Footwear Frenzy: Salomon Quest 4D Forces Review


As any other gear junkie I have given up the hope of ever finding that one pair of shoes capable of doing it all. A Jack-of-all-trades does not exist. Your low-cuts will be unable to go into rough or wet terrain; your trekking boots will be unnecessarily heavy and stiff on tarmac or easy trails; and your backpack will become uncomfortably heavy while wearing shoes with too little arch and ankle support. Then there’s the never-ending discussion of waterproof vs. water-repellent – and then I’m not even mentioning mountaineering boots.

I work for an outdoor company and served in the military before that and therefore I have collected my fair share of outdoor footwear throughout the years. I own two pairs of low-cuts, two pairs of mids and two pairs of high-cut trekking boots. None of these are up for anything, and only one pair comes remotely close.

That would be the Salomon Quest 4D Forces. Designed as a full-mission profile boot for military use in warm and dry climates, this boot has a lightweight construction, while still being relatively high-cut and offering enough rigidity and torsional strength for a wide variety of terrain and loads. Its look and build are slightly more aggressive and sporty than many of its German competitors, which has some advantages and disadvantages – but more about that later.


The main components of the upper are rubber, suede leather and 1000D Cordura. The sole is made from a sandwich of rubber layers, mostly molded EVA and Contagrip outsole material. In the upper, the suede leather and Cordura work together to create a surprisingly water-repellent outer layer. Hiking through very wet terrain in Abisko, Sweden, I was genuinely surprised with the time it took for my feet to get slightly wet. Granted, I was wearing waterproof gaiters at the time but these did not cover the lower front part of my feet. And the lack of Gore-Tex or full leather upper also made sure that my feet could ventilate excess heat and moisture effectively – meaning they were dry relatively fast.


The sole is sturdy enough to give support and stability on rocky terrain, but flexible enough to be comfortable. The molded EVA and Contagrip outsole give a large amount of suspension without going soft.

Now, there’s one main drawback to how Salomon and many other lightweight bootmakers make their footwear, and that is the lack of cemented construction. This is a very traditional and labor-intensive (and thus expensive) way of constructing boots in such a way that the upper is a completely separate part of the boot. This means that the sole can be replaced, giving the boot longer life and a better fit. With the Quest 4D, this is not possible and that is a true shame. Once the outsole has been used up, it is time to buy new ones and depending on the amount of use that might be quite fast, especially if you happen to be in the military.


There are some important differences between the Forces and regular version of the Quest 4D, as military use often asks for specific details. The lace hooks have been replaced with loops. This ensures no wires, ropes or lines can snag into the boot’s laces – important during fast roping, parachuting or rappelling. The outsole has been slightly altered to make such activities easier. The mesh polyester on the regular version has been replaced with 1000D Cordura, a tougher and more water-resistant nylon variant.


Other than that it has the same bells and whistles as most other trekking boots. A gusseted tongue, shaft loops to make donning and doffing easier, a rubber toecap to protect the leather against rock and scree, lace locks – and exceptional grip.


Two features are relatively unique: they’re lightweight and flexible, while being relatively stable. These truly are get-up-and-go and almost as easy to wear in as a pair of running shoes. This is interesting because usually this means that large or heavy backpacks can become uncomfortable and problems with knees and ankles are bound to pop up sooner or later. I’m sure that above a certain weight that will also happen with these boots, but I was surprised at how well they got along with my 15kg backpack in rough Swedish terrain while ascending and descending.



These boots have a normal, maybe slightly roomy, fit. My feet are slightly wider than average and with most brands I’m between UK 8 and 9, meaning I usually need an 8,5. I have owned a pair of Salomon boots before, which I got in 8,5. Those turned out slightly too small so I sold them. I got the Quest 4D in a size 9 and so far that seems to be spot on for me. My heels are locked in place and my toes have enough wiggle room without sliding sideways or forward. One thing I will say about the fit: the shaft is very aggressive. After only one day of use I decided to stop using the highest lace loops because I could feel my shins hurting. Skipping them solved that issue. Shin issues aren’t funny and should be avoided at all costs.


