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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Keen Oregon PCT > Test Report by Tim Tessier

KEEN OREGON PCT BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
INITIAL REPORT
October 21, 2008
Field Report Added: January 11, 2009
Long Term Report Added: March 15, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Tim Tessier
EMAIL: timothy_tessier@yahoo.com
AGE: 51
LOCATION: Greensboro NC
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 2" (1.88 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

Backpacking Background: I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 17 year old son 9 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 NC, southern VA, TN, KY, and WV. We go regardless of weather so we have experience in all types of conditions. We do not tend to travel very light, with a typical pack weight of 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Keen
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: Keen Footwear
MSRP: US$160.00
Listed Weight: 20 oz (567 g)
Measured Weight: 31 oz (879 g) (Size 13)
Other details:

Received: October 16, 2008

The Keen Oregon PCT boots are classic mid-weight hikers. They feature a leather upper with synthetic detailing. The tongue of the boot is a synthetic fabric that forms a solid top on the boot. There are 5 vents up either side of the tongue to provide ventilation. Due to the tongue forming a solid top to the boot the inner Keendry lining is a solid piece across the top and sides and is sewn together underneath the removable footbed. This design appears to form a complete sleeve of the breathable waterproof fabric which should provide superior waterproof capabilities. This will, of course, be tested.

IMAGE 1
The Keen Oregon PCT


The sole is a carbon non-marking material with .16" (4mm) multi-directional lugs. The sole wraps around the toe, forming a toe cap on the boot. The boot features a cork/EVA heel cushioning insert and forefoot torsion bars for plate flexibility. Bottom line, the toe portion of the sole flexes for comfortable walking but has extreme lateral stability which keeps it from twisting. Again, the design appears that it will provide comfortable walking while still providing excellent protection for the feet. This will, of course, be examined fully in this review.

The laces are round and laced through 3 loops, a web strap, and 3 quick release loops. The web strap is approximately at the joint between the foot and ankle. The strap goes from one lace, through a joint, across the back of the heel, through another joint, and back to the other lace. This is called a "heel lockdown webbing strap" by Keen. It appears to be a good idea and is unique in my experience.

IMAGE 2
The aggressive tread design


The insole is easily removable. It is thicker in the heel area and is very thin and flexible around the toes.

All in all these boots appear to offer some unique engineering and some unusual features. I am looking forward to testing them thoroughly.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The boots came packed in a plain green and brown boot box. There were absolutely no tags, promotional materials, registration materials, or anything else in the box. The boots are pre-laced in the package. When I took them out I took a long moment to look them over. The stitching seems to be perfect and the boots are quite attractive in a very rugged way.

There are reflective web straps strategically located on the front, back, and each side of the boot which will enhance safety when hiking at night. There are generously sized vents along the tops of the boot which should serve to keep the foot cool and ventilated and enhance overall comfort.

When I examined the interior of the boot I immediately noticed the way the waterproof lining wraps all the way around the top of the foot in one unbroken piece. Again, this should provide excellent waterproof capabilities.
IMAGE 3
The footbed is thicker in the back


Generally, my initial impression is quite favorable.

TRYING IT OUT

I have worn the boots twice so far, both times to visit colleges with my son. These visits included a college tour which means a mile or two of walking on sidewalks. The boots required virtually no "break-in" and were comfortable for me right out of the box.

I wore them all day including several hours of driving in my car and they were not hot or uncomfortable in any way. I look forward to wearing them on the trail.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will be using these boots extensively through the fall and winter months in our regular weekend hikes. The first extensive use with a load will be November 1 - 4 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where we are planning a 50 mile (81 km) hike. We will be constantly moving either uphill or down and will have at least 3 known stream crossings so the boots will get a thorough workout.

Throughout the rest of the fall and winter there will be multiple opportunities to use these boots to their full potential in the southern Appalachian highlands. We will be hiking a wide range of temperatures and in rain and possibly snow. I will be fully reporting on their comfort, waterproofness, and durability.

SUMMARY

These are classic mid-weight hikers with some interesting engineering features. They appear to be extremely well thought-out and, at least initially, are quite comfortable to wear.

I look forward to providing a full report on their performance.

Please check back in mid-December for my Field Report.

This concludes my initial report on the Keen Oregon PCT boots.


