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2008 Camping Footwear Buyer’s Guide

May 29, 2008
Filed under Camping Gear, Footwear

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DANNER EXO EDGEToday’s day hikers want a shoe that can take them up the trail, but also be at home walking around the campsite, driving to can’t-miss destinations, or wandering the halls of a visitor’s center. You don’t need a heavy boot that works best on the trail, you need a shoe that works best /everywhere/. In this year’s Camping Footwear Buyer’s Guide we’ve focused on trail shoes and light hiking boots that provide must-have support and traction, without suggesting you should be climbing one of the Seven Summits. This footwear guide is all about versatility.

Danner wanted its new EXO Edge to be lightweight, yet still perform well on the trail. The Mid shoe pictured here offers great ankle support and plenty of breathability. The heal chassis (clearly visible) provides heel stabilizing support, and it is also a ventilator to aerate your foot. Available in two liner options, the DXTVent offers antimicrobial protection and ultimate ventilation. Gore-Tex XCR keeps your feet dry. The foundation of the EXO Edge is a lighter-weight rubber compound, plus new shoe technology that eliminates the standard shank system and replaces it with a TPU plastic chassis. MSRP: $114 for EXO Edge Mid w/ DXTVent. Danner: 877/432-6673; /danner.com/.

The Pagora, a trail shoe from Columbia, does a lot in a lightweight package – the shoe weighs only 11.5 ounces. Designed for women and as part of the company’s Rugged Trail line of shoes, it has a tough non-marking Omni-Grip sole for maximum traction. The dual-density EVA footbed keeps feet from getting sore, and a nylon shank improves rigidity to ward of foot fatigue. The suede leather and breathable mesh upper help keep weight down. MSRP: $75. Columbia Sportswear: 503/985-4000; /columbia.com/.

Hi-Tec’s new Radar II features the eVent waterproofing system, which provides exceptional breathability, even while preventing water from penetrating the shoe. This light hiking shoe is built using Hi-Tec’s V-Lite construction, which means the shoe is lightweight yet durable, featuring an EVA footbed. This footbed is part of the Comfort-Tec system, which includes a memory foam that personalizes your shoes. MSRP: $110. Hi-Tec: 209/545-1111; /hi-tec.com/.

The Keen Voyageur is all about ventilation – think convertible, not hardtop. The mesh lining isn’t waterproof, but it will ensure your feet stay cool. With 4 mm lugs on the outsole, this lightweight shoe can hang with the big boys when scrambling off the trail. The dual-density compression-molded EVA footbed provides support, while the notably tough toe cap protects your foot from rocks and tree branches. The Voyageur Mid provides additional ankle support at the same price. MSRP: $90. Keen: 800/509-5336; keenfootwear.com.

Lowa distinguishes itself from other footwear companies by using PU midsoles, which provide exceptional support thanks to 3-D molding. The new AL-T Orix Lo uses this bi-density midsole, which combines with the rubber outsole to create a frame that supports the underside of the foot and wraps upward for extra stability. The Orix’s mesh lining increases comfort and breathability. MSRP: $120. Lowa: 888/335-LOWA; lowaboots.com

Merrell’s Chameleon Iso has it all – breathable mesh construction treated with antimicrobial technology, an injection-molded TPU instep stability arm (which connects the molded heel counter to the lacing system to lock in the instep), and a nylon shank to keep your shoe flexing at the ball of the foot, not the arch. The Vibram outsole with 4 mm lug depth means you’ll be scampering, not sliding, down the trail. The Iso is also available in Gore-Tex XCR. MSRP: $100. Merrell: 800/789-8586; merrell.com

Montrail added more ankle support to its popular Hardrock trail shoe to create the Hardrock Mid and design the ultimate light hiking boot. A Full-length TPU plate protects the foot from rough terrain and provides support. The Gryptonite sticky rubber outsole provides optimal performance with a combination of traction and durability on both wet and dry surfaces, while the Multidirectional lug design offers traction in all directions. MSRP: $110. Montrail: 800/826-1598; montrail.com

Oboz is a new footwear company launching its first line of shoes this year, and the Yellowstone boot proves the company will be around for a long time. External heel counters, which provide stability and control, are molded and sized to match men’s and women’s feet. The outsole’s unique rounded design mimics the shape and motion of the foot. Oboz’s proprietary B-Dry waterproof membrane and waterproof Nubuck leather keep things dry. MSRP: $125. Oboz: 406/522-0319; obozfootwear.com

The Patagonia brand is synonymous with high-quality, rugged outdoor gear. The clothing company is introducing a line of shoes this year, and they promise to be no different. The Drifter is one of the most stylish shoes featured in this buyer’s guide – it is equally at home on the trail or in a restaurant after coming down from the mountain. Gore-Tex waterproofing and bellowed tongues make stream crossings less stressful, and the Bi-Fit Dual Density insole provides stability. MSRP: 130. Patagonia: 800/638-6464; Patagonia.com

Saucony, the well-known running shoe company, is entering the trail shoe market with a bang. The ProGrid Xodus features a Vibram outsole for the best possible traction and Saucony’s ProGrid technology, which provides comfort without compromising support. The heart of ProGrid is a new material called Respon-Tek — a blend of foams and synthetic rubbers that creates a cushioning platform that responds with each stride. The durable and breathable rip-stop fabric upper allows air to flow like any trail shoe should. The Xodus is light, too – only 12.3 ounces for the men’s version. MSRP: $95. 800/305-8199; /saucony.com/.

Breathability is a focus of this buyer’s guide, and the Vasque Ranger GTX airs your feet out well. Large airmesh panels offer maximum comfort in summer weather, and split leather fills out the rest of the upper. You still have water protection, too, with the Gore-Tex lining. Molded EVA provides midsole support. At 2 pounds, 14 ounces for a men’s boot, the Ranger GTX isn’t the lightest shoe in this guide, but it also offers stable ankle support and the security to go off-trail. MSRP: $100. 800/224-4453; vasque.com

ALL ABOUT SOCKS

When selecting socks, there’s only one rule of thumb to follow: don’t buy cotton. There are a ton of brands and styles on the market that wick moisture away to keep your feet dry, while also providing the extra support you’ll want during long hikes. The three models we’ve selected are each unique in their own way.

The new PhD Running Trail Mid Mini from SmartWool is an ideal sock to use with the trail shoes we’ve featured in this buyer’s guide. After studying the pressure points on test subjects’ feet, SmartWool designed a sock that has ultra-dense cushioning in the highest impact area, and Mesh Zones for ventilation in non-impact areas. MSRP: $15. SmartWool: 888/879-9665; /smartwool.com/.

Fox River’s Good Earth Country Crew sock is good for your feet and great for the environment – 41 percent of the sock is ingeo, fabric made from corn. The socks we tried felt no different than your traditional synthetic sock, and with a cushioned sole and flat toe seam, they were super comfortable. MSRP: $11.50. Fox River: /foxsox.com/.

The Women’s Endurance Trail Light sock from Bridgedale is (naturally) designed especially for women, with a fit that has less volume throughout the sock, from the heel to the toe box. A midfoot lycra band give the sock excellent hold, and a 360-degree wrap of lightweight mesh at the midfoot improves breathability. MSRP: $15. Bridgedale: 800/943-4453; /bridgedale.com/.

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