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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Merrell Mid 5 Chameleon Ventilator > Owner Review by John Waters

November 23, 2013



NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: jrw at backpackgeartest dot org
AGE: 64
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado USA
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.40 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in the Cooper Mountain range, with other day-long hikes on various other southwest and central Colorado trails. I frequently hike the mountains and deserts of Utah and Arizona as well. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


Manufacturer: Merrell, a division of Wolverine World Wide, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US $160.00
Listed Weight: 2 lb 11 oz (1.2 g) per pair
Measured Weight: 2 lb 10 oz (1.2 g), per pair, based on size US 10.5/UK 10
Sizes Available: US 7-14/UK 6.5-13.5
Size Reviewed: US 10.5/UK 10
Widths Available/Reviewed: Medium
Color Available/Reviewed: Black/Slate

Other details: From the Manufacturer's website

UPPER/LINING • Strobel construction
• Pig suede leather and mesh upper
• Bellows tongue keeps debris out
• External heel stability arm
• Lining treated with Aegis®
• Metal hook and lacing eyelet for secure lacing

• 2mm Flexible plate in the forefoot protects the foot from stone bruises
• Grade 6 nylon insole for backpacking with a medium pack
• 2mm EVA insole for comfort and shock absorption
• Compression Molded EVA footframe provides cushioning
• 5mm sole lug depth
• Vibram® Chameleon 5 Sole / TC5+Rubber


The exterior composition of these boots is fabric mesh and suede. There are 7 fabric mesh venting areas, of various sizes, on both sides and the tongue is also primarily mesh except for a suede area at the top of the tongue. The entire top portion of the heel area is also mesh. The rear of the boot up to the tongue has well-padded side walls that comfortably surround my ankles.

The innersole is a standard mass produced version that Merrell calls "Air Cushion", but is one I see in most boots as off-the-shelf insoles.

The lacing system uses 4 rows of heavy duty eyelets, a 5th row with a strap for tension at ankle level and then two top tows of quick lace U hooks. Even after loosening up the laces to take the boots off, the system allowed me to just pull the laces and tighten up with just one pull. The laces that come with the boot are heavy duty and hold well when tied.

There is a front rubber toe protector and a rear heel protector. The soles are Vibram and have a very aggressive and unusual tread pattern consisting mostly of ovals of different sizes. The folks at CSI (crime scene investigation) would have no trouble identifying the shoe model from imprints at a crime scene for sure.

Gore-Tex equipped, these boots worked great for me in snow.


I received these boots back in April when there was still snow on the ground and as I write this report, I've worn them through spring, summer and now into fall and it's snowing again. In these past almost seven months, I estimate I have worn the boots over 75 days and have put well-over 150 miles (240 km) on them.

Chameleon's on Nightmare trail
Snowshoeing on the Nightmare on Baldy Mountain Trail
I have worn the Merrell Chameleons on long, strenuous hikes, overnights, while working around the house, working on my microwave towers, doing business and, of course, around the house.

In the seven months I've had them; I've been backpacking and hiking in Colorado and Utah. Most of my outings were in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) properties behind our ranch (over 400 square miles/1000 square km of mountain terrain) and in the Wet Mountains near Westcliffe, Colorado. Altitude in these areas reaches to over 11,000 ft. (3353 m). I also wore the Chameleons snowshoeing in the Tenmile Range near Breckenridge where the elevation averages over 11,000 ft (3400 m).

Except when it was covered with snow, the terrain was almost always high desert rocky semi-groomed trails, pebble scree, or boulders. The uneven ground consisted of everything from small shale shards to slabs of granite with very little packed dirt. When the trails weren't hard rock, they were the powdery, dusty, slippery consistency of our expansive soil (soil that expands when wet).

Winter temperatures dipped as low as 22 F (-6 C) during some of our snowshoe treks, but it was an extremely hot summer with most days over 90 F (32 C) and many over 100 F (38 C). At all times though I still wore mid-calf medium-weight synthetic or wool socks with the Chameleon boots.
My backpack weight for day hikes averaged 15 lb (7 kg) and for overnights, about 25 lb (11 kg).

