Brasher Hillwalker II GTX
Reviewers Paid: $165.00
A classically styled full leather mid cut hiking boot from English brand Brasher. Well constructed, and extremely comfortable right out of the box. Features include Gore-tex lining, and Brasher's own outsole with fairly aggressive treads with good slip resistance.
- Extremely comfortable, requires no break-in
- Classic styling
- Great grip and slip resistance from aggressive tread
- GORE-TEX lining
- Reasonably low weight for full leather boot (1202g/pair)
- Classic styling not for everyone
- Soft leather with no rand means these wont look great for long
- I would prefer a slightly stiffer sole
- Slow to dry when wet
According to Brasher:
USAGE: A classic leather hillwalking boot ideal for hill and valley walking on well defined paths and trails. (I strongly disagree with the imposed limitations, see below)
UPPER: 1.6mm-1.8mm full grain leather. Memory foam in the collar.
SOLE: Brasher rubber sole unit with shock absorbing EVA midsole.
LINING: Waterproof & breathable GORE-TEX lining
The Brasher Hillwalker II GTX are classically styled, full leather hiking boots. Although Brasher is targeting a more casual "hill and valley walking on well defined paths and trails" demographic, I happen to wholeheartedly disagree. I have used these boots for long distance mixed terrain that was anything but well defined; rocky paths, mud, peat bogs, stream crossings, knee-deep snow, and ice... and they have held up fine and performed as well as any boot I have used before, but with a markedly higher level of comfort. The proposed demographic is likely more to do with appealing to a broader audience in the UK, where Brasher is a bit of a go-to brand when it comes to leather hiking boots and shoes.
The fit of the boot is slightly on the wide side, which is perfect for me as I take a wide size 10.5/11. The arch support feels somewhat neutral, which works for my feet, but I have plantar fasciitis on my left heel, so I wear heel inserts anyway. The lacing system is pretty standard for a leather boot, but it works very well, and its not too hard to get a secure but comfortable fit.
My only complaint would be that the laces are slightly on the short side for double-knotting, which you basically have to do if you don't want to re-tie them every 10 minutes.
In my opinion, this is the major selling point of these boots. By far the absolute most comfortable boots I have ever used, straight out of the box. They did not require any break-in time. In fact I used them the day after purchasing on a 17 mile hike over very mixed terrain, from valleys, peat bogs, and nearly 3000 foot summits and my feet felt great all day, not a single blister (which I am usually prone to get).
I also have plantar fasciitis, and with my heel insoles, I had no pain. There are no pressure points, and no areas of friction. The ankle cuffs are memory-foam and are incredibly comfortable. They also work well to form a seal around your ankle which works great for keeping debris out. However, it should be noted that they are a mid-cut boot, so without gaiters you will eventually get them wet by splashing around or walking in any substantial snow.
I think this may be one of the weak points of the boot. The support is certainly adequate, however they are not very stiff (not overly flexible either), but they certainly arent a heavy mountain boot. I have a pair of TNF Verbera Lightpackers which I use for rougher mountain terrain which are much stiffer for comparison.
Overall these are not by any means floppy boots, but they are not stiff either, which likely why they are so comfortable. The ankle support is however good; the memory foam ankle cuff really hugs your ankle making for a great fit and for a very secure feel. The heel support is also more than adequate.
These boots are rated as waterproof... as are all boots with GTX membranes. As long as you dont step in any deep puddles, the GTX works great. Pair that with a full leather outer which can be oiled/waxed to maintain its water resistance, and it works very nicely. However, as can be seen from the photo above, the GTX lining only goes so high, so if you get water above the liner height, the wetness works its way down into the boot, and then you have water trapped between your foot and a waterproof lining.
Granted the GTX material is somewhat breathable, but if the leather outer is saturated with water, and it's wet on the inside from seeping in from above the liner.... that water is going nowhere! However, if you wear these with a good pair of gaiters, you wont get water above the liner height, and you should have no problem staying dry; it has worked for me so far.
I was at first reluctant to get a boot without a Vibram outsole, not because I think it always works well, because it certainly doesn't, but it's more of a case of familiarity as pretty much most top end boots use them. I have also had some bad experiences with terrible traction from otherwise good boots that used in-house outsoles.
I was however more than pleasantly surprised with the Brasher outsole. The tread is aggressive which gives it great traction and is very slip resistant on all but ice. I have done several hikes on wet snow over wet grass and wet rock and I have found the grip to be excellent.
I have only used them in fall and winter so I can't comment on their suitability for summer. They are insulated and I have used them in snowy winter conditions and never felt cold (down to -12 C). I would say these are more Fall-Winter-Spring boots as they may be too warm for extended summer use, especially paired with the GTX lining which would lead to a lot of moisture build up in sweaty summer heat.
Construction and Durability:
The boots are well put together and feel like a quality product, and are backed by a good warranty by Brasher which has a good reputation for fairly good customer service. However, I do have one nagging concern with these boots and it is one of the main reasons they don't get a perfect score. While I like the clean classic look of the full leather boot, it is a soft leather, which means that it will get completely scratched up over time, in particular around the toe which lacks any type of rand.
Mine are already full of little scuffs and scratches and I have only had them a few months. I am not too concerned about the look as I bought them for comfort and function, but eventually all of these scuffs and scratches will limit the life of the leather outer. I feel they would benefit from a rubber rand. As such I wouldnt recommend these for particularly rocky scrambling!
Conditions: So far mixed conditions in the Welsh hills, valleys and mountains. I have used them in everything from deep mud, peat bogs (accidentally), scrambling, rocky paths on 2000 foot + peaks, crossing streams, deep snow, and some unexpected ice. So far so good!
Overall I do recommend them, largely based on their high level of comfort. I don't think they are particularly cheap at 100 GBP or $165, but can be a good value if they suit your feet.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $165