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OTB JungleLite and DesertLite Boots

9/10/09 - OTB Boots has released their modernized version of the venerable Jungle Boot (sometimes referred to as the 'Vietnam jungle boot), and in doing so, has created the lightest weight jungle boot to date. The new JungleLite weighs in at only 2.2 lbs per pair. Also available is a desert version called the DesertLite.

Jungle boots were originally developed for use in jungle warfare, or hot, wet and humid environments. The original jungle boot concept predates WWII, and eventually evolved into the now-familiar OD green and black 'Vietnam jungle boot' which was issued to U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. The distinguishing characteristics of the jungle boot were a lugged 'Panama' sole, which used angled lugs to provide a better grip in mud, lightweight cotton duck upper (later nylon) with leather for the toe and heel, and drain holes/eyelets near the sole for water drainage. The same basic design was carried over into the desert combat boot worn during Operation Desert Storm in the early 90's, as well as later operations in the middle east.

Variations of the jungle boot have been made by many boot manufacturers, with changes/updates in the sole or boot upper material to suit different purposes. OTB Boots has brought the tried and true design into the new millennium, completely revamping it with the latest materials inside and out to create a more comfortable and lightweight boot, while still retaining the essence of the original look and concept. The OTB JungleLite and DesertLite boots fill the niche between OTBs tactical water boots and OTBs Tactical land boots.

Manufacturer Specs:

  • High traction non-squeak outsole and molded EVA mid sole unit.
  • Siping on each lug to provide the best combination of traction and cushion.
  • Microfiber PU upper with breathable nylon panels (JungleLite)
  • Stain resistant microfiber suede uppers with nylon panels (DesertLite)
  • Mesh ventilation ports throughout the boot for breathability and quick drying.
  • Reinforced lace loops.
  • Variable 'sausage' laces will not come untied
  • Reinforced climbing rubber on inside toe to help when scaling walls
  • Dual density cushioned footbed with mesh lining for increased wicking and comfort. Footbed is perforated to allow water drainage.
  • Full length composite molded shank provides support when carrying heavier loads.
  • Tan version: Stain resistant cow suede upper in military standard desert tan colour
  • Black version: Supple synthetic microfiber PU upper will not absorb water and will dry quickly when wet, making this one of the lightest tactical boots on the market.
  • Weight (size 10, per pair) - 2.2 lbs - about 50% lighter than other jungle boots.

OD JungleLite

Black JungleLite

DesertLite






Boot uppers - The JungleLite upper is made of a combination of breathable mesh nylon and microfiber PU, resembling leather. The reinforcements, heel and toe are black PU (for both the OD and black JungleLites) while the mesh is either OD green or black. The DesertLite has the same mesh nylon, but uses microfiber suede instead of the PU for the reinforcements. A webbing pull tab extends up the achilles tendon at the rear of the boot, which is a necessary feature when donning the boots. A seatbelt-type webbing reinforcement encircles the ankle at the bottom of the calf, which incidentally is right where the laces wrap around the ankle. The laces are modified 'sausage' laces like those used on the other OTB boots, that are less prone to loosening by themselves.

The bottom non-metal TPU lace eyelets go through reinforcements at the front of the boot, while upper ones are injection molded TPU loops, reinforced on the outside by webbing. The mesh tongue is lightly padded and is gusseted to keep debris out of the boot. The inside of the collar is lined with soft microsuede material, as is the heel cup at the bottom of the boot. Looking from the side, the tongues is the highest point on the boot while the collar of the boot dips down in the back. At the front, the boot is 10" tall. At the rear, where the pull tab is, it's 8" to the floor.






Gusseted tongue

Lined collar and reinforced lace loops

At the bottom of the boot upper, near the top of the sole, are drainage vents; three on each side for a total of six per boot. They are located strategically for quick expulsion of water from the boot. Under dry conditions, they also allow more air to enter the boot at that level, near the sole of the foot. The vent holes are covered in fine nylon mesh, which keeps all but the finest particles out of the boot. They will not snag and pop out like the brass vents on the old jungle boots. Just forward of the vents, on the inside toe of the boot is a rubber piece which protects the boot from abrasion when scaling walls, and also added some traction in that area.

