I am not an outdoorsman. Short of the four years I spent in rural Ohio during college, I’ve lived in cities my whole life. And it shows. I don’t camp, I don’t fish, I don’t hike. Hell, I can practically count the number of times I’ve seen stars at night on one hand. And so, when the good folks at Danner Boots invited me to partake in a group tour of their factory in Portland, and actually put some of their iron-tough stompers to the test in the Oregon wilderness, I was flattered, but sure they had made a mistake. Why on earth would they want me, a man who’s never slept in a tent before, field testing their wares? But, they assured me: no mistake had been made. And so, I went. And I had an absolute blast.
The Danner factory is big, bright and brimming with activity. Everywhere you turn, there’s something happening. Cutting, sewing, gluing, quality testing. Station after station of experts at work. And they are experts. Every person on that floor handles their respective task with such aplomb, it’s easy to overlook the amount of skill actually involved in what they’re doing. A quick, assured flick of the wrist and boom: a perfectly sewn boot opening, or precisely sanded toe box. Over and over, dead-on every time. Despite the constant whir and hum of production, the factory is still a relatively pleasant place. Clean, well-lit, climate controlled – not a bad environment to spend a day in, be it touring or toiling.
Even more impressive than the factory floor, however, was the recrafting station. There, a group of highly skilled artisans painstakingly rebuild customers’ well worn pairs. And while the workers in the factory are responsible for individual steps in the production process, the recrafters do everything, from disassembly, to cleaning, to re-sewing, to polishing. Each is assigned a pair of boots, and it’s their job to make them new again. And they all excel at what they do.
With the tour of the factory and recrafting station complete, we – meaning me and the other invitees – were told to choose a pair of boots to wear on a hike we would be going on the next day. I opted for one of the Stumptown models, which, secretly I had been coveting ever since seeing the lookbook last winter. The following morning, after eating a massive and decadent breakfast, we set out on our trek. It was hot and exhausting. But also exhilarating. You nature types might actually be on to something.
I had a great time. The hike totally kicked my butt, but in the best kind of way. And the boots, well they did great too. No blisters, no slipping on wet rocks, no mud or water seepage. They lived up to every one of their promises, and looked damn good while doing so.
All in all, it was a terrific trip. Educational, invigorating and fun. And not just because of the factory tour and hike, but also because of the Danner staff. I’ve never come across a group of employees so unanimously invested in what they do. They all deeply care about their jobs and the company they work for. And their enthusiasm is infectious.
And so, while I’ll most likely keep on living in cities, I have to admit that when I returned to the soot and concrete of Chicago, I missed Oregon’s lush and verdant forests. From here on out, I wouldn’t hate making nature outings a regular occurrence. Especially now that I’ve got such a kick ass pair of boots to wear.
A massive thank you to Danner for the hospitality and generosity, and an even massive-r thank you to Jeff from Cold Splinters for setting the whole thing up.
For price and purchase info, visit Danner Boots.