Merrell Wilderness Boots

Merrell Wilderness Boots

Like most things in life, what boots to wear in the woods and fields is a trade off.  More thickness and stiffness make for more foot protection and warmth in the winter, but also make for tireder legs and more sweat in the summer.  Depending on the roughness or flatness of the terrain, a heavier boot may make your feet feel more or less comfortable.  

Heavier boots are better for punching toe steps and digging into steep or slick terrain, like snow or mud.  When I was in my 20's and 30's years of age, I wore heavy boots exclusively.  I tended to hike rougher and steeper places, like Grandfather Mountain and Linville Gorge, where the stiffness gave a better grip.  My youth apparently allowed me to have more strength and energy to spend on lifting my feet. 

The boots I wore then were extra-ordinarily thick and heavy full grain [not split] leather, called waffle stompers.  They had deep gripping Vibram lug soles and Norwegian welts, meaning the uppers were stitched to the soles with super thick thread and the seams were exposed to the outside of the boot.  They were heavy enough that I used them to wear snow crampon spikes and randonee ski bindings.  The water proofness came from the thick leather soaked with Sno-Seal wax compound. 

As I have aged, my strength has waned, so I often prefer lighter boots, such as Salewas from the Dolomite region of northern Italy.  The water proofness comes from an inner layer of Gore-Tex fabric.  They were sufficienly sturdy for a week long, 65 mile back pack trip in the Wind River Range wildnerness area of Wyoming several  years ago. 

The modern trend is towards ever lighter backpacking equipment, including boots. Most through hikers [like 2,100 miles on the Appalachnian Trail, or even longer on the Pacifc Coast Trail or Continental Divide Trail] use simple, light running shoes.  This type of foot wear is not water proof, offers no ankle support or foot sole protection, but weighs next to nothing.  The hikers spend a large percentage of time with wet feet which eventually dries out.  I could not do that. 

Now that I am a little bit older still, I have settled on the Merrell Wilderness leather boots.  They are a step down in weight from the old waffle stompers, but still sturdier than the Salewas.  To me they are the perfect balance.  Plus, they look classically handsome.  In my opinion they are among the best boots in the world.  You can order even better boots from some custom makers like Limmer in Germany, but they cost twice as much and take 10 times longer to receive in the mail.   

Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.