The Gear Junkie Scoop: Cosmas Hercules
By STEPHEN REGENOLD
The hardscrabble young firefighting bucks battling blazes in the dusty, dry forests from San Bernardino County to Yellowstone National Park each season aren’t immune to footwear fashion. Neither do they bend to the whim of conventional wisdom when choosing boots that may trump tradition for the latest in available innovation.
At least those are the thoughts Cosmas, an Italian boot maker versed with 40 years of firefighting product development, is putting forward with its latest wildland firefighting boot, the Hercules.
“There is a trend among younger firefighters to eschew the traditional logger boots in favor of a mountaineering-style boot,” said Brent Merriam, vice president of Cosmas’ parent company, Novation North America Inc. “Reasons include lighter weight, greater comfort, shorter break-in period, and the ability to cover a wider variety of terrain.”
The Cosmas Hercules
But few mountaineering boots are built to withstand the rigors of wildland firefighting, and none can pass industry tests to ensure safety in situations where sprayed water, hot ground, coals, flying ash, smoke and downed electrical lines might come into play.
With more than 25,000 wildland firefighters in the U.S. — and tens of thousands of volunteers ready to jump when a blaze takes the forest — Cosmas’ market potential makes a niche large enough where Novation could commit brain trust from sister company Kayland, a manufacturer of backpacking and mountaineering boots, to build in footwear features and technologies that transfer from recreation to industrial application.
Cosmas (www.cosmasusa.com) calls its Hercules the “first true mountaineering boot certified for wildland fire fighting,” hinting at the boots’ base design, which is modeled on Kayland’s Zaltana, a beefy alpine boot that accepts crampons and can kick up a face on the Eiger. Features on the Hercules include an aggressive lugged sole, free-floating lace points for a precise fit, a heel and toe rocker to acquiesce a natural stride, an anti-microbial footbed with a molded EVA heelcup, and an ankle-lock system similar to that found on Kayland’s Apex series mountaineering boots.
To keep the Hercules-wearing firefighter safe and to ensure industry compliance, the boot was made to pass all NFPA 1977:2005 standards, a set of tests that measure heat and thermal shrinkage resistance, cut and puncture resistance, and conductive heat control, among other criteria.
The boot, which costs $300, employs Kevlar thread to stitch the flame-resistant leather uppers. An internal bootie provides insulation and a moisture barrier, while the vulcanized rubber outsole is electrically insulating as well as resistant to oil and heat.
They are tall and protective, measuring nine inches high from the inside of the boot to the lowest point of the collar. Lace a pair up, grab a shovel and your Pulaski tool, and you’re ready for battle. Now whiff the smoke and follow that fire trail into the chaos. Tell Smokey Bear I said hi.