Insole/Outsole - The dual density EVA cushion insole/footbed is mesh lined for wicking and comfort. It's perforated to allow water to drain down to the bottom and out the vent holes. EVA was chosen for the Jungles instead of Ortholite as it absorbs less water. The mesh on top is black on the black JungleLite, OD on the green one, and tan on the DesertLite. The red coloured portion on the bottom of the footbed is denser/stiffer material, to provide support for the foot. It's cupped, which helps keep the heel of the foot in the proper plane, and works with the heel counter to stabilize the foot laterally.

If you remove the insole, you'll see a stiff grey and white insole/shank board, similar to that used on the Bushmaster and Ferdelance boots, which is molded in the contour of the foot (it's not flat). It's an extruded polypropylene, one-piece insole board. The lines molded into the board form the shank, which give the boot rigidity. This insole board is also used by some manufacturers in cleated footwear (soccer and football), as those shoes undergo a lot of torque and need to be rigid for support, which is a similar characteristic needed in a good military boot. It's also much lighter than the steel shank used in the original jungle boot.

The OTB JungleLite outsole is a modified panama sole design, made of compression molded EVA/rubber, with siping molded into each lug. The purpose of the siping is the same as on their water boots; it acts as tire treads to channel water away from the surface, providing better traction on wet, rocky terrain. It also acts like micro treads on each lug. The heel is of the 'breasted' type, with a well defined step in front. This is essential when walking downhill on soft terrain, as the front of the heels digs in to provide traction.

At the front and rear of the outsole are notches, or 'ripples', as on ripple sole boots. The front ones are angled to the rear and the rear ones are angled to the front. They are there to improve toe and heel traction when going up and down inclines. The soles are relatively quiet and provide good traction all around, being made of a sticky compound.

Besides being cemented to the boot upper, the outsole has toe and heel bumpers which are stitched at the front and back to the boot upper. This extra step is done to ensure that the outsoles will not come off in either hot desert conditions or wet humid conditions; both of which wreak havoc on sole cements. Even though OTB has tested their sole cements with great success under these conditions, they added the stitching as an added precaution. When I removed the insole and looked inside the boot the first time, I saw what looked like some fabric tape, placed over two loose ends of thread. I inquired about this, and was told that this was just excess thread from the stitching at the toe and heel of the outside to the boot. Since it's tough to get a pair of snips inside the boot, simple tape keeps it down, and the dual density footbed holds it in place. So, if you were wondering what that was, that's it.


Top/sole

Top/sole

Top/sole

Siping on sole

Perforated footbed

Interior view

Boot fit - The JungleLites feel pretty true to size in length for me; but definitely a bit snugger over the top of the foot than the Bushmaster and Ferdelance. For the JungleLites, I probably could have gone up a half size if I wanted to wear them with thicker socks. If you prefer to err on the side of caution, I'd go up a half size in the JungleLites than your measured foot size.
Even though they are made on the same last/form as the JungleLites, the DesertLites feel like they have ever so slightly more room. The DesertLites, were fine in my measured shoe size - no need to go up. Note that my recommendations are based on my own size - I can't speak definitively for other sizes.

General notes/observations - The first thing almost everyone notices when picking these up is the weight, or lack of it. They are light! The JungleLite and DesertLite boots approach the one-pound mark (per boot), making them the lightest boots I've tried yet. After wearing the JungleLite and DesertLites almost exclusively for a month, I immediately notice the increased weight when I put on another pair of boots. It's easy to get spoiled with these.

My first pair of 'combat boots' that I bought for hiking around with my friends were cheap commercial Vietnam jungle boots bought at a swap meet back in the early 80's. I didn't know better, at that time, and put up with the blisters and poor fit, thinking that was the norm. When those wore out, I bought a better, U.S.-made pair of jungle boots with the panama sole. It was more comfortable, well made and sturdy, but still wasn't a comfy as regular hiking boots. The reason I had bought them was that where I normally hiked, I had to cross a stream multiple times, so I wanted the water drainage capability. One thing I did notice was that both the commercial and U.S. made boots fit me pretty tight around the top of the boot. Nowhere else - just the top, where the leather met the nylon canvas where the laces started. I also observed that the OTB JungleLites are tighter there as well; they're snugger over the top of the foot than OTB's other land boots, the Bushmaster and Ferdelance (which fit on the loose side, actually). As mentioned above, the DesertLites feel a tad looser there than the Jungles. I found that I have to loosen the laces completely all the way down to the bottom third eyelets in order to slip the boot on, and take it off, as it's narrow around the ankle. That's when the rear pull tab really comes in handy. The top lacing loops work well as speed lacing loops - I can tighten them by pulling the ends at the top, instead of individually.

