“A journey into the wilderness is the freest, cheapest, most non-privileged of pleasures. Anyone with two legs and the price of a pair of army surplus combat boots may enter.”- Edward Abbey
What we put on our feet can make the all the difference when we hit the trail. Support, comfort, stability all factor in to how our feet hold up, and how our feet hold up is THE determining factor of what kind of shape we are in when we get off the trail. For many years my absolute go to for a trail boot was none other then Edward Abbeys recommendation, a solid, cheap pair of US Army surplus combat boots. Yes they were hard to break in but once they where, where unrivaled in comfort and stability. My combat boots stood up to everything I could throw at them, up mountains and through alpine meadows in Alaska, over sandstone and washes in Utah, rain forests in British Columbia, swampy cedar stands in Wisconsin, and almost everything in between.
It was sadly and reluctantly that I was forced to retire my combat boots from hiking duty this fall. After spending the day in a recently flooded out Paria canyon in Utah that I found my boots in shape beyond repair. I can’t say if it was trekking in the sticky mud of a canyon that had recently been flash flooded or just time but the soles of my boots were becoming completely separated from the boots themselves.
In desperation for something I picked up a pair of cheap low top trail runner/hikers to finish the trip off in. They worked well enough at first but the low top style left my ankles feeling unsupported and exposed. The final straw came on one of my last days in Colorado where a simple misplacement of one of my steps left the bottom of my right foot feeling strained. Hiking the next day I found even stepping onto midsized stones with my right foot caused me to cringe in pain. This was something I’d never had happen in my sturdier combat boots. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I had to find something as reliable to replace surplus combat boots.
The Vasque Wasatch GTX
In my search for something that could stand up in comfort, durability, reliability and foot support to my combat boots I happened to come across the Vasque Wasatch GTX. At first I was a little trepidatious about thinking that these could be possible replacements to my tried and true surplus boots, though the Wasatch GTX were ankle high, I wasn’t sure that they could offer the same support to my ankles that combat boots could with their extra long throat that hugged almost up to my calf, but I knew that they had to be far superior to the low top trail runners/hikers I had been using as a fill in. I decided to roll the dice and find out just what I thought of them.
One of the things that immediately stood out to me the moment I slipped on the Vasque Wasatch GTX was how well it seemed to fit the form of my foot. There aren’t a lot of shoe or boots that naturally feel like the belonged on my feet but these boots did.
What surprised me even more was how short the breaking in period lasted mostly because they didn’t need to be broken in. The day I got them I slipped them on planning a two or three mile easy hike to start breaking them in. Instead what ended up happening was my dog and I doing closer to six or seven miles with absolutely no pain or discomfort in my feet. As much as I loved my old combat boots I couldn’t say that they were ever capable of going straight from the box to a seven mile hike without eating my feet raw. They were amazing boots once broken in, but breaking them in always felt like a long drawn out affair.
Outside of the comfort that the Vasque Wasatch GTX offer the boots have a lot of other features that make them well worth the investment. They are Gore-Tex lined and so are waterproof, at least up to submersion over the boot tops. When I found myself off trail and in a half swamp half cedar forest they kept my feet dry and comfortable despite finding myself several times having to bog through low lying, damp, mucky areas that tried sucking my boots in. The all leather uppers held up to all sorts of beatings and the rubber capped toe bumper on the boots, saves undue punishment to actual toes when hiking in rocky or heavily rooted areas. For someone like me that often prefers to keep their head up while hiking, this feature offers something not even my combat boots could protect my toes from.
The Vibram soles of the boots offer great grip on almost any type of terrain that I’ve encountered so far. Rock, sand, mud, uphill or down the Wasatch GTX provides great grip on almost any surface(I’ve had a few slips on hardpacked wet clay, but have yet to find ANYTHING that can get a grip on that). The treading of the boots give a solid feel of contact to surfaces, and the rigidity of the Wasatch GTX soles give a feeling of sure support to the bottoms of your feet.
In the end the Vasque Wasatch GTX turned out to not only to be a suitable replacement to the combat boots that had past their prime but a step up in both performance and comfort. Yes the cost was more the my old surplus boots, but you get what you pay for and the Vasque Wasatch GTX delivers value in spades. These are boots that won’t leave you wondering if a small misstep will leave you injured by offering a boot that is solid enough to stand up to any terrain while giving you the comfort to keep your feet from suffering as the miles add up or after packing a few extra pounds into your pack. I didn’t believe I could replace my surplus combat boots in those departments, the Vasque Wasatch GTX was the boot that proved me wrong.
(As a side note I recently learned that Vasque has upgraded the Wasatch GTX into their new Bitterroot GTX. Despite the boots looking pretty similar to each other, Vasque has upgraded the track pattern on the Bitterroot GTX as well as a few other modifications. From my experience with the Wasatch GTX there isn’t a lot of room for improvement, but if Vasque has found a way, the new Bitterroot GTX should prove to be a more the capable replacement.).