In Salt Lake City last July, at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, I met with the fun ladies of Patagonia Footwear to get a peek at their Fall 09 and Spring 10 lines. What caught my eye were the Drifter AC, a sturdy low-top light hiker with a meshy upper and the Nine Trails, a super-light trailrunner. I’ve been wearing both through the fall (the Drifter AC in particular is awesome—it’s my go-to dayhiker right now).
But that’s all pretty straight-edge compared to the story behind the Boaris, a shoe made from pigskin and designed for—no joke—hunting boars. Here’s the story, as told to me by said fun Patagonia ladies and then liberally paraphrased and embellished by me: Fletcher Chouinard, son of the much-ballyhooed Patagonia founder Yvon, stumbled into a shoe design meeting (likely fresh from catching tubes) and said, “Hey guys, I need a boar-hunting shoe! Yes! It needs to handle the rigors of hunting shirtless in the backcountry with a spear. I need to be able to get feces, blood, and urine on it, but to come home clean because I can’t be shuffling around Ventura with all that on my shoes, and there’s no way I’m changing shoes.” So...surfer shoe? No. Feral pig hunting shoe? Ah, yes.
Let me restate the performance claims: 1) clears feces from tread easily; 2) withstand bloodstains; 3) is not made grossed by urine (presumably from both the hunter and the hunted); 3) looks cool.
Now, before actually hunting in them (that's Part 2 of this testing smack down),I'll grade those claims in reverse order.
Looks Cool: A
I’ve been wearing the Boaris Mid Waterproof around town, through airports, and to back-porch parties for three months, and get nothing but complements. A sampling: “Cool shoes, man,” “I like your shoes, dude,” and “those look comfortable.” They are.
Unfazed By Urine: A-
Before you ask: Yes, I peed on these shoes. Patagonia released a “Limited Edition” version of the Boaris on November 2nd, sent me #001, and I immediately drank a few Miller High Lifes and a Nalgene of water; then I relieved myself on my own shoes. Result: This test was more detrimental to my psyche than the shoes. The Limited Editions look no worse for the wear and, after a rinse, are simply just wet. It was an "A" performance, but I gave them an "A-" just because I know they’ve been whizzed on.
Won't Bloodstain: A
According to The Google, I have about eight pints of blood coursing through my system, but I’m too much of a pansy to tap into it to test this claim. Also, all the meat in my freezer is, uh, frozen, and I’m too impatient to thaw any to wring out on my shoes, so I go for the age-old substitute: ketchup. Result: all signs of tomato pasted-ness are gone after a quick dunk in a creek. (Note, however, that the Limited Edition Boaris is not waterproof. My feet are now wet).
Clears Feces: B+
I guess when you hunt wild boar, you stand a decent chance of stepping in wild boar crap. I’ve already peed on my shoes, but since I’m not actually hunting wild boar there’s no way I’m defecating on my shoes. (As previously stated, I’m too impatient: Waiting for that sort of magic to happen could potentially take way too long). So I go for the most plentiful source of poo I can think of: my backyard. My black lab Arlo drops bombs all over the place. For step one, I picked a large one and stepped in it. Then, I wiped my feet in the grass (as one does when you step in dog s**t). Result? Shoes are not clean enough to walk straight back inside the house, but are indeed far cleaner than I expected. I’d guess that if were I actually hunting, walking back to my F350 or Gator or whatever would scrape the rest off.
Next up: Since these shoes survived my backyard acid test, I’m going to hand them off to an actual hunter (and naked bike rider) who will wear them on an actual hunt. He'll report back sometime in Mid-December after spending time chasing deer and pheasant in Wisconsin. One thing I know for sure: He'll be the chillest hunter in the field—and that’s where these shoes truly excel.