These boots just about replaced my elastic-sided work boots around the property because they’re so quick and easy to get on and off.
I know that’s not the point because the Ridgeline Ascent rapid-lace boots are hunting boots, not work boots, but they’re just so easy. They became more than just hunting boots for me and I wear them almost every day for all kinds of reasons.
The convenience of the boots — matched with their comfort — meant I put them on for anything more than just pottering around the yard or shed. The Ridgelines went checking on lambs, repairing fences, weeding along the creek, cutting firewood and, of course, hunting.
Their trick is the ATOP rapid lacing system, whereby a reel pulls a steel wire tight in a few quick twists. There are no laces to tie. To undo them, twist the reel’s knob anti-clockwise and it instantly releases the tension. Boots on, boots off — almost as quick as elastic-sided boots.
And yet the Rapid Ascent boots give you ankle support that elastic ones can’t. They’re also light, waterproof and come up just above the ankles, the way I like it.
Because I take my boots off several times a day to come and go from the house, I’d probably be quite satisfied if the Rapid Ascents were a one-trick pony with the rapid fastening system. I mean, I’ve put up with elastic-sided boots for decades.
However, they’re a well designed boot overall, ideal in their designated role as hunting footwear.
They’re quiet. They don’t creak or squeak, and nor do the soles make undue noise considering they’re also fairly solid to provide good protection underfoot.
The flexibility built into the sole helps here. These soles, which are branded Ridgeline, have more give in them than the harder Vibram soles on Ridgeline’s other boots.
The moulded soles are bonded to the body of the boots and come up around the sides to give lots of extra support.
The Ascents were comfortable as soon as I first put them on, needing no wearing-in. They have a subtly different shape from the Ridgeline Aoraki boots I have, feeling a little slimmer and a fraction smaller inside, though the difference wouldn’t be quite half a size.
The ATOP lacing system requires a slightly different approach, which you soon accustom yourself to. As they tighten from the top, they don’t pull quite as firmly around the ankles, so I’m in the habit of sliding my foot right back in the boot and using my free hand to push the tongue flat on the arch of my foot.
Often, after a few steps, I’ll give the reel a tweak just to make sure the boots fit firmly.
Sometimes going downhill I can feel my toes touch the end of the boots but it’s light contact that does’t cause me grief, and usually it’s because I haven’t got the lacing quite firm enough around the base of my ankles. When you’re trying on a pair, make sure you’ve got a little extra toe room compared with what you might normally look for.
The wire laces are threaded through runners which allow them to slide easily, as well as removing the potential for the wires to wear through anything. The wires will not break, according to Ridgeline, but spares are available, probably more to keep the worriers happy.
In my case, the laces don’t even look like giving up the ghost but I’ve now worn out the boots.
I’ve done plenty of decent walks in rough country in the Ascents, as well as using them for daily work.
I clocked up a good 50km of hard going at first with no complaints from my feet and no wear or damage. Soon after, though, the waterproofing reached its limits, which is common on all so-called waterproof boots after a while.
Eight months down the track, after literally several hundred kays of walking in the bush and working around the farm, the outer material developed stress cracks at the flex point between foot and toes.
Given that the Ascent boots are made of lighter material than, say, tougher Aoraki boots, I’m not surprised they don’t give quite the same lifespan.
The soles show little wear and still grip extremely well, even in places where I often expect to lose my footing but don’t.
The Aoraki boots are a more heavy-duty proposition for hunters who need it but the Ascents are more comfortable and practical in Australian conditions. I love how light they are.
In that context I can certainly recommend them, not least for the terrific and quick ATOP rapid lacing system.
Ridgeline Ascent rapid-lace boots cost $349.95 and are available at gun shops and on the Ridgeline website.