently my latest tramping boots are reasonably priced Lowas. These light, sturdy bright blue Cevedale Pros have neat bootlace-locking arrangements that operate effectively. It’s almost like wearing slippers, except I can edge with them and kick steps; they are great for my sort of mountain climbing and tops travel. I got them in Germany, where boots are rather cheaper than here. The days of suffering Taranaki Cow Bailers are over!

A bit more on GPSs

Not without some irony, I am managing a research project that looks at satellite navigation systems. GPS is the best known system, but the European Galileo system is becoming more useful and modern handheld units now use them. If you can access both the L1 and L5 channels, you should be able to get rather improved accuracy. The Russians, Japanese and Chinese all have their own satellite constellations, too, but not usable by any of the handheld units available here.

I can categorically state that when my Garmin Etrex tells me it’s accurate to within three metres, it’s fooling itself and trying to fool me. Unless you have SBAS running (I won’t elucidate further, because I know that for the next year or two you won’t have it) because of the vagaries of the ionosphere, you can’t reliably do better than ±5 metres. Don’t be surprised if you are ten metres out. In a few years, when using SBAS does become common, you should be able to get to ±100 mm. That makes a problem in its own right. Due to plate tectonics, Southland is happily trundling off towards Australia at 42 mm per year, making your GPS unit out of specification in just three years. Indeed, by now local New Zealand Map Grid topo maps are wrong by 0.75 metre as far as satellites are concerned. Knowing the little I do of the physics of these satellite navigation systems leaves me incredulous that they actually work, let alone as well as they do; they are one of the real technological wonders of the late last century.

Ka kite,

Robin McNeill
85 Sunrise Drive, Seaward Bush
Invercargill 9812

This column was originally published in the November 2018 FMC Bulletin. We will be regularly re-publishing a number of stories from Uncle Jacko’s Cookery Column here on Wilderlife.