The overall feel is reminiscent of the old jungle boots, but much lighter, and a whole lot more comfortable right out of the box. The all-synthetic upper is already supple, and the PU 'leather' softer than real leather. Hence, break-in period is very short - just a day at most. With the old jungle boots, I had to be very careful how to fold and tuck the gusseted tongue in, to ensure that there wouldn't be any pinching or discomfort. With the OTB JungleLites, the tongue is lightly padded and soft, and is much more forgiving to the top of the foot and ankle. Needless to say, the insole and feel of the outsole are far better than the old jungles, which had a flat insole and hard, non-shock absorbing soles. The JungleLites and DesertLites feel very similar to the other OTB land boots, as far as shock absorbency and comfort go, especially when jogging around.

The mesh upper is soft and pliable; and like the original jungle boots, the OTB JungleLites are flexible at the ankle, allowing full range of motion of the foot. The Jungle and DesertLites don't have the upper boot stiffness that the Ferdelance has, and therefore less lateral support for the ankle. This is a characteristic of the original jungle boot as well, which prioritized light weight, breathability, and quicker drying over heavier, thicker materials which would provide more ankle support. The OTB JungleLites, however, do provide a relatively stable base for the foot by cupping the heel in the insole and having quality heel counters and a stiff shank board, which is half the battle in the quest for ankle stability. So, take note - these are not stiff, ankle-supporting mountain hiking boots (OTB has another model just for that). That doesn't mean that they can't be used for hiking - they'll still function better than below-ankle height hikers or trail shoes, which don't have ankle support. They do not provide the same level of ankle protection and stiffness as the Ferdelance or more supportive boots may, so that factor has to be weighed against the need for breathability, faster-drying and lighter weight.

I wasn't able to find any mud to test the JungleLites in, but I did submerge my feet in water to see how well the drain holes worked. They worked so well, in fact, that I was unable to take photos of the water squirting out when I took the first couple of steps. The water drained out too quickly. I took the photos below by filling the boot up with water completely and letting it drain out to show the flow. Also note that the water doesn't only drain from the vents, but also through the mesh material of the upper. When I filled the boot up, water 'sweated' through the mesh at the tongue, sides and around the ankle. The mesh uppers do not hold water for long, or stay waterlogged and heavy. This, combined with the vents, ensures that the majority of water is evacuated very quickly and the boot upper dries quicker than cordura boots. The perforated insole also keeps the bottom of the foot from feeling like it's in a puddle. It'll take a while for damp socks to dry out, but after the majority of the water is drained, and you're walking around in damp socks, it's not uncomfortable or squishy feeling for long.


Drainage vents




The JungleLite and DesertLite boots feel relatively 'airy' and not stuffy, even with the non-ventilated toe cap. The mesh panels really make a big difference in the breathability of the upper. Wet feet will dry faster, which contributes to improved foot health in damp and humid environments. I trudged around on a local trail in some dirt and sand with the DesertLites, and didn't see the vents let in anything more than the smallest hint of fine dust. Traction was good, as expected, on sand, small rocks etc. The stiff insole board protects the bottom of the feet from feeling rocks and sharp edges through the sole.

DesertLites

Summing it up, the JungleLite and DesertLite boots from OTB really bring the original jungle boot design up to date with new materials and manufacturing technology. They have retained the best qualities of the jungle boot while improving on its deficiencies, while still maintaining the familiar, original outward appearance of the jungles. I was wearing them one day and a co-worker remarked 'Where did you get the jungle boots?' (he was former military, and recognized them as jungle boots immediately). After I had explained what they were, he remarked that they had looked like the old jungle boots at first glance until he looked closer, and was very impressed with all the improvements. If were a fan of the old jungle boots, you'll like OTB's version. If you never liked jungle boots, these might change your mind.

