DANNER 453GTX BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
September 01, 2007
Greensboro North Carolina
6' 2" (1.88 m)
221 lb (100.00 kg)
Backpacking Background: I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 16 year old son 8 years ago. We now routinely take 20 mile weekend hikes (2 nights) approximately once a month year round. Additionally, we take one, 5 - 7 day extended trip each summer. Most of our hiking is done in North Carolina, southern Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. We go regardless of weather so we have experience in all types of conditions. We do not tend to travel very light, my typical pack weight is 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.danner.com
Listed Weight: 48 oz (1361 g)
Measured Weight: 48 oz (1361 g)
Other details: The Danner 453 GTX (hereafter referred to as Danners) are Danner's newest mid-weight hikers. They feature a nubuck leather upper, Gore-Tex lining, and Danner's patented Terra-Force X construction. At 3 pounds these boots are in the middle of the range for this type of boot.
The soles feature an aggressive lug design and a clear X design that begins at the widest part of the boot at the front part of the foot, crosses under the arch, and finishes at the back of the heel. The soles of the boot are approximately 1/2" wider at the heel than the upper. This little bit of extra sole is apparently designed to increase stability.
The insoles are manufactured from polyurethane and have a stiff center section that resembles a "custom" footbed such as Smartfeet. This insole provides additional protection and support for a hiker carrying a load.
These boots feature a "scuff-proof" rubber toe cap. The Gore-Tex lining is sewn in such a way that it joins at the front underneath the tongue. This lining forms a complete booty which should be effective in repelling water.
The laces are round, not flat. There are 5 hook-rings on each side and 1 quick release hook per side at the top around the neck of the boot.
The Danner brand-name is branded on the leather tongue of the boot and emblazoned on the back as well.
The Danners come in a plain cardboard box with some hang tags on the right boot and a product registration card enclosed. There are no care instructions or any other product specific information in the box.
The boots seem to be immaculately constructed. All seams are double stitched. The hook-rings are nice and tight. Every seam seems very even and uniform. There are no gaps around the sole. I am unable to find any bubbles or rough seams on the inside of the boot whatsoever.
There is a seam running from side-to-side across the boot which crosses approximately at the widest part of the foot. This seam obviously is designed to keep the boot snug down across the top of the foot, preventing my toes from jamming down in the end of the boot while going downhill.
When they first arrived the boots were quite stiff. The soles are heavy duty, and seem to be more than adequately constructed. They have heavy lugs and an aggressive tread design.
The insoles are removable but feature significant arch support as well as a stiffer middle area. This is designed to provide additional protection against rough surfaces as well as additional stability.
TRYING THEM OUT
I have worn the boots twice so far. I wore them yesterday for about a three mile walk on sidewalks and around the house. This was in an effort to break them in prior to a longer hike in them today. The stiff construction did require some break-in time.
|Detail of the excellent workmanship|
The boots provide wonderful support but, as I would expect, don't give me the cushy feel on pavement I would expect from a pair of sneakers. I noticed on this initial walk that these boots do not really provide a "rocker" motion as some do. Rather, my step feels somewhat flat.
Wearing the socks that I normally do (thin sock liners, and a pair of wool socks) the boots were somewhat snug across the top of my foot. As a point of fact, the right one felt considerably more snug than the left. I stopped several times and adjusted the laces but still had that snug feeling to the point of being uncomfortable on my right foot.
When I returned from the initial walk I left the boots on and wore them around the house, and on some errands for the rest of the day. Today we took about a six mile hike in varied conditions in Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina. Initially, this morning I noticed that the break-in the previous day had the desired effect. The right boot felt comfortable when I first put it on, and for the entire day.
First we climbed approximately 800 feet (244 m) in 1.7 miles (2.74 km). This was on a dry dirt trail which then gave over to slickrock. As I climbed the traction exhibited by the Danners was excellent. I never slipped, even while climbing a very steep slickrock abutment with a generous sprinkling of dry pine needles on it. After a break for lunch (and pictures) we traversed the top of the slickrock mountaintop and began down a longer 2.8 mile (4.51 km) trail back to the parking lot.
As we walked down a series of steep switchbacks I noticed that my toes did not jam down to the toes of the boots. I felt no slippage in the heels, while climbing or descending, and while they were certainly snug, they were not uncomfortably so.
On the way back we took a side trail to a waterfall. This side trail presented several opportunities to cross small streams by rock hopping across damp, moss covered rocks. Again, I was very aware of the excellent traction afforded by the Danners and felt extremely sure-footed.
When we got back to the cars we had completed a 6 mile (9.6 km) circuit, with the aforementioned elevation change. In short, my feet felt great. They were hot and sweaty from hiking on a 90 F (32 C) day but, essentially, they felt great.
