20YOC Gear: Karrimor K-SB 3 Original

I found these the other day and took them into the Kilpatricks the other night (blog post below this one I think?) to see how I got on with them again. It went well enough, the overall fit is still good although the heel cup is a little roomier than I like these days, but I can dial that down a bit with socks and insoles.
The sole isn’t the grippiest on the muddly conditions around the Lang Craigs just now but I’m used to slidey trail shoes so I quickly forgot I was wearing them and spent a fine few hours wandering, trouble free.

So, the KSB’s are in my kitlist. I even found 3 of the original 4 insoles – two thin versions and one of the double thickness volume reducers, a nice touch from the original Karrimor. They’ve taken a kicking back in the day, but I’ll try them out before I likely go for some current Sole insoles to help with the heelcup thing, I don’t want a single blister thanks very much. There are some retro items I don’t want to revisit.

I think these are from ’96 or ’97. In ’95 the logo on the tongue was different and by ’97 only the Gore Tex lined version was available.
Branded by and manufactured by Garmont who over the years had some nice collaborations with Karrimor. Asymmetric ‘ADD’ lacing ? Yes please.

So, the exact words from Karrimor in their ’97 workbook…
K-SB 3 Original
The boot that changed our thinking about lightweight boots has become the classic 3-season suede/Cordura boot.
The KSB-3 has been used and abused on some of the toughest trails worldwide and keeps getting better.
Recommended use: Back packing, fell walking, scrambling, even mountain biking.
Features: >’Original’ frameflex insole >Skywalk dual density sole >Antibacterial footbed
Weight: 630g
Sizes: (UK, whole and half sizes): Men’s 6.5-12
Colour: Sage (51-236/37)
Price: £90

I haven’t weighed them, so can’t confirm or refute the original figure. After the trip I’ll do that and do some sort of comparison to current kit. Or something.
They feel okay though and they are light enough on my feet. The ankle cuff is really high, winter boot high and it’s pretty stiff laterally although forward flex is good. It almost feels like they’ve got some breaking in still to do, so I’ll wear them a wee bit before I carry overnight kit in them.
The cuff and tongue are gusetted right to the top, excellent for keeping crap out and would have been great in the GTX version if the liner went right up to the top.

The inner is lined with some fuzzy stuff with a honeycomb matrix in it, kinda looks like Cambrelle but it’s not named in the spec so maybe aye, maybe naw? Whatever, it does seem to wick sweat away but might there might be some insulative qualities there too, either from the lining, the upper construction or both as these are quite a warm pair of boots.

Neat stitching, tidy construction with clean lines and classic good looks. These KSB’s are approachable and utilitarian, a boot for a purpose that isn’t trying to make you look sexy or sell itself on a busy web page.
Look at a typical modern boot aimed at a similar market to this old timer and you see lots of different fabrics, lots of stitching, lots of glue, lots of plastic, a formula one car for your feet that will fray and unravel long before you have a chance to pack it away for a rainy day like these KSB’s.

What the hell happened? 20 odd years later, how much weight saving in our gear have we traded for a shorter life and making more waste. I’ve trashed maybe twenty or thirty of pairs of Montrail’s, Salomon’s and Inov8’s over the last ten year or so. Is there an equation or an equivalence over time here that will shame us and the manufacturers or are we actually doing better now and I’m an idiot?
I said years back that we need a simple lightweight trail mids in natural materials and I think that more than ever right now.
This 20 year thing started as a bit of fun, nostalgia, but now it’s really making me think too.

I will learn more as I go. I will grin a lot, but I think I might occasionally rage too. Just wait until I get to waterproof jackets.

5 thoughts on “20YOC Gear: Karrimor K-SB 3 Original”

  1. I seem to remember that there was a blue-suede Berghaus boot that competed with the KSB. It was all very Blur vs Oasis. I was a Brasher man myself (Suede? – there is a Britpop – hiking boot joke there somewhere) Even wore them in winter. I am not sure one was to supposed to front-point in them with Grivel G12’s., but hey-ho.

    Waterproof jackets and longevity you say? That’s where yet Paramo comes into it own. I’ve got a 12 year old Alta 2 that is still doing OK (albeit I’ve replaced the zip and the drawstring channel is wearing out) and an 11 year old Cioch Direct Glamaig that is still going strong and will be good for a few years.

  2. As time is going on, I appreciate good design and durability more than I did. I’m long past being being impressed by anything new, too much exposure the past few years.
    We’ll always have new great ideas, but a wee tweak and a colour change doesn’t cut it.

    I remember the boots you mean, and the trans Pennine war between Berghaus and Karrimor? The stuff of legend :)

    Real good comments from Mike Parsons (Karrimor legend) and David Foster (desginer of the KSB footbeds) on my facebook page.

    I got the suede reference btw :)

  3. These were very popular with soldiers in the 90s to wear in the field instead of the awful issued boots that were around at the time.

    I had a pair for years and then came across a black pair in 1998 which I could wear more often without incurring the wrath of the Sarn’t Major.

    Now, things have changed and we no longer wear black boots. We’ve had a run of various boots, including Altbergs which weren’t as good, mass produced, as they were when we brought them from the factory in Richmond.

    We’re now issued with AKUs, which are as closed to the old K-SB3 as you could probably get.

    I loved the 2 pairs I had and the khaki pair would make an ideal alternative to the AKU (seeing as we don’t wear black boots anymore).

    As for dress regulations, we’re far more accepting now and I certainly wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

    Bring them back I say – I’d love another pair.


    1. I’ve had various AKU’s in over the years, always seem like decent boots. I had Altberg Mallerstangs in to review during my brief time at OE Mag and they were the stiffest boots I think I’ve ever used.
      Been using a lot of KSB3 equivalents the past couple of years and technology might have brought lighter materials, better production methods etc but the simple functionality of the originals had done so much right already and that’s missing from every over engineered contemporary model I’ve looked at.

  4. Just bought a pair of karrimor KSB Garmont ladies boots with gortex lining and vibram soles, at my local charity shop for £12. Looks like they have never been worn. Seems a good buy especially for walking the dogs in winter. They look very similar to the ones shown except they have pink suede and green cordura.

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