 

 

Rocky S2V Desert Combat Boots

5/1/09 - The Rocky S2V Military Boot (available from AFMO.com) was designed with the Special Operations warrior in mind, and caught my eye when it was first introduced about a year and a half ago (at the time of this writing). Since its release, I've heard generally good things about it, so I figured it was time I gave them a try. Rocky named the S2V after a Navy SEAL motto: "Stealth + Silence = Victory".

For the S2V, Rocky consulted with SOF soldiers to determine what they wanted from a combat boot. From their requirements and feedback, the S2V was designed. The S2V is a 9" tall boot that's available in Black, Sage and Tan (shown here), making it suitable for both military and law enforcement use.

Manufacturer Specs:

  • 1000D Cordura in sides and panels in treated PTFE coat for flame resistance
  • Aegis Microbe Shield prevents bacteria and fungus growth
  • Drainage vents move water out and prevent debris from entering, and enhance breathability
  • Flash and water-resistant leather uppers withstand fire hazards and rigors of sea-to-land warfare
  • Proprietary high-walled Vibram soles with perforated airport cushion footbeds and PU Midsoles
  • SuperFabric instep panels prevent early boot failure from rope burn
  • Wicking Drilex lining and stretch Lycra tongue hugs feet for secure fit
  • U.S. made, Berry compliant


Front/outboard

Rear/Inboard

Top/sole

Boot uppers - The S2V upper is constructed of 1000D Cordura and rough-out suede leather. The cordura is PTFE coated for flame resistance and the leather is flash and water resistant, important considerations if there is chance of exposure to flame. The boot is a light tan colour, similar to other brands and models of desert boots. On each side of the heel, there is a series of eight holes which act as vents with a metal mesh screen preventing anything from entering the boot. These actually work; they're not just decorative. The collar is padded, with a lycra lining at the top inside of the boot.

The instep is made from SuperFabric Brand fabric, which is a special tough-textured material that will withstand the rigors of the 3-inch "fast rope" deployment from helicopters without tearing the boot's seams. The SuperFabric consists of small hard dots bonded to a base fabric. It is highly water resistant, protective, flexible, cut, abrasion and scratch resistant fabric. The protection is provided by the tiny, hard guard plates (the dots) adhered to conventional and non-conventional base fabrics. The guard plates act as protective armour to the underlying fabrics while maintaining the intrinsic flexibility of the fabric.

There are two drainage vents located on the instep - for moving water out of the boot. They have a fine metal mesh that doesn't allow debris into the boot.

The S2V tongue is padded for comfort, and is made of stretch Lycra so that it conforms to the front of the ankle and foot. A piece of webbing running down the center is there to protect it from abrasion from the laces and eyelets. The S2V has four lower eyelets and four speed lacing loops at the top. The laces are long enough to loosen the boot without coming out of the top loop, and are wrapped around the ankle once before tying them. To further protect the tongue from abrasion, there are little leather protective flaps behind the eyelets. The idea is that the protective flaps and the webbing on the front of the tongue will protect the lycra material from wear.

The inside of the boot is lined with Drilex wicking fabric with Aegis Microbe Shield anti-microbial treatment to prevent bacteria and fungus growth.

The upper part of the boot has very light padding to protect the ankles, and the heel cup provides anti-roll stability for the ankle.

Insole/Outsole - The shaped insole is probably one of the most comfortable I've felt in a combat boot. Rather than the throw-away stock insoles that I promptly replace with green Superfeet, the S2V insole provides both support and cushion, being thicker than the rest and with good arch support. The molded PU midsole adds stiffness and support to the sole of the boot.

The outsole is a distinctive-looking proprietary high-walled oil-resistant Vibram sole stitched to the upper for maximum durability. It's almost flat-footed, with no separation between heel and forefoot. The unusual tread pattern extends up the high-walled sides to provide additional protection and traction.


Tongue

Inside

Insole

Boot fit - I fall in between standard and wide widths, so I got the 8.5W S2Vs. Based on comparison with other boots that I have, they've got a very roomy toe box and I probably could have done just fine with the standard width. The extra room will accomodate thicker socks, so no complaints here. Based on my sample of one, I'd say that the S2Vs fit roomier than some other brands overall, and if you're between a standard and wide width, you can probably go with the standard width unless you plan to wear thicker socks. There's also ample length so the big toe doesn't jam into the front of the boot on downhills.

