USED AND ABUSED: KEEN BRYCE WP (2013)

PRICE: £110

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Used by Tom Bailey, Trail and Country Walking Magazine photographer
Used for 11 months

Full disclosure: I’ve never worn these on the hill. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t abused them. They’ve been my everyday wear for almost a year, so they’ve seen plenty of mud and grass during photo shoots, for which they’re well-equipped with a decent KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane. In a nutshell they’re extremely comfy, but not particularly durable. Where my heel meets the fabric it’s worn pretty badly and the outsole grip is going – which I’m a little disappointed by. The lining has also developed an unpleasant smell… but that’s to do with me, not the shoe. Despite all this, I still think they’re a good choice of footwear and I’d happily recommend them. This is in a big way thanks to the level of comfort they provide – which is among the best I’ve ever felt. There’s a reason I’ve worn them out in less than a year...

Verdict They’re all right. Which is high praise from me.       
www.keenfootwear.com

Anatom Q2 Hiking (2015)

Features

The Anatom Q2 Hiking’s upper is thicker and more durable than most boots, thanks to the use of 2.4mm full-grain leather. There is also good stiffness in the upper, and a waterproof breathable Tri-aria lining. The ankle cuff height is very slightly lower than the best boots. Underfoot is a Vibram sole unit with good lugs, but it is quite bendy from toe to heel. 4/5

Fit

For men the sizes are 41-47 but there is no women’s version of this boot. Anatom’s £120 Q2 Ultra Hiking in sizes 36-42 is the nearest equivalent but it has many different features. The Q2 Hiking’s fit is not as neat and precise and foot-hugging as higher-priced boots, but it does have good toe wiggle room. 4/5

Comfort

The ankle cuff is lower in the Anatom Q2 Hiking than higher-priced models; it is also stiffer and less comfortable in this area, I found. There is quite a soft forward flex in the sole, which is not quite as comfortable as the more graduated flex in higher-priced boots. So overall it lacks some of the finesse of higher-priced models. 3/5

In use

On the hill the Anatom Q2 Hiking provides a good grip thanks to the deep lugs of the Vibram sole, which includes a heel breast for downhill braking. The toe-to-heel flex is a slight drawback on rockier ground but there is good lateral stiffness and the upper is great for rockier ground. The fit is not so precise, however, so when scrambling it feels a bit cumbersome. 4/5

Value

Very good value. Not as good as higher-priced boots but better than many at this price. 5/5

Verdict

The Anatom Q2 Hiking is a great choice for general hillwalking on a budget, but it has small drawbacks compared to the better higher-priced boots. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Keen Targhee Mid (2015)

Features

The Keen Targhee Mid’s low weight of 1134g (pair, size 11) is exceptional. For that you get an upper made of mostly leather with synthetic material around the tongue plus a Keen.Dry waterproof and breathable lining. The ankle cuff is very low and there is more stitching on the upper, so this may be less supportive and less durable than some. There is virtually no heel breast on the sole. 3/5

Fit

The men’s sizes are 6-13 and the women’s 2½-8½. The fit is typical of Keen, being quite broad and spacious at the forefoot and toe area. The ankle cuff is lower than most boots. This will probably fit those with wider feet better than some of the narrower models we looked at. 5/5

Comfort

The low cuff and low weight make the Keen Targhee Mid very comfy straight away. The toe box is spacious too, so again great for comfort. As there is decent stiffness in the toe box and sole that comfort is retained quite well on rocky ground, though the lower cuff does mean that on angled slopes of rock or earth your feet have to work pretty hard and so comfort reduces. 4/5

In use

The Keen Targhee Mid is quite good on level, dry ground but on soft ground the lugs are quite wide, so they don't bite in that well; plus there is virtually no heel breast so braking power during descents is not great. Sole stiffness is reasonable for rocky ground, but the lower ankle cuff offers minimal protection and support. The upper may not be as durable as a one-piece leather design. 3/5

Value

The price is good, but this lacks the higher cuff and features of other boots at this price. 4/5

Verdict

If you want a lightweight boot for level ground the Keen Targhee Mid is a good option but it has drawbacks for rockier ground and more uneven terrain. 3.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP (2015)

