We dare you to debate this assertion: Sustainability is the biggest challenge facing gear designers today. Warmth, waterproofing, durability–whatever product category you examine, the major performance measures are pretty well dialed. But our sport is a long way from low-impact in its materials and manufacturing. Which is why, for the third year running, BACKPACKER challenged outdoor manufacturers to reinvent a product category–this time, boots.
Five of the 60 companies we contacted last spring signed on for what promised to be a difficult task. Boots are the most complex gear in our kit, with numerous components–fabrics, leathers, soles, shanks, glues, padding, laces, hardware–plus myriad sewing processes, fit intricacies, and the hurdle of translating sophisticated blueprints to assembly lines a world away. Building a new boot from the ground up usually requires 18 months; we gave contestants five.
So a round of applause for Hi-Tec, La Sportiva, Patagonia, Oboz, and Wolverine. Each company delivered new midweight boots capable of carrying 30-pound loads. Our testers worked these boots hard, hiking 2,000 miles from Vermont to Colorado and Alaska to Switzerland.