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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Merrell Chameleon Evo Mid Boot > Test Report by Ray Estrella
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.
Manufacturer: Wolverine World Wide Inc.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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).
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 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…
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.
Hey, you're back. Cool! Read on for my Long Term Report.
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.
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.
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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Merrell Chameleon Evo Mid Boot > Test Report by Ray Estrella
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