Review by Arnie P
Baffin Baja Trails to Rapids shoes
The Baja shoes were provided by Baffin for review purposes.
The Baja is part of a family of shoes in the Trails to Rapids family consisting of the Belize, Amazon, and Baja. The pair of Baja size 9 shoes I received weighed in at 25.2 oz.
My initial impression is that they are attractive. Mine are black with fluorescent green laces and trimming.
The web site provided the following information on the Baja:
“The Baja from the Trail to Rapids series is available in two colors. The shoe is designed to give traction and cushioning for larger outdoor elements, however it is truly innovative, in that, it is incredibly lightweight and allows for all water encountered to drain completely from anywhere on the foot bed. A metallic grid prevents debris from entering; while a mesh upper allows for complete drainage. A low profile tongue and quick-pull, locking drawstring provide comfort and flexibility, while an adjustable heel support provides excellent comfort and customization.”
The hang tag on the shoe provided information on the construction of the shoe. The following is from the hang tag:
“Upper: Ventilated mesh provides ultimate breathability
Layer 1: Removable water channeling system drains water
Layer 2: Nylon layer allows water and air to travel through
Layer 3: Metallic grid stops stones and grit from entering
Layer 4: Ultra light mid sole provides cushioning and acts as the primary defense against larger outdoor elements
Out sole : Designed specifically to give you added traction while on the trails”
I am particularly fond of the box style toe of the shoe. I seem to stub my toes a lot while on the trail and for many years and have gotten blood blisters under the nail of one or both of my big toes. I think the box end type of shoe does a better job protecting my toes.
These shoes come only in full sizes and have easy adjustment for both the laces and heel. The result is no laces to tie, just adjust to your comfort level. They stretch and are easily adjusted. This will be my first time trying a shoe with a pull mechanism to adjust the tension on the shoe laces. The back of the shoe has a strap adjustment. At first I found it a bit difficult to adjust. I found that if I started by pulling the tab initially away from the shoe and as I pulled toward the back of the shoe to return back to the shoe, the adjustment was a lot easier. I have gotten to really like hiking shoes with a tab on the heel to help me get my heel into the shoe. I would like to see some kind of tab added to these shoes. I may add something myself.
Trying out the Baja
The Baja’s go on quickly, but would be easier to go on, if there was a loop at the top of the shoe, just above the heel. I have worn the shoes for a few days now and I am finding the shoes comfortable. Occasionally I do feel the presence of the holes in the drainage system of Layer 1 of the shoe. This should be interesting when I am wet for extended periods of time.
So far I am pleased with the Baja’s and will be initially using them daily the full day doing all my regular activities. This will include a couple hours at the gym and a few hikes before going on 2-3 day backpacks. Please check back in about a month when I will have more to say about the Baffin Baja.
I have been using the Baja shoes daily and all day since I have received them. I have been on several hikes with my backpack loaded to simulate backpacking conditions. I found that on these hikes I did not feel uncomfortable due to my being able to feel the rocks through the soles of the shoe. These hikes were typical of most conditions I would find backpacking.
A minor problem
I also noticed that sometimes I can feel the top of the shoe on my left foot near my ankle. At first I thought it was because I have a broken ankle on my left foot. The ankle was broken in 1976. When I examined the shoes carefully I noticed the the outside of the left shoe is about ¼ in higher than the right shoe. This is probably something that went wrong in the manufacturing process. I weighed each shoe and the weight was identical at 12.6 oz each. So far this is not a problem but is something that I noticed. I have been in contact with customer service and they were very helpful. I was given a choice and I decided I would wait for the next production run which will contain some modifications.
Picking up stones
I usually pick up a small amount of debris in my hiking shoes. Not very often and not predictable. I was thinking this design would be more vulnerable for picking up trail debris, but this has not happened. I am picking up some rocks and all of them are getting into the larger of the 2 drainage holes in the heel of the shoe. So far this has happened only when I go to Great Brook Farm in Carlisle, Massachusetts. I also suspect it is only happening on certain parts of the trail. They appear to be ones that have been crushed from larger rocks and are very irregular in shape. I have taken out 3 so far and considering I have spent at least 300 hours in these shoes that is not a problem. I did not know the rocks were present until I actually inspected the bottom of my shoe. I was able to quickly remove the rocks with a small slotted screwdriver. It just amazes me that I could be walking on those small rocks and not feel them.
Weekend backpacking trip to Mt Isolation
This backpacking trip had been planned for a long time. This was a 15 mile trip to Mt Isolation. Although I have climbed Mt Isolation before, this was my first time doing it by the Rock Branch Trail. The trail has very few spots that were easy hiking, most of these spots could be measured in feet. The trail consisted of stream beds, steep rocky climbs, muddy swampy areas. My hiking friend sank into mud midway to her knees a couple times. I was more fortunate and only sank to almost the top of the Baja’s. We had to cross a stream 12 times. It would have been only 10, but we crossed at the wrong place and that added 2 more crossings.
