Jim Burch from 9 to 5 Hiker puts the latest boots from The North Face with GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology through both mountains and desert in search of the ultimate all-purpose option for any hike. Read his review and check out the video below! I’m a big believer in minimalism. While some gear collections look like the inside of an REI, I like to keep it simple. I use the same tent for both car camping and backpacking, the same sleeping bag, and just a few, select items for almost everything in the outdoors. I can’t say the same for my footwear. I typically use two different pairs on the trail—a light, breathable pair of trail runners for high temps and dry terrain, and a durable, waterproof pair of leather boots for snow, water, and added ankle support. I’m not the only hiker to use this one-two combo, and I’d venture to guess I’m not the only one searching for one pair to rule them all.
The North Face Ultra GORE-TEX SURROUND® Mid Boots
The best pair of boots are the ones you forget you’re wearing. They should be protective, supportive, but passive at the same time. My old leather boots could survive a nuclear blast. They have excellent support and durability, but they’re also heavy, hot, and took months to fully break in. They are definitely not ideal for the Phoenix heat, where I hike most often. I’m happy to report that I may have found the answer. The North Face Ultra GORE-TEX SURROUND® Mid boots are light, soft, and supportive, my feet stay firmly on the trail with its Vibram soles, and the GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology shuts out the elements and is extremely breathable—which was always my biggest gripe with other waterproof boots. And believe me, I put these boots to the test. https://youtu.be/9AHd7_eWU8w
Comfort, support and style out of the box
I took The North Face boots up the Inner Basin Trail in Flagstaff, Arizona. At 9,500 feet, this trail had nearly every element I needed to test a pair of all-purpose footwear—switchbacks, loose rock, mud, and water. The varied mesh materials delivered a more “broken in” feel out of the box, compared to traditional leather boots, without sacrificing support. I am constantly a victim to rolled ankles on the trail, so I usually favor boots to trail runners. There were plenty of times I could have twisted my ankles, but the added support of the mid boots never failed me when I stumbled. The combination of lightweight mesh materials and strategically placed leather overlays don’t just offer solid support, but also create a cool look you don’t see in traditional leather boots. These could almost pass for high-top basketball shoes in either colorway available (black and orange or gray and blue). If you’re one for a little flash on the trail, these will definitely offer some pop.
GORE-TEX brand protection and VIBRAM® grip
Arizona rocks are like oil slicks when it rains. The VIBRAM® soles gripped the trail as you would expect from an industry standard and the durably waterproof GORE-TEX SURROUND® product technology kept my feet bone dry as I hiked through mud and water. I had no doubts my feet wouldn’t soak but, more importantly, would they stay cool? That is the Achilles’ heel of most waterproof footwear and I wanted to test the breathability of the GORE-TEX SURROUND® technology in real heat. So I drove two hours south to hike them through the desert.
Breathability in the desert heat
When it’s 90-plus degrees out with no cloud cover, your feet are likely going to get hot, so I started my hike through Dreamy Draw Recreation Area in Phoenix with my trail runners as a control. These shoes have no waterproof protection, so my feet stayed as cool as they possibly could, even in cushioned wool socks. Then I switched to The North Face Ultra GORE-TEX SURROUND® Mid boots and was blown away by the difference—as in there wasn’t much of one. These boots are mostly black, so there’s no avoiding some heat under the sun, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of temperature control from a pair of waterproof boots. My leather boots would have created a sweat factory for my feet, but this pair with GORE-TEX SURROUND® lining kept everything completely cool and dry. I could have changed back into my trail runners for the hike back to my car, but The North Face boots were so passive (remember that important feature) that I didn’t even think about it until I was already back at the trailhead.
The best of both worlds
There will always be a time and place for lightweight trail runners and weighty leather boots, but The North Face Ultra GORE-TEX SURROUND® Mid boots are a fantastic choice for 90 percent of your hikes. They’re light, they’re supportive, but most importantly, they actually breathe in the heat. That makes all the difference for me, and this pair will be seeing a lot more of the rock and sand before the summer is over.