Last fall, Gear Shed tester Andrew Forsthoefel set off on a momentous, sure-to-be-life-changing megatrip. He loaded up his backpack, laced his shoes, and walked out his back door in Chadd’s Ford, Pennslyvania, bound for the West Coast on foot. He’s not in it just to prove that he is Outside’s ultimate gear tester. Forsthoefel is walking cross-country to put himself at the mercy of the elements, or the people he meets along the way, and, like James Agee, to collect the stories of everyday peoples’ lives.Over the past few months, Andrew has been putting the most promising gear through the ringer to see if it can hold up to the grueling rigors of the road: up to 20 miles a day of walking, rain, sleet or snow. Five months into his trip, we’re getting reports from the field on what’s proved itself against the wear and tear of daily use.
Field Report #1: Keen Voyageur Mid Boots
Facing a first leg of over 500 miles of pounding pavement and trail, Forsthoefel picked the Voyageurs because he knew he’d be carrying a pack between 30 and 40 pounds, and he wanted support and cushioning in a boot that didn’t feel clunky or overbuilt. Now in Louisiana, he’s more than pleased with his choice.
What he found: “The polyester mesh kept me comfortable in temps ranging from 20 to 70 degrees. Moving through warmer climes in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana I thought my feet might get too sweaty. I was glad to be wrong.”
Forsthoefel also noted that the Voyageur’s sole, with its oversized lugs, gave the boot tire-like traction on the road. He found that the upper of the boot was stable even with a full load on his back. “One evening in Virginia at dusk at mile 12 I was daydreaming and watching the sunset when I stepped into a pothole,” he told Gear Shed. “The sturdy leather upper stopped my ankle from rolling—a good thing as it was five more miles to the nearest town.”
This isn't our first review of the Voyageur Mid. Other testers called this boot as tough as “beef jerky” and another recommended it as one of the best boots for 20-milers. Forsthoefel found similar results. When it finally failed—as any boot will with extended and extreme use—it was the webbing lace loops that wore through.
The bottom line? The Keen Voyageur is the go-to choice for a hiker that’s going to face a wide range of conditions and wants high mileage-per-dollar. $120, keenfootwear.com.
—Berne Broudy & Andrew Freeman