Monday, January 5, 2015


I've been looking around for a new pair of boots, or hiking shoes more specifically.  I wasn't unhappy with the shoes that I used last summer, but I want a mid-height hiking shoe this time around, with some ankle support, so I can scramble on scree without feeling so exposed to the possibility of a rolled or twisted ankle.  On the other hand, I now prefer the technical benefits of lightweight synthetic construction hiking shoes over heavy, stiff, leather boots (although I still like a good leather boot for style!--I just don't want to hike a long time in a pair of them anymore...)

Unfortunately, while a good low-top trail shoe for under $50 isn't hard to find, I've really been struggling to find any kind of mid-height trail shoe at anywhere near that price.  Nevertheless, I persevere in my desire to have that kind of shoe, even if I have to pay three times as much for it as I did last year for my lower top hiking shoes.  I had my eye on five possibilities; all lightweight and all, more or less, at the same price, with the exception of one that was a bit less, albeit at the cost of not being exactly the kind of shoe I was looking for.

  • Cabela's XPG Mid GORE-TEX Hikers $139.99.  Part of a new line at Cabela's (the XPG line) that is more focused on hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor activities that are other than hunting and fishing.  As an aside, the Cabela's XPG lightweight backpacking tent (2-man) is my preferred tent on the market for backpacking, although at about $300 I'm not likely to pick it up anytime too soon.
  • New Balance 703 Country Walking Shoes $139.99.  Similar in most respects to the XPG mid hiker, or so it seems, except without the GORE-TEX lining.  That isn't necessarily bad, however--GTX shoes are often cited as hot, sweaty, and not really all that more likely to keep your feet dry than non-GTX shoes.  Plus, a good lightweight mesh shoe should dry quickly if it does get wet anyway, especially combined with a thickish merino wool and/or polyester blend boot sock.
  • The North Face Ultra Fastpack GTX $149.99, although a non-GORE-TEX version is available, although from fewer retailers, for $130.  Same discussion as above on the benefits (if any) of GORE-TEX in a lightweight synthetic hiking shoe.
  • Danner Extrovert 4.5" $140.  This is an extremely stylish boot, which I really love the look of.  However, I'd have to order it direct from Danner, since it appears to be unavailable at any retailer that I could go and visit.  I do dislike that, since it means I can't actually try them on before buying them, and I'm uncomfortable doing that.  I could try on some other Danner boot, I suppose, but Danner does have different lasts, and this is their "athletic" DT4 last.  I'm not sure that I can easily find any other shoes built on the same last to try as a surrogate.  I have to admit, I'm not thrilled with that aspect of this boot, which probably moves it to the bottom of the list in terms of likely ones.  Too bad that I like the look of it the best!  Not that I'm going hiking to be stylish in the wilderness, or anything, but everybody likes to wear stuff that they like, right?
  • As a wild card, I've also included the Merrell Moab Ventilator--non GORE-TEX version $99.99.  Although it's cheaper, it also is a bit more of a traditional boot, and the weight seems to be higher than the others, it includes a fair bit of leather in the construction, and it's kind of ugly.  But to save about $40?  I couldn't completely rule it out, even though it's not, strictly speaking, the kind of hiking footwear that I was looking for exactly.
But... hold the phone!  Cabela's is having a sale!  The XPG Mid hikers and one color (the one I like better, as it happens, although I like them both) of the New Balances are on a clearance sale for a while; $99.99!  And it's my birthday in less than 2 weeks!  Those two have suddenly moved to the front of the line.  Most likely I'll drive out to Cabela's this week and try the two of them on, decide which one I like better, buy them, and bring them home for my wife to wrap up and give me on my birthday.

Assuming both fit well and are comfortable, it comes down to whether or not I decide I want a GORE-TEX lining, since one comes with one and one comes without.

I should also note that the North Face Ultra Fastpack boots are also on sale, and the same amount off. However, because their base price is $10 more, so is their final price.  They have to remain behind the other two options in potential, I'm afraid.  What I was more likely to do with those was try on the GORE-TEX ones at Cabela's or Dicks or REI and then order the non-GTX ones direct from The North Face, or some other venue.  Doing that, of course, means that I don't get any sale price applied to them at all.