I will now get into what I liked and what was not so good. The shoes drain magically, but it does not take too much water on the ground to feel it on the bottoms of my feet. This does not mean I would not wear them in below freezing weather. I would wear 2 pair of wool socks with a pair of Gore-Tex socks in the middle. It did take some getting used to stepping in a small amount of water and feel the wetness immediately. Then there were the stream crossings. I decided to take my socks off for the stream crossings. I knew there were 5 stream crossing before we would hike 1.8 mile before crossing streams for the return trip back to our campsite. There were some long stretches between a couple of the crossings. This water was very cold, and a lot of the rocks on the bottom were slimy. It did not surprise me when I was sliding on these rocks. I have never had anything that has worked when walking over slimy rocks. When I got back to the campsite I noticed I had several bruised areas on my feet. I was surprised because I did not feel any pain at the time. The next morning it was time to return home and I did not feel like wearing socks initially. Within seconds I was not comfortable so I put on my damp socks from the previous day. This worked as soon as the damp socks warmed up from a low temperature of about 50 F during the night. The first day the temperature was about 74 F and the temperature on out return trip was about 86 F. With the varied rock surfaces I walked over I noticed the advantages of a thick but flexible sole. The flexibility of the sole allows the shoes to make more contact with the rock and afford better traction without any discomfort. I did get some debris in my shoes but I think that happened when crossing the stream without socks. My friend wore flip-flops on the stream crossings and had a lot more bruises. The thick rubber surrounding the shoe worked well when I would bump into rocks. I did notice I was catching my foot occasionally on rocks or roots. I think the thickness of the sole of the shoes is thicker than what I usually wear. As I wear these shoes more on hikes I will adapt to the thicker soles.
I am looking forward to more backpacking trips and hikes using the Baja shoes. Please check back in about a month when I will have more to say.
A last look
It’s now time to take another look at the Baja Baffin Trails to Rapids shoe. I would normally say this is a last look at the Baja shoes, but Baffin is coming out with an updated model in early fall and I may be reviewing it.
I continued to wear the Baja’s daily and completed a 3 day backpacking trip. However, I had to cancel a weekend backpacking trip due to a painful swelling on my right foot due to a recurrence of gout. More on this later.
Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway (MSG) Trail 3 day backpacking trip
I have been hiking with a hiking friend for almost 10 years and she decided to join me on a 3-day backpacking trip on the MSG trail. The weather was very hot during this backpacking trip with day temperatures about 90 F and night temperatures about 75 F. Our plan was to hike to Fox Brook campsite and set up base camp. The second day we would hike north with a reduced load in our backpacks and return for the night. On the third day we would return home. The first day started with a 2-3 hour drive to the trail head. When we arrived we were greeted by signs that the blueberry season had started and we could expect about 10% of the berries to be ripe. Hikers park at the trail head and berry pickers can drive to a couple berry picking areas near the top of Pitcher Mountain. The gates to this road open at 8 am and close at 8 pm. The hike starts with a steep ascend to Pitcher Mountain, then down through the first of the blueberry fields. After the trail passes through a shaded, cooler, dense forest it passes through the second blueberry patch. The trail, as before, enters a dense forest and then continues to a third blueberry patch. The rest of the trail is in dense forest. We arrived at Fox Brook about half an hour later than we predicted which was mostly due to taking a wrong turn and losing about 15 minutes. There is a spring at this site and the water was so cold it formed condensation on our water bottles. Supper was a quick meal over an alcohol stove and off to sleep at sunset.
The next morning we headed north in less dense forest which includes some brook crossings and a few muddy areas. The trail follows some old roads which now are mostly rocks of various sizes. This is a difficult area to hike since most of the rocks are loose and not stable to walk on. The Baja’s were easier to walk in than my trail shoes that I had on previous hikes in this area. When we had hiked for almost half of our allotted time for the day, we turned around. It turns out it was a good thing we allowed for some extra time. We did miss a turn and went the wrong way and ended up hiking 45 minutes longer than we expected. When we did find the correct trail, we had to resort to my compass to decide the correct direction. For some reason, on the second night of a backpack, I usually sleep better and this was no exception. As we were getting ready for bed we heard people talking. The next morning we met them at the tent platform. They had gotten in late enough to surprise bears at the blueberry patches. We then headed back to the trail head. Considering the heat and wide assortment of hiking conditions the Baja’s performed at and above my expectations.
Harold Parker forest
My wife and I took my great grandson for a 3-4 hour walk in the Harold Parker forest. He is almost 6 years old and has a lot of energy and enjoys being in the forest especially since there is a large pond. He has a fascination with rocks, sand and water, so he was able to get a lot of all 3 items. This hike is totally different in nature because of the frequent stops and then his running off suddenly without warning. The Baja’s performed well and although there were numerous tree roots, I did not trip once. I must be completely used to the thicker soles as mentioned previously in this review.
I never expected to be writing about having gout. When this happens my foot swells and I have trouble getting the swollen foot into a shoe. The Baja’s were a lot easier to get into than any of my other shoes. The best thing was the quick adjust shoelaces and being able to adjust tension with the rear shoe strap. I was not comfortable, but felt better than I would have felt in another pair of shoes.
More on picking up stones
Over a month has passed since I have picked up any stones. I have no explanation, except luck or the shoes dealing better with stones with use. Since I forgot to include pictures of the stones in my last report I will include them now.
Not only am I impressed with these shoes, but the woman with whom I backpacked Mt Isolation was so impressed that she is going to order the woman’s equivalent. I like the versatility of the shoe and the traction it has both in and out of the water. The surprising thing is that I have not had to clean these shoes other than removing the inner sole and washing them once. I have walked through mud and have seen it on my shoes then an hour or 2 later I look down and most of the mud is gone. The most I have done is to remove the shoes and bang them together a few times. I am looking forward to experiencing the updated model when it comes out in the early fall. I wish to thank 4alloutdoors.org and Baffin for the opportunity to test the Baja’s.