General Impressions - When I first saw the S2Vs in photos, for some reason, I thought that it 'looked' like an ultra light boot. When I got them, I found that they're actually a mid-weight boot. That's not a bad thing at all, as they also feel more solid than I thought they would. I weighed my pair of 8.5W and they were 3 lb 9 oz for the pair. For comparison, my Wellco Tuffkushions are 3 lb 6 oz, Danner Desert Acadia 4 lb 8 oz, Lowa Desert Seeker PT 2 lb 12 oz and OTB Ferdelance 2 lb 15 oz. So, the S2Vs fall somewhere in-between in weight.

Breaking in the S2Vs took a couple of days. As I mentioned above, they're very roomy, and felt a bit loose up at the front. After break-in and the material had a chance to form around my foot, I tightened up the laces progressively and was able to get a snugger, more conforming fit. I did notice a hot spot on the back of my Achilles tendon from the seam above the heel cup in the center, but that disappeared within a couple of days of wear (I covered the hot spot on my heel with a band-aid). No other issues after that.

The insole provides good support and excellent cushion/rebound, and while the upper isn't stiff, combined with the heel cup it's supportive enough to stabilize the ankle quite well for a desert boot, and I feel better protected against rolling my ankle and spraining it than some other desert boots with thinner uppers. I wore them on a desert trip and was happy with the comfort they provided. For going up steep, rocky terrain, I do feel that a stiffer boot with more ankle support would be more suitable. I don't have very strong ankles, so take that into account with my comments.

I wasn't sure how I'd like the flat-footed profile of the outsole (versus having a bit of a heel), but so far it's been very comfortable, stable, and traction is excellent on everything I've worn it on (sand, grass, concrete, indoor surfaces etc). It's thick and stiff enough to protect the bottom of my foot when walking over uneven, rocky terrain.

I do question the use of stretch Lycra on the outside of the tongue. While comfortable and conforming, I think that it's the wrong choice of fabric and should be replaced with a more abrasion-resistant one. Rocky has tried to protect the tongue from abrasion from the eyelets and laces by adding the center strip of webbing and protective leather flaps. However, only after a couple of weeks, I noticed that the metal eyelets had worn through the Lycra in a couple of spots as not all the Lycra is protected. A lightweight nylon cordura would be a better choice of material there. I'm not the only one who has experienced this - others have had the Lycra worn through in that area as well. The S2V laces can be quite abrasive to the soft Lycra, so I switched them out with gutted 550 cord (I do this on many of my boots), which is much less abrasive.

The other feature I question is the location of the metal vents for water drainage. They're placed too high to completely drain the boot of water; almost an inch above the bottom of the foot. If they're for water drainage, I'd have located them further down and forward like the vents on the Vietnam jungle boot, to be more effective. A lower profile vent would also be less likely to snag and pop off (something that hasn't happened to me yet, but has happened to other users). If the abrasion-resistant SuperFabric material was placed in the instep in anticipation of it being a high-wear area, I would have thought twice about locating snag-prone vents in that same area.

 

Summing it up, I feel that the Rocky S2V boots are a well constructed and comfortable mid-weight combat boot with some nice features. I must admit that I find them an aesthetically pleasing boot, with the distinctive sole and clean lines. The only two concerns I have are the aforementioned wear on the outside Lycra covering the tongue and the location/durability of the drainage vents. While not the lightest desert boot available, they makes it up by providing good shock absorption for the foot and stability for the ankle for a desert boot.

 

 

Bates Tora Bora Alpine Combat Boots

12/14/08 - Over the past three years, Bates® Footwear (a division of Wolverine World Wide Inc.) has worked with the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to develop a boot engineered for warfighters operating in advanced mountaineering and high altitude combat operations. The Bates Tora Bora Alpine Combat Boot is the result of that joint effort. Recently, Bates was awarded a contract to supply nearly 8,000 pairs of Tora Bora boots to various U.S. military warfighter communities.

