Gear Guy

North Cols     Photo: courtesy, L.L. Bean

Q:

Does anyone still make all-leather hikers?

I'm interested in replacing my older pair of heavy, all-leather Vasque hiking boots. So far I've been unsuccessful in locating anything close! There must be someone somewhere in Europe, Canada, or the U.S. that still makes a high-quality, heavy all-leather boot. I've looked at Dunh's excellent Mountain Masters, but I'm not fond of their tongue design. Art Cayucos, California

A:Dunham's Mountain Master ($240; www.dunhambootmakers.com) is indeed a bit of a throwback, especially because it uses Norwegian (i.e., stitch-down) welt construction—that is, around the joint between the boot and the sole you can see heavy stitching. Hardly anyone uses that any more. "Cemented" soles, which are literally glued to the uppers, are lighter and more flexible, easier to make water resistant, and generally preferred by consumers.

And in many cases that construction type results in a very "traditional"-style boot. Exhibit A would be the Montrail Moraine ($235; www.montrail.com), an extremely rugged backpacking boot that is perfectly suitable for fairly ambitious mountaineering. It's pretty much the gold standard in heavyweight boots these days. Still, a few companies do make boots using the old stitch-down method. The Scarpa Rio ($240; www.scarpa-us.com) is one such. An utterly classic boot—all-leather uppers, stitch-down sole, steel shank. A slightly lighter but similar boot is the L.L. Bean North Col Hiker ($149; www.llbean.com), which is a helluva deal for an Italian-made, all-leather, Norwegian-welt boot. And there is the Limmer Light-Weight ($250; www.limmerboot.com), another really classic boot that will defy modern affectations as long as the grass grows and the sky is blue.

One thing I'm not sure of is how the tongue design on these boots compares with that used in the Dunham. You'd need to look at a few and see if they suit you. Certainly, how the tongue hits your foot can make a big difference in terms of comfort.

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