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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Merrell Chameleon Evo Mid Boot > Test Report by Ray Estrella

Merrell Chameleon Evo Mid Gore-Tex Boots
Test Series by Raymond Estrella

INITIAL REPORT - May 07, 2009
FIELD REPORT - July 07, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - September 09, 2009


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, plus many western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly UL, I try to be as near to it as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with brother-in-law Dave.


The Product

Manufacturer: Wolverine World Wide Inc.
Web site:
Product: Chameleon Evo Mid Gore-Tex
Year manufactured/received: 2009
MSRP: US $150.00
Size: US Men's 11
Sizes available: Men's 7-15
Weight listed: 2 lb 2 oz (1.08 kg)
Actual weight of test pair 2 lb 10.6 oz (1.21 kg)
Color tested: Dark Earth, also available in Canteen


Product Description

The Merrell Chameleon Evo Mid Gore-Tex boots (hereafter called the Merrells or the boots) are mid-height leather and mesh hiking boots that the manufacturer suggests are useful for day-hiking and outdoor play. But while they do not suggest it as a backpacking boot, I have found that with the weights I carry this style works well for even long distance backpacking. Over the course of the next four months I will be using them for day-hikes, short and medium length backpacking trips.

The Merrells were delivered to me in their retail box. Inside the box were the boots along with a fold out circular brochure printed in six languages of Merrell marketing information. The boots also had three hang tags attached. One was from Vibram, the manufacturer of the soles. The other is from Merrell discussing the Ortholite insoles (more later), and one from Gore with their Gore-Tex guarantee.

The Chameleons were pretty much what I expected after finally viewing them at the Merrell web site listed above. I say "finally" because the Flash driven site is slow, difficult to negotiate, and does not play well with others. Other's browsers that is. I could not function correctly through the layers to get to the actual boot until I switched from Chrome to Internet Explorer.

about face, hey, youre backwards

These are mid height hiking boots, hence the "Mid" in the name. They stand 6 in (15 cm) high. The outside is made of waterproof Nubuck leather with a bunch of oblong holes cut out, over a body of "Breathable Aegis Antimicrobial Air Mesh". (Say that three times fast…) The leather gives the body support while still allowing the mesh to let the boot breathe. All of the main seams on the leather portions of the boot are double stitched; the stitching around the cut-outs is single stitched.

The somewhat stiffly-padded ankle cuffs are built with an ergonomic cut, swooping down along the sides and back up on the Achilles tendon. At the back of the ankle cuff is a nylon pull loop that I can actually get my finger through. Thank you again Merrell! (I have tested their boots in the past.)
How about some tongue baby
The breathable padded tongue is constructed "bellows style". It has mesh attaching the tongue to the side of the opening to keep debris out of the boot as can be seen here. It goes as high as the lowest point of the ankle cuff to maximize protection, I like this feature a lot. Unlike all the other Merrell boots I have owned the tongue does not have a loop on the upper center section of the tongue to keep the tongue from sliding sideways into the boot. I will watch this to see if it is needed or not.

The boot is made waterproof by the common means of a Gore-Tex liner. But what is new to me is the terminology to describe it. Merrell say they use Gore-Tex Gasket Construction, but I can find nothing on their web site or the included information to explain what this consists of.

Another new detail in the construction is the use of Gore-Tex Fabric Lining. This black fabric is very soft and smooth. It looks and feels like micro-fleece. As nocturnal trips out of the tent see me shoving bare feet in my boots I shall be reporting on the comfort of this new lining material.

The black parts at the back and sides, seen best in the top picture, are what Merrell describes as "Injection Molded TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) Instep Stability Arm" and the "Injection Molded TPU Counter Reinforcement". It acts as an exo-skeleton for the boot, and helps to lock the heel in place. I had this on another pair of their boots two years ago and notice that it has been moved slightly forward.

The toe of the boot is protected by a black rubber rand, as is the very back of the heel.

