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New British Forces AKU Pilgrim FG Combat Boot

Latest evolution of the AKU Pilgrim - one of two makes ordered for the 2017 UK MoD Combat High Liability boot contract [© BM]

In the autumn of 2017 the UK Ministry of Defence placed contracts for a range of new combat boots to replace the ten models in five categories first issued in 2012 in the new UK Brown colourway, writes Bob Morrison.

 

Two of the new boot types, including this one, fall into the Combat High Liability category meaning they are intended for soldiers whose role makes them liable for service in teeth arms roles on the front line in temperate climatic conditions; ALT-BERG and AKU are the two brands selected for this. Two more boot types, from ITURRI and HAIX, have been selected for the same role in Desert / Arid climatic conditions (i.e. Desert Combat High Liability) and we will bring you more on these in due course. A single boot type, each supplied by ITURRI, has been selected for the other three categories which are Cold Wet Weather, Jungle and Patrol; the latter being the boot intended for troops in secondary and tertiary roles.

The Pilgrim GTX FG Combat M boot is a mid-height suede and textile uppers boot with Gore-Tex lining [© BM]

Over the last month I have been wearing the second of two boot types chosen by the UK MoD, after competitive trials, to fulfil the Boots Combat High Liability (BCHL) requirement for the next five or so years. Produced by AKU Italia, a footwear company set up four decades ago with its home in Montebelluna in the lea of the Dolomites, this new model is officially called the Pilgrim GTX Combat FG M; the GTX standing for Gore-Tex, the FG denoting it has a full grain leather lacing placket and the M indicates it is mid-height.

If, at first glance, the new AKU boot looks very familiar that will be because it is an evolution of the Pilgrim boot conceived in 2012 by Trekitt of Hereford, at the request of some of their customers who liked the lightweight AKU Navy SEAL boot model but felt it needed a sturdier sole to last a full six month tour in the harsh terrain they were encountering on deployments. Look closer, however, and you will note subtle differences; some made at the request of UK MoD, who set out a pretty tough specification for suppliers to meet, and some incorporated by AKU to take an already popular private purchase boot forward.

New model has full grain leather lace placket, lace lock and upper D-rings [© BM]

Although lower (as specified this time around by MoD) than most previous British Army combat moot models, the new Pilgrim is actually a fraction taller at the rear collar than the original design (I still have a pair of these, slightly worn down at the heel over time but otherwise in remarkably good condition). Full grain leather, rather than suede, is now used for the lace placket and a pressed metal lace lock is fitted at the fifth eyelet position to give two zone lacing (this is my personal preference) and the upper pair of eyelets are again D-rings rather than open hooks to comply with MoD requirements. One quite noticeable difference, however, is that although the padded bellows tongue has a leather rather than suede upper stiffener, the lower stiffener has been omitted this time around (I wonder if this might be for breathability) and the second difference of note is that the outsole is black rather than light caramel brown and the inset VIBRAM badge is no longer bright yellow.

The latest version has an all-black VIBRAM Fourà outsole[© BM]

Like the original, the AKU Pilgrim GTX FG Combat M uppers use a combination of 1.8mm suede leather and Air 8000 protective fabric, which the company states is proven to be eleven times more breathable than traditional textiles, with a perforated EVA padding which they say cannot absorb water and so dries faster than a boot without a waterproof membrane. The lining sock is manufactured from the now well-proven Gore-Tex Extended Comfort three-ply membrane (recognisable as it is the lightest grey of the three, with a square rather than diamond pattern) which is non-insulated and highly breathable.

These boots use AKU’s exclusive die-cut EVA Internal Midsole System (IMS) technology, which couples the traditional nylon support structure with a layer of micro-porous material, is said to allow for the sole to perfectly capture the anatomy of the foot, thereby: ensuring uniform distribution of pressure; preventing the foot from slipping under heavy use; and providing shock absorption. Stiffness is provided by a 4mm to 6mm die-cut EVA lasting board and the outsole is the VIBRAM Fourà model which has wide, self-cleaning grooves and a reinforced toe bumper.

Composite removable insole is shaped and padded [© BM]

Although a comparatively lightweight boot – my UK 10.5 tips the scale a whisker under 700g – the textile and suede Pilgrim GTX is only a little over 100 grammes (4 ounces) lighter than the approved full leather Boot Combat High Liability, so it is not quite as weight-saving as those ultra-lightweight, but non-issue, HAIX and LOWA Gore-Tex membrane mid-height boots that some specialist users are allowed to wear. The AKU CHL boot is, however, both light and comfortable to wear (my pair needed no breaking-in) and I have had no issues wearing it during the recent hot summer temperatures (25-30C) we have been experiencing through June and well into July.

At this point I should perhaps stress that I have not worn these boots in cold wet conditions, and as these are what most troops issued them are likely to experience on Sennybridge / Dartmoor / Otterburn training areas I it will probably make sense to test them again later in the year. It will also be interesting to see how easy it is to keep them clean after a few days of trudging around in the typical wet peat and muddy conditions usually encountered in training and on exercises.

The new AKU Pilgrim GTX Combat FG M boot is now available for private purchase through specialist outlets in full sizes from UK3 through to UK13, with half sizes from UK8.5 to UK11.5. Both MoD Brown and Black versions are currently produced.

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{ images © Bob Morrison }

 

Earlier high leg Pilgrim (note sole colour, lace hooks and tongue stiffener) with original pre-production mid-height boot on the right [© BM]

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