Features

The Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP is a very lightweight boot at just 1246g (pair, size 11). But you still do get a leather upper with minimal stitching for durability, while a waterproof Dri-Tec membrane keeps your feet dry. The outsole is a Vibram unit with very deep and well-placed lugs. But the ankle cuff is lower than some, the sole is very bendy and the toe box isn’t as protective as higher-priced models. 4/5

Fit

This comes in men’s sizes 7-13 and women’s 4-9, and it fits like the proverbial glove, being close and precise. The softer upper and softer sole materials enable this fit to some extent too, but either way it feels nice and nimble on the foot. However wider-footed people may feel the fit is a bit too close. 5/5

Comfort

The Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP is a lightweight boot that is also quite soft in terms of its upper and flex, so naturally it feels very comfortable. But as the upper and sole are soft that comfort drops away on rocky and rugged ground, and your feet really have to work pretty hard. It’s great on level paths and grassy moors, however. 3/5

In use

Due to the softness of the upper and the flex, performance depends greatly on the terrain. Use the Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP on soft grass and level, muddy paths and its Vibram sole with its deep, well-spaced lugs work really well. But get this on rocky ground and scree or off the path, and the lack of stiffness of the boot forces your feet to work really hard. 3/5

Value

The price is superb for what you are getting and on easier ground this is superb value. 5/5

Verdict

The Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP very lightweight boot that is also comfortable and performs well on softer level ground, but it is not the best for rugged terrain. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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AKU Tribute II GTX (2015)

Features

There are two main advantages to the AKU Tribute II GTX: one is the weight of just 1390g (pair, size 11) and the other is that the upper is made from full-grain leather with minimal stitching, so it is more water-resistant and durable. You also get a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. The toe box is stiffened but you don’t get extra reinforcement and the upper is slightly soft compared to others. 4/5

Fit

The AKU Tribute II GTX is available for men in sizes 3 -13 and for women in 3-8. The fit is close and quite precise compared to other lower-priced boots. It is slightly lower in volume than some, so it suits more slender feet. Its ankle cuff height is similar to others and generally it feels neat, dexterous and responsive. 5/5

Comfort

This is a very comfortable boot partly due to the weight and closer fit, but also as the upper is a little softer than others. It also has good cushioning underfoot and around the ankle cuff so overall this is a very comfortable option that instantly feels great straight from the box. 5/5

In use

On the hill the AKU Tribute II GTX is very good with its lug pattern being slightly better for rockier ground than soft ground as the lugs are quite wide and closely spaced, so they do not bite into soil as well as more studded designs. The full-grain leather upper will more durable than most other uppers, but it is not quite as supportive on rougher ground and there is no rand. 4/5

Value

The price is same as in 2014 so has to be good value as most boots have increased in price. 4/5

Verdict

Low weight and durable upper material are the AKU Tribute II GTX’s benefits, but not the best grip on softer ground and not the most supportive upper. 4.4/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Scarpa Nanga-Pa GTX (2015)

Features

The upper is made from Cordura with suede leather overlays so this may not be quite as durable as a single-piece leather upper, but it is more stylish. There is a Gore-Tex waterproof lining and the toe box is firm and well-protected by a synthetic overlay. The big benefit of the Scarpa Nanga-Pa GTX is its sole, which is more aggressive and stiffer than lower-priced options. 4/5

Fit

The men’s sizes are 41-48 and the women’s are 37-42. The fit offers a little more volume on top of the foot than some, so it may suit those with chunkier feet better than those with slimmer feet. The ankle cuff is average height and feels good. The toe box is spacious. A volume adjuster may benefit thinner-footed people. 5/5

Comfort

The Scarpa Nanga-Pa GTX is not quite as softly padded as higher-priced boots but it feels reasonably comfortable with no major pressure points. The ankle cuff feels quite good compared to some. The sole is stiffer than many lower-priced boots, but this still has a comfortable walking action. 5/5

In use

The outsole is stiffer than others, making the Scarpa Nanga-Pa GTX better on rocky ground; also the sole lugs are deeper than others and more widely spaced, and so grip on softer ground is far better than others too. The ankle cuff offers great support and the toe box affords good protection, making this great on rougher ground. My only preference would be an upper with less stitching for more durability. 4/5

Value

You get better performance on rocky ground here, which is why the price tag is higher. 4/5

