I first learned the value of a good pair of boots when working long shifts in outdoor security. Standing on pavement and concrete for hours on end is tough on feet. Doing it in the blistering heat or freezing cold is even more unpleasant.

See, I started an article with a personal story that had nothing to do with Iraq.

While in Baghdad, I discovered the importance of boots that could be put on quickly (see what I did there?). It was spring 2008 and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army was busy firing rockets into the IZ/Green Zone. Since that’s where I lived and worked, it made me nervous. Being able to get to a hardened structure quickly at any time of day or night became a high priority. Simply put, taking time to get my feet into boots or shoes as rockets roused me from slumber was not an option. That’s why I got a pair of Bates Tactical Sport Composite Toe Side Zip boots. Sleeping in my shorts, I could wake to the incoming siren (or a rocket impact), swing my legs over the edge of my bed and into my boots. In the dark, I could zip the boots up simultaneously by using both hands. From that point, it was just a quick dash to the concrete bunker and relative safety.

If you've seen any of my testing videos, you've probably seen me wearing my Bates.

If you’ve seen any of my testing videos, you’ve probably seen me wearing my Bates.

These boots are well-made and comfortable, which are both important when considering footwear. Their weakness is the same feature that made them so desirable to me: the zipper. Repeated rough handling can eventually break the zipper. I should point out that this happened for me not once, but twice. Of course, I abused those boots like you wouldn’t believe. Frantic tugging on zippers can put a lot of stress on those little pieces of metal. So can frustrated, drunken tugging.

They lasted me about a year apiece, which isn’t bad, all things considered. After the second pair broke on a trip to Nepal, I retired the design and went back to the old Rocky lace-up boots. I didn’t like the lace-up boots so I looked on sites like Footwear 4 Workers for a good composite boot to wear again. Then, by coincidence, my wife got me a pair of Bates zipper boots for my birthday-the exact same model, in fact. With a feeling of warm nostalgia, I put them on and went out to break them in on the forest trails. She also considered getting me a book or two to read on the trail, stories of being a survivor and all that. This was about a year ago. I am wearing that same pair of boots as I write this article. The zippers are holding up fine, showing no signs of failing. The toes are scuffed and scratched, but show no real damage. The soles, however, look a little rough.

Proof that I don't just wear my boots in the yard.

Proof that I don’t just wear my boots in the yard.

I love to hike sections of the Appalachian Trail. No, let me rephrase that. I generally like hiking and specifically despise a section of the AT north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It’s a rocky, nasty little section of trail that for some reason, I keep visiting. Worse, I have the incredibly poor judgment to hike along it at night. This leads to lots of tripping and cursing.

It’s also rather hard on my boots. It’s this bit of trail that’s pretty much obliterated the front tread on my left boot, but for some reason, left the right relatively untouched. Despite the damage, my Bates Side-Zip boots continue to provide good traction and remain comfortable in everyday use. I have little doubt they will continue to soldier on through many more hikes to come.

If you’re looking for a pair of zippered boots that will hold up to considerable abuse and continue to function long after you’ve mauled them; consider Bates.

-By Allen Cosby

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53GR is an avid shooter, hiker and tinkerer. Introduced to guns at an early age, the hobby became a passion in his early twenties. After two years in Iraq as a contractor for a defense company, he developed an unhealthy addiction to military surplus gear. Though he's currently in treatment, the prognosis is that the condition is chronic.

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