I am fortunate to have these boots to use during the best possible time of year to test boots in the southern Appalachian mountains. Now it is hot and very dry. However, the weather will soon be turning cool and will (hopefully) become much more rainy. By the end of October the weather will be cool (below freezing at night in the mountains) and damp. By the end of the full testing period in December we will be hiking in snow and below freezing temperatures all times of day.
I will be using these boots on long weekend hikes in all conditions throughout the testing period. I will start out using them with shorts (as I did today) and finish up using them with fleece pants, rain pants, and gaiters. Throughout the test period I will document the trail type, the weather conditions, and any/all other factors that will affect the performance of the boots.
So far, I am very impressed with these boots. The quality construction is evident and they have "broken-in" fairly quickly.
I am very anxious to fully test the limits of their capabilities.
Check this space in two months for a more complete report.
Field Report - November 4, 2007
I have used the Danner 453 GTX boots now for a number of hiking trips, both carrying an overnight pack, and dayhikes. Additionally, I have worn them around town. To date, with some minor exceptions I have been very pleased with these boots.
I wore them on a trip on the Appalachian Trail in TN near Roan Mountain Tennessee. This trip covered approximately 16 miles (25.8 km) carrying a full backpack, and another 4 mile (6.4 km) side trip without. The weather that weekend was dry and we were on a portion of the trail that was dry and either rock or packed soil. The trail wound across the ridge tops and then down into deep gaps. In short, it was quite steep up or down in most places.
During this trip I wore my usual sock liners and fairly heavy wool socks. The boots were very stable and performed extremely well in these conditions. As I went steeply downhill carrying a pack, the boots did not allow my feet to slide forward, jamming my toes. They were very grippy and provided excellent protection. The rocky portions of the trail did not create any discomfort.
One thing I did notice was that the boots were snug feeling when I first put them on Friday evening at the car. However, after a 1 mile (1.6 km) hike in to our first campsite (at night in the dark and the fog) they seemed to be loosened up and felt fine. The next morning, when I put them on again, they were uncomfortably tight across the top of the foot just behind the toes. Again, however, after wearing for a little while they felt fine. On Sunday morning (the third day) they felt fine when I first put them on.
At the end of the day on Saturday I intentionally stood in a stream as I pumped water to refill our water bladders. I never felt any dampness reach my feet and the boots seemed dry by the time I completed the short walk back to our campsite.
I also wore them on an overnight trip to Grandfather Mountain near Boone North Carolina. We hiked the Profile Trail which starts out as a gradual climb through a forest but grows more and more steep and rocky. By the time we reached the top the trail was quite steep and we were clambering across rocks, which tended to be damp and slick. This trip was an excellent test of the boot's traction. I was carrying a pack that weighed approximately 24 lbs (10.9 kg) so the steeper sections of this trail were an excellent test of the boot's traction and support.
Again, the boots provided a firm grippy support and an excellent firm surface while hiking a steep trail and clambering over damp rocks. Though I was on sharp rocks the stiff soles provided excellent protection, as I never felt any stress or discomfort from the uneven surface. We crossed several streams which I happily splashed through rather than bothering with the rocks. The deepest point was only about 3 -4 inches (7.5 - 10 cm) deep so that the water never approached the top cuff of the boot. I never felt any dampness on the inside of the boots. The wide soles provide excellent stability and are stiff enough to support my entire foot even while my foot is half on/ half off a rock outcropping.
Finally, I wore them on a dayhike up a steep, but well traveled trail in Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina. On this trip I wore only one pair of cotton gym socks. I carried a small daypack with a bottle of water and a couple of sandwiches in it. We hiked about a mile and a half up a steep dry trail, then down the same trail back to our car. The boots were quite comfortable. I had to adjust the laces a few times to keep them from slipping on my heels going up the steep incline. As I had not really experienced this before I believe that it was due to the thinner than normal socks, and possibly some stretching of the laces.
The Danners provide excellent support and are comfortable carrying a pack in steep rocky terrain. They have provided excellent ankle support, which is important to me. They fit snugly, but not uncomfortably so now that they are broken in. As of yet, they show no signs of wear and tear. In fact, other than a few rock-marks they look like they did the day I pulled them out of the box.
Due to the drought we have been experiencing in my area I have not had the chance to test them on a truly wet weekend as of yet. My experience artificially soaking them (standing in a stream for no good reason) gives me confidence that they will perform well on a wet trail. This will surely be tested this fall.
I have to say though, I have somewhat mixed feelings about these boots. There is no one thing I can point to and say I dislike, however they aren't the most comfortable boots I've ever worn. They are almost TOO stiff for medium duty backpacking on established trails. They seem heavy, although statistically when weighed they aren't any heavier than other boots I've worn. Other boots provide a "rocker" as I stride in them. They tend to roll forward under my feet providing a more comfortable, powerful stride. The lack of a rocker in these boots, providing a flat step, may be the cause of some of this clunky feeling and is not particularly to my liking.
