I heard about the Hi-Tec Ion-Mask boots with a so called new water repellent polymer technology a while ago and initially thought it was just a gimmick – how wrong I was! Now I have a pair of these bad boys and before I go on about the techie side of them lets talk about the shoes themselves.
Most of the time when something is being sold as a new technology you often expect the basics to be lacking – but not here. The soles are from Vibram, a leading performance brand. What surprised me about these soles were that, unlike a lot of sub £100 boots, the soles and traction actually weren’t a consistent hardness all over. The benefit with this is that the parts that aren’t as rigid offer more flexibility than others soles, so when you move around you realise that your not as restricted with your movements as you might expect with a standard pair of boots.
Before trying these on, my boots of choice were Scarpas mainly because of the build and especially their comfort. Well these boots have gone one better in the comfort zone, offering a lighter, more trainer like feel but without sacrificing any of the performance aspects. The inner soles are also excellent and have a good sculptured shape that fits snug without feeling cramped but whilst letting your feet breathe.
The build and stitch quality live up to the rest of the boot’s specs and one of the parts I really like is how the tongue is only loose halfway down with a webbing like effect all over. The materials used feel strong but lighter and with this you don’t get the feeling that something heavy and bulky is strapped to your feet.
Okay now the science part. You can’t resist dipping these Hi-Tec boots in water when you get them and then you begin to realise this water repellent polymer technology isn’t just a clever marketing ploy – it really does work. If you do this to a normal leather boot the water will begin to get absorbed into the leather and effectively ruin them. With these Ion-Mask boots the water just repels off as beads. For most boots this kind of effect can be achieved by waxing the leather part but this doesn’t last and you can’t wax any other materials parts. Ion-Masking technology, however, can be applied to any material (polymers, metals, fabrics, ceramics, glass and paper) allowing it to keep its material properties but repelling oil and water at the same time.
So how does the Ion-Mask technology work? The technology was developed by P2i Ltd (part of the UK Ministry of Defence) and is part of their patented plasma enhancement technology which has taken 6 years of research and development. Plasma is used because of it’s unique molecular properties at binding porous or complex objects on a sub-microscopic scale. The surface of the object is enhanced by gaining the properties of the deposited polymer, while leaving the other desirable properties of the object completely unaltered. This process is much more efficient using less raw materials and no need for aggressive heating compared to a conventional dipping method and is therefore much more environmentally friendly.
Pictures of the Hi-Tec Ion-Mask boots
These boots initially look to be rather gimmicky but even taking away this polymer technology you still have a fantastic, comfortable, solid, lightweight performance boot. Then add this technology, which actually does work exactly as stated, and you are looking at an extremely well priced boot that is built for even the most rugged terrain and weather.
The only negative points I have are that I would have liked an all black version and it would have been nice if the shoelaces had the polymer technology as with the rest of the shoe. However, I was so impressed I have added it to my Christmas gadgets list. This is one not to be missed available in sizes for men and women (see below).