Verdict

The Scarpa Nanga-Pa GTX is a great boot for tackling mountains on a manageable budget, but lighter and lower-priced models are adequate for easier terrain. 4.4/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Hi-Tec Altitude V200 i WP (2015)

Features

The Hi-Tec Altitude V200 i WP is a good boot for walking in colder weather below the snow, as it has Thinsulate insulation (men’s model only) for warmer feet. The upper is full leather with minimal stitching so it is very durable, and the sole and upper are also very stiff so it is a great choice for rocky or uneven ground. The sole has reasonably deep lugs but they are less aggressive than some. 5/5

Fit

The men’s sizes are 7-16 and the women’s 4-8. The Hi-Tec Altitude V200 i WP feels a little short so you might want to try a half size up from normal. The ankle cuff on the men’s is higher than most, although the women’s is lower. The fit is not as close as the other boots featured here, which is a drawback; but the size range is very good. 3/5

Comfort

The men’s ankle cuff tends to dig in a little, which is far from ideal. The women’s model may be better as it has a lower ankle cuff. The men’s version is insulated with Thinsulate, but this would make it too warm for me except when high in the mountains; yet the women’s version lacks this insulation, a feature that women may want! 3/5

In use

The Hi-Tec Altitude V200 i WP is very stiff, but as the fit is not close and the ankle cuff not particularly comfortable it feels quite ‘clumpy’ and does not roll nicely when walking. Neither does it have the finesse of other higher-priced stiff boots. It does provide lots of support though and protects the foot well on uneven ground. The outsole lugs are not quite as aggressive as others, for use on softer ground. 3/5

Value

This boot is very well-priced for what you are getting, but you need to make sure it is really what you want. 5/5

Verdict

The Hi-Tec Altitude V200 i WP is good for walking in colder conditions on a budget, plus very durable and supportive but higher-priced boots offer advantages. 3.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Berghaus Fellmaster GTX (2015)

Features

The Berghaus Fellmaster GTX’s upper is made of 2.2-2.4mm Pittard nubuck leather with hardly any stitching plus a reasonably stiff and supportive construction to protect the foot. There is also a stiff toe box and this has a good rubber rand for more durability while a Gore-Tex waterproof lining keeps feet dry. The outside has reasonably deep lugs that are well-spaced and there is a heel breast. Looks good. 5/5

Fit

Available for men in sizes 7-12 and women in sizes 4-8, the Berghaus Fellmaster GTX is a good general fit with a spacious toe box. The ankle cuff is of average height and very supportive and close-fitting. The lacing works well to ensure the boot hugged my foot in the ankle area, and this basically felt good. 5/5

Comfort

The ankle cuff and ankle area are a little firm compared to higher-priced boots, and generally this was perhaps not as comfy straight from the box as the absolute best boots costing a lot more. Underfoot cushioning is good though and the sole has a good forward flex to making walking easier. For this price the Berghaus Fellmaster GTX offers a good level of comfort. 4/5

In use

This is great for general walking on moors and paths as it has a good soft sole flex, but there is also enough stiffness to prevent rocky ground from being too uncomfortable. Grip on the sole is good (although some boots are even more aggressive) but again it’s good for this price band. The toe box and general support offered by this boot are great for general walking. 4/5

Value

A leather upper, rubber rand and good sole plus a supportive design mean the Berghaus Fellmaster GTX is top value. 5/5

Verdict

The Berghaus Fellmaster GTX is a great boot for general hillwalking at this price; you’d have to pay a lot more to find improvement over its minor drawbacks.  It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.6/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Anatom V2 Vorlich/V2 Lomond (2015)

Features

The Anatom V2 Vorlich/V2 Lomond is a heavier boot than many low-priced options but it is nicely stiffened in the sole and upper, which lighter boots lack. You also get a relatively robust upper of synthetic and suede, although a single-piece leather one would be even more durable. A Tri-aria waterproof lining is inside while the outsole has great lugs and a good heel breast. 4/5

Fit

The size range is 41-47 for the men’s V2 Vorlich and 36-42 for the women’s V2 Lomond. The fit is a good general option, being neither overly narrow nor overly wide. The ankle cuff is slightly higher than some low-priced boots, so you get more support. It is perhaps not quite as precise as higher-priced boots though. 4/5

