Hi-Tec’s Ion-Mask technology, which was introduced in 2008, is a unique way of waterproofing boots. It uses a plasma treatment that makes the outside of the boot waterproof at a molecular level. Trail tests on early models found leaks developed quite early but Hi-Tec says it has now improved the process of proofing leather.
The Altitude Ultra Lux WPi combines the Ion-Mask treatment with a relatively stitch-free leather upper. On its own the leather upper would be reasonably waterproof and durable as it is free from lines of stitching or seams that could split with hard use and poor care. But with the addition of the Ion-Mask treatment the outside of the boot is also waterproof. The upper is quite soft and flexible but there is a good stiff toe box so your feet get some protection from stray boulders. The ankle cuff is quite low-cut, as are most of the boots in this test, for more comfort when walking. Underfoot you get a Vibram sole unit that is exclusive to Hi-Tec and this has a well-spaced set of lugs that are also a good depth for keeping a grip in the mud. There is a big wedge of cushioning between the outsole and the foot for extra comfort.
On the hill
The Hi-Tec Altitude Ultra Lux WP is a relatively lightweight and flexible boot with a low ankle cuff. This means it is comfortable and not too restrictive to the foot, which some people like. When used outdoors I find this means they are great for valley walks and crossing grass or moorland, when the foot is not being stressed too much, but on rocky terrain my feet were being twisted or strained to a point where I felt I’d prefer to be in a stiffer boot. The upper is a little soft too, so again your feet have to do a lot of work as they don’t get much support. The outsole does not resist the pressure of stones too well either, so even on rocky bridleways these are not the most comfortable option. So far the boots are waterproof although time will tell how well the Ion-Mask treatment performs. The grip is generally good, but I’d prefer a deeper heel breast for a better grip on damp grass slopes, particularly when those lugs wear down a little.
Upper full-grain leather boot with Ion-Mask waterproof treatment
Sole Vibram Hi-Tec
Sizes 7-13 (men’s); 4-8 (women’s)
Weight 1512g (pair, size 11)
Made in Indonesia
Stores in the UK +250
Stockist details tel. (01702) 541771; www.hi-tec.com
External Ion-Mask treatment prevents the Hi-Tec Altitude Ultra Lux WP’s upper from soaking up water which results in fast drying and increased breathability; aggressive outsole lug pattern; well cushioned; stiff toe box. But the very bendy sole forces your feet to work harder; sole does not have a pronounced heel breast so downhill breaking is not ideal; the uppers are more supportive on some boots. Overall, the Hi-Tec Altitude Ultra Lux WP is a very good boot for general walking on easier terrain but sole and upper could be slightly better for rough and rocky terrain.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine December 2010