There are a few things I look for in backpacking footwear.

1. Can I go down a 40 degree or steeper incline with rocks covered in dry dust without breaking my neck by sliding on a rock? The dry dusty soil creates a real slippery surface on rocks. Real easy to break a leg or sprain an ankle.

In my Merrells I feel secure going down a steep hill. I have noticed that these appear to run a tad small because in my 10.5 US size, my toes do hit the front of the toe box on steep downhill slopes. I have not experienced any slipping on rocks that would cause me worry and the soles handle ice and slush just fine with a very aggressive tread.

2. Do I ever feel like I am in danger of twisting an ankle? Low trail shoes do not have as much ankle supports as mid-height boots, but certain designs stop the foot from lateral movement and break-aways.

The Merrells, being a mid with a solid shell, offer great secure support. In fact, they are a tight fit with little slop around my ankle, gripping firmly around my leg and not allowing dangerous twisting.

3. Do the shoes make my feet feel sore, like I can't wait to take them off?

They are quite comfortable and I have had no problems with blisters or rubbing. These are not very flexible, so I'm not going to wear them around the house to relax in, but while on the trail hiking or snowshoeing or working, they don't remind me they are on my feet.

4. Do my feet stink or sweat a lot?

I have not had any problems with sweating or stinking.

5. Do the shoes hold up well after miles/kilometers of rough use?

They have held up very well. After over 150 miles of wear (240 km) there is no sign of the Vibram soles pitting and the upper body has no fraying or delamination anywhere.

6. If they are advertised as waterproof or water resistant, do they meet the claim?
I've had these out in snow and rain and my feet have not gotten wet. Even when snowshoeing with my boots covered in snow for long distances, no water entered the interior and my feet were dry. That is not the case with other "waterproof" boots I have tested. The Merrells performed very well. Of course, no boot will keep water out that enters from the top and I did get a little snow into the top of one boot while snowshoeing. However, the boot vented well and my foot was still comfortable and dried within 30 minutes. The tops can be tied tightly and the sides are quite tight against my legs, so even with a pile of snow on the very top, if brushed off quickly, very little will get down into the boot.
Bushwhacking in BLM
Bushwhacking in BLM

Initially, I did have one quibble with the Chameleons and involves taking the boots off. The heel curves down from the back to the sole and does not leave a lip or ridge where the sole meets the upper body of the boot. I am in the habit of loosening boot laces, opening the tongue a little and then pushing the boot off with the opposite boot using its toe against the heel lip.

Well, without one, I found that really difficult to do. When I first started using the Chameleons, I had to pull the boot off with my hands. Then I was pointing my toes straight up and pushing off from the back side as best I could on the floor.

I noticed the little round Merrell emblem button on the heel and was able to use that to push off with the opposite boot toe. Then I found that the tongue lacing system allowed me to easily loosen up so I can open the tongue almost half way down towards my toes and I can easily slide out by just holding the back of the boot with one finger. With the tongue that wide opened, it is also easy to slide my foot in. So this is different for me, but between the long opening and the Merrell emblem button, I have been able to at least work around my old habit of boot removal.


1.) The Chameleons fit my feet well with no break-in period required.
2.) With the mid-height and supportive arch, the Chameleons offer me excellent stability.
3.) Vibram outsoles give me good grip on all surfaces.
4.) I really like the Cameleon lacing system.


1.) Try as I might, I can't think of anything that seriously needs to be changee about these boots.


I've worn the Merrell Chameleons through three seasons now; from snowshoeing on mountain trails on through to backpacking in the torrid desert heat. I've found them to be great footwear in all of those conditions. They keep my feet comfortable, dry and bruise-free, no matter the weather or the terrain and have stood up to all the abuse I've dished out. I feel totally secure in the Chameleons' ability to protect my feet and to keep me sure-footed on any surface. They are wearing well, if at all, and I expect to be wearing them for a long while. Bring on winter snow.

Thanks you to Merrell for making such a great product for me to wear.

John R. Waters

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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