User Review: Danner Mountain Light II
Materials: full grain leather w/ gore-tex
Break-in Period: ~2 weeks
Weight: 59 oz/pair
Price Paid: $200
I love my Danners. I've had the same pair since the mid 90s--they're on the third (maybe fourth) set of soles, with boot structure and Gore-tex still holding up well. Even the laces are original.
I've used them for rugged multi-day backpacking, carrying as much as 50 lb (tho' I never carry that much these days); off-trail peak-bagging; day-hiking; snowshoeing; and occasional around-town or light construction (although I try to save them for hiking).
I broke the boots in carefully (which includes "training" the tongue to lie the right way), and have never had a single blister. For hiking (all seasons) I wear high-quality merino wool socks without liners, and my feet have stayed warm hiking across snowfields in the Cascades, cool while hiking a section of the AT in July, and dry on muddy trails, in the rain, and on late season, slushy snow.
A couple times a year, I treat the boots with Obernauf's leather preservative, a beeswax formula approved for Gore-tex that my local Danner dealer recommends. I warm the boots, then scrub the preservative into the stitching and leather with an old toothbrush.
I've had just one problem with the boots--after one of the resoles, a separation developed in the midsole around the shank, causing an annoying popping sensation with every step. The repair shop I use (a Danner dealer) was able to strip the sole back down and fix the problem, which has never returned. As this problem was easily fixed, and didn't happen during the life of the factory soles, I don't consider it a strike against Danner.
As with any full-grain, traditionally-built boot, Mountain Lights will not fit everyone. My Danners are size 10 "D", and my feet must be a near match to the lasts Danner uses to build these--they fit me perfectly, using the Airthotic inserts that came with the boots. However, I know people who cannot wear Danners, usually because their heels slip. A person really has to try boots on to find the brand/model that is perfect for them.
Mountain Lights are also heavy compared to suede and mesh boots or trail runners. I've been transitioning to a lightweight/ultralight backpacking style, and just bought a pair of trail shoes that may replace my Danners. I don't like the idea that trail shoes are basically disposable, and thus more expensive over the long haul (my Danners, including resoling, have cost me less than $30/year) but with a multi-day base weight of 10-15 lbs, boots that weigh almost 2 lbs each don't make much sense. If the trail shoes work out, I'll be sorry to leave my Danners behind.