Comfort

Basic comfort on the foot is reasonable, but as with most lower-priced boots if you pay more you get a little more softness around the ankle cuff. I also noticed the higher-priced boots have a smoother flex in the sole, so they provide a smoother and more comfortable rolling action. But the Anatom V2 Vorlich/V2 Lomond is still good for the price. 3/5

In use

The Anatom V2 Vorlich/V2 Lomond is a very hill-orientated design with good stiffness in the sole and upper to make walking over rocky ground reasonably comfortable and stable. You also get good grip, thanks to the deep lugs and heel breast on the sole. It is not quite so precise when scrambling and not quite as smooth a rolling action when walking, though, while a one-piece leather design would be more durable. 4/5

Value

The price is very good for what you are getting as this is a proper hill boot rather than just a low-priced valley boot. 5/5

Verdict

The Anatom V2 Vorlich/V2 Lomond is a great boot for hillwalkers who cannot spend more than £100, but if you pay more there are benefits. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Regatta Frontier Mid (2015)

Features

The Regatta Frontier Mid is very lightweight at 1218g (pair, size 11) but you still get some good features. The upper is a mix of synthetic and suede leather, with an Isotex waterproof and breathable lining. The ankle cuff is slightly higher than most low-priced boots, which is great. There is also good stiffness in the toe, heel and sole unit. The lugs on the outside are well-spaced and deep. 4/5

Fit

This boot comes in men’s sizes 6-12 and women’s sizes o3-8 and it fits quite closely, although it is not quite as glove-like and as precise as higher-priced options. But there is good space in the toes, and the tongue and ankle cuff fasten neatly around the foot. Very good at this price. 4/5

Comfort

The Regatta Frontier Mid is a lightweight boot that is also quite soft between the laces and toe box, but in other areas it has good stiffness. The ankle cuff felt a little too firm compared to higher-priced boots that had softer padding, but generally this is pretty good. The sole is not as a stiff as higher-priced boots so on really rocky ground your feet do tire a little more in these. 3/5

In use

The outsole lugs are deep and well-spaced so grip on softer ground is good. The sole is also quite stiff, so this is not bad on rockier ground either, although higher-priced boots with even stiffer soles are better. The fit is not quite as close as the best boots, so the Regatta Frontier Mid is less precise on rockier ground and durability may not be ideal compared to one-piece leather designs. 3/5

Value

The Regatta Frontier Mid is remarkable value for £85, as while some pricier boots are better, this is far better than many boots at this price or higher. 5/5

Verdict

If you can’t pay more than £85 the Regatta Frontier Mid is a superb option that can be used successfully on a variety of terrain. 3.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Meindl Jorasse GTX (2016)

Features

The Meindl Jorasse GTX’s weight of 1804g (pair, size 46) is instantly appealing, and it’s obvious you’re getting a solid winter walking boot here. This means there’s an upper made from synthetic materials and leather with minimal stitching plus a full rubber rand around the boot and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. Underfoot the Vibram sole has deep, well-spaced lugs combined with good stiffness for the B2 class. 5/5

Fit

The size range is more impressive than many winter boots: men’s 6-12 and women’s 3½-8. You get a little more volume too, so some extra wiggle room is available here, although it doesn’t feel quite as precise and close-fitting as some models. A great option if you prefer a little more room, though. 5/5

Comfort

The Meindl Jorasse GTX is very comfortable straight from the box, with the boot basically providing a soft but supportive barrier between your foot and the mountain. There’s a double tongue that allows the lacing to be very comfortable on top of the foot. The ankle cuff is a good height but it also has good cushioning so it supports the foot, but in a comfortable way. 5/5

In use

There is very little difference in performance between this and the Scarpa Manta Pro, but the Meindl Jorasse GTX does feel very slightly higher off the ground and slightly less precise when walking or placing the foot. It easily takes a crampon with a heel clip, though, and the ankle cuff provides a similar degree of support that allows just the right blend of support and movement. 4/5

Value

Very good performance for winter hillwalkers and the price is good for what you get. 4/5

Verdict

The Meindl Jorasse GTX is an excellent winter walking boot that competes strongly with the Scarpa Manta Pro, but doesn’t quite benefit from the same precise feel to the ground. 4.6/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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Mammut Magic Advanced High GTX (2016)

