Kalenji Kapteren 200 long term user review - Abysmal when wet

Kalenji Kapteren 200 long term user review - Abysmal when wet

Summary

It is no secret that we prefer lightweight trail running shoes over boots for three season hiking and trekking. As you may recall, last summer our go-to trekking shoes were Kalenji's Kapteren Crossover trail running shoes. Therefore, we were thrilled when we bought our first pair of Kalenji Kapteren 200. Not only were the Kapteren 200 cheaper than the Kapteren Crossover, but they addressed the biggest flaw in the Kapteren Crossover which was the lack of a instep that would allow the use of gaiters. So do the gaiter capable Kapteren 200 have what it takes to be the ultimate three season hiking shoe? Find out in our review below.

Introduction

A trail runner is a beefier version of a running shoe. A trail runner has an aggressive tread designed to provide traction over broken trails, rock and dirt. They also provides greater torsional rigidity. Torsional rigidity is a measure of how stiff the shoe is, when twisted side-to-side as compared with a normal running shoe. The Kalenji Kapteren 200 is a lightweight trail running shoe with a ventilated mesh and synthetic upper, and EVA foam mid sole and a carbon rubber out sole. The insole is removable and not glued in place. The lacing system is traditional with "zig-zag" laces.

Specifications

  • Manufacturer - Decathlon (Kalenji)
  • Model - Kalenji Kapteren 200
  • Colour - Grey Orange
  • Weight - Pair 650 grams for size 43 (8 1/2)
  • Outsole - Carbon Rubber with 3 mm lugs
  • Upper - Synthetic and mesh
  • Price - Rs. 2499
  • Manufactured - 2014
  • Purchased - Decathlon, Zirakpur (Punjab) and online via Snapdeal

Features

  • CS® cushioning at heel for shock absorption
  • Arkstab® technology (arch support)
  • 3mm Lugged sole
  • Reflective markings along the sides
  • Lightweight at 650 gems / pair
  • Gaiter compatible instep
  • Toe protection
  • Breathable Mesh upper
  • Traditional laces

Kalenji Kapteren 200. Features (left)

Kalenji Kapteren 200. Features (right)

Field Conditions

We used these shoes for the first time on the difficult Sonbain Glacier trek in Bhaderwah (J&K). Over the past 7 months we have bought two pairs and have wore them across town, for trail running and three season hiking in the Indian Himalayas. The Patnitop to Sudhmahadev day trek and the Jia Aadi Himani Chamunda overnight trek were few of the treks, we attempted with these shoes. The maximum elevation achieved with these shoes was 3700 metres and the terrain ranged from grass, slush to sharp rocks.

An instep that allows the use of gaiters. Note how the deep instep allows the gaiter strap to go underneath the shoe sole. A flat sole would cause this strap to fray.


Product Review

The first look reveals Kalenji's Kapteren 200 are made to a cost. The synthetic upper looks cheap and the mid sole looks frail and prone to compression. Yet, the stitching is well done and we saw no loose threads or missing stitches. The shoes are glued well, with no gaps between the shoe upper and the under sole. The branding is subtle and the yellow-orange racing stripe along the middle of the shoe is a elegant design touch.  The shoe has reflective stripes along the sides, yet these reflective stripes do not extend to the back and this omission is surprising. The Kapteren 200 have a high heel to toe flex and this means that  biased towards fair trails.

Fit

The Kapteren 200 fit surprisingly well out of the box and require no break in period. As with most Decathlon trail running shoes these shoes have a generous toe box. A roomy toe box is better because it allows you to wriggle your toes inside the shoes and because the toes do not jam against the shoe on sharp descents. The arches on these shoes are gentle and our testers with flatter than normal feet had no problem adjusting to these shoes. Kalenji's ArkStab™ system which is a TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane) plate is built into the sole and located under the mid-foot, provides good arch support and stability. The heel cup is taut and the shoe moves well with the foot. Despite Kalenji's claim, that the shoe features a foot cradle design we found no evidence of this feature on our pair. The foot cradle is a set of vertical stripes running along the sides of a shoe. These stripes act as compression straps and keep the shoe snug against the foot. Perhaps with Decathlon's immense portfolio of products this was a honest copy and paste mistake, but with many people shopping online this mistake fringes on misinformation. The shoes have a traditional laces with an upper eyelet. The upper eyelet lets people with smaller feet create a good fit around the heel.

