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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Merrell Outbound Mid Boots > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

MERRELL OUTBOUND MID GORE-TEX BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY KATHLEEN WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 06, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 26, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - March 11, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy@backpackgeartest.com
AGE: 59
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 35-acre/14-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Merrell, a division of Wolverine World Wide, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.merrell.com
MSRP: US $185
Listed Weight: 3 lb (1.4 kg) men's - taken from website, no size listed
Measured Weight: 2 lb 10 oz (1.2 kg) for pair
Sizes Available: Men’s Sizes: 7-12, including half sizes, and 13,14,15 whole sizes only/ Women’s Sizes: 5-11, including half sizes
Size Tested: 7.5 women's
Colors Available: Bungee Cord
Color Tested: Bungee Cord (brown)
Merrell Mid Boots
Picture Courtesy of Merrell

Other details: (quoted from manufacturer's website)

• GORE-TEX® Gasket Construction
• Cordura, Synthetic and Ripstop Mesh Upper
• Comfort Padded Lycra® Collar
• GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort Lining Treated with Aegis®
• Breathable Padded Bellows Tongue
• Metal Hook and Lacing Eyelet
• Reinforced Silicone Molded Synthetic Instep and Heel Stability Arm
• Molded TPU Abrasion Resistant Full Length Toe and Heel Bumper
• 4.5mm Ortholite® Anatomical Footbed
• Merrell Spring Motion™ Technology Insole; Grade 4 Men’s, Grade 3 Women’s
• Lightweight Direct Injected Polyurethane Midsole
• Merrell Air Cushion
• 7 mm Sole Lug Depth
• Vibram® Outbound Sole/ CT Rubber

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

With seven different photos showing every possible angle of the Merrell Outbound boots, plus generous description and specs links, the Merrell website insured there would be no surprises in the appearance of the boots when they arrived on my doorstep!

At first glance, the boots look to be heavy due to the substantial soles and fairly rigid body, especially after a summer of wearing low-cut trail shoes. However, looks are deceiving and when I removed the boots from the box, I found them to be rather light.

The dark brown body of the boot is a combination of fabric and molded TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) generally means PU elastomers) which forms the toe rand and side and heel bumpers. On the outside (foot) of this bumper is embossed a stenciled indented "Merrell" logo. This logo stretches from toe to almost the heel, so thankfully, it is same-colored as the bumper. An additional "Merrell" small gray stencil is at the outside ankle. Other company advertisements on the topsides of the boots are a very tiny metal "Gore-Tex" tag near the (lacing) eyelets and an equally tiny yellow "Vibram" label near the instep.

Seven sets of securely fastened metal eyelets march up the front of the boot. Four sets of the eyelets are standard loops with the remaining 3 sets, quick lace hooks. The laces are smooth, solid colored round laces of a good length - not too short, but not so long as to need multiple "double bows".
Sole of Merrell Outbound boots
Picture Courtesy of Merrell

The collar of the boot is nicely padded as is the gusseted tongue. An almost fleece-like lining covers the whole interior of the boots, except for the stock-standard inner sole.

Turning the Outbounds over to examine the sole's tread, I was duly impressed with the design and depth of it. Some of the lugs are slightly more than a quarter inch thick (6 mm)! Rather than a traditional outside-rimmed sole with individual lugs forming the interior or the sole, the Outbounds have an "open" design. With ample "channels" to the periphery of the Vibram soles, the boots should shed mud and snow well. The twelve interior lugs should provide the needed gripping action. Quite neat, I think!

TRYING IT OUT

My initial pleasure upon seeing these very cool Merrell boots turned to dismay when I pulled them on for the first time. Immediately, I felt the boots were too big for my feet. I quickly checked all of my other boots (6 pairs close at hand) for sizing and found that all but one pair were size 8 women's. The only variant was a pair of size 8.5 women's boots. So, I was surprised the size 8 Outbounds didn't fit.

My nearest retailer carrying the Outbounds only had a size 7 women's to try on which I did to see just how they would feel. I was easily able to pull on the size 7s and was even able to walk around the store, testing them out on the retailer's simulated rock/hill climb. While I found the size 7s were just a bit tight, there was no doubt in my mind that the size 8s were definitely, too big.

I am in the process of exchanging the boots with Merrell at this time.

