And the answer is always: as long as it’s right for your mountain sport, whatever is most comfortable for you.
ShoesAfter my two treasured pairs of Jimmy Choos, the goddess of all footwear, I would say my favourite shoes are my latest trusty boots. With the fantastic late season snow we’re seeing, right now I’m in Dynafit TLT Ski touring boots: just enough rigidity for skiing with plenty of room and flex for ski touring. But what’s right for me, might not be right for all.
Introducing the Swisskisafari tips to buying mountain kit:
Hiking bootsDon’t buy hiking boots in the same size as your city shoes. Go one size up. That way your feet can expand when you get hot, and your toes don’t bash the front when you’re going downhill. No black toenails needed here.
Always ensure they are done up tightly around the ankle, but make sure the laces over your foot leave room for feet to shift a little. No point in squashing the veins on your feet – you’ll need those.
Ski and ski touring bootsThe comfort of these boots depends a lot on the skill of the person fitting them. The inner lining needs to be heat moulded to your feet, with plenty of space for your toes. Make sure your fitter knows their stuff!
Beware a carbon fibre outer shell. Although trendy, carbon fibre is very rigid and won’t allow torque or any manipulation once set. It’s expensive and not always comfortable. Go for a material that allows your boot man to modify: you’ll appreciate it on the mountain
Comfort needs to be earned. No new boot, even if moulded, will be 100% comfortable straight away. Wear them in, ski, climb and test them out well in advance of any big trip to make sure you’re as pain-free as possible when there.
Boots for cramponsDonning crampons on your safari? Boots for crampons have rigid soles to ensure the crampons don’t fall off, but the hard sole doesn’t allow your feet to roll, especially if you are small and light. The lighter you are, the softer you’ll want your shoe to be, as long as it’s got adequate rigidity for your excursion.
My cheat’s tip? Bring light running shoes for the dry approach to the ice, but only if it’s safe and your guide approves. The weight of your boots in your rucksack will be hard to carry, but it’s worth the trade-off if the approach is long, and you have bad feet like me.
Back packsComfort is key, so be sure to ask the shop for at least 6kg in weights to test out any new rucksack. It needs to fit snugly to your body, and feel secure
Size matters. Women’s backpacks are usually slightly shorter in length, to fit into women’s shorter backs. At the moment I’m using a Deuter Alpine Guide which fits me perfectly
Our guides want you to be comfortable on a safari, so will go through the contents of everyone’s backpacks before a trip, and suggest what can be left behind to save weight. You’ll reach a compromise and be lighter for it.
For Alpine hiking and climbing, a pack with no external pockets or straps is safer. Aim to bring a backpack with minimal extra pockets and pouches. Instead, make sure your backpack is smooth, and your jacket has pockets which can be accessed easily when the waist band of your backpack is tight, so your camera, tissues or suncream are close to hand.
Et voila. You’re perfectly kitted out for your next safari. You can thank us later.