Features

The upper is made from synthetic leather that is three times lighter than leather, which is in part why the Mammut Magic Advanced High GTX is a relatively light boot at 1912g (pair, size 46). There is a Gore-Tex waterproof lining inside and a rubber rand outside for more protection. A Vibram sole with deep, well-spaced lugs and a smooth climbing zone under the toe are provided, and stiffness is B3 category: stiffer than is needed for walkers. 4/5

Fit

The size range is very good: men’s 6-13 and women’s 4-9. Fit isn’t quite as precise and close as others but there is a bit more room in the toe than some narrow designs. The cuff is a notch higher than others and a little more supportive, which is great for a B3 climbing boot but restrictive compared to a B2 walking boot. 4/5

Comfort

The weight is great but the Mammut Magic Advanced High GTX isn’t as comfy on the foot as some other B3 boots. Comfort isn’t bad; it’s just that others are slightly softer at contact points on the foot. It feels less ‘clumpy’ than other B3 boots though. It’s also quite restrictive around the ankle cuff, which is normal for B3 boots, but walkers will find a B2 boot more comfortable. 4/5

In use

The sole stiffness and deep lugs make the Mammut Magic Advanced High GTX great when crunching though snow and tackling steeper terrain as it can provide a very secure platform on each step. You can fit crampons with a heel clip too for better grip. There is a smooth zone on the sole under the toe, which isn’t ideal for pushing off when walking; and the sole flex isn’t smooth enough for walking. Great for a B3 boot when climbing. 4/5

Value

The price is very good for a B3 boot; but you can get a very good B2 boot at this price. 4/5

Verdict

The Mammut Magic Advanced High GTX is a low-weight and well-priced B3 mountaineering boot but winter hillwalkers could get a more dedicated B2 walking boot for similar outlay. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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Scarpa Manta Pro (2016)

Features

The Scarpa Manta has been the benchmark B2-rated 4-season hillwalking boot for decades, and it remains the cornerstone of the category. The upper is a mix of leather and synthetic materials with a Gore-Tex waterproof lining inside and a full rubber rand outside. The sole is a very aggressive Vibram unit with deep lugs and a good heal breast, and it’s rated as B2 for stiffness. 5/5

Fit

The Scarpa Manta Pro comes in men’s sizes 40-50 and women’s 36-42. On the foot it feels fairly wide and spacious at the forefoot with the ankle being a closer fit. The lacing works well to tighten the top of the boot and there is a good pair of locking lace eyelets on the side. The ankle cuff is a good height and fits snugly with room to move. 5/5

Comfort

This boot is very soft around the foot so you get a gentle hugging with no pressure points. The ankle cuff is particularly comfortable with soft forward flex, yet you still get all that lateral support that’s also very comfortable. For a stiff B2-rated 4-season boot this is exceptionally comfortable yet it maintains the support that’s also essential. 5/5

In use

The stiffness from toe to heel and laterally across the sole is ideal for UK winter hillwalking but the Scarpa Manta Pro also has enough performance for tackling mountaineering and glacier travel. It easily takes a crampon with a heel clip, and while not as precise as more dedicated climbing boots it doesn’t feel overly ‘clumpy’. There’s a reasonable forward roll on the sole to make walking below the snowline tolerable. 5/5

Value

At £300 the Scarpa Manta Pro is the same price as last year and these will last many years for most users. 4/5

Verdict

The Scarpa Manta Pro is still the clear choice for walkers who want a quality boot for tackling a wide range of winter mountain conditions. It won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade. 4.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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Zamberlan Pelmo Plus GTX (2016)

Features

The Zamberlan Pelmo Plus GTX is a well-priced boot with a reasonably low weight, but the ankle cuff is 3cm lower than in other models. The upper is one-piece leather with minimal stitching, a rubber rand and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. Underfoot you get a Vibram sole unit with widely spaced lugs but they’re slightly shallow in depth and the sole has a slightly softer flex than other B2 boots. 4/5

Fit

The size range is 36-48 for men only – so there’s no women’s fit here, sadly. The boot has a good general fit with space around the forefoot for a little movement. The lower ankle cuff may appeal to some users as it allows this boot to fit the ankle more easily than higher-cuffed options. 4/5

Comfort

That lower ankle cuff improves comfort as you can move your foot more easily, but it may mean you need to wear gaiters to keep out debris. Generally the comfort is good, although perhaps not quite as soft around the foot as some, but the Zamberlan Pelmo Plus GTX is more supportive and protective because of this to some extent. 4/5