Despite the mis-sizing on my part, the Outbounds feel great! Very solid construction with a nicely padded collar leads me to believe the boots will be very supportive in the coming winter months with the attendant snow and icy conditions. The Gore-Tex lining is smooth and almost fleecy giving me the impression of warmth - another great winter feature. The padded tongue is gusseted high so I suspect snow will have a hard time melting into my socks.

The Merrell Outbounds appear to be well made with no visible imperfections. All stitching is neat and straight with no loose threads. The sole is firmly attached to the body of the boots without any noticeable glue "blobs". There are no snags in fabric, scratches on the hard surfaces or signs of unraveling laces. The Outbounds look good!

Obviously, subjecting the boots to the great outdoors will have to wait until I receive the proper size, but I'm excited about the prospect and have plans for lots of winter fun.

SUMMARY

This concludes my Initial Report on the Merrell Outbound Mid Boots. See below for the results of my first two months of testing. Thanks!


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Snowshoeing at Snowbasin in Utah
Snowshoeing at Snowbasin in Utah with Kathryn Doiron
With the Christmas holidays and then a bout with a nasty cold, I was only able to wear the Merrell Outbound Boots on 3 day hikes during these last two months. I also wore the Boots on an all-day outing at Snowbasin in Utah for the annual All Mountain Day at the Outdoor Retailer Winter 2010 Show.

All the day hikes were in the mountains behind my land in Canon City, Colorado with the elevation upwards of 5600 ft (1700 m) to 5800 ft (1770 m). The weather was generally sunny to partly cloudy with temperatures from 38 F (3 C) to 65 F (18 C). The terrain is rocky to muddy with lots of ups and downs and scrubby pine to juniper and cactus vegetation. While I didn't hike in snowy conditions, I did encounter snow on the ground in patches.

At Snowbasin, it was very cloudy with heavy mist turning off and on to snow. That day combined walking around on snow-covered ground, snowshoeing a 7.5K (4.7 mi) trail and messing around with cross-country skis which was quite an experience for me. I spent more time on my backside than I care to think about!

I also wore the Boots constantly at work and at leisure, including walking to our mailbox which is 5 mi (8 km) down a hilly, rutted dirt road... I would estimate I have well over 100 mi (160 km) on the boots - most likely a lot more.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I wear boots almost all the time since we are currently living on our future building site in an RV - read - on a flattened mound of dirt. One step out the door and I'm either in dust, mud or snow. I vacuum often! Also, in the small rural town in which I live, most people live on small ranches (a well permit requires at least a 35 acres (14 hectares) lot to be approved) and they wear boots. So, for the past months I have worn the Merrell Outbound boots almost everyday, everywhere, except to church

Comfort is what footwear is all about in my opinion. If a boot doesn't fit right, rubs, gets wet or doesn't keep my feet warm; no amount of good looks will earn it a spot in my gear closet, no less on my foot. Because if my feet aren't happy, I'm not happy and I like to be happy!

The Outbound boots have what it takes for me in both the function and form departments. Briefly, I've come to really like the way the Boots look on my feet. Often times, hiking boots are bulky with wide toe boxes and my feet appear to be gargantuan. I'm not fond of gargantuan feet at the end of my pant hems. The Outbounds sport a slim silhouette with a rounded toe box, making my size 8s (US women's) appear more petite. Yeah, it's a little thing, but I like it!

Putting on the Outbounds for the first time, I noticed the stiffness of the Boots. Maybe because I had been wearing trail runner-type boots for most of the previous 6 months, that stiffness was not altogether a nice feeling. The stiffness combined with the mid-height of the Boots reminded me a lot of the construction of a downhill ski boot. I felt like I was walking/hiking sort of clunky, almost leaning forward a bit.

It didn't take me long to get over the awkwardness of the Outbounds' rigidity and I quickly remembered how good a stable boot feels. Not only were my ankles protected from the cactus, brambles and briars but worrying about rolling said ankles on wobbly shale, was completely unnecessary. Nice! The ample insole and outsole of the Outbounds means I haven't had any bruising from pounding down on sharp, broken-up shale or hard granite, either.

Once I get beyond the fit of a boot, keeping me warm and dry is the most critical function of the boots I wear.

About town and at work, what socks I pick to wear with the Boots are not that important as long as they are mid-weight crew socks. I simply don't get that cold during day and night leisure activities.

However, winter hiking and snowshoeing are quite the opposite and find me wearing sock liners and heavy hiking/mountaineering type wool socks with whatever boots I choose. The Outbounds boots are no exception. During these last two months on all day hikes and snowshoe treks, I wore Injinji liners and Darn Tough Vermont Mountaineering Socks.

