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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > La Sportiva Trango Trek GTX > Tim Coughlin > Test Report by Tim Coughlin
I have been an active backpacker for 29 years, with experience hiking in many parts of the continental United States and Canada. Most of my time is spent in the Northeast, especially the Adirondack region of New York State. I practice lightweight and ultralight philosophies when backpacking. I’m a seasoned veteran to three-season backpacking, and have been expanding my experience outdoors to include winter backpacking. I am an avid four-season dayhiker.
5 December 2006
The test series begins in winter conditions in Northeast United States. The average daily temperatures are in steady decline, hitting lows in January and February. It’s not unusual to see temperatures during this period hovering at or below 0 F (-18 C). The ground has snow coverage. Snowfall is almost a daily occurrence.
March is still cold, but temperatures are a bit warmer, with daily temperatures around 20 F (-7 C). Winter does not fade until April, and then it very slowly releases its grip. Spring is cold, damp and long.
The La Sportiva Trango Trex GTX boots arrived via mail. Upon initial inspection, they arrived in 'New' condition without any discernable flaws. The boots are very much what I expected from my research of the La Sportiva website.
The Trango Trex GTX boots are an incredibly nice pair of boots. I almost feel wrong with taking them out on the trail and subjecting them to such a hostile environment; almost. The Trango Trex GTX are also an extremely strong pair of boots, designed for just such a hostile environment.
I have come to realize that I have a fairly wide foot. My heel is 'normal' and generally fits into any D-width shoe, but my forefoot, the area across the widest part of the foot near the toes, is wider than average. Therefore, I sometimes have some difficulty finding the right boot.
Boy, was I pleasantly surprised when I slipped right into the Trango Trex GTX! These boots fit me awesomely right out of the box. Although they are a little stiff, it's nothing some break-in time can't fix. I can't stress enough how well these boots fit!
They are a fine example of quality workmanship from top to bottom. The boots' features break down as follows:
The uppers are made of full grain leather. The leather has been treated by a process La Sportiva calls roughout that creates a rough finish to the leather. The leather is soft to the touch, but not smooth. All stitching is with white thread. The La Sportiva name can be seen on the outside of each boot. There is both a toe rand surrounding the forefoot area as well as a toe guard covering the front of each boot, offering a very thorough protective layer from scuffs and abrasions.
The lacing system contains five eyelets followed by two speed hooks. The lower five eyelets are created from, and are an integral part of, the leather uppers. Only the speed hooks are made from metal. The hardware appears to be substantial quality. All eyelets and speed hooks are fixed. The laces themselves seem durable.
The tongue system consists of a soft gusseted tongue. The tongue gusset folds easily out, like a piano hinge. The upper part of the tongue is softly padded, with the lower portion lined with Gore-Tex. The collar is very soft and nicely padded with dense padding.
The inside lining of the uppers is made of a soft, Gore-Tex lining material. It is gray in color. The midsole is made from a technology called PU Aircushion. From the La Sportiva website, "PU Aircushion - Found in polyurethane outsoles, this shock absorbing midsole is the inner hidden component of the dual density system. The foot and insole ride on this softer polyurethane aircushion which is molded in one piece to the harder lugged rubber outsole".
Along the bottom is the tough Vibram outersole, covered with an aggressive lug pattern. The XSV rubber used in the outersole and toe rand is "the hardest and stickiest climbing rubber on the market made for La Sportiva by Vibram. This proprietary formula surpasses all others in edging ability and smearing performance while remaining durable and even wearing."
By trying to flex the boot, I can feel the result of the nylon shank. The nylon shank barely flexes, leading to a stiff boot.
Beginning Tests - How They Feel
I've already commented that the Trango Trex GTX boots fit me wonderfully. I have plenty of room in my forefoot, while my heel is held in place as I step. I feel they offer all the support of a heavyweight backpacking boot. But, they go one step further. The most surprising attribute for me is a result of what La Sportiva calls "(i)nnovative articulating 3D Flex ankle". This is an incredibly clever idea on La Sportiva's part. It includes a flexible area located in the upper boot that allows for easy flexation of the ankle area. It occurs right along the hinge point of the upper boot, and is located in the plane of the flex. The boot tongue is designed to easily flex in the same plane. The result is a boot that offers all sorts of stability but feels like a lightweight boot by the user. It eliminates all the stiffness typical of a heavy-weight boot. This really deserves kudos; good job La Sportiva!