Versatility &  Support

The Kapteren 200 has an instep that allows the use of gaiters. Gaiters help keep the feet dry and pebbles and sand out of the shoe when trekking in the rain or over scree. Nevertheless despite their support for gaiters, this model doesn't provide enough support for rough terrain use or for carrying much weight. In the Dhauladhars where most of the trails are over sharp rock; we found that trekking across pointy roots or sharp rocks gets uncomfortable after a few hours in these shoes. Their high flex and a softer mid sole makes them a pair of smooth terrain trekking shoes rather than a pair of all terrain trekking shoes.

Breathability

Wide mesh panels on the top and along the sides ensure good breathability. The tongue is mesh encased and well padded and helps absorb sweat. We reckon that you can wear these shoes comfortably in temperatures as high as 35 degrees Celsius. 

Waterproof

The Kapteren 200 are not waterproof. The shoe has huge mesh panels and these mesh panels start fairly low down along the sides which allows water to get in easily. Its important to remember that there is no water resistant coating on these shoes. However, on the flip side these shoes are quick to dry as well. We have been caught in a few heavy rain storm with these shoes. 

Grip

Kalenji Kapteren 200 feature a carbon rubber sole with 3 mm lugs. This carbon rubber sole provides enough grip on dry rock and dried mud tracks. However, things turn nasty when the terrain gets wet. We found this to our peril on our Sonbain Glacier trek. Our route from Sonbain glacier was a difficult trail that involved walking along a rocky trail on a steep hillside and crossing two water streams at a 60 degree slope. Halfway along our route, it started raining and these shoes simply gave up gripping. We slipped over any wet rock surface or deep mud along our route. Over time their grip went from bad to abysmal and we chose to complete the rest of our trek in rubber sandals rather than slip and risk a serious injury. We were a bit apprehensive whether this issue with wet weather grip was owing to a faulty pair. To refute this faulty pair theory, we ordered a second pair of shoes online. However, when we tested this second pair over wet trekking trails in Himachal we found that these shoes exhibit similar lack of grip over wet trails. Therefore, we can state that this lack of wet grip is intrinsic to this model. We are unsure if this poor wet weather grip is because of this model's hard wearing rubber compound out sole or owing to its poor lug design. Nevertheless, our confidence in the wet weather grip of these shoes is utterly shaken and we would not recommend these shoes for anything more than a fair weather day trek.

Durability

Over the past seven months of testing the Kapteren 200 have enjoyed average durability. We punish and abuse our gear thoroughly, yet other shoes have fared much better through a longer test interval. This average durability is a result of some poor design choices e.g. the synthetic overlay over the shoe mesh is poorly placed and does not provide enough protection along the sides. Owing to this poor protection the mesh along the sides has started to abrade.  The exposed stitching on these shoes has started to fray, and although it has not completely given in, it is in a sorry state. The glue that holds the under sole rubber to the mid sole has come undone in a few places and the lugs are starting to flop and come off. Still, the shoe has suffered no catastrophic failure till date. We were pleasantly surprised that the mid sole which we thought to be frail, has held up quite well. It has not compressed or deformed over time and still provides ample cushion and support. The rubber out sole is extremely hard wearing and the treads still have plenty of life left in them.


Conclusion

With Kalenji's Kapteren 200 we had hoped to find a good balance between cheap and durable. Yet in their case the age old adage that you get what you paid for holds true. On the plus side these shoes are fairly durable, gaiter compatible and cheaper than other trail runners.  However on the flip side they exhibit extremely poor wet weather grip over rock and mud. The lack of grip is so appalling that these shoes are a potential accident magnet in inclement weather. Therefore despite their decent dry weather performance, durability and features we cannot recommend these shoes for trekking. When you are out trekking, there will be a day when you will face inclement weather and on such a day you would want your gear to work for you rather than against you. Thus, if you are looking for lightweight three season trekking shoes, give the Kapteren 200 a miss. For a bit more money you can upgrade to a pair of Kalenji's excellent Kapteren Crossovers and it will that extra money well spent.

Pros

  • Decent dry grip
  • Hard wearing sole
  • Breathable shoe upper
  • Good fit from day one
  • Cheap

Cons

  • Extremely poor wet grip
  • Questionable durability
  • Not waterproof
  • Look cheap and made to a cost

Our verdict: 2/5. Below Average and Not Recommended. 

Day trek to Pandava Gufa (cave) and the temple atop Karol Ka Tibba (hill)

Day trek to Pandava Gufa (cave) and the temple atop Karol Ka Tibba (hill)

Lifestraw - long term user review. From hiking and trekking perspective.

Lifestraw - long term user review. From hiking and trekking perspective.