The semi-round nylon laces run through a series of nylon loops and culminate at two sets of lace hooks at the top. The laces are heavily textured and are rough to the touch. Although Merrell does not mention it, I can think of two reasons for this. One, they are easier to grip with sweaty hands or in cold or wet conditions. Two, it keeps the laces from loosening as easily as smooth laces.

Im pouring out my sole here

The "Vibram Chameleon Speed Hiker Soles", seen above, have a claimed lug depth of 5 mm, and the famous yellow Vibram elongated octagon logo of course. They are attached to the boot with some type of adhesive, some of which may be seen along the edges. The soles roll a little bit up the sides and toes of the boots.

Inside of the boots are the Merrell Air Cushion Midsoles seen below. This is the Ortholite talked about on the hang tag. They claim to permit air flow for cool feet, wick moisture, and inhibit fungus and odor along with the normal insole job of cushioning.

Halloween insoles

The quality of my test boots seem to be very good. The stitching is all straight and uniform. There are no loose threads or blemishes. The fit when tried on in my office was great. I really like the looks of them too. I thought being called Chameleon that they would make my feet seem to disappear. I know, maybe they will allow me to hike so fast that they will disappear, right over the next pass…

This concludes my Initial Report for the Chameleon Evo Mids. I shall be breaking them in next week on some farm roads with a backpacking trip the following weekend. Should all go well I will have them to Yosemite later this month. Please come back in a couple months and see how they (and my tootsies) fared. (This concludes the Itial Report, the following is from the first two months of testing.)


Field Data

I broke them in by walking 8 miles on dirt farm roads outside of Moorhead Minnesota, and then I wore them on a two day trip to Maplewood State Park to pre-scout sites for this summer's hiking with the kids. The trails were free of snow but quite wet and muddy in spots. I walked 12 mi (19 km) carrying a 21 lb (9.5 kg) pack. The temps ranged from 34 to 45 F (1 to 7 C).

After putting SOLE footbeds in them I wore them for further break-in use walking 5 miles (8 km) along Huntington Beach.

Next was the big trip. I wore them on a four-day trip to the Hetch Hetchy region of Yosemite National Park. The coldest it got was 35 F (2 C) and the elevations ranged from 3800 to 8400 ft (1160 to 2560 m) with trails that were mostly rock with a bit of packed dirt, and some marshy, muddy spots. There was a lot of water on the trails, as may be seen below. I did 46 mi (74 km) with over 10,800 ft (3300 m) of gain carrying a pack with 37 lb (16.8 kg) starting out.

At Hetch Hetchy

The following weekend Dave and I went to San Gorgonio Wilderness. We went to Washington Monument and climbed San Bernardino Peak and East San Bernardino Peak, plus spent some time looking for the junction of a long defunct trail. (We never did find it.) We stayed at Limber Pine Bench. The weather was foul the first day with snow and later rain. The next day was nice but cool. It got down to 36 F (2 C) at night and was probably down there when the snow started falling but the Kestrell was under the Packa (pack cover). I put 20 miles (32 km) on the boots with 5630 ft (1716 m) of elevation gain. We were on dirt, rock, packed drift snow and fresh snow. I carried a 25 lb (11.3 kg) pack.

I went back to San Gorgonio Wilderness to do some bushwhacking to find the old unmaintained trail. I spent the night at Limber Pine Bench again. It was much warmer this time. The temps were between 42 F and 67 F (6 to 19 C). I went about 18 mi (29 km) over every kind of terrain from rock to deep pine and oak duff.

Next I used them on an over-night backpacking trip with my children, Emma and Ray. We went to Maplewood State Park in Minnesota where we camped at Cow Lake. The trails were still very muddy in places. The temps ran from 80 F down to 48 F (27 to 9 C) and it only sprinkled a little in the evening. I carried a BIG pack with about 30 lb (13.6 kg) or so in it. We went about 7 mi (11 km).

Next was a two and a half day backpacking trip in Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada range just south of Mount Langley. The temps ranged from lows of 30 F to highs of 80 F ( to C) over trails that varied from sand and dirt, to scree and exposed rock, with a little muddy creek slogging to keep things interesting. The high point was 11200 ft ( m). This trip saw 59 miles ( km) with 734 ft ( m) of gain go into the hiking log. My starting pack weight was 23 lb (10.4 kg).