Field Report - January 11, 2009

I have continued to wear these boots in the fall around town, working in the yard etc. Additionally, I used them on one extended backpacking trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in November. This trip covered approximately 50 miles (81 km), in 4 days, constantly either uphill or down. We were on the east side of the park where the terrain is roughly defined by stream drainages, separated by high ridges. These streams run roughly north/south, and the trail we followed runs roughly east/west. This meant that we would descend to a stream crossing, climb to a ridgeline, cross the ridge and descend again to the next stream crossing. The elevation change between the ridgeline and the streams was approximately 3,000 ft. (914 m) so we were constantly either climbing or hiking downhill, sometimes rather steeply.

During this trip the weather was cool (down to approx. 40 F (4.4C) at night) , but dry. As there was no opportunity for resupply and the weather was predicted to turn ugly my pack tipped the scale at a hefty 52 lbs. (23 kg). This provided an excellent test for these boots in mountain backpacking conditions.

I am extremely impressed with these boots. They broke in easily, and provide excellent stability. They seemed to provide excellent traction in all conditions.

The unique "heel lockdown webbing strap" seems to perform exactly as designed. Even going up the steepest grades, or stepping up on boulders I never felt any slippage in my heel at all. The heel seemed to be locked in place yet I did not have to lace the boots unusually tightly to achieve this. Conversely, on steep downhills I felt the boot laces across the top of my foot, holding it in place. This saved me the discomfort of my foot sliding down, jamming my toes into the toe of the boot. The boot seemed generally roomy enough for my foot with a sock liner, covered by an intermediate weight wool sock.

I did not have an opportunity to test the waterproof qualities of this boot as we did not have any rain, and stream crossings were accomplished via bridge or rock-hopping.

Generally, I think that Keen has created an excellent new design. However, there is one issue that remains to be resolved. On the long hike I took I found that there is a manufacturing flaw on the right boot. Where the leather and synthetic fabric were joined on the right boot, at the ankle, there is a wrinkle in the fabric. This causes a hard wrinkle on the inside of the boot underneath the waterproof liner. This hard wrinkle is no problem walking around town. When carrying a pack long distances however, this becomes a real problem. By day 3 of our Smokies trip my right ankle was in severe pain. By the time we finished day 4 I was noticeably limping. This did not cause a blister on my ankle, but rather, a deep bruise that actually took about 2 weeks to completely heal up.

The left boot is extremely comfortable and I am certain that once I get a replacement pair from Keen, per their warranty, these will be an outstanding pair of boots.

Summary

The Keen Oregon PCT is an excellent product. It is grippy, comfortable, and handled a big load with no problem. The boots offer excellent protection against twisting, excellent traction, and handled a bid load with a minimum of problems.

I have not had an opportunity to fully test the waterproof capabilities though I have no reason to question their effectiveness. The revolutionary heel cinching system is very effective and these boots do not slip on your heels, no matter the situation.

I have a minor manufacturing defect on my right boot which causes discomfort in the right ankle. This situation becomes severe over a period of time. Keen's customer service and responsiveness to this issue has, to date, left a LOT to be desired.

This concludes my field report. Please check back in mid-March for my Long Term report.

I do wish to thank Keen and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test these boots.


Long Term Report - March 15, 2009

I have continued to use the Keen boots throug the winter months in our travels in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. I have worn these boots on two other weekend hiking trips and also on a couple of day hikes without a pack. In all circumstances they have performed admirably.

The first trip was in January into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This was a cold but dry weekend during which we hiked 6 miles (9.7 km) into a backcountry campsite carrying a 45 lb. (20.4 kg) pack. This was on frozen forest trails, and included some tricky stream crossings on frozen rocks. We took a 9 mile (14.5) dayhike, carrying only a light daypack, spending the night in the same campsite, then hiked out again on the following day.

As we hiked in the trail was icy in patches and frozen througout. The boots were quite grippy and gave excellent support. There were no issues at all that gave me any cause for concern. The boots fit snugly but comfortably around my feet and seemed to give excellent support. As I mentioned earlier, there were a couple of stream crossing on rocks that were slippery and cold. On one of these I landed squarely on a rock and proceeded to slide directly across it and off the other side into about 6 inches (15 cm) of freezing water. I kept moving and with one more big step I was on the bank. As I was wearing gaiters I did not get water into the top of the boot and my foot stayed dry. I turned and looking back at the rock from the opposite angle could see that it was covered with a sheet of ice. The slip was no fault of the boots, rather a careless accident on my part caused by poor visibility.

