Aku North America Tribute Leather

This off-trail champ is both built tough and lightweight.

Brand: AKU North America

Model: Tribute Leather

[off-trail champ]

“These are legit backpacking boots that weigh about the same as my river sandals,” says one tester who wore the Treks on numerous rocky and snowy backpacking trips in Colorado. Another tester happily logged more than 200 miles in this Gore-Tex-lined boot on soggy, off-trail hikes in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness and along the state’s rocky coastline.

The low-profile sole saves weight, and provides close-to-the-ground stability that let testers safely pick their way across tricky off-trail terrain. A rigid, full-length TPU shank proved supportive when testers carried 40-plus pounds, although one said it took him two weeks of continuous wear to finally break in the stiff-soled boot. A flexible plastic exoskeleton adds “excellent lateral stability,” according to one weak-ankled tester who was grateful for the extra support as she hiked across slimy rocks.

The fabric/nubuck upper and protective toe guard allowed one tester to bash through mixed terrain of snow and rocks without toe stubs. A gusseted, flat tongue, plus a high, snug-fitting collar seal out debris and snow. The Vibram sole has deep lugs around the perimeter that dig in to mud without getting clogged, while multi-directional lugs* under the ball provide a cleatlike grip when ascending slushy and scree-filled slopes. The smooth “climbing zone” tread on the inside edge of each boot gave testers secure purchase when they scrambled up cliffs. Ouch: the price. $330; 2 lbs. 12 oz.; m’s 7-13; aku.it/us

*MULTI-DIRECTIONAL LUGS are angled in varying ways to provide universal, 360-degree traction on different surfaces and slopes.

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