Gear Guide 2012: Ahnu Mendocino Boot

Waterproof, breathable, and protective, this boot has it all.

[superior weatherproofing]

Full-grain leather boots usually require a down payment of sizeable break-in time (or blisters) in exchange for the sturdy protection they provide. But the Mendocino’s comfort was “instantaneous,” reports one tester who wore them out of the box for a backpacking trip on Oregon’s rocky Deschutes River Trail.

The upper is not only supple but tough, protecting against scree and rocky terrain above treeline in the Chilean Andes during a climb of Volcano San Pedro. And the waterproof/breathable eVent liner performed better than average when our tester spent an afternoon postholing through wet snow; they breathed well despite all the surface moisture, and dried overnight despite subfreezing temps.

A nylon mesh tongue provides extra venting: A tester in Arizona says her feet stayed dry while splashing through shallow creeks but did not get sweaty when she hiked in temps in the mid-70s. Both male and female testers liked the snug (but not cramped) fit and they praised the way the boot conformed to the top of the foot like a well-worn slipper.

But this user-friendly hiker has its limits for backpacking support: While our tester in Chile reported no soreness after climbing more than 5,000 feet with a 45-pound load, another tester said the lack of a stiff shank makes these boots best suited to loads under 40 pounds. $165; 2 lbs. 12 oz.; m’s 7-13;