Most details have already been mentioned. The most important reason for me to get these was the fact that they are more or less the only full-mission profile boots without Gore-Tex that Salomon makes. Gore-Tex has its drawbacks. It’s waterproof but that often comes at a price, especially in dry and warm weather, as the membrane’s air permeability only allows for so much water vapor to go through. I wanted lightweight and flexible, yet sturdy boots for summer use in the mountains. The fact that these are spacer mesh lined instead of waterproof is great. And when your feet do get wet, they ventilate well enough to quickly walk them dry.



So far I have used these on day hikes, training rounds with intermediate-sized packs and a short overnight camping trek in Sweden. They performed well enough on all occasions, although I think they will truly shine during a summer cabin-to-cabin trek in the Alps, which my girlfriend and me will undertake next month. While I was positively surprised with how well they managed wet and rough terrain in Abisko, I would take a heavier boot for a longer trek there. They would offer slightly more stability and durable comfort than these Salomons do, even though they surprised me in the way they were able to handle themselves given the rough and uneven terrain 250 kilometers into the polar circle.


Lightweight yet sturdy



Breathable yet surprisingly water-resistant

Snag-free lace loops

Strong outsole with grip on rough terrain

Ankle support


Outsoles cannot be replaced

Aggressive cut on the shaft

Lace loops and lacelock system take some time to get used to


These are a great pair of boots for those looking for shoes strong enough to tackle rough terrain every once in a while, but also like speed and agility. I would not recommend them for full-on mountain trekking but with an intermediate size (say 40-50 liters) pack in summer time or otherwise dry weather these will work great. They offer ankle support, flexibility and ventilation while being reasonably water-resistant and quick drying. A definite recommendation if they suit your needs. They are also available in a Gore-Tex version if you need waterproof boots.

Further reading



Up, Up and Away

This Sunday, me and two of my colleagues will be heading off to the Northern-most top of Sweden again to support our employer’s yearly trekking event, Fjällräven Classic. This is always a great opportunity to meet colleagues from across the company, talk directly to customers who just finished a 110K hike and have been using our gear on the trail, and to head out into Sweden’s Great Wide Open.

It’s also a good opportunity to test some newly acquired gear myself. Over the last few months I bought a new pair of shoes, a new daypack and a new shell jacket as well as some shirts and vests, but I haven’t had a good opportunity to put them to the test. The weather forecast in Abisko for the next week-and-a-half isn’t great (lots of rain and showers, and temperatures below ten degrees Celsius) but that’s just the right weather to try out some new stuff and see how it performs.

I’m really looking forward to spending some time in the outdoor lover’s playground that is Abisko National Park again. It’s a really nice place I highly recommend you visit at least once in your life. Hopefully we will have some clear nights so we can see the stars and the predicted meteor showers: it’s one of the few truly dark places left in Europe – except during the summer…

Stay tuned for some reviews and pictures!

Quick update

Sorry about the lack of new content, but things have been a bit hectic with a number of job interviews, current work and preparations for upcoming travels. The good news is that I’ll probably be switching to a new job in a few months after the holiday period, which will create more financial stability (aka, more money for geardo things…).

I’ll try to post something new and interesting in the next week or so, but I have to find the time to actually write it. I just did a trial-packing for my pack for an upcoming cabin hike through the Slovenian Alps and that turned out better than expected, so that’s good. I could even shave some weight and space on the contents if I want to but I’ll have to wait what the weather does in early September…

Stay tuned!

A Little Bit of Genius: First Spear Missing Links

Some of you doubtlessly have had this problem: you wanted to mount pouches to a 4cm wide tactical belt, but it didn’t have MOLLE loops, resulting in pouches flopping about annoyingly. The tactical industry has, through the years, come up with a variety of solutions to this problem 1) sewing some MOLLE loops onto a tactical or rigger’s belt (and jacking up the price ridiculously); 2) making special belt mount pouches (and jacking up the price ridiculously); and 3) making padded MOLLE sleeves for your belt (the ‘Battle Belt’ solution). Personally, I’ve never liked any of these solutions. While the first two of them work just fine, I could never justify the costs, and the third one just adds so much unnecessary bulk to your waist that it’s never been an option for me.

