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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Gear Review: Danner Mountain Light II

These boots offer classic style with modern-day comfort -- and they'll last a lifetime.

by: Joe Flowers, text and photos


THE SPECS

Price: $300

Weight: 3 lbs. 8 oz. (pair - Men's 10) 

Sizes: Men’s 7-15, Women’s 5-11

www.danner.com
For heavy duty comfort, the Danner Mountain Light II is like stepping into a tank lined with velvet.  This is the most comfortable boot I’ve tested, and it keeps getting more comfortable the longer I use it. I kicked the crap out of these boots for well over 400 miles, in caves, through briars, and on gnarly rock outcroppings

But the $300 price tag is steep. Is it worth the price? Consider these factors: These are US made (Portland, Oregon) boots, and they can be re-crafted and tooled to look like new after years of use, and the stitched-down (Norwegian-welted) sole can be easily replaced should it wear down. In other words, these boots will last a good, long time. 

The high-cut, full grain leather upper gives plenty of ankle support, even on rocky terrain pulling a 50-pound pack, while the classic Vibram Kletterlift provided great traction on wickedly trashed trails, and mud doesn’t cling to the bottom. Inside the boot, a molded polyurethane support runs from heel to instep, and with a fiberglass shank, it provides arch support. These features, combined with an EVA midsole, give good shock support, even when trudging all day on hard pack.

The Mountain Light IIs are totally waterproof thanks to the one-piece leather construction (minimal stitching) and Gore-Tex liner. Even in summer, breathability was pretty good for an all -leather, Gore-Tex boot, and with warm socks and good gaiters, snow tromping wasn’t a problem either.

If you’re seeking a solid pair of classic-looking boots that will last you a lifetime, the Mountain Light IIs might be your boots. During one test hike on the AT in North Carolina, I met a guy who had been wearing them for 12 years (with one resole job). Chances are, I’ll be wearing these 12 years down the line, too.

They’re not perfect, however. They tip the scales at well over 3 pounds, so if light and fast is your thing, these boots likely are not for you.



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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Duncan
Aug 10, 2014

Had mine since 1984 and one resole later they are still the most comfortable footwear I own!

Star Star Star Star Star
srk
Apr 30, 2014

I suggest that you immediately swap out the stock laces for some good paracord. the paracord is far stronger and distributes the weight evenly across the top of your foot, eliminating the pressure points that so many complain about. For the agonizing achilles heel friction during break in, wear as thick a sock as possible, with thin sock liners, and fold the sock down double around the ankle area for extra padding. You will have to re adjust every so often, but it is better than pain. For the first few days, hike no more than 1/2 mile at a stretch...slowly working up over the weeks until you can comfortably hike as far as you want. don't hurry the break in process. I did not like my boots at first, but they just get better and better over time.

Star Star Star Star Star
Jeremy
Feb 15, 2014

Great Boots! After breaking them in slowly for about a month, these are great to hike any distance in. Just tried them out on a snowy trail and they had great traction and kept my feet dry.

Star Star Star Star Star
West
Nov 04, 2013

I bought my first pair of mountain lights around 1971 or so, at LL beans bargain basement for $40. Best boots I have ever owned, hands down.

Saving for a new pair, I expect they will be able to bury me in them.

Star Star Star Star Star
Randy
Jul 08, 2013

I got my Danner Mountain lights in 1992. They feel like bedroom slippers when I put them on. They are now worn out after three soles and the lord only knows how many miles. I am an archaeologist who works off trail, in the desert. The rocky, rough, spiky desert. After 20 years, I have never injured my feet with these boots on. Last April I went to work with some Lowe medium hikers on - lighter yes. One misstep on a basaltic scree slope and my first foot injury! Can't wait for my new Danners to arrive in the mail. If you need a boot for rough, heavy use, get these boots.

Star
Wet Feet = danner
Feb 26, 2013

Sorry, but these boots LEAK!!!! I went down to the danner store, "NO HELP" just asked me a lot of questions to NOT HELP, questions to disqualify me from customer service. The bottom line is these boots leak. Notice how they sell you a pair of $380.00 boots they call "100% Waterproof" yet they try to up-sell you on 20$ waterproofing junk? Yeah, Trust me, the boots leak just walking in wet grass for an hour and your socks will be soaked. This is a very big disappointment! I actually own Three pairs of danner, one steel toe, one summer boot, the other two are not waterproof either, but they are my summer boots, these I bought specifically because I need to have dry / warm feet in the winter / fall / spring in OREGON, but NO! After all the HYPE and LIES about %100Waterproof, what a CON the boots LEAK! DO NOT BUY danner BOOTS THEY ARE NOT %100 Waterproof its a LIE!!
danner also has most of their boots :"Made in CHINA" yet they act like they are an "Oregon" company? Bottom line, danner trophy hunter $380 BOOTS LEAK! WET SOCKS = COLD FEET!
danner = over-priced JUNK!