These are very well made boots. They have all the features of a heavyweight boot, but wear like a lightweight boot. This trick is due to the innovative "3-D Flex ankle". I'm thrilled with the fit right out of the box.
14 February 2007
Field Testing Information
What a merry-go-round the weather has been for Field Testing! At the beginning of the test series, I was enjoying one of the mildest winters on record. Then, bam! For the past month, it's been downright arctic with cold, cold temperatures and lots of snow.
I was able to manage only one backpack weekend during this time; but, I also had quite a bit of 'other' outdoor experiences using the Trango Trex boots that I feel need to be reported on.
The Backpack Trek: I attended our Boy Scout council's Winter Klondike Weekend at Camp Schollkopf the weekend of January 19, 20, 21. Conditions were mild by my standards: daytime temperature hovered around 28 F (-2 C) and dipped to 20 F (-7 C) at night. The ground was snow-covered, with an 8 in (20 cm) base. We experienced occasional flurries over the weekend. Elevation was around 800 ft (244 m). Actual backpacking (i.e. hiking with all gear in a backpack) was approximately 3 mi (5 km) on the first day, 5 mi (8 km) the second day, and 3 mi (5 km) on the way out on day three.
Other outdoor experiences: I have worn these boots literally everyday since their arrival. As such, I have logged approximately 30 mi (48 km) hiking and another 20 mi (32 km) snowshoeing. I have worn them when I took my kids sledding on two occasions, and constantly the past two weeks shoveling, pushing stuck cars out of the snow and to work everyday. This has been necessary due to the harsh winter conditions we have been experiencing. Temperatures have been around 0 F (-18 C) with wind-chills as low as -30 F (-34 C), and several feet of snow. The amount of snow has varied, depending on where I was around Western New York, but in general the depth of the snow is around 4 ft (122 cm).
Let me begin by stating my overall opinion of the Trango Trex GTX by La Sportiva - I love these boots! I really mean that. I have been very impressed with their performance. The features of these awesome boots are detailed below.
From the moment I first wore the Trango Trex GTX, they fit me wonderfully. I have a normal sized heel, but need a little extra room around the front of my foot. The Trango Trex GTX fit me like a glove. Well, no, actually more like a boot! In all tests, I wore a single layer of Smart Wool socks on my feet. The break-in period was almost non-existent, since they adjusted to me almost immediately. Besides fitting me great, the key areas of the boot were extremely flexible right out of the box. This was especially true in the front ankle area.
The boots have kept my feet dry in all conditions I have encountered. I have worn the Trango Trex through boot-sucking mud, dry trails, wet, slushy snow, and deep powder. The Gore-Tex lining has kept moisture from reaching my feet, while at the same time allowing my feet to breathe. The only time they did get wet was from me post holing in snow past my knees. The snow came in over the top of the boot which is no reflection on the boot's performance.
The traction of the Trango Trex GTX has been unbelievable! These boots shed mud as well as snow and ice. I've scaled up hills pulling my younger children on a toboggan while others around me were slipping and falling.
I've been quite surprised at how well my feet feel when I'm wearing the Trango Trex GTX boots. This has been regardless of whether I was wearing a pack loaded with gear, out for an afternoon hike with my dog, or standing still for extended periods. The boots supply my feet with plenty of anatomical support, allowing me to enjoy more comfortable feet and legs.
The lateral stability provided by the Trango Trex GTX has been great. I was surprised actually, for I feared the flex ankle and other 'soft' points would undermine the structural integrity of the boot. But, it hasn't. I'm not sure how, but the boots still offer awesome lateral stability. Kudos La Sportiva for pulling this off!