Until recently, I came up with a very DIY solution to this problem: tie-wraps. They do their work almost flawlessly. They hold pouches in place pretty damn well and don’t bend the belt in such a way that it becomes uncomfortable (together with duct-tape and WD40 tie-wraps are kind of like my DIY holy triumvirate). There’s just one BIG thing they absolutely suck at:


Good luck re-using a tie-wrap if you want to move pouches around for a different type of set-up. Changing something on your belt means that you have to use a new tie-wrap. Now, some of you may never change anything on your gear, but I’m one of those guys who are never satisfied and want to move stuff around for different mission requirements.

Well, that introduction got out of hand fast…

Let me just say that First Spear’s missing links are the perfect (and I do mean perfect) solution to this annoying problem. Essentially nothing more than two loops of paracord sewn onto either side of a nylon strap backed with hook Velcro, these do exactly what they are made for: securing MOLLE pouches onto a tactical, rigger’s or duty belt not equipped with loops. They do so wonderfully well, even better than expected. My belt is equipped with hook Velcro on the inside to attach to the loop Velcro inner belt I, and a few of my teammates, use. You’d expect this to be a problem, as two hook side Velcro sides don’t attach as well as hook-and-loop. But due to the small tolerances, they do so pretty well, good enough for my setups.

I’m now able to switch around pouches to my heart’s content without blowing through a bag of tie-wraps like they are candy! Thanks First Spear!

Further Reading



Guest Review: The Tasmanian Tiger Mission Pack

This review is not written by me but by one of my old army buddies, who transitioned back into civilian life around the same time as I did. 


Since I’ve turned my back onto the military and became a civilian again, I haven’t stopped living by that good old military mind-set of the love of good gear. Whether it’s a jacket, boots or a pocketknife, it has to function flawlessly under any condition. My trusty  old high school Eastpak rucksack that I carried in a dozen countries all over the globe was finally finished after more then a decade of wear and tear. May you rest in peace! So, I picked up studying again and I was in for a new rucksack to fulfil my needs.

I was looking for:

  • Minimum of 40 litres, same amount as the Eastpak
  • Tactical look and feel
  • 2 main compartments, no top loading pack as I have to get to my books or laptop fast
  • Waterproof as much as can be
  • Durable
  • A rucksack filling the gap between my 30-litre Karrimor Sabre and my 55-litre Nomad top-loading rucksack.

When looking at tactical and 2-main compartment packs, there aren’t a lot out there on the market unfortunately. To cut a long story short, the choice came down to the Warrior Assault Systems brand, a brand I hear a lot of positive stories about, or the Tasmanian Tiger Mission Pack. With a difference in price of over 100 euros, the choice was easy for me, being a poor student again. I picked up the Mission Pack for around 130 euros.

About the rucksack and its specs

Rumour has it this bag packs a decent 40 litres, and I have to admit the main compartments are big. With big double zippers running almost all the way to the bottom of the pack it’s easy to cramp your rucksack full of stuff going out for the weekend and easily get to the bottom of the pack in no time without having to throw all your stuff out first. Just lay the pack on its back, undo the zippers and fold the bag open, and reach in.

The pack is made of 700D Cordura, so it’s quite waterproof but doesn’t pack a lot of weight with 2 KG. Using it as my day-to-day pack commuting to and from university by bicycle I sometimes encounter Dutch showers of rain but my stuff never gets wet. You’re not convinced about water tightness? This pack has a feature quite unique in the tactical world: in the bottom there is a small compartment packing a detachable rain cover in the same colour as your pack, so no need to worry about water. It comes standard with this feature.


Packing heavy stuff? Or hiking? This pack has a detachable waist belt that holds a small compartment, ideal for using a GPS device during hiking that you want to stow away quickly. The waist belt is attached by sturdy double Velcro to a small area inside the back panel of the bag, so even if you take the waste belt out, no one will notice.

The rucksack comes with a lot of MOLLE to enlarge capacity if you think you are running short. It also offers enough space for storing my 15-inch laptop safely. Also, it as a bendable back plate so you can form the back plate to your own preferences.


I won’t go into details of all the different smaller compartments but I can assure you, you have plenty of space to fit your needs!

