Camp Four Approach Shoe Review

Over the last few years one of the most popular approach shoes for climbers, scramblers and mountaineers has been the FiveTen Camp Four. Less specialised than the 'Tennie Guide' it is a more durable all-rounder that most people are as comfortable wearing to the pub as they are on the steep rocky scree approach to a crag or on their chosen ridge route in the mountains.

So the question is, can you improve on this already excellent product, or is the major redesign for 2014/15 of the Camp Four a cosmetic change?

We had two models to test, the standard Camp Four and the Camp Four Mid - a higher boot style of shoe. These were tested in the Peak District and Lake District on various crag approaches, and on some longer walks in the Peak over a period of 3 months.

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Camp Four normal model  © UKC Gear
Camp Four normal model
© UKC Gear
Camp Four Mid version  © UKC Gear
Camp Four Mid version
© UKC Gear

 

Construction

The first thing that is obvious out of the box is that the appearance has changed quite dramatically. The new model is a much more clean-cut design, a smooth stylish look with small flashes of colour as opposed to the rough and rugged workhorse appearance of its predecessor.

The chunky heel cup is gone in favour of a new 'svelte heel cage' to quote FiveTen. The heel now has a rubber tension strap, similar to those found on rock shoes, and a narrower profile. The air holes in the upper have also gone although the actual fabric hasn't changed. The rand now fits further around the upper extending all the way back to the tension strap which gives a very secure bond between the upper shoe and the sole.

The laces are fitted with sewn loops of the upper rather than metal eyelets (except the top one) which enables a snugger fit when tightening. The higher mid version has two hooks for higher lacing.

Padding in the tongue and around the heel cup have been reduced which has resulted in a slightly lighter - shoe 420g verses 460g.

The sole has always been one of the main attractions of the Camp Four. The  new model has a more studded profile which gives better grip on rough terrain but leaves less rubber in contact with the rock/ground to take advantage of the Stealth S1 rubber.

Performance

The initial impression when you put this shoe on is more of a robust training shoe than you got from it predecessor. The reduction in padding makes it feel less of an armour cladding for your foot but with the trade off of feeling more springy, lighter and easier to run and jump in. Overall though the feel of the shoe is not an improvement in my opinion and I definitely preferred the chunkier feel of the older model.

Camp Four soles offer the same brilliant friction as ever on wet rock.  © UKC Gear
Camp Four soles offer the same brilliant friction as ever on wet rock.
© UKC Gear

The sole is as sticky as ever. It performs superbly on all terrain. I have been continually impressed with the grip of these shoes over the years on the most slippery of rock. Their friction on angled rock is as good as ever and they certainly give the confidence you require with your foot placements when walking on jumbled and uneven rocky surfaces.

Water resistance is excellent on the new Camp Four uppers especially in the mid version  © UKC Gear
Water resistance is excellent on the new Camp Four uppers especially in the mid version
© UKC Gear

Weather proofing seems to have been improved with the new uppers. They are very splash proof and can take a reasonable degree of submersion without any sign of leakage. The removal of the breathing holes has helped in this respect and that doesn't seem to have a knock-on negative effect on smell or over-heating.

Testing the Camp Four in the Lakes  © UKC Gear
Testing the Camp Four in the Lakes
© UKC Gear
As has been mentioned, the construction is less substantial than the predecessor, however the old Camp Fours did have one significant weakness in that they eventually tended to split along the side where the upper joins the base at the point your foot flexes the shoe. This usually took some time, but it spelt the end of them as a puddle proof option once that split had appeared. The new model appears to be immune from this by virtue of the lower rand extending all the way down the full length making a more secure bond between upper and sole.

The Mid model offers even more weather resistance. The fit on the pair I had wasn't great but that may well have been my strange ankles, I did get some pain when lacing them up tightly. For those after something that they can use as an approach shoe and a lightweight walking boot, these are certainly a good option.

Summary

This all-round approach and scrambling shoe has a good sole and grip that is slightly more lightweight than its predecessor. Personally (fit is clearly subjective) I found it not as good in terms of overall fit and significantly worse than its predecessor in terms of general feel. They have a larger volume than the older model so it is worth trying a smaller size if you want a snug fit but even so you don't get the solid armour-cladding feel that made the old Camp Fours such a great shoe.

The durability compared to the old model appears to be comparable but, overall, it is difficult to recommend these shoes as a follow on for people who used to be fans of the original Camp Fours.

It comes in black, khaki and marine for the low version and marine for the mid version. Their is also a women's model in khaki with turquoise trim.

Price (Standard): £110
Price (Mid): £120

 

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10 Dec, 2014
The review doesn't specifically mention the new heel lugs, which seem an improvement for hill use in the UK. Apart from that, the main changes seem to be negative for general hill use: less robust, so no longer as suitable for off-path; and why take away the C4 climbing zone that the old boot had? The old boots (I have two pairs) are my footwear of choice for long scrambles and easy rock e.g. Buachaille, Cuillins, and are brilliant on wet rock. But I'll be looking at alternatives for my next purchase.
10 Dec, 2014
I've had five pairs of the old style Camp Fours and found them to be the perfect approach shoe. I tried the new shoe but thought it uncomfortable and a poor fit. Why Five Ten have discontinued the original and have replaced it with such an obviously lower quality product is beyond my grasp. Bring back the original!
10 Dec, 2014
That is a pitty because I am just coming o the end of my 3rd pair in 10 or so years.
The sole of the shoe has a more studded profile which includes the increased heel lug size. I felt this was good in that it gave improved grip on rough terrain, but less good in that there was less rubber in contact where you want the high friction rubber to work. Also, it may be slightly less hardwearing. With regard to the climbing zone: I assume you mean the section of sole on the front instep of the shoe? I can't see too much different here between the old model and this new one. Neither model has the dedicated friction section like the Guide Tennie. These shoes are definitely still "suitable for off path" and easily perform as well as the old models on wet rock. Alan
10 Dec, 2014
Interesting comments above as I have come to the new Camp Four from Inov-8 fell shoes as I wanted something more substantial for long scrambles and think they are the perfect blend of grip, stiffness and durability for this use. I should also say the old version didn't fit me as it wasn't quite wide enough whereas the new version is.
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