User Review: Cabela's Mountain Hiker (All-Leather)
Materials: full grain leather, gore tex lining, vibram outsole
Use: Trail hikes with up to 50 pound load
Break-in Period: Very Quick
Weight: 3.4-3.5 pounds
Price Paid: $149 plus tax
These boots instantly fit like a glove. I saw them online at Cabelas.com and then decided to drive up to their Dundee, Michigan, site and see how they wore. First I checked them out, and then I tried on the Cabela's By Meindl series which cost a bit more. My feet are pretty low-volume I guess, and for some reason I could wedge my foot into as low as a US size 9 in the Meindl boots, but my heel just wobbled around. I could tell it would be a recipe for hotspots and blisters in my feet.
The salesperson who was very busy but also very helpful, suggested some orthotics which did make those boots feel better. However to potentially spend $30 for inserts on a shoe that cost $40 more, I really didn't think it justified the cost. The only advantage to those higher cost boots in my opinion was the "rough-grain" leather appearance, which I like better in such a boot because I think it resists scratching etc better. The past two pairs of boots I have purchased had that rough leather appearance (I.e. EMS Summit, Cabela's Teton II (the boot that didn't fit me)).
To get back to the story, price wasn't really that big of an issue for me in a boot that I plan to wear for several years. But I ultimately decided that although I liked the look of the Teton II better than the Mountain Hiker, the fact that the Mountain Hiker fit like a glove instantly out of the box in my normal size, with no heel wobble even on my low-volume feet, and feel soft and supple but with that glove-like support -- would make them my new pair.
I wore them all day at my computer, and if I do that in my EMS Summit II(?) GTX's my feet will experience discomfort and fall asleep. These felt comfortable, and my feet did not fall asleep. For a new pair of boots, I think this is a refreshing surprise. The Teton II's apparently take a while to break in, and with the huge heel-space, for me would have meant some pretty painful blisters along the way. By contrast, again the Mountain Hikers are comfy right out of the box.
On the downside, I would prefer that Cabela's begin to offer these boots in a different texture similar to that of the Teton II's. However to counter that issue I mentioned regarding scratching of the glossy brown exterior, I have read reviews that suggested some typoe of wax can be used to buff out the scratch marks(, and good boot maintenance is necessary for everyone who plans to make their boots last for year after year anyways). Just make sure you use Gore-Tex compatible waterproofing products.
Salesperson also recommended some type of orthotic for maximum comfort, and I have read other reviews that suggest the footbed in the boot is not the best. So far, I am not didpleased, but after a great 32 mile AT hike in North Carolina where I was "gellin" in my Summit GTX's I'll probably give the same treatment to these boots.
I have to be careful wearing these when driving. Twice I hit the break in my automatic and still had my foot on the accelerator. In a college town, I think this is a problem with so many pedestrians. Just a thought, maybe we shouldn't wear big boots when driving.
The lore at Cabelas is that these boots are made by Vasque, due to their claimed similarity to Vasque Sundowners; but I could find no evidence. These boots are made in Romania, not China (where Vasque manufactures), and I doubt that Vasque would manufacture boots for a third party in a higher-cost environment than they provide their first party product. I think Asolo's are made in Romania. I'm not aware of other manufacturers policies. My thought is that they are not made by Vasque. All Cabela's says is they are designed in Italy. I expect that these boots are very similar to the LL Bean Cresta hikers.
A great boot. Super comfy, just be prepared to do your maintenance I expect. I have not taken these on a long hike yet, but I know they will do well just on the basis of support and comfort that they are providing too. Cabela's has a great warranty program too, so I feel confident there.