User Review: Merrell Wilderness
Materials: Full grain leather
Use: backpacking, rough trail, light mountaineering
Break-in Period: 1 month
Weight: 160 lbs (me, not boots)
Price Paid: so long ago I forget
After reading all the mixed reviews on this boot, allow me to set the record straight. I've had mine for 7+ years, over 5000 miles (mostly with heavy backpack), and am on my third set of Vibram soles. I've had excellent success in snow, rain, steep climbs (more important, steep descents with no blisters). they're the best waterproof boot I've ever owned.
These boots have met or exceeded all of my expectations. The soles have been replaced without any problems of delamination (might be the local cobbler's glue that fails on the re-soles). They are cool in warm climes, warm in cold climes.
As to the concerns of the Vibram soles not lasting (re: other reviews), that's Vitale Bramani's problem, not Merrell's. Soft rubber = good grip, but quick wear.
Of course the caveat that must be tossed into any review is the concern of match between foot and shoe. I have narrow feet, bought a narrow version of the Wilderness. No problem. Some people forget about width variations in models. Also, some boots, in general, just don't work for some people's feet (no matter how close they try to match length and width). To wit, the reviewer(s) who complained that the synthetic interior quickly deteriorated. My old pair are unscaithed inside.
Care is another issue. Clean all boots after every heavy use (at least remove the dirt). Oils, such as neatsfoot will provided excellent treatment, but too much use WILL provoke overstretching (try twice per year). Waxy proofing (Snowseal) protects, but does not "treat" the leather sufficiently. Nikwax in the tube is a good all-around product, but ya still gotta clean 'em.
To the bitchers and moaners, sorry they didn't work for you. For the rest of us... ah, bliss.