Footwear Frenzy: Salomon Quest 4D Forces Review

Overview

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.

Construction

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.

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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.

Features

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.

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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.

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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.

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Fit

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.

Details

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.

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Usage

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.

Pros

Lightweight yet sturdy

Flexible

Comfortable

Breathable yet surprisingly water-resistant

Snag-free lace loops

Strong outsole with grip on rough terrain

Ankle support

Cons

Outsoles cannot be replaced

Aggressive cut on the shaft

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

Overall

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

http://www.salomon.com/us/product/quest-4d-forces.html?article=381595

http://www.leafgear.com/en/salomon-quest-4d-forces.html

 

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Having a taste: Fjällräven Classic 2015

 So obviously it has been a little quiet here for a while… That is, however, with a very good reason. My employer saw fit to dispatch me, and a few of my colleagues to Abisko in Northern Sweden, to show some of our new products and colors for Fall/Winter 2015 to the finishers of one of the world’s most beautiful long-distance treks: The annual Fjällräven Classic.

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Running a long 110KM from Nikkaluokta to Abisko, the Fjällräven Classic follows a part of the well-known King’s Trail in Swedish Lappland. For many it is an introduction to long-distance trekking, to others it is just practice. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that it is not an easy road. Trails with large and small stones and rocks make sure the walkers need to think about where to put their feet and the absence of huts or cabins means that camping out is the way to go, so participants need quite a large and heavy pack to make the multiple-day walk enjoyable and comfortable – although some people prefer to do it trail-running in less than 24 hours, most trekkers do it in three to five days.

Personally, walking the Classic is definitely on my to-do-list, but I was there to work – kind of.

Being there was first and foremost about tasting the atmosphere of Northern Sweden. About talking to people, whether they were passers-by, long-time trekking enthusiasts, newcomers, other Fjällräven employees of every part of the company, and to existing or prospective customers – in short, it was a networking event set to the backdrop of one of the most impressive and beautiful areas in Europe, maybe even the world.

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Luckily we also had time to get out there. The surroundings of the Abisko Tourist Station are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen: Wild rivers, large lakes, and long-stretched plains, hills and mountains – even a very scenic sauna down by a lake which we were lucky enough to get to use. Although we didn’t have the time to get far enough away from civilization to get that typical sense of vastness and solitude I associate with long-distance trekking, it was awesome and beautiful nonetheless.

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I would definitely love to visit the place in my actual spare time once or twice again: once just to finish the Classic and again to enjoy the surroundings on my own or with a close group of friends. If you ever have the time to go, please do. It’s up North, so even in summer months you need to take the necessary stuff to enjoy the outdoors even when it’s a little colder. During the darker months, you can also get a good view of the Northern Lights. Getting there is not very straightforward (we had to fly from Amsterdam to Stockholm and change to a domestic flight to Kiruna, and drive for an hour and a half) but it was totally worth it!

Further reading

 http://www.fjallraven.com/classic

http://www.svenskaturistforeningen.se/en/Discover-Sweden/Facilities-and-activities/Lappland/Fjallstationer/STF-Mountain-station-Abisko/

http://www.visitabisko.com