I'm in the market for some good ol' fashioned, single-leather-upper hiking boots. Nothing against the space age looks of most boots today; I just long for the time when boots looked like, well, boots! Aside from the Vasque Sundowners, do you have any recommendations? I liked the Zberlan Panthers, and the Made in Italy nostalgia is a plus. Price being on the back burner, I'm looking for that old-school Sundowner, Panther, Banff style boot; ideally of high quality. Thoughts? Ben Bern, NC
Yeah, there is a lot to be said for the older way of making boots. Mind you, I think modern boots have a lot of advantagestheyre lighter and more comfortable than boots of years ago. But its still hard to beat a good quality pair of all-leather boots.
The Vasque Sundowners ($200) certainly are classics. Theyve been around for years. Theyre now available only with Gore-Tex booties, which may or may not be a problem for you. I also like the Zamberlan Panthers ($225), which have 2.8 mm leather uppers, a classic look, and liners that are part leather, part Cambrelle fabric.
Scarpa still makes real old-school boots. Their SL M3s ($250) have silicon-impregnated one-piece leather uppers, flexible cuffs to keep out debris, Cambrelle liners, and Vibram soles. Very serious boots. And there is the Raichle Mountain Trail GTX ($200). A little lighter than the Scarpas, but still with full-grain leather uppers, Vibram soles, and Gore-Tex booties.
With boots such as these, youll need to do some break-in. Wear them around the house, then around the block a few times, and then on a short hike or two. Shouldnt take long to get them to adapt nicely to your feet. Keep them clean, washing them after heavy use with running water and a soft brush. And use a good leather treatment, such as Nikwax Waterproofing Wax ($8.50). With reasonable care, you should get many years of use out of your boots.