Thoughts About My Chacos, and Help From Leki

I have been wearing Chaco sandals for about 7 years now, in fact I have been wearing the same pair of Z/2 sandals. Granted, I have had them re-strapped 2 times now, and had them resoled last summer. I am a big fan of the shoes- in my opinion there are none better. But I have some bad news about the shoes for fellow Chaco fans and supporters of small, local business. It appears that Chaco has sold and the shoes are no longer made in Paonia, Colorado. Any guesses on where they are made now?

Part of me wants to complain about it, find another locally made shoe to wear, move on. But I don’t think it is going to happen- even though they are now made in China, and even though I see a difference in the quality of materials, there are no other shoes made like Chacos, not even close in my opinion. And I guess I should congratulate those who started the business- this is the goal of starting a small business after all- to build it, and then sell it for millions. I just hope the sandals do not follow the route of Teva- which used to be the “only” river sandal about 15 (20?) years ago. Their manufacture left the US, they were redesigned, and redesigned more, reinvented their image, and came out with fluffy slippers, and dress “boots” for the yoga-mom cult, and that was their end in my book. Unfortunately I have already received a couple of Chaco poster “catalogs” in the mail, complete with smiling yoga-moms perched on rocks, fluffy slippers and dress “boots”, and dog collars even. (For the record: I have nothing against smiling yoga-moms.)

I also want to mention that I did have a problem recently with my resole job from last summer. I sent my sandals in for a re-strap earlier this summer. The day after we got on the river on our recent San Juan trip the soles of both of my sandals began delaminating (glue interacting with cleaning fluids used during re-strapping?).  By the end of the trip both soles were nearly off, I was out of duct tape, and my feet and sandals were sticky with duct tape glue. As soon as we got back I gave Chaco a call, sent the shoes back at their expense, and had them back with new soles, free of charge, within about a week. So their customer service  and repair have not changed, although it has also left Paonia.

Leki Super Makalu Trekking Poles
Another piece of gear I have sworn by over the years are my set of trekking poles made by Leki. I have been using the same pair for about 11 years now and have finally had a small issue with one of them. A small crack developed in the lower pole section right where it tightens down into the middle section. I called Leki to see about buying a new piece, and within minutes they had my information in their computer and the problem had been taken care of. I had a new lower pole section about a week later free of any charges. The Super Makalu poles apparently have a lifetime guarantee. It took me about 2 minutes to swap the part out, and the poles were as sturdy as the day I bought them. There is something to be said for buying the best gear on the market.

For those who are skeptical about trekking poles, and have not tested a pair, I recommend giving them a try. From the first few minutes of my first hike with them, I swore I would never hike without them again. For me they have become indispensable to me. Most important to me based on some of the “trails” I hike and the endless river crossings on some of my adventures, they aid in maintaining balance.  Trekking poles help with weight distribution as you hike. At the end of the day you’ve had a bit of an arm workout, but your legs and knees and back feel better and you’ve walked a little further. They also double as tent poles if you use any of the Golite shelters or are setting up a poncho shelter. One note about my poles- I have rarely used the webbing loops attached to the trekking pole handles. I cut the straps off and lightened my load by another few grams! And the straps were no longer in my way.

You can see the poles at the Desert Explorer website, and read about them and other gear recommendations for desert hiking.

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