Well this is a test that I literally hit the trail running. Well hiking fast at least…

I really did not need any break-in time with the Chameleons, as they were very comfortable right out of the box. But I did have a problem with the insoles. As this is common I put a pair of SOLE Ultra footbeds that I had in some mountaineering boots in the Merrells. It turned out to take up too much volume so I put some new SOLE Dean Karnazes Signature Edition footbeds in the Chameleons. This did the trick. (I tested an earlier pair of Merrell Passage Ventilator Mid boots that I had to replace the insoles in too.) A couple more little hikes to make sure that it was all good and I went to put them through Ray Hell.

I quickly slammed out 163 mostly hard wet miles (261 km) in less than six weeks. I subjected the Chameleons to days of walking through snow, trails full of water, horrible sole destroying scree on steep sliding trails, mud over the tops of them and even fell in a river for good measure. They have been rained on, snowed on, hailed on, and cooked by high altitude UV. Although they are positioned as a day-hiker I have used them on long multi-day trips with heavy weight. They have been used on trail and bushwhacking through all kinds of terrain off-trail. They even got to ride along with a land slide for a ways down a mountain.

And like Oscar they have said, "Please, sir, may I have another?"

The waterproof protection provided by the Gore-Tex has been top notch. This may have been the wettest spring I have hiked in for many years. The first trip in MN and the trip to Hetch Hetchy saw a lot of water (and hundreds of salamanders) in the trails, plus I have been in my normal collection of snow because of the altitudes I frequent. One day near Mt San Gorgonio was spent hiking and climbing in falling snow and rain. I purposely walk through each creek I cross as long as I can keep the water from going over the top. And not once have I seen any leaking. This little fellow liked the moisture handling capabilities of his fellow water lover too. Salamander, meet Chameleon.

Two waterproof critters

I also got to see how the Chameleons do with water once they get wet inside. Not because the liner failed, but because I decided to cross the south fork of the Kern River by walking on the tops of submerged rocks. I made it about two-thirds of the way across when, to the amused entertainment of Dave, I slipped off one rock and spent the next 10 seconds trying to stay upright as I slipped and splashed across the rest of the river. I had extra socks and changed at the far bank. While hiking my body heat and exertion level proved enough to dry out the boots as I climbed to Haiwee pass.

The comfort level has been pretty good once I changed the insoles. I could really feel rocks with the original ones, and can still with the SOLES when descending very rocky trails, a condition I find myself in quite often. I have not got a single blister, even when putting in a 32 mile ( km) day in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The soles have better traction than the other Merrells I tested and better than any of my current crop of boots. The Chameleons do very well on all kinds of rock, even wet surfaces have been no problem. I do like going uphill better than going down steep stuff though. My toes get a bit sore after a lot of steep descent, but this too is common for most of my hiking footwear. I butted heads with this guy over whose shoes were better for the Pacific Crest Trail where this was taken. Ugly, stinky, beast. The horse wasn't much better…

Two fat beasts

The support of the Chameleons has been very good too. I spent a day bushwhacking that saw me going down a huge boulder field, having to hop from one unlevel rock to the next. Later I was in thick oak and pine duff that covered hidden rocks I like to call ankle-busters. I escaped with my ankles intact, thank you Merrell.

The durability of the boots was shown on this trip too. While trying to find a course back to a known location I was kind of plunge-stepping sideways down a very steep section. I wandered into a scree field that was covered by years of duff. I inadvertently set off a landslide. I found myself on my face sliding down the mountain. The Chameleons were riding along toes down with a bunch of rocks. They escaped in pretty good shape. (I wish I could say the same for the legs stuck into them…)

About the only thing that I have to complain about is the laces. Because the nylon that they are made of is stiff the textured pattern, meant to lock them in, just slides constantly leading to untied laces. When bushwhacking or going through over-grown trails they come untied many times during the day. Even double-knotting them only helps delay the inevitable for a while longer. I may swap them out before my next long trip.