The Tora Bora Alpine Combat Boot integrates new technologies developed to meet the needs of the U.S. military with commercially available design and construction innovations that have been tested and adopted by extreme mountaineers. This new combat boot will provide soldiers enhanced durability, stability and traction to navigate across varied terrain including deep snow pack; arid desert sand; steep, muddy slopes; and sheer rock face. The technical boot design offers total performance in a broad range of temperatures and optimum compatibility with tools commonly used by the Special Operations Forces in specialized ski warfare, ice climbing, and snowshoeing expeditions.

The Tora Bora Alpine Combat Boot is manufactured with 100% U.S.-sourced materials at U.S.-based ISO 9001:2000 compliant manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

Alpine Boot Overview - The Alpine boot is a 9-inch sage green lace-to-toe, 2.6 lb/boot (2lbs 9 oz), cement constructed (the outsole is bonded to the leather upper with an adhesive, which is the strongest type of outsole construction) boot. The harsh nature of its intended environment (rocky, icy etc) requires the boot to have very strong durability characteristics. Main components of the Alpine boot include Wolverine Performance Leather, SuperFabric® brand fabric, Gore-Tex® lining and a rugged Vibram® Vertige 1370 Alpine outsole. The boot is designed to perform in termperate environments as well as within warmer humidity ranges.


Front 3/4 view

Instep view


Top and bottom views

 

Upper Materials - Starting from the outside, the materials used in the upper of the Alpine boot are:

  • Wolverine Performance Leather - The sage green (grey, actually) Wolverine Performance Leather is treated with 3M Scotchgard during manufacture, making it highly water resistant, breathable with superior stain resistance. The Scotchgard blocks the absorption of water and flammable chemicals, which increases the leather's resistance to sparks and flame while enabling a quicker dry time and easier cleaning.
  • SuperFabric® brand fabric - Grey SuperFabric brand #700665 fabric is used for the main boot upper material. It's not actually a solid colour, but consists of small hard grey dots on a black base fabric. It is highly water resistant, protective, flexible, cut, abrasion and scratch resistant fabric providing protection against sharp rocks and ice. The protection is provided by the tiny, hard guard plates (the grey dots) adhered to conventional and non-conventional base fabrics (the black base fabric). The guard plates act as protective armour to the underlying fabrics while maintaining the intrinsic flexibility of the fabric. SuperFabric brand fabrics are used in a variety of applications like gloves, boots, drysuits etc which require different properties like stab, cut, puncture and abrasion or flame resistance or grip. Note that this particular fabric used for the Alpine boot is NOT considered flame resistant, like most other nylons.
  • Lining - The bootie lining consists of five layers; a face fabric, insulation layer, layer to strengthen and secure the insulation to the Gore-Tex® funcitonal layer, the Gore-Tex (membrane) and the backing fabric.
    1. Face fabric - This contains 60/40 nylon-polyester tricot with X-static® silver fiber and is inhenrently resistant to bacteria and is effective in wicking moisture away from the foot. The X-static fiber provides the antimicrobial and anti-static protection, and is made with a layer of 99.9% pure silver which is permanently bonded to the surface of the textile fiber. The antimicrobial performance advantages includes the 99.9% elimination of bacteria in less than one hour of exposure. Bacteria, amminoa and denatured proteins are contributors to odour. The silver allows for immediate binding with the ammonia and denatured proteins resulting in odour reduction. X-static is permanent and does not diminish over time.
    2. Insulation layer - The insulation layer consists of 200g Thinsulate™ insulation allowing for dry and comfortable hiking from plus 40°F to -25° F while providing thermal protection. I've found that it's not too hot to use in temperatures in the mid 70's.
    3. This layer strengthens and secures the insulation to the Gore-Tex layer.
    4. Gore-Tex functional layer - This is the Gore-Tex membrane which is waterproof and wind proof while allowing moisture vapour to pass through, keeping feet drier and more comfortable. The Gore-Tex membrane has proven itself for years under extreme conditions.
    5. Backing fabric - This is 100% nylon tricot knit, which is durable, breathable and aids in transportation of moisture away from the foot.

Upper Main Features - The boot upper is constructed of grey SuperFabric Brand nylon material, and reinforced with Wolverine Performance leather. There are two padded areas over the ankle bones for protection against knocks. The leather tongue is unpadded, and fully gusseted. A separate, removable tongue allows the user to adjust the boot for more comfort. The removable tongue is padded, offering additional insulation, and attaches to the inside of the boot with velcro at the top and bottom of the gusseted tongue. The Alpine boot can be worn with or without the removable tongue. The front portion of the boot is protected by a rubber toe cap; reducing wear on the leather from sharp rocks, especially in the prone position.


Closeup of upper

Gusseted tongue

Inside of boot

Removable tongue

Without removable tongue

Lacing system - The metal D-rings for the Alpine boot start down near the front, which I like, as it gives me more adjustability. Some boots don't have the laces that far front, and I'm unable to adjust the snugness around the front of the foot. The D-rings are also spaced quite wide, which also allows more adjustability and makes it easier to grab the lace and pull. I've had boots with the eyelets so close together that I could barely get a finger under the lace to pull on it. Five of the lacing loops are actually hinged, to ensure the optimum lie against the boot. They're rustproof and tarnish-proof. The top two loops are enclosed speed lace loops, instead of hooks, to reduce the possibility of snagging.

A 97" sage green nylon lace is provided, and is obviously strong and durable, but isn't very comfortable on the fingers. It's too thin and abrasive. It does soften up a bit with use, but when cinching up the boot tight, my fingers still hurt pulling on the thin laces, especially when my hands are cold. I'm not sure what the rationale behind such thin laces was, but I switched mine out to foliage green 550 cord, which I feel is an improvement. I tied a knot on the ends so they don't slip out of the eyelets.

Midsole/Insole - The boot midsole incorporates a fiberglass shank for stiffness and for reducing the transfer of heat and cold from the sole to the foot, allowing improved comfort to the warfighter. The boot utilizes a single density polyurethane removable cushion insert, which I find quite comfortable.

Outsole - The Alpine Boot uses a black Vibram® Vertige 1370 Alpine one-piece rubber outsole for vertical traction and downhill braking support. It is designed to provide lateral traction associated with uneven movements "side hilling" when moving below a ridge line with full pack and weight of additional equipment. The outsole provides slip resistance in temperate, hot and cold weather mountainous environments. The shank area is engraved for better grip on uneven ground while pyramid lugs increase grip on ice and snow. A convex area in the middle of the heel and forefoot reduces ice and snow build-up. The rigid outsole is designed for crampon, snow shoe and ski binding compatibility. My Kahtoola crampons attached to the Alpine boots securely and snugly, as shown below.


Insole

Outsole


Kahtoola crampons installed

 

Boot fit - I'm usually fit a size 8.5 in shoe or boot, with the occasional exception. For example, Danners tend to fit narrow and I require a wide width in them. The Alpine boot comes in two widths; R (Regular) and W (Wide). I got the 8.5 R initially, and found that they fit narrow, like my Danner Desert Acadias. They were tight at the front of the foot in width, but the length was fine. I still had some space between the my big toe and the front of the boot. This was with and without the removable tongue. I exchanged them for 8.5 W and the wides were the right fit. The have enough room for thick socks and I can adjust the tightness to suit my fancy.

General Impressions - My initial impressions of the Alpine boot when I first put them on were that they were very solid, stiff, on the heavy side, but actually quite comfortable. At 2 lbs 9 oz each, they're actually not much heavier than my Danner Desert Acadias which are 2 lbs 4 oz each, but still a few ounces more than equivalent commercial mountain boots in this category. As I mentioned above, the laces were too thin and bit into my fingers. The boots are stiff, which is to be expected from a mountaineering boot.
When I first put them on an walked around, they had a bit of a clunky feel when compared to regular combat boots, but after walking around for a couple of hours, I got used to them and quickly forgot about them. Granted, they're going to feel a bit clunkier than a light hiking boot on a level, flat trail, but a boot with a stiff sole is a must for climbing steep, uneven terrain, especially if you're kicking flat steps in the snow or going up steep inclines. I remember hiking up a steep hill with a pack with my Danner Desert Acadias, which have very little ankle support. I found it very uncomfortable and fatiguing as my ankle and foot was getting twisted all over the place. That's one of the experiences that made me realize how important a good stiff sole and supportive upper is on a boot used in uneven or steep terrain. A slight rocker built into the front of the Alpine boot's sole helps on flat ground; the rear could use a bit, too. They're similar in feel to the few other commercial mountaineering boots I've tried on to gain initial impressions/comparisons of, like the La Sportiva Glacier EVO or Makalu.