In use

The lower ankle cuff is a benefit as it allows this boot to be lighter and extremely durable, which creates a more natural walking action. It may require more use of gaiters, though, and when traversing slopes you get less support. The outsole lugs aren’t the deepest and the flex in the sole is very slightly softer than you’ll find with alternative models. Overall the Zamberlan Pelmo Plus GTX delivers good winter walking performance. 4/5

Value

The price is very good for a walking boot that has the stiffness and support that most walkers will look for. 5/5

Verdict

The Zamberlan Pelmo Plus GTX is an excellent hillwalking boot with a low ankle cuff that you may or may not like. It’s a pity there’s no women’s fit available, though. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX (2016)

Features

The Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX’s upper is a mix of synthetic materials and leather with a Gore-Tex waterproof lining inside and a rubber rand on the outside for extra protection. The ankle cuff is slightly lower than some models in this category. The sole is Vibram with well-spaced lugs that are quite shallow and you get a smooth climbing zone under the toe. Stiffness is similar to other B2-rated boots. 4/5

Fit

This boot comes in men’s sizes 6-13 and women’s 3½-9, which is a good range. It feels spacious above the foot, and there is some good room in the toe box too. As the ankle cuff is about 1cm lower than others, this fits around the ankle area more easily than average boots in this category. 5/5

Comfort

The Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX does feel comfortable in use, with good padding around the foot and ankle and also under the laces. The ankle cuff is quite low, so it naturally feels comfier. The upper generally feels soft, making this feel comfortable on the foot too. 5/5

In use

The rolling action of the sole isn’t quite as smooth as higher-priced boots and there

is generally more flex in the ankle area too, making this less supportive, which all makes it a little less ideal when used on the hill. The sole lugs aren’t particularly aggressive so you don’t quite as good a bite in soft ground as with others. These are tiny points of difference, though. 4/5

Value

The Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX is a well-priced boot and while on the hill it isn’t the absolute best at this price, it may be a compromise worth making. 5/5

Verdict

The Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX is a very good all-round winter hillwalking boot. It may not be perfect for everyone but the price is a definite benefit. It won Trail’s ‘Best Value’ award. 4.6/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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The North Face S4K (2016)

Features

A very light boot for this category at just 1746g, the The North Face S4K is made with an upper comprising synthetic materials, a Gore-Tex waterproof lining and a full rubber rand. The ankle cuff is quite high with a gaiter to help keep debris out of the boot. A Vibram sole with a smooth climbing zone under the toe and slightly shallow lugs is provided underfoot, with a shallower heel breast than some. 4/5

Fit

Sizes are men’s 7-13 and women’s 4-9, with a snug fit around the toe in particular. The ankle cuff is a good height, but there is more sideways and forward flex in this than in other boots. The forefoot generally feels quite ‘precise’, which some walkers may regard as too close but others will enjoy. 5/5

Comfort

This boot feels comfy around the ankle cuff but a little too close around the toe for walking, so it’s slightly less comfortable than a more spacious model. The relatively low weight of 1764g (pair, size 11) adds to the overall comfort, however, and nothing digs in, so the The North Face S4K is a comfortable option, if a little close at the toe. 4/5

In use

The outsole is better designed for climbing or use with crampons than walking on snow as it has relatively shallow lugs, a shallow heel breast and a smooth climbing zone at the toe. The ankle cuff isn’t the most supportive, so this isn’t ideal for traversing slopes. The flex at the toe is also a little softer than other B2-rated boots. 4/5

Value

The price is appealing, but for walking in snow you are getting less performance in return for paying less cash. 4/5

Verdict

The North Face’s S4K is a good easier mountain walking and mountaineering boot, but others have the edge for winter walking in tougher conditions. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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Dolomite Cougar Guide (2016)

Features

The Dolomite Cougar Guide’s weight of 1848g is good for this category of boot. The upper is made from nylon and microfibre with a full rubber rand for extra durability and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining to keep the feet dry. The outsole is an extremely aggressive Vibram unit with very deep lugs and an impressive heel breast. There is good stiffness too to meet the B2 requirement and you can fit crampons with a heel clip. 5/5

Fit

Sizes are 6 to 11½ with no women’s option – a fairly narrow range. On the foot the fit is close and precise, with a narrow toe box and you do feel like the boot is hugging your foot shape. The ankle cuff is more supportive than some, which means there is a little less freedom of movement. 4/5

Comfort

The comfort level is good if you like close-fitting boots, although it you prefer more freedom of movement or have wider feet you may feel the Dolomite Cougar Guide is restrictive. Equally when walking the forward roll of the sole isn’t as smooth as other boots and you don’t get so much forward flex in the ankle cuff; so while not uncomfortable as such, it isn’t as gentle on the foot. 4/5

In use

That precise, close fit makes the Dolomite Cougar Guide superb for scrambling, climbing and mountaineering as you really know where your foot is. The high ankle cuff is great for climbing or traversing slopes as it’s so supportive. Underfoot grip is excellent as the lugs are so deep, although when walking the smooth climbing zone at the toe isn’t so useful and it feels a bit too supportive and restrictive. 4/5

Value

Exceptional value; and while better suited to mountaineers, I would buy it for walking. 5/5

Verdict

The Dolomite Cougar Guide is a very well-priced, relatively light boot very well suited to more challenging winter terrain but walkers may prefer less support and more wiggle room. 4.4/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX (2016)

Features

The La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX weighs just 1732g per pair, yet it still has a B2 rating for stiffness. The weight saving comes from the upper construction, which is seamless and incorporates a Gore-Tex waterproof lining, an abrasion-resistant nylon and a thermoplastic covering. You get a rubber rand too for more durability. Underfoot a Vibram Cube sole unit provides very deep and well-spaced lugs. 5/5

Fit

Sizes are just men’s 41-47 with no women’s option. The fit is quite narrow but it does feel quite neat and precise on the foot. The toe box has good volume, though, so you can wiggle your toes up and down. The cuff is a good height but there is less forward flex than in some models. 4/5

Comfort

The low weight adds to the comfort to some degree, but the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX isn’t quite as luxurious as some models that are heavier. The narrow fit and stiffer forward flex of the ankle cuff all impact a little on overall comfort. But that’s not to say it’s uncomfortable; it’s more that others are just slightly more comfortable. 4/5

In use

The weight is a benefit here and also the precise closer fit, as that makes the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX better for mountaineering, scrambling and placing your feet on the snow when knackered! The outsole grip is great and you get a smooth area for climbing precision, but this isn’t needed when walking of course. The toe flex isn’t quite as smooth as some others so walking action isn’t ideal. 4/5

Value

You are paying to save weight, so it depends on how much value you place on that. 4/5

Verdict

The La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX is a very lightweight boot that’s great for more technical ground, but when walking others have a smoother flex and more comfort. 4.4/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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Boreal Nelion (2016)

Features

The Boreal Nelion is a well-priced boot with a good weight and good features. The upper is primarily one-piece leather with minimal stitching for durability and a rubber rand for extra protection. There is a waterproof Dry-Line lining as well. The outsole is Vibram with widely spaced lugs. The sole offers good stiffness for the B2 category. A great all-round design for winter mountain use. 5/5

Fit

There’s a wide size range here: men’s 6-13 and women’s 4-8. This feels close on, particularly around the forefoot and toe, which some may not like if they prefer roomier, wider boots when walking. The cuff is a good height and fits neatly. The quite close fit feels slightly better for climbing than just walking. 5/5

Comfort

That close fit means the Boreal Nelion does feel a little restrictive, and while not uncomfortable, boots with more room and more flex in the ankle cuff are more comfortable when walking. But if you like that close fit then this certainly provides it in a comfortable way and will suit those with narrow feet. 4/5

In use

The stiffness and precise fit are great when scrambling, climbing or mountaineering, but it feels a little too restrictive for walking when a little more toe room and ankle flex can be enjoyed. The outsole lugs are well-spaced but not quite as deep as others, so they won’t bite into soft snow quite as easy easily as some. These are tiny points, though, as mountaineers will prefer these features. 4/5

Value

The price is very good and the Boreal Nelio’s  mountaineering bias may be tolerated by walkers. 5/5

Verdict

The Boreal Nelion is a very good winter boot with a slight bias towards mountaineering rather than pure winter hill-walking. The price is very appealing. 4.6/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine January 2016

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