When I think “Danner” I immediately imagine their classic Mountain Light series of boots: thick-lugged soles supporting shiny, luscious leather uppers. Beautiful, extraordinarily comfortable boots, but way too heavy (for my taste) to walk around in for a dozen miles or so at a time. Their new Mountain 600 “Performance Heritage” boots are clearly designed for hikers who, like me, place a premium on lightness, but who still have a great big soft spot in their hearts for the classic look of old school leather boots.
I went with the suede, 4.5-inch uppers ($180), though full-grain leather uppers are also available ($200). First impressions out of the box: These are beautiful boots that weighed far less than I expected. The Mountain 600s tip the scales at 37 ounces per pair—about half of what the classic Mountain Lights weigh, but also twice as much as the trail runners I typically wear while backcountry hiking. They’re built on the bones of a whiz-bang proprietary Vibram EVA (fancy foam) midsole, with a Vibram Fuga outsole for traction. They’re also lined with “Danner Dry,” a breathable, waterproof membrane.
Fine, fine, but how do they hike?
Comfortably. Easily. Pull ’em right out of the box, lace ’em up, and you could probably knock out a 15-mile day without incident (note: sizing runs big—order these a half-size smaller than you normally would). They’re light and pliable enough to push right through the normal boot break-in period with no hot spots whatsover. I’ve put in close to 50 miles in the Mountain 600s so far over dry trails, rocky trails, muddy trails, trails that were basically just very shallow streams, and plenty of off-trail scrambling—they’ve handled it all just fine. Lacing kept the boots secure and comfortable, though I did experience a little bit of foot movement on steep downhill sections, but thick wool socks eliminated that. Breathability was a concern for me going in, as it is with any waterproof hiker, but my feet have remained cool so far, even in hikes when temperatures climbed into the 60s. Anything warmer than that, and I’d suspect that sweating could be a concern, but then, you’d likely be wearing mesh runners at that point anyway.
They’ve also been comfortable for the urban, uh, hiking I’ve put them through. Which was a bit of a surprise, actually. I’ve also been testing the Danner Jags, a stripped-down boot intended for equal parts hiking/cafe lounging, but I haven’t been nearly as impressed with the hiking abilities of those. The Mountain 600s are the rare boot that I’d happily wear backpacking, fishing, and to dinner in downtown San Francisco.
That versatility comes as a price, though, if you’re looking for a tough-as-nails boot for alpine, or cross-country adventuring. The Mountain 600s have a nylon shank for support, but they don’t offer a lot of torsional rigidity. Much of the uppers just sort of bend and flex with your upper foot and ankle, without providing any real bracing. That’s fine with me, I’m used to hauling lots of weight wearing only trail runners, but if you’re coming from the world of rigid ankle-high boots, the flexible Mountain 600s will take some getting used to. Think of them more as bulked-up trail runners with lots more ankle and toe protection and you’re on the right track. If I was carrying 50 pounds, determined to cover massive vertical gains and losses, I might think twice about wearing these. For typical backcountry adventures though, the Mountain 600s are a solid choice.
It’ll take a few more months for durability tests to come in, but so far, they look like they’ll hold up for years to come too. And they’ll look great doing it. You know, if you’re into that kinda thing.
$180 • BUY
Weight: 37 oz per pair (suede); 39 oz (full-grain leather)
Midsole: Vibram EVA foam
Outsole: Vibram Fuga self-adapting lugs
Waterproof? Yup, lined with Danner Dry barrier
OTHER HIKING BOOT OPTIONS
Shoot, where to begin?
If you want to go with the grandaddy of the Danner family, and have boots to hand down to your kids, the Mountain Lights are a beautiful but pricey option at up to $380.
Vasque’s Sundowner GTX boots weigh a pound more than the Mountain 600s, but also sport old school style, with modern conveniences like gore-tex and polyurethane midsoles. $219.
I really liked the sorta goofy-looking but incredibly light and comfortable, ankle-high waterproof Merrell Verterra Mids. Supplies are running low, but they can be had for $98-$150 on Amazon.
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