My review

I’ve been carrying this pack now since January 2016 and I’ll admit it: I love it. I went out for a weekend with it, used it every day to get groceries or to go to university… No problem at all. Although I can imagine that some of you would wonder: why is he carrying a 40-litre rucksack to university? I surely need it with the laptop, adapter kit, books, big lunchbox et cetera.


I use it every day and after almost 5 months it doesn’t show any signs of wear. The zippers are sturdy as hell so you won’t demolish them easily. It’s also a comfortable rucksack to wear. The shoulder straps are fully adjustable and not too far apart so even for not-so-broad-chested guys like me it doesn’t tend to come off your shoulder while walking or running. Also, it offers me plenty of room to stow away my stuff and still have space left to buy some groceries.

Having mentioned the 700D Cordura, I haven’t felt the need for using the rain cover just yet while only commuting, but while hiking for hours in the rain I would advise using the rain cover. It’s a free extra and better safe than sorry, or, better dry than having your cloths wet.

Any downsides to this Tasmanian Tiger? Well… No. Or, looking at aesthetics, it looks a bit bulky. Having said that, I DON’T CARE. Period. It’s a great rucksack and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a bag that fits the list as mentioned above.

Further Reading



After Action Report: OP Eagle Fury, STANTA 08-10/04/2016

There comes a point in a lot of airsofter’s lives that they become fed up with day skirms and playing Capture The Flag or Team Deathmatch. For us, that moment came about 18 months ago. Having only played for three years in total, we’re still relatively new on the scene. Still, we decided to gradually switch mostly to milsim events: weekenders with a more realistic approach to gameplay, often including scenarios and role-play elements. We wanted more immersion, storylines and actually developing events. Milsim is where this can be found.

In Europe, the best milsim scene exists in the UK. I think the main reason for this is that the British Ministry of Defense is not scared shitless of the airsoft sport and has agreed to let some of their training sites to organizations willing to adhere to the MOD’s rules and demands. This creates the possibility to play at such diverse sites as STANTA’s FIBUA village, or at Catterick or Copehill Down. Especially compared to the usual Dutch ‘polder’ fields or indoor industrial locations, these give a freedom of movement that’s unparalleled – and a more realistic vibe to boot.

After a year-and-a-half of getting our kit at a point where we were confident enough it would be able to handle a more strenuous form of airsoft – and getting our mindsets at the same level – we thought it was time to give the UK a try. Combat Airsoft Group’s event Operation: Eagle Fury would be our first excursion to the milsim scene across the pond.

In a lot of ways, it was exactly what we expected. In some other ways, not so much.

Logistically, our trip to the UK went off without much of a hitch. Yeah, there were some traffic jams slowing us down a bit, but overall we didn’t have much of an issue. We drove down to the Canal Tunnel, took the train across and drove north to Thetford, Norfolk, the location of the STANTA training village.

At arrival, we checked in, prepped our gear and awaited the first briefings. At 2100 local, the safety and operations briefings took place, which were necessarily long. After that, we retired to our FOB to await the first operational order. Our first tasking was to act as QRF for one of the other units, who were tasked to take an urban observation post overlooking one of the enemy areas of activity. I guess they must have been good at their job because our callsign remained at the FOB until the morning call to prayer in the village mosque woke us up and we got into our standtoo positions overlooking the western flank of the FOB – the only action we (sort of, due to lack of NODs) saw that night was a probing attack on our base. Hopefully, day two would prove to be different.


Day two didn’t start out too exciting. We were told to standby to standby. We discovered that we had to actively hunt for taskings, otherwise we wouldn’t really get them – so we did. This resulted in us clearing a few buildings and compounds, patrolling through possibly dangerous areas and probing for enemies. While we were happy to leave the relative safety of the FOB compound for a while, nothing really exciting happened during these missions. That changed during the late afternoon. We were tasked to set up a perimeter outside an enemy compound so that one of the Special Forces units of our Task Force could clear it. We ran into heavy enemy fire and were basically pinned down in place – a harsh reminder of the complexity of urban operations.


For me personally, this was a demotivating experience. Luckily, it was all up-hill from here.

