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Backpacker Magazine – April 2009

Editors' Choice 2009: Kayland Zephyr Boot Review

Can't decide which boots are right for the trip? Stop wondering and start hiking with this all-purpose midweight.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Kayland Zephyr (Steve Howe)
Kayland Zephyr (Steve Howe)

video iconVIDEO REVIEW: See the Kayland Zephyr in action during our test on the scene Wales

MORE EDITORS' CHOICE WINNERS
See more gear that made the cut in our 2009 awards.

Let's be clear: Gear testing has its glory moments, but putting your feet through the new-boot grinder to find blisterproof footwear is not one of them. Unless the new boot in question is the Zephyr. It worked for nearly every trip and load–out of the box–with the support and stability for carrying 50-pound packs in rough terrain, and a low-bulk design for fast striding on dayhikes.

How does Kayland achieve the superior versatility? For starters, a polyurethane exoskeleton enhances both durability and stability without adding much weight. And a secure heel cup, reinforced by the exoskeleton, locked our feet in place. Fit and all-day comfort are improved by a series of small but smart details: the forefoot has plenty of wiggle room for swollen toes; the lace holes link to the exoskeleton, so it's easy to either suck in or let out the sides of the boot to adjust width without adding pressure points; the gusseted tongue never budges; an ergonomic pad at the Achilles notch gives the midcut Zephyr the ankle support of a higher-cut boot on uphills, but it flexes on the way down for comfort; and an EVA midsole and plastic shank provide just-right cushion and support. It all adds up to this: "The Zephyrs are by far the most comfortable boots I've worn all year," said one tester. "It's almost like they propel you forward when you walk."

To complete the package, the Vibram sole's aggressive tread grips like a crampon–testers scrambled surefooted over rain-slick rocks in Wales while others slipped. And the eVent liner provides dependable waterproofing with superior beathability. Bonus: Testers who usually use aftermarket insoles reported that the insoles included with the Zephyrs are so supportive that there was no need to replace them. Best for medium-volume, medium-width feet. $190; men's 8-12, 13; women's 6-10; 2 lbs. 7 oz. (men's 9); kayland.com

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FULL PRODUCT SPECS: ZEPHYR W'S



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READERS COMMENTS

Ray
Jan 10, 2012

Update on my "NOT WORTHY OF THE EDITORS CHOICE AWARD!" post. I cannot overemphasize the poor quality/construction of these boots. After being repaired by the manufacture, they delaminated AGAIN. I fixed them myself this time with some Freesole but I doubt that will hold. When they come undone again, I will be trashing these boots. This is the worst gear purchase I made in the past 5 years. Don't trust yourself with these in the backcountry and consider purchasing your boots only from retailers that have a lifelong, no questions asked return policy.

Ray
Dec 07, 2010

NOT WORTHY OF THE EDITORS CHOICE AWARD! This is a follow up to my post on Jun 18, 2009. After approximately 75 miles of hiking with a 35 to 40LB pack, the soles delaminated in the front/toe area. They were just under a year old so they were under warranty. Kayland repaired them but at my expense to ship them to their repair facility.

In Summary.

Pros - comfortable but not on rock terrain with a loaded pack, good traction, good fit if you buy a half size bigger.

Cons - not meant for backpacking. The manufacture does not market this as a "backpacking" boot but as a day hiker. Poor sole quality - see numerous complaints about sole delamination. Too expensive for what you get.

Backpacker Magazine should serious consider recalling the the award. It such a shame that these boots are continuous sold with the award logo next to them for such a premium price. It should cause you to question the value of their award.

In the end, I went with a Scarpa SL M3 full leather backpacking boot. If you get these on sale, you wont spend much more than the Zephyr but you'll get a much better boot.

Mike
Sep 08, 2010

I found the Backpacker review to be spot on. I have wide feet and they are the most comfortable hiking boot I have ever slipped my foot in. Great support and I don't feel the trail like others have expressed. Wonderful boot, light and dry.

Ryan
Sep 07, 2010

I bought the Zephyrs after my 10 year old boots died and after reading Backpacker's review. I've had the same problem with these- both soles delaming afte less than 6 months and 125 miles of backpacking and hiking peaks!. I would not recommend them. I worked in the outdoor manufacturing and retail buisness for almost 10 years, and it is simply not normal to delaminate the soles like this after so short a time. There must be an issue with the sole glue in the manufacturing process. Regardless, I sent them back to Kayland. Let's hope the stand behind their product. We'll see. Go the next step up in model if you want to stick w/ Kayland or I have purchased (b/c I sent the Zephyrs in) a pair of Oboz Wind River boots...

Ryan Durango, CO

Todd - Durango
Sep 07, 2010

Yup, bought a pair on Feb 18th, 6 months later, both soles are delaminating at the toe box. Hiked about 150 miles, about 6 high peaks, 2 - 25 mile backpack trips with a 40 lbs pack. They are definitely worn, but the soles are delaminating after 6 months. For a $200 pair of boots its unreasonable. Just sent them back to Kayland to see what they will do. Now I need to buy another pair so I can continue to hike. Had to use my 15 yr old pair for Hesperus Mtn, a little worn but in better condition than the kayland. Disappointed that I finally broke them in and now they are no longer useful. The comment from the store is that I hike too hard for these shoes. Not sure what that means, hiking generally is on rough terrain and in rough conditions, this isn't a stroll on Broadway.

