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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Alico Summit boots > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

ALICO SUMMIT BOOTS
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
December 10, 2007

Personal Details and Backpacking Background

Male, 61 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.91 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Shoe size: US 12 or 12˝ B for street shoes, US 12-13 (European 46–48) for hiking boots, depending on manufacturer.   
Email address: rlyon AT gibsondunn DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too.  Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit of extra weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.

Product Description and Details

Alico describes its Summit boots as "designed for tough terrain and rugged wear" when hiking, trekking, or backpacking.  These full-leather over-the-ankle boots from Italy's Dolomite Alps have four metal eyelets and three hooks for laces, with the lowest hook set outside the other holders as shown in the photo.

Alico Summit backpacking bootsManufacturer: Alico Sport. 
Website: www.alicosport.it (resolves in English).  Quotations in this Review come from this website.
Year purchased: 2006
Size: Men's 13 (USA)/48 (European), medium width.  Available in US men's 7-13 (half sizes available), European 39-48 (half sizes available), medium or wide width; US women's 5-10.
Weight, measured: 2 lb 9.5 oz/1.18 kg per boot.  No listed weight.
Height, measured from top of sole to top of cuff: 6.9 in/17.5 cm.
Materials: 2.6 mm (0.1 in) oiled-tanned full-grain leather outer; leather inner (also available with brushed Cambrelle inner); leather/nylon midsole; Vibram Montagna sole.
Construction: The Summit is made from a single piece of leather sewn to the sole with what Alico calls "the ideal stitch construction" for easy replacement of the sole when necessary.  My local cobbler called it a Norwegian welt.  The body of the boot is overlaid with a second leather piece with the metal eyelets and a gusseted tongue.  The heel is reinforced with another leather piece, and a heavier leather collar is sewn at the top.  Alico states that the Summits have a half shank for support.
MSRP: Not available.
Warranty: None on the website or hangtags.

Why I Bought Them. 

What, full leather boots, in this day and age? Whatever for? I had several reasons for buying these old-fashioned, old-world boots.  I need heavy boots for my volunteer work with the U.S. Forest Service, trail clearing and maintenance in the Northern Rockies.  Stout over-the-ankle boots are a Forest Service requirement and a prudent safety precaution when handling a Pulaski, cross-cut saw, rock bar, or the other hand tools while trail grading, bridge building, or tree felling or skinning.  Leather boots also provide good ankle support when hiking to our base camp or to the worksite with a full expedition pack.  This past summer our work crew hiked fourteen miles (20 km) on a stock trail that had long sections where horse trains had worn the trail into a narrow gully, prime ankle–turning terrain with a fifty-pound (23 kg) pack.  I appreciated the Summits especially on this hike.

I'm used to hiking in leather boots.  The Summits replaced a similar (though somewhat lighter) pair I'd worn for many years that expired after two re-solings.  I like the support that leather boots provide, especially since I tend to overpack.  Now that the Summits are nicely broken in I find myself wearing them even on shorter hikes in conditions when I could go with a lighter boot.  They fit my long and narrow feet very well and have become a comfortable and reliable choice.

These days many hiking boots are available in only one width.  I've found that the standard size in men's boots, whether designated "wide," "medium," or "standard," is a (U.S.) D or E, or wider.  I actively search for boot makers that offer a choice, as a narrower boot is a better fit for me.  Alico's medium is between a B and C, much better suited to my feet, and a narrower boot keeps my heels from moving around when hiking. 

Once I find a boot that fits I tend to stick with it.  Shoe or boot fit is one of the most idiosyncratic and individual issues in outfitting oneself for the backcountry.  Materials, lasts, standard sizes, construction techniques, and many other design characteristics vary wildly from one maker to the next.  I've worn size 12 boots that were too large, others that were too small.  I consider boots my most important equipment choice – if my boots don't fit my feet hurt, and when my feet hurt soon everything else hurts.  I tried on many different boots before settling on the Summits and I urge the reader to take the time to find the pair that's right for her or him.

Field Conditions. 