I will continue to test these boots in fall and winter conditions, including a long four day winter trip after Christmas. I believe that they will become more comfortable with use. I will report on this and also how well they perform in wet/cold/muddy/nasty conditions in a couple of months.
Things I like:
The excellent wide, grippy soles.
The good ankle support.
Things I don't like:
I had to wear them a number of times before they began to feel truly broken in.
They are snug around the widest part of my foot which serves a purpose but is not extremely comfortable.
Long Term Report - December 31, 2007
Have you ever met someone and when you first met them you didn't like them much. They weren't comfortable to be around and you were not sure that you were going to get along. However, as you got to know them you found that they were of high quality and you became more and more comfortable with them. Eventually, they became a trusted friend. Well, that is pretty much how my relationship has been with these boots.
I have continued to use these boots throughout the fall and into early winter. I have hiked approximately 60 miles (97 km) in them since my field report. This has been primarily on dry dusty trails as the southern US has been in a drought situation all year. I have found that they have become increasingly comfortable over time. While they were initially very stiff, and snug around my foot they have now completely broken in and feel great from the moment I put them on. The insoles feel like custom footbeds and offer outstanding support. The tops of the boots fit well around my ankles.
Unfortunately, until this weekend I have not really had an opportunity to truly test these boots in wet weather. That changed over the last two days.
|The trail BEFORE the rain started|
On Saturday my son and I went into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in western North Carolina. The weather had been rainy on Friday. We started at about 3,000 ft (914 m) elevation and hiked 7.2 miles (11.6 km) into a campsite at approximately 2,200 ft (671 m) elevation. This trail crossed several streams and followed a stream bed. The previous days rain had made the trails swampy, particularly around the stream crossings.
Saturday morning we awoke to a steady rain, which continued for the whole day. We hiked across a ridge, topping out at about 4,300 ft (1,311 m), and then going down a steep incline into another creek drainage on the opposite side of the ridge. We then followed that creek back down to the road, which made a grand total of approximately 15.3 miles (24.6 km) for that day. As we hiked the trails became more and more saturated, and the footing on the wet leaves, and wet trail became quite treacherous. By the end of the day my son was referring to it as "trail soup". While I was wearing gaiters to keep the rain from pouring into the tops of my boots off the bottoms of my rain pants these boots went through the acid test. If I hadn't had an opportunity to test these boots in wet weather before, I certainly made up for it.
The excellent traction paid off this day. Whether going up hill or down on steep, leaf covered, muddy trails they exhibited consistently excellent traction with no noteworthy slips to report. We crossed a stream on a moss covered footlog with no hand rail, and crossed several streams on wet rocks with no problems.
Bottom line, we got to the truck and sat down in the back to remove our wet gear and put on dry socks/shoes (and everything else for that matter) for the ride home. I removed my rain pants, then my gaiters, and then my boots. I then reached down and wrapped my hand around my socks. They were dry to the touch. I put my hand down inside my boots, they were BOTH completely dry inside from the toes to the heels. I don't know what else to tell you, they DID THE JOB, beyond my wildest expectations. We hiked 22.5 miles (36.2 km) in two days in conditions that ranged from wet to slogging through ankle deep mud, and the boots didn't leak at all.
|The morning after|
The other note about these boots is that I set them out in the sun to dry today. I left them out all day in direct sunlight on a cool 45 F (7 C) day and let the mud on them dry thoroughly. I then took a standard scrub brush and vigorously brushed them all over. The mud came off and they look just fine, not like brand new anymore, but certainly ready to go back for more.
Previously, I had commented on the flat step, or lack of a rocker motion. Maybe I've just gotten used to the way they feel but I have noticed this much less in the last couple of trips. All in all, the boots are now quite comfortable. Also, though I'm pushing a 100 miles (161 km) in total they are not showing the slightest wear and tear.
When I completed my field report I have to say I was not completely sold on these boots. Today, however, I think you would have to fight me to get me to give them up. They absolutely deliver on everything I want from a good pair of mid-weight hiking boots.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
They handle a load extremely well providing excellent foot protection, traction, and a very stable platform. They offer excellent foot support due to the above-average footbeds. They are very well manufactured without the slightest visible wear and tear after 100 miles (161 km) of hiking under a load. Finally, they are not water repellant, not water resistant, they are water PROOF, or at least as much so as a pair of leather boots can be!
Not all boots fit all users properly, however, I would certainly recommend that any serious backpacker who is looking for new boots give these boots a try.
I want to extend my thanks to Danner and to BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this superb product .
Read more reviews of Danner gear
Read more gear reviews by Tim Tessier