The essay “Light is Right” by New England climbing legend John Bouchard was featured in the first ever Wild Things catalogue circa 1983. It was written about two years after I was born. The concepts Bouchard was espousing were already well in practice by the time I stumbled upon the alpine world. I came into alpinism while climbers like Mark Twight were accomplishing climbs of nearly unimaginable difficulty with less gear than I packed to go ice climbing for the weekend.
Whether we’re heading to Rumney for a weekend of sport climbing or Cannon for some long pitches, most of us are reaching for the lightest gear we can get our hands on. The Wildfires by Salwea is a highly successful example of one company’s efforts to make gear loaded with innovative technology do more for less gravitational drag; lightweight is just as relevant today as it was when Bouchard wrote his article 30 years ago.
One of the first things you notice when you look into the Wildfires is the MMF (multi-fit footbed). The footbed is composed of a normal footbed that you can velcro onto one of two foam spacers to have more or less volume in the toe or heel. While this is a great idea in theory, the footbed offers almost no support unfortunately similar to most foam footbeds. I imagine many people will opt to upgrade the footbed, as I eventually did, to something with more support. Once I got the fit dialed and got them on my feet, they accompanied me on most of my fall vertical adventures: trips to the ‘Dacks, sport climbing missions to NH and Maine, a few covert bolting forays, and a three week trip to the Red.
I’m impressed with how much technology Salwea packed into the the Wildfires sylvite frame: the Approach Evo soles grip as well as anything I’ve had on my feet; a snug, adjustable, 100% blister free fit in the 3F Lacing system; an EXA shell that allows the light-weight abrasion resistance, and the generous support offered by the upper. This all makes for a superb shoe, but what I’m most psyched about is that I don’t notice the shoe once I put them on. They blended into my life’s rhythms seamlessly: on my hike to the crag, the office, or the bar, they don’t miss a beat. They even go nicely with a pair of jeans. Now that’s magic.
Really, my only wish would be to review the GTX version so I could still be sporting them daily now that the “White Devil” has us in his snowy embrace.
Where to find it:
Not available in stores until Spring 2013
Jeremy “Rowdy” Dowdy is a man of many titles and a long-standing employee/gear guru at the infamous Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont. He’s a ginger (sorry ladies, married too), a crusher on rock—with or without tools in his hands—ice and an all-around good guy.