The Summits have about 120 trail miles (193 km) on them, not counting a rather lengthy break-in period when I wore them on my morning and evening walks with my dogs and short day hikes.  Most backcountry use has been on well-maintained trails that often include scree fields and rocky stretches, and the trail work sites.  I've worn the Summits in all seasons, though mostly in the summer and fall.  Daytime temperatures have ranged from 0-100 F (-18 to 38 C).  When backpacking I almost always pack sandals or sneakers for river crossings, fishing, and evening wear in camp, so rain and soggy trails are the only chance the Summits have had to get wet.  This past September I had plenty of the latter when I hiked the Bechler River Trail in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming and Idaho, where the relative lowland and abundant thermal features made for much swampy trail. 

Evaluation

Care.  Heavy leather boots require a lengthy break-in period.  These boots were very stiff out of the box.  I gave the Summits three separate treatments of Sno-Seal (a beeswax-based leather conditioner applied after heating the boots) before wearing them anywhere.   Then I spent at least two months wearing them on weekends and my daily dog walks before I was willing to trust my feet to them in the backcountry.  

After any hike during which the boots get wet, dusty, scuffed, or dirty I clean the boots with a leather cleaner and then give them a new dose of Sno-Seal and if necessary a coat of shoe polish.  I always store the boots laced up, especially immediately after taking them off in camp or back at the trailhead, to reduce the possibility of deformity.  If I end a hike at home I also use shoe trees for this purpose.

Accoutrements.  As I have done for all hiking boots I have owned, I replaced Alico's factory insoles.  The Summits rated a pair of Shock Doctor Ultra insoles, a model I really like that is now either discontinued or impossible to find.  When shod in leather boots I always wear silk or merino liner socks and a heavy wool sock of some kind, more protection for my skinny ankles.  I have added Engo Blister Prevention Patches (see my separate review, linked below) on the inside of the heels.

Performance.  Sadly for my desire to lighten up on the trail, I really like the Summits.   The fit is great, they are comfortable, I haven't had a blister, and I haven't turned an ankle.  I can't see anything special about the Montagna sole; to me it's just another Vibram – solid and grabby on rock faces, even when wet,  and loose rock.  My feet stayed dry through the trail mud in Yellowstone, and have stayed dry when hiking through a rainstorm.  Montana trail crew in the mud. Author in centerAs work boots in Montana last August they were ideal.  They took some real abuse on that trip, in hot, dry, dusty weather.  We worked in an area called The Burn because of a huge fire in 1988.   Most of our work was clearing blown-down trees from the trail, using a cross-cut saw and levers.  Much of the blowdown was sooty or rotten, giving the boots constant exposure to more unpleasant and possibly harmful media than mere dust, rock, and mud.   Daily wiping and my regular post-trip spruce-up were all I needed to restore the Summits to presentable condition.  As the leather softens from use and re-treatment the Summits seem to get more comfortable.

It's hot on the feet to hike in leather boots.  These boots breathe fairly well, but I confess that at the end of each work day, or any other warm day on the trail, I look forward to releasing my feet from suffocation by leather and wool and exchanging the Summits for camp shoes.   OK, often this desire doesn't wait until the end of the day to set in.  In any weather above 70 F (21 C) I pack camp shoes even when not needed  for water crossings just to give my feet some rest.  That's not a great inconvenience (I also use the lighter footgear for fishing) but does mean even more weight.  Given the great fit of and so far blister-free hiking in the Summits, however, I'll take the heat for the safety and support they provide.  The Summits are definitely overkill, though, when I'm hiking with a day pack.

After a clean-up the boots look just fine.  Not like new but better – like a well broken-in saddle.  Six months' use this summer and fall hasn't put a noticeable dent on the Vibram soles.  I expect to be able to wear these boots for years to come.

Upside

Sturdy and safe.  Great for heavy-duty work or an expedition load.

Excellent fit for me

Durable

Downside

Heavy, and hot on the feet on a summer day.

They require considerably more break-in and care than synthetic or fabric boots.



Read more reviews of Alico Sport gear
Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Alico Summit boots > Owner Review by Richard Lyon



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