Star Star Star Star Star
Roy
Jan 16, 2013

I have used Danner Mountain Light IIs for quite a few years now. I think I am on my fouth pair. My job is outdoors in all sorts of weather. Sort of professional hiking at times. They last me two or three years. They get wet almost every day and that is the reason they don't last any longer than that. I have not found anything better. They are heavy but tough and they give the support and protection I need. We have a lot of Honey Locust and other thorns that will go clean through lesser boots. Every pair rubs the tendon above my heel when new. Wear it enough and the shoe or your heel will break in. Biggest problem is price. every time I try cheaper boots I regret it. I did try the Danner Chinese made boots once, only once, never again. I need a new pair now. The leather is rotted out the soles are just about slick and the hardware is worn shiney. I have never sent in a pair for repair. Mine wear out altogether at once. This is not a boot for the casual walker, this is for people who need serious footwear.

Star Star Star Star Star
Roy
Jan 16, 2013

I have used Danner Mountain Light IIs for quite a few years now. I think I am on my fouth pair. My job is outdoors in all sorts of weather. Sort of professional hiking at times. They last me two or three years. They get wet almost every day and that is the reason they don't last any longer than that. I have not found anything better. They are heavy but tough and they give the support and protection I need. We have a lot of Honey Locust and other thorns that will go clean through lesser boots. Every pair rubs the tendon above my heel when new. Wear it enough and the shoe or your heel will break in. Biggest problem is price. every time I try cheaper boots I regret it. I did try the Danner Chinese made boots once, only once, never again. I need a new pair now. The leather is rotted out the soles are just about slick and the hardware is worn shiney. I have never sent in a pair for repair. Mine wear out altogether at once. This is not a boot for the casual walker, this is for people who need serious footwear.

Jay McAnnally
Oct 11, 2012

30+ years and finally sending them in for re-crafting. Well worth the 100 bucks in 1979 at Alabama Outdoors. Been all over Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Buy them. Pic of them on my FB page.

sidd
Jun 07, 2012

my mountain lights have lasted years and now you can re-sole them with lighter soles which cuts a pound off. if you live within a few hundred miles of portland go to factory outlet and buy for half off 2nds. the lighter soles are perfect for daily streets and on the trail. they even make them now in different leathers thick and thin. for me a perfect life long fit, some others might be better off with asian garbage. my originals are older than most of the people i come across on the trail here in washington.

Keith White
May 15, 2012

I purchased my Danner Light 2 Hiking Boots in 2002, hiked and backpacked in these boots for 10 years, and these are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. This year after bushwhacking and walking through waist deep water for about a mile, the uppers finally separated from the soles. If you want to arm your feet against the elements of the trail and bush, then Danner has your boot.

SecondGear
Nov 25, 2011

I have spent several hundred dollars trying to find boots that were comfortable and appropriate for my hard-to-fit-foot. They had to be stiff, voluminous enough to accommodate my heavy-duty orthotics, but comfortable enough to not cause blisters.

While looking into hand-built boots I started reading about Danner boots.The boots had several qualities I wanted in boots. They had features including Norwegian welt stitching, stiffened shank, full grain leather, gore-tex liner, classic waffle-stomper sole.

Since I live within comfortable driving distance to Portland, Oregon, I figured I could give the factory seconds from the Danner Factory Store a go. If I liked the boot, I saved a bunch from full retail price. If I didn't like them, I knew I would not be out too much in the resale.

I can tell you now that after wearing the boots for a while, ranging from day hiking in downpours, to backpacking through thick volcanic sand, to snowshoeing in heavy slog, I would pay full retail price for these boots.

I have had few blisters from these boots; I have been very happy with the support these boots provide; I have been pleased with the performance.

Bottom line, I would buy these boots again.

geology pick
Nov 15, 2011

Great looking classic style boot for walking around the city but not a good field boot. I found I needed a pair of 40 dollar superfeet insoles to make them more comfortable on longer trail walks. Biggest complaint was the serious lack of higher ankle support. I didnt want ski boot style rigidity but a little more stiffness would help. I like everything about Danner but was very dissappointed in these boots.

Jeremy
Nov 14, 2011

On my 4th pair of these since '93. I get them resoled every 300 miles. I have 2 pairs I wear at any time. I wear one pair while the other is being resoled (which costs me $20). The pair I am wearing now has been resoled at least 4-5 times. Only boots I wear. A bit heavy but I am so used to them!

chris
Nov 08, 2011

these are THE BEST BOOTS EVER MADE. My first pair finally wore out after 17 YEARS and 2 resoles. I have my second pair now, and expect at least another 17 years. The do require a break in period, but in time they will fit you like a glove. All you haters complaining about the 3 pound weight need to sack up and get over it.

- Joe Flowers (reviewer)
Nov 03, 2011

Danner makes both American made boots and off-shore boots. You can search under the features, on the website, to see only their american boot selection.

-Meanolddog:
I've had these boots for a long time, and trust me, I've worn them through and through. I'm not having any of the pressing problems that you have with the shoe, though the tongue is not straight on mine either. I don't notice any of the discomfort that you are having though, with it pressing into the other spot.

