We sent two of staff some hiking products for testing at the famous Dragon’s Back Trail in Hong Kong. Here is what they have to say:-
Authors’ confession: Our hiking experience amounts to several marches through McRitchie Reservoir, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and the tame tropical rainforests of Johor. This is better than having no experience whatsoever, but the journey we were to embark on, to the renown Dragon’s Back trail in Hong Kong, had us slightly apprehensive. There are vastly mixed opinions on the hiking network of southern Hong Kong. Some say it is an easy, introductory trail, whilst others caution that it is for moderately experienced hikers. No less, the first step for us was to get outfitted with the right gear.
From weather reports, we had gathered:
- Temperatures would range from low-teens to 20 degrees celcius
- Rain was forecast for 50% of the time we were to be there
- Wind was a given due to the proximity to the South-China Sea
Arpenaz 500 Hiking Shoes
Aware that we were stepping into unchartered territory (for us at least), I thought it wise to go with a shoe that offered slightly more aggressive treads. They’d be a little uncomfortable to walk on paved roads but would at least give me the reassurance of sufficient grip if the trail got particularly loose or craggy. This proved to be a wise choice. The Dragon’s Back trail varies from man-made steps, to jagged, weathered rock, and at times muddy pools and slip-offs. These shoes bit into the dirt like an alligator on prey. My foot slipped once or twice, but even the best hiking boots would have suffered the same fate on the waterlogged top-soil. I also loved that the toe cap was reinforced with a one-piece rubber material, which prevented the tip of the shoe from deforming as my toes crammed into the front on steep descents. I did have to go down one euro size and I would suggest you try moving your foot around in the shoes when trying them, to see if there is excessive space. One area where these shoes let me down a little, was the lack of arch support. For someone with feet as I do (flat), arch support is crucial and it meant my feet were a little sore at the end of the day. Overall, these shoes are great value for money. They feel well-constructed and sturdy, and they get the job done. Bonus point for looking like casual shoes in spite of their function.
Arpenaz 100 Women’s Hiking Boots
I chose these boots for one simple reason: Nova Dry. Nova Dry is Quechua’s waterproof technology found on many of their hiking boots. True to form on a trail that threw us a little bit of everything, we faced multiple water crossings. Whilst some other hikers had to pick and choose their way across, hopping from rock to rock in a futile attempt to keep dry, I just plodded my way through the shallow water. I sound so confident only because I tested the technology in a small pool of water first! These mid-cut hiking boots gave me most of what I needed on this trail. The stability of the shoes kept me feeling planted even over loose rocks, my feet bone-dry through shallow waters and they were even comfortable on the streets for everyday use! I did have a bit of a sore little toe at the end of the hike as the toe box is very narrow and tapered. Perhaps a slightly larger size may have helped. For this trail in particular, which can be very steep and slick due to the rainfall, the boots could have used a bit more patterning on the soles. Some slick areas saw my foot slipping, but for most regular usage, these boots are great value-for- money. The materials used in the construction of these boots meant that they felt seasoned from the get-go. No break-in period, no blisters. Just slip them on, tie them up and enjoy the hike.
Forclaz 100 Women’s Hiking Pants
The first thing I noticed when I wore these pants was that the lower legs seemed a bit baggy. It was when I wore the full ensemble with boots that I realised why. The bell-bottom look is less a look, and more a function. They allow hiking boots to fit and move around beneath the pant leg! The breathability of these pants was most welcome when the sun was beating down on my neck, and the trail tilting ever upwards. I also noticed whilst sitting down for a breather that the knees are actually contoured to a slight bend, which greatly improves the range of motion compared to regular pants. A very useful feature was the zippered pockets which gave me piece-of-mind on the trail that I wouldn’t be leaving behind any “cookie-crumbs”! The pant legs are a little long for your typical Asian, but nothing the good ol’ rolled cuff won’t solve. The subtle pink highlights also bring a bit more femininity to these rugged pants.
Arpenaz 100 Women’s Rain Jacket
What a lovely jacket! This jacket ended up being used as my main jacket the duration of the whole trip. With the temperate climate and wind blowing off of the South-China Sea, this jacket proved itself on many an occasion. It made light of rainfall, stopped the wind chill dead in it’s tracks before it seeped through to my bones and features two very conveniently located button pockets to stow my hands for warmth. One pitfall of the jacket however, is that in temperatures closer to the low-twenties, it can get a bit clammy underneath the jacket. Especially when the trail shoots skywards and you generate more body heat. The sleeves also face a similar issue to the pants. They have obviously been designed and modelled on a user with slightly longer limbs. I chose to see this as an added feature. It kept my hands warm in the cool weather! A jacket of this quality and price is going to be very rare and hard to come by. 2 big thumbs up to Quechua!