L.L.Bean Speed Guide Hikers
Materials: Full Grain Leather/Keprotec
Use: rough trail backpacking
Break-in Period: 30 miles or so
Weight: 4 pounds
Price Paid: $199
Impressive. These boots use a fabric borrowed from motorcycle jackets meant to prevent road rash. It's heavy cordura interwoven with strands of kevlar-an aramid fiber known to be as durable as steel at 1/5th its weight.
I have worn the boots on four or five training hikes where I load my pack with the contents of one of those 35 bottle cases of 500ml water and march through the Santa Cruz mountains for eight miles give or take. These have been punctuated by many day hikes.
Sumptuous is the first word that comes to mind. REI expedition weight socks with a liner help, as do my Birkenstock orthotics tucked under the stock innersoles.
The fit is dreamy. Ankle support was good enough to bruise during break-in, but those days are over.
The usual foot-in-a-kiln temperatures generated by this set-up never become quite as warm or sweaty as I remember from my old (outgrown by the need for arch support) full leather Scarpa SL's.
Just when I think I have blemished or faded the irredescent, almost psychedelic blue fabric, I step in a creek and they return to looking basically new. But for some cosmetic deformation in the weave in flex/stress regions, the boots' uppers are eerily immune to indignity.
Nobody has correctly identified them on my feet on glamourous California trails. Ha!
The boots are undeservedly rare. My guess is that Bean's catolog writers' failure to use the word 'kevlar' in the product copy has persuaded readers that the boots are weird and pointlessly expensive. Afterall, if Black Diamond accepted LL Bean gift certificates, you wouldn't be reading this.
There's lots of vulnerable stitching in this design, but meaningful failures have thusfar eluded me. One location on the triple layer high rear ankle has lost its threads, but hasn't begun to move as it appears glued. The black leather must be over 2mm thick.
My biggest worry is the Vibram Trail Runner sole. It's an open bloc, waffle pattern in fairly soft rubber. Rocks and my lifestyle, have taken bites out of it already. The tapered insole it protects is resolutely stiff and does a lovely job supporting all my weight. This leaves these stubby, soft little nubs on the sole to do a tough job.
The boots do not appear resoleable in the traditional sense. And I do not see how this (very comfortable) outsole could possibly match the service life of the damned clever uppers.
I am betting that davepagecobbler.com will be able to resole them. Our throw-away society gives me issues. Bean's graciously replacing these pretty-as-a-picture boots with such towering potential all because the soles wore out will drive me to write a long letter.
Materials: Keprotec and leather outer: Goretex lined
Use: easy trail with 40 pound pack and farm use
Break-in Period: 1 month
Weight: lighther than all leather
Price Paid: $189
Having worn these boots every day for 6 months, they are still as supportive as ever. This new Keprotec material is much tougher than leather. Where leather will scratch and wear this stuff is just like it came right out of the box. And I am rough on these boots every day on a ranch and hiking daily with a 40 pound pack. Unlike leather, just spray these off with the water hose and they look absolutely brand new. No brushing, no protective products needed. After wearing L.L. Bean's cresta leather hikers for 5 or so years, these boots offer more support and rise a bit higher on the leg. The only downside as far as I am concerned was the long break-in period. These boots were so stiff, after wearing them for a week with no loosening up, I almost sent them back. I decided to wait it out and after about the third week of daily wear, they finally started to feel better. Now they are every bit as comfortable as the Crestas. Also they have a mid sole between the sole and the footbed which offers quite a bit of shock absorption when carrying a heavy load. Oh yeah, or those tech freaks out there, Keprotec is a proprietary fabric made from a combination of Kevlar and Nylon.
I recommend them.
Materials: kevlar, rubber (now called Gore-Tex Knife Edge Hikers?)
Use: 15 miles plus/day
Break-in Period: weeks
Weight: 4 pounds 7 oz.
Price Paid: $185
I've put dozens of miles on these boots on the rugged Appalachian Trail. Overall I like them and they are waterproof, but you always need gaitors to prevent water from being wicked into the boot on damp mornings hiking through tall grass and weeds in the summer.
I am also becoming weary of the weight. Bean's product sites are not very good about being up front about weight of products. With the name "Speed Guide Hikers" I thought they were lightweight. NOT SO. I took them to the U.S. Postal Service automated weight machine and they came in at 4 1/4 pounds. Most hiking experts agree that one pound of weight on your feet is equal to 5 pounds on your back. You can figure that at over 20 lbs.
I'm looking for lighter boots. Maybe that's why my hiking has been a little more painfull lately.
Materials: FULL GRAIN LEATHER / KEVLAR
Use: OFF TRAIL
Break-in Period: INSTANT
Weight: 2lbs. 12oz.
Price Paid: $190
AWESOME BOOT!! THIS VERY WELL MADE, WATERPROOF ITALIAN BOOT FITS LIKE A GLOVE! IT HAS A ROOMY TOE BOX WITH A GOOD SNUG FIT AROUND THE ARCH. THERE IS PRACTICALLY NO BREAK-IN TIME. MABYE A JAUNT OR TWO AROUND THE BLOCK, THAT'S ABOUT IT. THE SIZING IS RIGHT ON THE MONEY. THESE BOOTS SEEM TO FAVOR MEDIUM TO MODERATLY LARGE VOLUME FEET FOR THE NORMAL WIDTH. THEY OFFER SUPERIOR ANKLE/ARCH SUPPORT AND HAVE GOOD INSOLES. EVEN THE EYELETS AND HOOKS ARE TOP NOTCH. THEY ARE SMOOTH, EYE CATCHING, AND OFFER PLENTY OF ROOM TO DOUBLE BACK FOR A LOCKED KNOT. I GIVE EM 5 STARS EVEN THOUGH I HAVEN'T RACKED UP THE MILES YET. IF THE LONGEVITY MATCHES THE QUALITY WORKMANSHIP, GOOD PRICE, AND PLUSH COMFORT AS I EXPECT IT WILL, I THINK THESE MAY BE THE BEST BOOTS I'VE EVER OWNED!?
Materials: Leather/Keprotec Backpacking Boot
Use: Midweight Backpacking Boot
Break-in Period: 2 Days
Weight: 2lbs 10 oz.
Price Paid: $189
The first thing I noticed about these blue beauties is the quality craftsmanship. I gotta hand it to Bean...they really know how to make a tough boot. They do seem to run a little large though so if you have a narrow foot I suggest you get one half size smaller. Problem is they don't come any narrower than width 'D'. Sturdy construction, Snazzy design, Very comfortable almost right out of the box, at a decent price make these boots one of my all time favorites. And oh yeah, I can't rave up Bean's customer service enough. You can return your boots to them at any time no questions asked and they are actually cheerful about it.
Materials: Gore-tex,leather and nylon
Break-in Period: None
Weight: 4 lbs
Price Paid: $199
Granted I have only owned these boots for two whole days now, but I wore them directly "out-of-the-box" the day I received delivery for a straight 10 hours at work...(climbing around various beer coolers and walking through cardboard boxes knee high)They are in my opinion very well made and good lookin boots and as of today, since pulling a double shift, they have been on my feet for a straight 16 hours, and I must say - they are comfortable!
Materials: keprotec (kevlar)
Break-in Period: none
Weight: 4 lbs.
Price Paid: $189
these boots are fantastic right out of the box. i'd say they are the most supportive and comfortable boots i've ever worn. buy 'em.
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