These boots are durable. After going over these boots very, very carefully, the only wear and tear I can find is a couple minute smudges on the toe guard of each boot. This is all the more impressive when you consider I've trounced through boot-wrecking mud and water in these boots. The Trango Trex GTX were so covered with mud after a couple of hikes early on in the field testing phase that I had to wash them in the stationary sink in the basement just to get the mud off.
Summary of Field Impressions
The La Sportiva Trango Trex gTX boots I am testing are my favorite boots of all time right now. The fit great, look good, and supply all the support I need to cover tough terrain wearing a pack. Plus, on top of all that, they keep my feet dry! About the only flaw I've experienced is my feet tend to get cold if I'm out for extended periods. But, since these boots aren't insulated, I can't really fault them, they're really not designed for the conditions I've tested them in lately. By simply slipping on my pair of NEOS overboots over my Trango Trex, that seemed to raise the comfort level by at least ten degrees.
17 April 2007
Long Term Field Testing Information
Weather during long-term testing has ranged from a low of -10 F (-23 C) with wind-chill temperatures as low as -35 F (-37 C) to highs of 70 F (21 C). Testing included two weekend backpacks and several day hikes. Total overnight camping during long-term testing included six nights. Both trips were local in Western New York. Snow was abundant on both outings. Temperatures on both outings varied from about 20 F (-7 C) to 40 F (4 C). Day hiking included hikes all over Western New York. There were 10 hikes over 5 miles (8 km) in length.
In summary, I wore the boots for a total of about 75 mi (120 km) of hiking, carrying a pack on almost all of them, and for periods up to 10 hours outside doing things besides hiking. Temperatures for this entire test period were cold, except for a brief business trip to Atlanta where I was able to get in some day hiking in nice temperatures approaching the 70 F (21 C) mark.
Long Term Results
I could not be happier with these boots. I already outlined their excellent insulating characteristics in the Field Report, but I am happy to report now that I have not seen any drop in performance over the long haul. The boots wear light on my feet, causing me no discomfort, even if I wear them all day. I have good support with the insoles that came with the boots. They provided me with enough arch support throughout this series, but I will probably replace them soon for more high-mileage hiking as the weather begins to improve. Realize this is simply a personal preference.
I was concerned at the onset of this test series that I might have some issues with the outer leather. It was very soft and I wasn’t sure of its durability. After four months of testing, I can honestly say that I had nothing to worry about. It has held up beautifully. I have worn these boots while snowshoeing too. There are not deep scratches or mars in the leather that I typically have by now. I think the toe rand did a great job of protecting the toe box from damage. The rand shows some signs of scratching, but nothing has penetrated into the leather below.
With all the hiking I like to do, it’s very common for me at times to do a fair bit of post-holing, especially in the springtime. This was no different for this series. But, because it was so easy to tighten the tops of the boots to my calves, I never had a problem of snow getting into my boots.
These boots were my first exposure to Gore-Tex lined boots. In summary, I can say I like Gore-Tex. In my boots it has worked very well. It is showing some signs of wear in the heel region of both boots. I believe this is from putting the boots on and taking them off. This area does not leak though. I have noticed that the Gore-Tex caused my boots to be considerably warmer. This was not a problem for the cold-weather testing, but I cannot comment on warmer conditions because I simply have not had enough experience yet.
There is some odor after four months of testing, especially right after I remove the boots. I have not treated this with anything during testing, since I did not want to damage the Gore-Tex lining. This is not an ‘overpowering’ problem. I mention it only because someone may be interested.
Overall, the boots have held up great. Right now, they are covered with mud. But, underneath they look good. They clean up easily with a little water and elbow grease.
The soles of the boots look exceptionally good. In fact, there is so little wear I think all the snow actually protected them from wearing. Since I have had so little opportunity to test the boots without snow covering the ground, I cannot say for sure. I hope they continue to hold this well.
I would recommend these boots to anyone with feet like mine – normal in the heel but wide across the toes. These boots required virtually no break-in for me. They look nice enough to wear as commuter boots as well as hiking boots. They have held up very well. I really like the Gore-Tex lining.
Thank you La Sportiva and BGT for an excellent test.
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