The Phaser Peak boot from Merrell is designed to be a backpacking grade boot; built to withstand the rigors and demands of climbing and descending miles of mountains with a heavy pack and changing conditions. Does Merrell have it in them to build a boot that can handle it?
The boot is built from a full Nubuck leather upper, with a thick padded tongue, bronze loop lacing eyelets that resist rusting, and a removable EVA foot bed paired with a stiff grade 6 nylon insole and waterproof membrane (Merrell M dry). This comes together to make a sturdy, stiff boot that sheds water. An external counter provides additional stability. The pair weighs 3lb 1 oz and retails for $175.
What I liked
Durability wise, the Phaser Peak is impressive. Swallowing hundreds of miles and taking it like a champ, the boots have taken everything I can throw at them, while protecting my feet from stubbed toes, sore arches and blisters. The Vibram tread shows little wear, and the leather is still softening up after many miles use, with no signs of giving up.
A very sturdy build makes it a great boot for carrying heavy loads, or protecting more tender feet. After miles of pounding my (sensitive) arches with 30 pounds strapped to my back, I was still comfortable and pain free. Stability wise, the boots do a great job of avoiding rolled ankles and sprains, due mainly to the rigid counter and overall rugged build quality and deep foot bed. A load hauling workhorse of a boot.
The boots are quite comfortable, for the most part, with a generous fit around the toes, without slipping at my heels. The boot laces up tight where you want it, and stays loose where you don’t, staying snug around my ankles to reduce friction, while giving my toes room to move around inside.
Mostly waterproof, the Peaks do a good job of keeping rain out in most conditions. Hiking in the rain and through the occasional puddle was a non-issue.
Breathability is O.K, which is pretty good for a waterproof boot. My feet stayed fairly cool in the heat, and warm in the snow.
What I didn’t like
The waterproofing is imperfect, taking in water when hiking through miles of flowing trail during intense downpours. The boot appears to only be water proof to the ankle, allowing water in through the laces anywhere higher. Not an issue unless you’re under more extreme conditions however. Drying, like any waterproof boot, will take some time.
The laces resist staying tied, especially on long descents, and easily slip after being laced. They’re durable, but also quite slick, and simply slide through the knot. Using a better knot or waxing fixed the problem, but your standard bow will cause some issues.
Better traction while crossing streams would have been nice.
These boots are stiff. They have taken me roughly 100 miles of hiking to get them to a flexible, luxuriously soft point. Although comfortable out of the box, expect a long break in period to get the full effect. The stiff sole maintains its rigidity even after breaking in (a good thing).
Thick socks fill in these boots much better than flimsy day hiking socks. Comfort Hikers from Wigwam pair great, and provide even better cushioning.
Despite not being entirely waterproof, and a bit heavy, the Phaser Peaks are a competent and strong pair of backpacking boots. Miles of comfort with even the heaviest of packs is the norm here, not the exception. I’m yet to meet a blister, and they’ve held up much better than the average hiking boot thanks to the generous build. Under anything but the most extremely wet conditions, these are great boots at a fair price.