Backpacking Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains in Salewa Alp Flow Mid GORE-TEX SURROUND® Boots
Michael Lanza took to Idaho's remote wilderness to put our boots to the test. Here's how they performed...


My son, Nate, and I can nearly touch the clouds. Mountain goats scurry across the ridge and rain begins to fall the 10,872-foot summit of Patterson Peak. Though few may know Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains, I’m convinced there’s no better place. It’s October, a time of year promising great solitude thanks to the questionable weather. My 15-year-old and I are backpacking into the White Clouds to explore a pair of lake basins at the foot of Castle Peak, the highest of the White Clouds at 11,815 feet. Michael Lanza hiking in White Cloud MountainsWe’re about to spend a below-freezing night at Quiet Lake, hemmed in by forest on two sides and cliffs on the other. This lake is a lonely and stunning gem, and at over 9,000 feet it’s set in beautiful mountains that most backpackers have never even heard of. As a longtime gear geek, I’m also here in October to explore a concept: that boots can be completely waterproof and burly enough for rugged hiking, and yet not bake my feet as if they were inside a Dutch oven for hours. I’ve rarely found waterproof boots that are supportive enough for backpacking on rugged trails and breathable enough to keep my feet dry through big-mileage days. As Nate and I start down the steep mountainside of loose screen from Patterson’s summit into the Four Lakes Basin, I’m beginning to believe that I’ve found the best of both worlds. The Salewa Alp Flow Mid GORE-TEX SURROUND® boots are up to the challenge. Hiking footwear is a vital component to any backpacking trip and carrying up to 35 pounds on my back while hiking off trail, I wanted good support underfoot, and in the ankles. The Alp Flow Mid GORE-TEX SURROUND® boots passed the rugged-terrain test, thanks to an EVA midsole with nice cushion, and a partial, plastic shank (link to boot glossary) that delivered great rigidity. To-the-toes lacing and a locking lace hook midfoot helped me customize the fit. Salew Alp Flow Mid GTX® More importantly, I wanted to know whether they would deliver absolute waterproofing, as well as good breathability. As we splashed through mud and puddles and bushwhacked through wet brush in the White Clouds, the boots’ nubuck leather and ballistic mesh uppers got visibly wet. But my socks stayed dry. The GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology not only keeps moisture out, it features the first innovation of 360 degrees of breathability—allowing moisture and warmth to escape through the GORE-TEX membrane into the open structured spacer and   side ventilation outlets in the boot shaft. On our last day in the White Clouds, the skies threatened more wet weather as Nate and I labored uphill, sweating under our packs in the steep terrain. I was lucky that my feet were the furthest from my mind, they stayed dry and comfortable while I watched for more mountain goats. Michael Lanza has written feature stories and tested and reviewed gear for Backpacker Magazine for more than 20 years; for 11 years, he was the magazine’s Northwest Editor. He runs the blog and website The Big Outside. His book Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks was a winner of a National Outdoor Book Award honorable mention. He has hiked and climbed extensively in the U.S. West and Northeast and published stories in magazines and online about his adventures on four continents. Images by Michael Lanza


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