Saturday evening we were combined with another Special Forces unit to probe into that same enemy area, however this time after nightfall. This is where the technical advantages of Western forces naturally come in. NODs help to infiltrate without making a sound and without being spotted, while still being able to observe. Regretfully, our own callsign did not possess any so we were totally dependent on the SF unit we were accompanying. We cleared our objective without any difficulty and returned to the FOB. Returning there, we were told to get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow morning’s mission.

We happily complied.

Sunday morning proved to be the moment that made the event for us.


It started with another probing attack on our compound but this time we were not going to sit it out. First we took the building right across our FOB, clearing out two hostiles taking potshots at our buddies. Then we pushed up with elements from another callsign, right into enemy held territory. Fighting building to building is always dangerous, so we regretfully took a few casualties – however we linked up with a number of friendly callsigns and cleared the entire village of remaining hostiles. Mission accomplished.


The last day really made the event a success for us. I can’t help but notice that this is becoming somewhat of a tradition…

There are a few things we learned during this event. The most poignant of these is that getting a feel for the operational tempo is really important. We expected to get taskings on a regular basis, because rotating operations through callsigns is a realistic way of doing things. However, we sensed that to get the fun taskings you simply had to be ready at the right time. For me, this was the biggest takeaway.

Then there’s the geardo side of things. Normally just an ornament, helmets actually served a purpose during this CAG event. The medic rules were set up in such a way that helmets acted as an actual protector and thus a force multiplier. I’m definitely getting one for the next event, because it made you able to crack on with the fight that much quicker!

Nighttime Observation Devices are another story. They are the true force multiplier. Darkness is your friend, and being able to see in the dark while your enemy is not almost makes you superhuman. The problem, however, is that really good ones are ludicrously expensive. I’d love to have one, but for now it’s just not a realistic prospect to spend too much on such an item. Maybe I can start saving up soon. Rumor is that some of my teammates are thinking of buying some good units…

Some pointers for the organization’s next event, while we clearly saw the effort put into this and we are by no means experts yet: getting a base commander to take care of rotation and base security, intel presentation and unit information would streamline the entire FOB life. This has to be someone from the organization, not a random player who feels like it needs to be taken care of. Rotating tasks ensures everyone can have their moment of glory, while it also creates the possibility to rest and rearm.

Have a big map of the AO in your ops tent so all the TLs can see what any one unit is doing in an instant. Have a layout of the FOB, including where every unit is sleeping. This streamlines handover of stag (ie. it makes it possible to kick the new unit out of their sleeping bags…).

Gameplay-wise, I would prefer a somewhat slower build-up. The first probing attack on the FOB was already quite a large one, with sustained direct and indirect fire. This made the mindset of everyone already quite kinetic from the outset. In my mind this limited the possibility of ‘hearts-and-minds’ operations.

All in all we had a blast and I hope to return to the UK for such a game at least once every year. However, what I really hope is that the scene in the Netherlands and surrounding countries matures enough to support this type of events on our side of the canal – although we regretfully have a space problem here. Here’s hoping that changes sometime in the near future and bigger sites become available for airsoft events on this scale.


Book review: the rising tide and urban insurgency

Out of the Mountains by David Kilcullen

‘Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.’

-T.E. Lawrence

This perhaps famous piece of advice by the First World War legend T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) is something that popped in my mind while reading one of the most interesting books I have picked up in years: Out of the Mountains (2013, Oxford University Press) by David Kilcullen, one of the counterinsurgency experts of the modern age. To be sure, this is no book solely about Arabia or its surroundings. It’s not even a book solely about counterinsurgency. Even more so than one of Kilcullen’s previous books, The Accidental Guerilla, Out of the Mountains is mainly a theoretical treatise about one of the current and future problems of our planet. (continued below)


Conflict (armed or otherwise) is mostly a social interaction, and thus takes place where people live. Where and how people live (the conflict climate, so to speak) is currently driven by four megatrends: population growth, urbanization, littoralization and connectedness. What this basically means is that (1) there are more and more of us, (2) more and more of us live densely packed into small urbanized areas (3) close to the shore of either lake, river or ocean, and (4) we’re more and more connected through internet, phones, TV, radio or other communication technology.