This seems like a good place to end my field report. I have plenty of more hiking in store for the Chameleons over the next two months, so won't you please come back then to see how they did? I leave with a shot of them on a rock spire in the eastern Sierra Nevada.

Chameleon on the rocks

Hey, you're back. Cool! Read on for my Long Term Report.


Field Locations

In July my kids came to California for a couple weeks and we did an over-night backpacking trip to San Jacinto State Park where we stayed at Round Valley. The temperatures were warm, only making it to 54 F at night and 82 F (12 to 28 C) in the daytime. I carried a well loaded Aether 85 with about 40 lb (18.1 kg) in it, much of it water weight as I had a soft cooler with frozen Gatorade to keep things cold. (Yes, this was a luxury trip.) I put 11 mi (18 km) on the boots with 1500 ft (460 m) of gain.

Then Jenn and I spent three days backpacking in Yosemite National Park. Temps ranged from 43 to 80 F (6 to 27 C) and we weathered a violent thunder/snow/hail storm our first afternoon. The trails were mostly rock, including very wet rock down the famous Mist Trail. I put 20 mi (32 km) on the boots carrying a starting pack weight of 28 lb (12.7 kg).

Next I went on a solo overnighter to climb Sugarloaf Mountain. The trails started as decomposed granite and turned to thumb sized gravel, then sharp shale. The return loop was mostly on dirt fire control roads. 24 miles (39 km) and 4700 ft (1433 m) of gain carrying a 35 lb (15.9 kg) pack as I had two gallons (7.6 L) of water starting out and some luxury items.

Lastly I spent two days hiking and another driving/hiking placing water caches for upcoming backpacking trips in the Mohave Desert, Tehachapi and Piute Mountains. It was very hot, over 100 F (38 C) each day. I carried up to 3-˝ gallons of water at a time in the Exos 46 along with my lightest summer gear. The heaviest day was 42 lb starting out. I put about 25 mi (40 km) total on the Merrells.

The reason I care, Ray, Emma & cousin K.


As the end of summer saw me spending more time with my children (as seen above), and getting ready for the fall push (my busiest hiking season) the use and distance put on the Merrells has dropped. I was able to put 80 mi (130 km) more on the Chameleons. Even though the distance was down the weights were up though.

The boots have continued to work well for me. The soles are still in very good condition. For as well as they have done traction-wise they show remarkably little wear. I went down the infamously wet Mist Trail in Yosemite with Jenn with nary a slip. Well actually without a slip period. I have just always wanted to use "nary" in a report…

The leather has been showing a patina (ooh, another one) of cracks, undoubtedly from all the water I have subjected the boots to over the past four months. But for as bad as it may look it has not compromised the waterproofness of the Chameleons one bit. As of a couple weeks ago (as I write this) they are still completely water-tight. As I have seen the Gore-Tex liners fail in some of my boots in as little as 60 mi (100 km) I will call the 243 mi (390 km) of dry-sock travel with the Chameleons strapped on my trail-trippers a rousing success.

A couple things that I have not cared for. The laces are horrible. They are the most durable laces I have ever seen. They show not a bit of wear. But that is because they are made of the stiffest, slickest, super-nylon I have ever seen. If Merrell is covering the laces under their warranty they have a winner! I sure can't wear them out. But the dang things will not stay tied. I even double-knot them and they come loose as I push through brush. Regularly tied they will come undone in a matter of hours on a good trail with no grabbing brush.

Also I have noticed that the foam inside the ankle cuff has become very stiff and unyielding. It got to the point it was giving me bruises, yet I needed to keep it snug, especially while descending. It needs to be remembered though that I have used this boot as a full-on long-trail hiking boot, not the care-free, skip-through-the-heather, day-hiker it is marketed as…

Merrell, I think you have a winner with this boot. Of all your boots and shoes I have used and tested this was my favorite. I thank you and for allowing me to put them through the wringer, and I hope to do it again sometime down the trail. (Get rid of those laces though, please?)


I measure happiness with an altimeter

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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