Hiking System by Zhik

ZhikBoot 300 links up with Hiking Straps 470 by means of ZhikGrip, a diamond grid texture that gives dinghy sailors a superior hiking connection. "Gear Up" from our May 2, 2007, /SW eNewsletter/

Michael Lovett

If I ever decide to adopt a puppy, I hope the breeder doesn't check my past history caring for sailing boots. They would send me home puppiless, rebuking me for a lifetime of neglect. Most recently, I deserted a pair of Aigle boots on a picnic table. They weren't even my boots, they were the ones I borrowed from a friend after I lost my own pair, which I had purchased secondhand from that same friend, who sold them in pity after watching me buy and mislay two previous new pairs. That's four pairs lost, if you're counting.As much as I've grown accustomed to the inevitable loss of every sailing boot I ever wore, I'll really hate to lose my latest pair, ZhikBoot 300 by Zhik (pronounced like "psych"), which I tested along with Hiking Straps 470 at 2007 Thistle Midwinters East.ZhikBoot 300 is a refined version of the neoprene zip-up boot long popular with dinghy sailors. The contoured fit eliminates unnecessary bulk; the upper is canted to the correct hiking angle; abrasive resistant rubber in the heel and on top of the foot reinforces high wear areas; the sole grips well on slippery surfaces (like the varnished cockpit of a wood Thistle) but doesn't have nooks and crannies likely to pick up the debris that could scratch such surfaces. One downside of the soles: they aren't rigid enough for the Thistle-specific task of stepping the main halyard to the top ball. (You'd need steel-toe sailing boots to do this with ease.)The best feature of Zhik's boots is the way they integrate with Zhik's hiking straps. Because the Australia-based company has yet to design a hiking strap specifically for the Thistle, we used the Hiking Straps 470 on our boat (and they fit perfectly). On their own, these extra wide, semi-rigid straps were a big improvement on both the standard nylon and the foam-wrapped straps already installed on the boat. In conjunction with ZhikBoot 300, Hiking Straps 470 were even more impressive. Diamond textured ZhikGrip material on the boots and straps interlocks at the point of contact to provide a firm bond and-says Zhik-promote a more dynamic connection between sailor and boat. I'm not sure the ZhikGrip system helped me establish a Zen-like relationship with the boat, but it did give me the confidence to droop from the tips of my toes, not the tops of my feet. Which brings me to my chief complaint about this hiking system: With Zhik onboard, I need a new excuse not to hike. ZhikBoot 300, $75Hiking Straps 470, $54www.zhik.com