What Travels With You: How I Fell In Love With Hiking x The North Face

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Unathletic and skinny-weak Sole Sister Julienne broke out of her sedentary lifestyle three years ago and threw herself into the wild outdoors. 

By any means, I don’t consider myself a bonafide hiker or hardcore trekker. I don’t trail run. I can’t read coordinates. I don’t have a compass or headlamp on me (I wish I did). I can’t speak “hiker’ talk (MUDS = mindless ups and downs, haha!). And I don’t think I’ve even ascended more than 2,000 metres ASL (above sea level… :)) ). I usually depend on other people to build fires and pitch tents (I mean I could probably do it, I would just be 10 times slower than the more experienced people around).

All this said and done, I may not be great at hiking, but I love it, and have not stopped since late 2013.

01 Hiking in Hong Kong's Maclehose Trail Sec 10
Hiking in Hong Kong's Maclehose Trail Section 10, early 2015

You should have seen me when I began. I couldn’t walk uphill without whining and gasping for breath, calling for a rest break every five minutes. My heart was not used to the exertion, and my legs would scream in protest in those early days. I have my ex to thank for being patient with me all those months of struggling up Hong Kong’s hills. Back in the UK, he was a long distance runner, so it was probably boring as hell for him to have to keep waiting for me when he could run up The Peak in 30 minutes when it would take me an hour and a half.

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We would even hike in Macau. Yup, this was taken in the Coloane Trail

But as shitty as I was at it, I loved it. I loved being in the outdoors, especially living in Hong Kong and being cooped up in an office day in and day out, in the heart of the world’s skyscraper capital. We would even do night hikes up to Victoria Peak, where we’d catch amazing views of the sparkling city below.

Hong Kong at night
Hong Kong’s skyline through the foliage

I loved all the new things I would see, and never would have seen had I not hiked. I loved being able to take my mind off things and enjoy nature, getting “fresh” air (as fresh as it could get where we were). It was especially rewarding to end at a great beach, preferably with delicious food by the sea.

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Hiking to Long Ke Wan Beach (Hong Kong) with my sister, summer of 2013

So after getting into the hobby for a couple of years, I thought it was finally time to get some proper gear. It began with a backpack, and then most recently the boots. I may not be doing anything extreme yet, but when the opportunity arrives, I’d at least be prepared, right?!

I could have used those boots in Daraitan, where normal trainers lose all grip in the mud

I admit I was jealous of my sister, who got her own heavy-duty pair to climb Mount Pulag. I wanted nothing less than a waterproof yet breathable, mid-cut shoe… like the one she had. Sole Sister Lois put me in touch with the R.O.X. Philippines, who forwarded me to that legendary outdoor brand - The North Face.

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At the Mt. Ulap triangulation station, surveyed exactly 77 years ago

Never in my life did I think I could get that excited 
about hiking boots

I settled for The North Face Storm II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot (Women's) in brown (I wanted the Limestone Grey/Paradise Green combo, but they didn’t have them in stock in the Philippines). To be honest, never in my life did I think I could get that excited about hiking boots. The pre-2013 me would have curled her lip in disgust at wearing such a bulky, awkward looking monstrosity of a shoe. But when I got my hands on them, I thought they were absolutely beautiful, and couldn’t WAIT to go off on adventures in them.

The North Face Hiking Boots

Waterproof leather and HydroSeal® construction seals out moisture when hiking through wet environments. Crafted with Snake Plate™ and EVA Cradle™ technology in the midsole to protect your foot upon impact and stabilize your stride. Finished with a grippy Vibram® outsole that delivers stable footing over wet and dry terrain.

So the very same weekend, I tested them out in Mount Ulap, a 40 minute drive from Baguio City in the North of the Philippines. I decided on Benguet Province because of its high altitude, and thus cooler clime. I find it unbearably hot to hike in the Philippines otherwise.

My verdict:

  • Grip is excellent. I was able to tread on unstable and gravelly terrain with more confidence, less risk of losing your balance. 

  • Ankle support: You’re less likely to twist or sprain your ankle thanks to the mid-cut. 

  • Get the next size up (I’m a US size 8, but initially I had gone for the EU38 which translated to US7, too small). 

  • The shoe price, at 7,290 PHP , is a bit on the steep side. But I saw other styles and boots on sale below 6,000 PHP at The North Face stores in Glorietta, Shang Plaza, SM Megamall, and SM Aura.

  • I wasn’t able to test its waterproof abilities as - February being dry season - the river we crossed was dried up. But I’m going to update this post when I get the chance.

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Embracing the stunning views of the Cordillera mountain ranges

The one drawback is that despite the shoe being the right size for me, my feet are wide and my toes hurt at the end of the 4 hour, 9 kilometre hike. Further reading on choosing the right hiking shoe, though, has led me to the concept of breaking it in, which gives me hope.

Sole Sis Julienne Hiking2

Special thanks to North Face PH and R.O.X. Philippines for giving me a pair of boots to try out and review.

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Have you tried hiking in your country yet? Are you planning on doing any hikes soon? Do you have any hiking recommendations or tips for us? Do you think it’s worth it to invest in hiking gear?

Always love to hear from you! And see you on the trails ;-)

Sole Sister Julienne of Morena Travels is a 27 year old Manila girl who's lived in Hong Kong for four years as an editor of a tourism magazine. She loves board games, adventures, getting lost in the great outdoors, karaoke, trying new things, dancing, fitness, good food, and intelligent conversations. Currently based in Madrid, Julienne is at a crossroads of her life, so stay tuned for her latest at IG @morenatravels.

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2 sole trails

  1. Hong Kong makes people fall in love with hiking... :)

  2. Oooh didn't realise you were based in Hong Kong too! :)


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