Breaking them in - It took about a week of daily wear to break them in. They weren't uncomfortable from the start at all; just stiff. The initial break in period was just to get the removable tongue to comform to my foot and the leather on the gusseted tongue to form the folds. So, for the first few days, I wore them as snug as I could without being overly tight, and I'd check and retighten the laces a couple of times a day as the boot started conforming and loosening. Even at the beginning, there were no hot spots, or rubbing. I could wear them tight without feeling that one part was tighter than another. The laces all the way down to the front makes a difference as I can control the snugness of the boot all the way from the front.

I tried the boots with and without the removable tongue installed, and prefer the feel of the boot with the tongue installed. It provides a more 'consistent' feel all around the foot as it's surrounded with padding. Without the padding of the removable tongue, I could feel the laces through the leather on the gusseted tongue. I did some hill workouts to work the upper at different angles and by the end of the week, the upper had comformed nicely to my feet, with creases forming at the front to allow my foot to bend a bit when squatting or kneeling, while still providing excellent support. After about three weeks, they had broken in nicely and the sole did get a bit more flexible and bends at the ball of the foot.


Laces replaced with 550 cord


I was also surprised to find out that the Alpine boots weren't as hot or stuffy as I expected they'd be. I mean, they're 'Alpine' mountaineering boots, and I expected my feet to overheat in temperatures about 70°. That didn't happen; I wore the boots into the 80's during some unusually warm fall days without discomfort. So, at least for now, I know that they can handle warm weather pretty well.

Support and stability - I did some walking/scrambling on uneven terrain with small to medium sized rocks, purposely putting my foot off center and at different angles to test both traction and support, and I came away feeling quite confident that the Alpine boots would protect my ankles very well from twisting, rolling or sprains when laced up nice and tight. The top of the boot is high enough above the ankle to prevent lateral movement.

On steep inclines, the sole and upper kept my feet from bending upwards too much, stretching the arch, or 'smooshing', keeping the foot more level (as if I was climbing up stairs instead of an angled surface), which fatigues the arch, ankle and calves less. Same thing going downhill - the heel dug well into loose earth and rocks, while the lateral stability and support provided by the boot inspired confidence, both with the feet facing downhill and 'side hilling'. I purposely walked a bit clumsily with 'loose feet', to simulate foot and leg muscle fatigue, as that's when I've found myself to be most susceptible to twisted ankles or sprains - when it's at the end of the day and the lower leg muscles are so tired that they're barely able to prevent the foot from rolling if it's misplaced, and I'm pretty much stumbling downhill, concentrating only putting one foot in front of the other (and not necessarily where that foot lands). Again, this only works when the boot is laced up as tight as comfortable, which minimizes foot movement inside the boot (blisters) and keeps the heel from lifting in the heel cup when ascending or the toes from hitting the front of the boot when descending. I found the outsole's aggressive lugs to provide very good traction. The SuperFabric upper seems impervious to abrasion, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it performs in the long run.

Additional thoughts/notes - Overall quality and workmanship is pretty good and on par with other good military boots, but I feel that the commercial price is a bit high. For the commercial price of $450, I'm comparing it to other $450 commercial boots. The gusseted tongue area could be cleaned up a bit, as the stitching was a bit messy where it attached to the boot body. The raw edge of the insulation is exposed, and while it might not make a difference functionally, it could be finished off with a cover stitch, which would also flatten it out a bit more. For the GSA price, I think that it's a very good value and a lot of boot when compared to the commercial mountaineering boot offerings in that price range out there.

It's a specialized boot - designed and built for soldiers who have a need for a very durable and tough boot to survive a broad range of temperatures and harsh environments. A little on the heavier side when compared to commercial equivalents, but not really out of family with other military boots when you consider that it's a purpose-built boot for the military, and the durabilty built into military equipment often results in that equipment being heavier than a commercial item. Also, try finding a U.S. made mountaineering boot, especially one intended for the military. The pickings are slim to none. If you want one, the Bates Tora Bora Alpine Combat Boot is your best bet.


 

 

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