Going light and backpacking is practically synonymous. It’s an inconvenient truth that that backpacking boots rarely manage to provide true support while maintaining that lightweight build that’s so strongly desired. Thankfully, technology is beginning to change that.
The Trango TRK GTX boots provide more stability at a lower weight by implementing modern materials and technologies into a do it all package. Entirely synthetic, the boots are constructed from an abrasion resistant yet breathable polyester mesh, with a TPU (Thermoplastic Urethane) reinforcement applied to areas of high wear. This reduces weight while still maintaining durability where needed. For stability, a 3D flex insert is added to the ankle which allows for lateral movement without becoming limp, and a sturdy but flexible 6mm polypropylene insole is used throughout for shock absorption and rigidity. Vibram soles and rubber toes and heels finish out the design with the entire package weighing in at just 20 oz. MSRP is $220 and comes in both men and women’s variations.
What I liked
Rarely do I find lightweight boots that provide substancial protection and adequate stability for the rigors of backpacking. The Trango TRK GTX boots are one of the few exceptions. Despite their feathery build, they managed to absorb the roots, ruts, rocks and general unevenness of the trail without pounding my feet into submission despite a heavy pack. After miles of fast paced hiking they managed to bring me back to the trailhead relatively pain free, which is rare for a steep arched tenderfoot like myself. The toe takes impacts on rocks head on without caving in or cracking nails and the sturdy 6mm insole takes the impact of a heavily weighted pack step after step. The 3D flex technology allows the ankles to flex and fold for agility but always managed to prevent my ankles from rolling when carelessly dropping down from rock ledges or wedging my feet into precarious ruts and ridges. I’ve been very impressed with the overall stability and stoutness of these boots.
The boots overall are quite comfortable too. The entire body feels as if it’s been molded from a single piece of fabric, with no discernible seams or welds anywhere inside. The tongue of the boot does a great job of padding the eyelets from the feet, and the laces sit softly across the feet without bearing down on them directly. The fit stays close to the foot with enough wiggle room for the toes to move about but not so much that the foot actually moves around inside the boot. The tight but flexible ankle support system results in the least amount of heel slip that I’ve tested, resulting in a boot that holds me in place even after miles of descents, practically eliminating blisters from friction all around.
Weather protection has been as good as it gets, with a full Gore-tex booty spread throughout the entire boot. Dashing through mud, water, dew and rain has yet to penetrate the boot. Even the lace system blocks the elements from seeping in, making this an excellent wet weather boot. They also breath pretty well, for a waterproof boot, only resulting in a slightly warm foot on hotter days of more exertion.
Traction has been very good thanks to the well implemented vibram sole. Grip on mud, dirt and rocks has been fantastic and has yet to result in a single slip. Generally, Vibram tends to be a little slick on wet rocks when crossing streams, but so far this hasn’t been an issue for me. Hopping across wet rocks and logs has been a pleasure. Climbing steep inclines is also a worry free affair with the boot flexing plenty enough to provide solid contact on the surface throughout the entire stride, largely due to the supple body of the boots.
Durability has been great, especially considering the boots only weigh 20 oz. The synthetic body really takes a beating thanks to the Urethane coating and seems to be far more flexible without resulting in creases like more traditional leather builds. Grinding a large rocks and stumps has had little effect on the appearance, and a little water washes mud away pretty easily. So far, none of the seams have began separating at all, probably a benefit of using like materials throughout instead of trying to bond varying types of fabrics and rubbers. The Vibram soles do seem a little softer than most, but so far hasn’t worn down noticeably faster for it.
What I didn’t like
The laces, while quite durable, are a bit tightly weaved and provide little friction for tying. This results in some light delacing on long descents which loosens to boot around the foot. A little wax or a double loop bow corrects the problem but also makes them a little tougher to untie. Even bearing down with an exceptionally tight bow eventually still results in the coming undone.
The color palette may be a bit bold for some hikers, with no earthy or muted variants available. It’s not quite the type of boot that looks good around town either, but it does look quite dashing on the trail (especially the women’s model).
Nothing drains a backpackers energy like heavy or painful boots. That’s why many hikers are comfortable spending more money on a solid pair that will not only last, but provide more comfort at a lower weight. The Trango TRK GTX boots from Sportiva targets that particular audience with an understanding that the right technologies can produce a phenomenal boot that can do it all. They’re comfortable, stable, and provide more protection than many boots that weigh nearly twice as much. I love the flexibility of the all synthetic body, and the breathability and weather resistance of the Gore-tex bootie makes for a boot that I can wear in any condition. Light enough for hiking and burly enough for backpacking, they manage to pinpoint that perfect balance of ruggedness and long term comfort. If you’re looking for a single pair of boots for every activity and weight is a priority, I cannot recommend these enough. Perhaps overlook the zealous design though.
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For more information on La Sportiva and their excellent line of gear, check out http://www.sportiva.com/
I wanted to send a special thanks out to La Sportiva and Cory at Backbone Media for their support and for providing this excellent piece of equipment to review. We couldn’t do this without their help. Thank you so much! Our full disclosure can be found on the about me/contact page.