Keen Voyageur Mid
Use: Extensive dayhikes, ultralight backpacking,
Break-in Period: none--right out of the box
Weight: 2 lbs?
Price Paid: $100
When trying on several models and brands at the store recently, the Keen Voyageur Mid provided a far superior fit to all the other models.
I bought the shoes for general day hiking and light overnights. I wore them on a 6 mile backpacking trip recently. The terrain was moderate to hilly woodland and there was 25% off trail hiking and exploring carrying a 22lb pack.
The first thing I noticed was that I did not notice them on my feet while walking in from the Trail Head. That is to say they were so comfortable that I did not feel them. The cushion in the footbed is extraordinarily comfortable, however I could tell that the shoe was at its limit with my pack weight.
The shoes provided good traction and security on some fairly steep off trail downhilling in woodland terrain.
One other point to note is this shoe is not waterproof and is probably best suited to warm dry weather when hiking.
Materials: leather and polyester mesh upper, polyester lining,
Use: wilderness canoeing, wading in rough terrain w/ heavy pack
Break-in Period: minimal
Weight: around two pounds?
Price Paid: $90
The Keen Voyager Mid is my all-time favorite boot to wear for canoeing and portaging in the Boundary Waters (Minnesota) and Quetico (Ontario). I load and unload my canoe in the water to protect it from wear and tear, and I haul big loads (a canoe plus a 40-50 lb. pack) over very rugged terrain (jagged rocks, steep and crumbly slopes, hip-deep mud) with soaking wet feet. I need something that will protect and support my feet and ankles, then dry out quickly once I make camp.
The Voyageur delivers all this performance with an outstanding level of comfort. I used to buy inexpensive light-hikers, and I usually trashed them after one or two trips. The Voyagers have survived three long trips (7-10 days) getting soaked every day and drying out every night, and they still perform beautifully and show little sign of wear (I only wear them on canoe trips). They are the most comfortable and quickest-drying hiking boot I have ever found. As long as they fit the shape of your foot, I think they are ideal for wilderness canoeing.
I started canoeing in the BWCA and Quetico in 1983, and I have taken fourteen trips to the area, ranging from solos to groups of eight, and from four to fifteen days. Back in the early to mid 90s, I worked part-time in outdoor gear stores (Burger Brothers, REI) and sold boots, but I never had any experience with Keen products until buying sandals in 2007 and the Voyagers in 2008.
Use: long desert hikes with medium pack
Break-in Period: almost none
This boot is not for those hiking in wet terrain nor on rainy days. It is VERY well ventilated and water pours in. The grip in wet conditions is poor. Given that, for dry areas in hot weather it is great. It required almost no breaking in for a 26.2 mile march through desert, up rocky slopes and through moderately deep sand near Las Cruces, NM.
The ventilation is great and the wide toe box fits my 'duck' feet perfectly. In other stiffer boots the bottoms of my feet feel beaten up after 10 or 12 miles in the mountains - not in the Keen's - but I don't take them to the mountains - only in the low deserts.
I might consider adding a thin gel insole for a bit of extra cushion over rocks - there is not a lot of protection except for the toe protector which is great. A hiking partner had Keens as well but her sole was starting to separate from the uppers. A good dose of Gorilla Glue fixed them fine though ugly.
Do not take them into wet areas - you'll be sorry. Do take them into hot, dry areas - you'll be happy.
A note to the manufacturer - the top 'snap' device for the shoelaces is annoying and a friend had one break the first week he had them. The laces require a bit of tugging to get them unsnapped and, when you're tired, hot and sweaty and want to get the boots off it becomes really annoying - better to have a hole or a roller there - not a plastic clip.
Materials: Leather + Mesh
Use: Steep ascents with 40+lbs pack.
Break-in Period: 3-5 miles
Weight: 1 lb
Price Paid: $100
This boot is my first "real" hiking shoe and I love it.
It is comparably lightweight to other comparably featured boots and its mesh panels provide awesome ventilation. The toe is heavily rubberized and kicking into rocks on my last steep hike was worry free. These boots fit pretty true to size or maybe a 1/4 size bigger, but that allows room for a footbed and sock space. I also noticed that my toes did NOT crash into the front of the book on steep downhill descents and that was awesome.
Great boot, great price. I'm sticking with Keen from here on out.