Through the next day as we hiked with only a light daypack the boots were extremely comfortable and kept my feet nice and toasty even though the temperature never peeked above freezing. As I normally do, I wore a pair of sock liners and a pair of mid-weight wool socks. The only time my feet began to get cold was in the afternoon when I removed my stocking cap for a while. I put my hat back on and soon my feet warmed back up. The boots had an excellent rocker motion to them and did not feel "clunky" at all. As a matter of fact, they are extremely comfortable to walk in while offering excellent protection from the rocks/roots/stumps they are asked to walk on.

Both of the dayhikes were in and around Greensboro North Carolina on relatively flat trails around local lakes. These were approximately 5 miles (8 km) in length and were done at a brisk pace carrying nothing.

As the point of this was to simply get some exercise I pushed the pace as hard as I could, completing the distance in a shade over 90 minutes. The boots were certainly heavier than sneakers, but again the excellent rocker motion and comfortable fit had the desired effect of making me work my leg muscles while still providing a pleasant walking experience.

Finally, we took a trip to Mount Rogers National Recreation Area which finally gave me a chance to fully test the boots waterproofing. Fortunately, we didn't have to walk in the pouring rain to accomplish this (what we gear testers would call a win/win). We arrived at the parking area about 8:00 at night, well after dark, for a 4.5 mile (7.25 km) hike to the shelter in which we would spend the night. This is a section of the Appalachian Trail with which we are very familiar and it climbs steadily for most of this distance and is quite rocky and boulder strewn.

IMAGE 4
The trail in morning light

The area had received approximately 8 inches (20.3 cm) of snow the previous weekend. The weather had moderated however and this night it was approximately 45 F (7.2 C) and the snow was melting rapidly. I had on the Keen boots and the usual sock liners and wool socks. We had also pulled on our gaiters before we left the car and I'm glad we did. As we hiked up the mountain we were alternately hiking in ice, snow, mud, slush, standing water, running water, and occasionally a firm trail. This was an absolutely outstanding test of the boots waterproof capabilities that went on for 2.5 straight hours. I have to say they passed with flying colors. I never felt any discomfort at all and when we reached the shelter my socks were dry. The boots feature reflective tabs on the back, sides, and top. My son, who was hiking behind me, reported that there were times that about the only thing he could see of me in the light of his headlight were those two reflective tabs bobbing along in front of him.

On the following day we took a day hike that led us back partially along the same route we had come in on, then down approximately 1500 feet (457 m) into a valley, then back up the other side in a big circle back to the same shelter. The temperature had warmed to approximately 60 F (15.6 C) and we were comfortable in t-shirts. The trail, however, was still a mess from the melting snow and we had ample opportunity to test our boots to their limits. I was completely impressed with their comfort and waterproof capabilities. The same boots that had kept my feet warm the previous night were not hot or uncomfortable to wear on a warm day, even though I worked up a good sweat climbing the steep trail back up the mountain to our shelter.

IMAGE 5
Hard working boots!


When we got home I left the boots outside in the sun to dry thoroughly. I then took a stiff brush to them and they cleaned up nicely, appearing none the worse for wear after a weekend that had tested them to their limit.

Final Summary

I have worn these boots for approximately 100 miles (161 km) of hiking carrying loads varying from nothing at all to packs weighing between 35 - 50 lbs. (16 - 23 kg). I have found them to be comfortable in virtually all conditions and a pair of boots that I am convinced will be among my favorites for a long time to come.

They are grippy, comfortable to walk in, and proved themselves to be up to a very stiff challenge when it came to wet weather performance. The heel cap snugs around your heel without feeling stiff or uncomfortable. The laces hold your foot in place, keeping it from sliding forward on steep downhills. The generous ventilation seems to minimize perspiration dampness, yet they kept my feet nice and warm on cold winter days.

I am extremely impressed with these boots and feel strongly that they are excellent performers in the mid-weight category.

I did have an issue with a poorly done seam which caused discomfort but Keen eventually made this right under warranty.

Things I like:

1) The overall comfort is outstanding
2) They are very waterproof, even under extreme conditions.
3) They give excellent support and protection even on extremely rocky trails.

Things I did not like:

1) Initial quality control issue


I would like to thank www.backpackgeartest.org and Keen for the opportunity to test these excellent boots.

This concludes my review of the Keen Oregon PCT boots.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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