Gear Review: The North Face Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX Boots
Weight: 1 lb 6 oz / pair (based on Women’s 7)
Materials: Upper – Synthetic mesh, synthetic leather, thermoplastic urethane overlays. Lining – GoreTex waterproof breathable membrane
In recent years, trail runners have become all the rage among ultralight backpackers. They’re comfortable, require little to no “break-in” time, and are exceptionally breathable, so it makes sense that many hikers are ditching their heavy boots for lightweight trail runner alternatives.
In perfect conditions, trail runners can be a dream come true, but as with many pieces of ultralight gear, there are certain times when you need a sturdier piece of equipment to get the job done. We’re talking extremely rocky patches of trail that would chew a trail runner to shreds, or snow conditions where you need your feet to stay warm and dry.
If you think this makes your options jump from a lightweight trail runner, to a 3 pound full leather boot, think again. The North Face Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX Boot is the best of both worlds and is the perfect mix of everyone’s favorite parts of trail runners and traditional boots all piled into a comfortable, sturdy shoe. With loads of traction, and the ability to be used in a variety of conditions, these boots are built to tear up even the most rugged trail, without adding a ton of weight to your feet.
Circumstances of Review:
These boots and I have walked about 450 miles together over the past year, and with many more adventures on the horizon, I don’t see these boots failing me any time soon. I have used them on everything from summer backpacking trips along the Appalachian Trail, to day hikes with knee high snow in the Catskill Mountains of New York.
A boot that is both waterproof and breathable may sound like an oxymoron, but The North Face has figured it out. I have found the Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX to be exceptionally airy in the summer, yet I never hesitate to step through mud or a small creek due to the GoreTex lining.
As if using these boots all summer isn’t enough, the waterproofing allows you to use them in snow conditions throughout the winter as well. When paired with a thick sock and snow gaiters, these boots are the perfect cold weather companion. I’ve had them out in icy temperatures with 3 feet of snow on the ground and not a drop of water entered my boots. My feet stayed dry, warm, and comfortable throughout the entire hike in the same shoes I use on summer backpacking trips. Impressive is an understatement.
The midcut design offers enough ankle support to help out on rockier patches of trail, but is still flexible enough to not make you feel constricted in the boot. In fact, the entire boots has more of a trail runner feel, which equates to a more sneaker-like and comfortable shoe.
Swollen feet are a major concern for many backpackers when picking appropriate footwear. Since the Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX is less rigid than your traditional boot, it allows the boot to somewhat stretch with your foot if swelling is an issue. I personally have major issues with blisters due to how my feet swell and consequently rub against my boots when I hike, but I have been walking relatively pain and blister free since getting these shoes!
Durability, Weight, and Traction
One of my favorite parts about this boot? The pair weighs less than a pound and a half, and for a boot, that’s insane. Sure you can get trail runners that weight 8-10oz, but if you are looking for a comfortable boot with great traction and ankle support, 1lb 6oz is pretty damn good.
Often times however, what backpackers gain in weight savings, they make up for in a lack of durability throughout their gear. However, these boots are an absolute exception to that rule, as even after hundreds of miles, there is not a single hole in the material, and the traction on the boots is still in considerably good shape. The Vibram sole makes slipping on wet sections of rock a rarity, and keeps your foot feeling protected if you accidentally bump against a tree root on the trail.
Chaffing / Discomfort from Tongue
The only flaw that I have found in these boots is that sometimes the tongue rubs against my ankle towards the top of the boot. When this happens, I usually just untie the boot and readjust the tongue so that it lays comfortably. Although it can be annoying to stop hiking to adjust the boot, I have learned to double check how the tongue is laying before I hit the trail. Wearing higher socks also helps make sure you won’t need to stop a few miles in to readjust. All things considered, this issue is pretty minimal.
These boots are honestly to die for. Hiking is a year-round activity, which makes a boot that can be used in all conditions ideal. The price is in the middle range as far as hiking footwear goes, and considering the fact that even after 450+ miles, these boots seemingly still have tons of trips left on their lifespan, the price point is absolutely worth it. If you are a hiker who prefers the support and durability of boots, yet want the comfort and feel of a trail runner, then these are the shoes for you.
Final Overall Rating: 9.5/ 10
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