Todd - Durango
Sep 07, 2010

Yup, bought a pair on Feb 18th, 6 months later, both soles are delaminating at the toe box. Hiked about 150 miles, about 6 high peaks, 2 - 25 mile backpack trips with a 40 lbs pack. They are definitely worn, but the soles are delaminating after 6 months. For a $200 pair of boots its unreasonable. Just sent them back to Kayland to see what they will do. Now I need to buy another pair so I can continue to hike. Had to use my 15 yr old pair for Hesperus Mtn, a little worn but in better condition than the kayland. Disappointed that I finally broke them in and now they are no longer useful. The comment from the store is that I hike too hard for these shoes. Not sure what that means, hiking generally is on rough terrain and in rough conditions, this isn't a stroll on Broadway.

Grant
Jul 28, 2010

I just bought new boots after 16-months and 600+ miles of use from my first pair of Zephyrs. Reading over past comments I chuckle because, so true, I frequently had to re-glue and maintain both soles, and my next pair are 1/2 size bigger for more room in toe box. On the PLUS side, the grip or footing is absolutely amazing. They are so good on rocky Sierra Nevada trails, particulary while descending. I find the Zephyrs grip like new sneakers on a basketball court, and feel just as comfortable. And yet these boots provided me with good ankle support to avoid roll-over or twisting even when wearing 50-pound pack. The days of heel slip on the descent are a thing of the past because of the amazing grip of the Vibram sole. Sure, I may feel the rocks more than with mountaineering boots, but that is part of what makes for sure footing on slippery scree and loose boulders.

tim
Dec 28, 2009

Buy the Kayland contact 1000 and you will have what you are looking for. They are better than any boot in their class.

astewart
Nov 15, 2009

I can't deny others' bad experiences with this boot. All I can say is that I ordered a half size bigger than my usual fit, I have wide feet, and after a couple hundred miles hiking in the Whites and elsewhere the shoes have held up well and they feel great. Perfect for longer day hikes.

Sam
Nov 10, 2009

I have had a pair of Kayland Contact 1000s for the last 3 years and they're amazing. They're a 'proper' boot too and can handle just about anything.

baychic
Nov 01, 2009

I bought these boots online from Endless.com-they sounded like the perfect boot for me, according to the Backpacker Magazine review. Here I am, 3 months later, and I am sending these defective boots back!! The sole is already separating from the boot on BOTH feet, at the toe.
I would NOT recommend these boots. period. Going with the highly successful Scarpa boots.

Grant
Sep 24, 2009

get a pair of Keen Kalamiths and you will never go back

mike from massachusetts
Aug 21, 2009

just got the boots 5 days ago. feels like they're made for a person who got a bilateral pinky toe amputation. i'm 145 lbs. with 8.5 medium feet(all my shoes are 8.5) and these things make my foot bones rub against each other. these would probably be the best boots ever if they were made by a more established company. oh well, back to the cresta hikers.

Paul
Aug 03, 2009

Rather disappointed with this boot - I did not find it deserving of the praises given by Backpacker. Unfortunately, it appears i am not alone. After roughly 150 miles, the soles of both boots began to separate from the boot. I respectfully disagree with the claim that these boots have "dependable waterproofing". These boots were soaked through after a light rain shower - they should have remained dry if they were truly waterproof. The toebox is small for medium volume feet, and my feet have had multiple blisters with or without using liners. These boots could start to live up to it's accolades if the manufacturer addresses these issues.

Roger Broadwell
Aug 03, 2009

Next time you select something as your Editor's choice, make sure the item is actually available. I've been checking online every month and still can't find my size/color. The one place that finally might have it doesn't accept returns. Please don't waste your time testing and my time looking in 2010 if the manufacturer isn't serious about selling the product.

Kaplan
Jul 25, 2009

Dissappointed.
The Toe box is very narrow and cramped even for a skinny medium volume foot person as myself. Worst of all I took them into the tundra in alaska only to find water leaking in! Soon my sock was completely socked making for an ardous 12 mile hike. I hope to send them back for a refund and find something better, any seggestions? Something more roomy and ACTUALLY Waterproof would be nice.

Britt
Jul 05, 2009

Wow, thanks for all the input everyone, this boot looked like a winner but after reading the comments I will be looking elsewhere. This boot got an editors choice award but shredded by users, and thats why we have forums. Looks like backpackers got a little kickback from Kayland

Ray
Jun 18, 2009

I ordered these boots online in April and they were on backorder until June. I just received my long awaited boots today and had to sent them right back for a bigger size. I wear a size 10 and have a medium to narrow foot. The review states that, “the forefoot has plenty of wiggle room for swollen toes”. This is could not be further from the truth. According to the company where I ordered these boots, the small/cramped toe box is reported to be common complaint. I find it hard to understand how a series of gear testers could not pick up on this issue. It would have been nice to have tried these boots on in a store first but no one sells them. Perhaps in store product availability should be a consideration when handing out such a “prestigious” award. This is my first time using Backpacker Magazine as a “consumer reports” for making a purchase and I hope that their other reviews are not a flawed as this one.

Keith in Tampa
Jun 11, 2009

I agree with a few others on this... no one sells this boot and not many sell Kayland. Only a few of the large, online outfitter sites sell Kayland at all and none carry the Zephyr. For such a highly touted shoe... funny how hard it is to get. I have yet to find some one selling it onling in my very average size 10. I even have a narrow foot which would be fine with this boot!
I found my size at www.usoutdoorstore.com and no where else so far...

Josh Davidson
Jun 05, 2009

JUNK! These boots are lightweight, but they are not even close to durable. I took a pair on a 5 day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon and by day 2, the sole of the left boot was already starting to separate. By the time I climbed out, both soles were separating (I could've hand ripped off the sole on the left boot). It probably wouldn't have mattered, because even with the soles, I still felt every rock I stepped on.

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