Drew
Nov 02, 2011

I don't really get a sense from this article that the reviewer has ever worn these boots. Where are the personal stories about them? What flaws have they found? I've been wearing this boot now for 3 weeks, and I could tell you a whole lot more flaws than, "They're heavy." First, the tongue on these bad boys is all sort of messed up. The leather in mined won't stay flat. Instead it curls and bunches making uncomfortable pressure points where the laces force it into the top of my foot. Also, the top-back part of the shoe, presses like crazy whenever I wear the shoe tight enough to actually do any backpacking. The result- even if I'm wearing this socks, it'll run my ankle raw if I walk more than 3 miles. I'm really hoping this will go away after the break in period, since the boot advertises "No break in period" and since I've been hiking 4-5 miles a day in them for 2 weeks, I'm a little worried. The sole is comfortable, but all the built in padding in the boots had all bunched in the middle of the insole. It doesn't make it uncomfortable though, just weird. Also, my right shoe has a squeak coming out of the heel whenever I take a step. it doesn't lend to the discomfort of the shoe, but it does make it a little harder to brag about the "American craftsmanship." Danner has offered to fix it though, so bully for them.

Altogether, I have to say the Danner ML2 is one of the least comfortable outdoor boots I've used yet. My main backpacking boots are the Scarpa SL M3s, which are awesome, but I think a bit too much for light, on trail backpacking. While I wont be returning my Danners (they really are handsome), I definitely WON'T be using them for any backpacking. I'm glad I could support an American company, but I still consider buying these boots with the intention of backpacking in them a very costly mistake.

meanolddog
Nov 02, 2011

I've been a Fan of and wearing Danners since 1968 when the Marine Corps issued me a pair in plain Black. Never had a foot problem from wearing a Danner. I currently own 5 pairs of Danners from 8 inch Work Boots to the new Gore-Tex & Leather hiking model. I've returned to the Store just as many other Company models for one basic reason, they hurt my feet! I would be wearing a Plaster Cast on my left leg right now if I had been wearing a pair of those overbuilt sneakers instead of my Danners after my foot rolled on a rock, jammed in between two others and down I went with 180 pounds of me and a 20 pound pack coming down on that left ankle. Yes it was sore for a couple of days and I had to treat it with care but it did not break..I also do not suffer from "Stone bruises" like a number of hikers I know who wore the wrong items on their feet. A nice smooth sandy trail and teenage bones and muscles is fine but when its rocky and a long haul and over 30, give me the supoort and fit that a pair of Danners gives me over everything else on the Market...Not all Danners are Off Shore Made..check out their website for the real story.....

Drew
Nov 02, 2011

I don't really get a sense from this article that the reviewer has ever worn these boots. Where are the personal stories about them? What flaws have they found? I've been wearing this boot now for 3 weeks, and I could tell you a whole lot more flaws than, "They're heavy." First, the tongue on these bad boys is all sort of messed up. The leather in mined won't stay flat. Instead it curls and bunches making uncomfortable pressure points where the laces force it into the top of my foot. Also, the top-back part of the shoe, presses like crazy whenever I wear the shoe tight enough to actually do any backpacking. The result- even if I'm wearing this socks, it'll run my ankle raw if I walk more than 3 miles. I'm really hoping this will go away after the break in period, since the boot advertises "No break in period" and since I've been hiking 4-5 miles a day in them for 2 weeks, I'm a little worried. The sole is comfortable, but all the built in padding in the boots had all bunched in the middle of the insole. It doesn't make it uncomfortable though, just weird. Also, my right shoe has a squeak coming out of the heel whenever I take a step. it doesn't lend to the discomfort of the shoe, but it does make it a little harder to brag about the "American craftsmanship." Danner has offered to fix it though, so bully for them.

Altogether, I have to say the Danner ML2 is one of the least comfortable outdoor boots I've used yet. My main backpacking boots are the Scarpa SL M3s, which are awesome, but I think a bit too much for light, on trail backpacking. While I wont be returning my Danners (they really are handsome), I definitely WON'T be using them for any backpacking. I'm glad I could support an American company, but I still consider buying these boots with the intention of backpacking in them a very costly mistake.

Vintage Hiker
Nov 02, 2011

I cannot stress enough the option to have boots rebuilt or resoled in the current market of having factory only resole-able or non resole-able boots. You know why manufacturers make boots with that cool low profile midsole that is seamless into the upper? It is to lower cost by cutting the need of experienced shoe makers and it is to make sure that boot is impossible to be repaired, locally and sustainably by a cobbler. Instead, the majority of shoes made by Merrell, Keen, Salomon of injection molded shoes are essentially disposable. The ones that are not the uppers are made of materials that are so riddled with stitching of flimsy ripstop and scrap leather, they would fail before the soles would. Fast and light has its merits, and when you aren't on a trek like the AT or CDT, you don't notice the money going out the window over the course of years casual use, but in the long run 2000+ miles = 5 pairs of trail runners vs one resole($40) of a pair of leather boots that can probably take 3 more resoles before the crap out. You do the math.

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