There’s nothing quite like a winter hike in the Grand Canyon for testing boots. You get snow and ice on the rim, fabric-shredding rocks at the bottom, and steep grades in between that are guaranteed to reveal problems with heel slip or toe bang. Our tester subjected the Bitterroot to all of these challenges and more while carrying a 60-pound pack, and he says, “The grooved lugs were secure on both frozen and mucky ground, and I didn’t get so much as a hot spot because the precise fit and snug lacing kept my feet from slipping around.”
Support and stability are above average for a midweight, thanks to the midsole’s three-layer construction: a full sheet of EVA for cushion, an arch-to-heel PU layer for stability, and a full-length TPU chassis to prevent feet from getting beaten up on uneven terrain. And the full-grain-leather upper, with a thin TPU skin that wraps the perimeter at sole level, is built for years of abuse. Other testers praised the cuff design: Thick padding protected ankles in Northeast rock gardens, and a deep Achilles notch* prevented pressure points on steep downhills. “My feet stayed warm and dry even in sloppy snow,” says an Oregon tester who snowshoed for six hours in three feet of fresh on Santiam Pass.
Bottom line: There are lighter, more agile boots in this category, but for hikers who value durability, support, and classic styling, the Bitterroot is the choice. Best for wide, high-volume feet. $190; 3 lbs. 8 oz.; m’s 7-14 regular (and 8-13 wide, 9-14 narrow), w’s 5-11The Zephyr was recognized as a Backpacker Editors’ Choice Award winner for 2009.