In countries with functioning governments and a strong economy, a (reasonably) high standard of living and strong civil society this is already strenuous enough – but manageable. The problem is that for the largest part, these four megatrends are taking place in countries with no or only partially functioning governance and low – in some areas within those countries even falling – living standards.

Population growth is forcing people to go where there’s some work. This is causing urbanization. In a large number of cities around the world, public services are stretched beyond their breaking point, causing the rise of large shantytowns in which there’s no government presence. This power vacuum tends to get filled by organized crime and/or insurgents. Often they simply take the place of the government through what Kilcullen calls a system of competitive control – the insurgent group simply starts doing tasks the government can’t, or won’t, do. To top it all off, this is all taking place in cities close to large bodies of water with an immense amount of traffic flow above, below, on, or close to this water – and its inhabitants are more and more interconnected through communication technology.

Kilcullen mentions some examples. Of those, the Lashkar-e-Taiba attacks in Mumbai in 2008 are the most telling. For all its high-rise luxury and tourist visitors, most of Mumbai is a mega-slum close to the Indian Ocean, situated close to one of the busiest international ports of the region. First, the attackers used their time to get a feel of the flow of the city. They scouted their (social) route of approach in such a way that they would use busy places with barely any government presence. Second, they used the immense water-based traffic flow as an infiltration cover. Third, they chose targets with a large number of tourists present, such as popular hotels. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, they operated in small teams connected, through cell phones, to what comes down to a Tactical Operations Center in a house somewhere in Pakistan. There, their commanders kept a close eye on Internet news feeds (the Indian government was notoriously leaky with information about their counterterrorist plans) and fed important information back to Mumbai so that the ground teams had Situational Awareness to stay one step ahead and execute their plans with brutal success. Because of this approach, the Mumbai attacks of 2008 are still one of the more high-profile attacks in recent history. In some ways, the Charlie Hebdo attacks of January and the Paris attacks of November 2015 echo this approach.

So, what to do about all of this? Well, there’s no simple solution to this. Counterinsurgency in general is already a complicated subject – let alone when it takes place in an unplanned urban mess close to the ocean. As we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, militaries have a tendency to kill a city in order to save it. Not strictly in a literal sense, although that regretfully happens as well. Through the establishment of checkpoints and military presence, the city loses its life – its social blood is unable to go where it normally would.

From a strategic perspective one of the solutions is co-design (this is where Lawrence’s quote popped into my head). No plan, however well intended or executed, will succeed if the local population or government doesn’t want it to succeed. Outside experts, however smart or knowledgeable, often lack the local contextual knowledge to make their plans work. This is where the locals come in. Vice versa, they often don’t have the skills, tools or resources to combat their problems on their own. In a counterinsurgency security is either a very large part or a very small part of the total solution, but however big of a part it is, it is most definitely the first problem to tackle. This is very often a problem in which outside help (kinetic or non-kinetic) will be necessary.

Being a former military officer, Kilcullen ends with some advice to military leadership and political decision makers. First, military forces in an urban insurgency mission need the ability to be flexible. They need to be able to aggregate and disaggregate quickly, meaning size and force composition needs to be adapted to a certain situation incredibly quickly. Second, they need special tools for the littoral job: basically, they need mini gunboats capable of operating in shallow waters at speed. Some Special Forces components are already making extensive use of such riverine craft, but they need to become as ubiquitous as the MRAPs in Afghanistan or Iraq. Third, troops need to make a change of mindset. Deployments will change. Whereas the last ten to fifteen years we saw the rise of enormous FOBs which were basically a city within a city (straining already taxed local resources even further) the future is probably more bare-bones. As Kilcullen says: ‘Troops need to become hikers again, not campers.’

Most importantly, troops and politicians must understand that rural counterinsurgency operations will most likely not be the new normal. They must not make the easy mistake of preparing for the last war.

Further reading and references

Chandrasekaran, R. (2006) Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad’s Green Zone Bloomsbury Publishing

Kilcullen, D. (2013) Out of the Mountains: The Rise of the Urban Guerilla Oxford University Press

Lawrence, T.E. (1997) Seven Pillars of Wisdom Wordsworth Editions (first published in 1935)