With the above combination, I never even thought twice about my feet - a good thing! Because if I'm thinking about my feet, it's an indication something is wrong - I'm cold, wet or hurt. Whether it was snowshoeing at Snowbasin where my Boots were in snow from 9 am to 5 pm or on a night-time, snow-covered, 3-hour hike through park trails in Denver to view Christmas lights, the Outbounds did their job and my feet stayed adequately warm. They certainly weren't sweating, but *I* wasn't the person who complained about freezing!

I can't yet comment on any wicking abilities of the Outbounds as temperatures haven't risen to a point where that would be necessary. Any sweating of my piggy toes was countered by my socks.

Gore-Tex is purported to keep wetness from entering the Boots from external forces. This spring when the snow starts to melt and the rivers and stream run higher, I will definitely be able to judge whether or not the Outbounds meet the challenge of the icy waters. Up to now, I can't comment too much about the ability of the Boots to withstand moisture. I have no complaints so far about wet socks from snow and the few small streams I have encountered.

I haven't taken any special care of the Outbounds. I simply have scraped off the excess mud and let them dry overnight outdoors. Checking the Outbounds the next morning for critters - we have scorpions, tarantulas and rattlesnakes as well as the usual suspects - I then checked to see if the mud was dry. Once the mud was dry, I used a stick and brush combo to clean out the rest of the debris. Voila! The Outbounds were then ready for another day. Despite the excessive amount of mud I've collected on the bottom and sides of the Boots, the Outbounds still look great.

SUMMARY

At this point in my testing of the Merrell Outbound Boots, I would say they can proudly bear the Merrell name and they certainly carry on the Merrell reputation for quality products. Good looks and great performance have placed them front and center in my gear closet. The Outbounds are the first pair of boots I grab when I'm headed outdoors, rain or shine. I suspect they will continue to be so.

This concludes my Field Report on the Merrell Outbound Mid Boots. Below are my additional comments made after two more months of testing. Please continue reading to see how they performed for me these last two months.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

All of my testing of the Merrell Outbound Mid Boots in late January to the present took place in the Wet, Fremont and Cooper mountains of south central Colorado. The elevation I hiked in ranges from a low of 5300 ft (1600 m) to a high of 8400 ft (2600 m). Temperatures fluctuated from 20 F (-7 C) to 60 F (16 C) during daylight hours and freezing to 10 F (- 12 C) just before dawn. Weather conditions were mostly cloudy with some sunshine in the mornings on my dayhikes. Light rain and snow mixes in the afternoons and overnight kept it interesting.

All of my hiking involved uphill climbs to high points and then downhill treks when homeward bound. Of course, none of these trails are just plain straight-up elevation gains, they all involve lots of "ups and downs". The trail conditions varied. Parts of the Newlin Creek Trail (one of my favorite hikes) are remnants of an old late 1800s sawmill road. The first couple of miles/kilometers of another hike, the Fremont Peak Trail, are over a very-rutted access road to a radio tower. Other sections of trails are simply beaten down pathways. And then, when I'm hiking in the Cooper Mountain area, there are no trails at all!

This means, the terrain runs the gamut of packed down dirt (or mud at this time of year) to pebbly rocks, to broken up shale to hard granite slabs. At higher elevations, there was also loose-to-packed snow and ice. Oh, and on the Newlin Creek Trail, there are 18 stream crossings which at this time of year are sheer, thickly rippled ice!

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

In February, I wore the Merrell Outbounds on three dayhikes and on two weekend overnights.

During the last two months, the weather has been up and down so many times I've lost count. It's rained, snowed and been sunny. It's been up to 60 F (16 C) in the daytime and down around 20 F (-7 C), also in the daytime. Nights have ranged from freezing to 10 F (-12 C).

I have found the Merrells are best worn with heavy socks which is just fine with me as I like the extra cushioning from a good thick sock. Mostly, I've been wearing the boots with both my Darn Tough Vermont Mountaineering socks and a liner. I've found this combination to be a very good combination for me when the temperatures are on the low side and in snow.

As examples of how the Outbounds worked for me, I decided to copy and paste two entries from my trip journal. I think my field notes say it all!

1.) Newlin Creek Trail, Wet Mountains, Colorado - "... (worn on the uphill and 0.7 miles (1 km) of the downhill portion) - These boots did a great job of making me forget my feet on the uphill portion of this hike. I had some slipping on the ice and snow though - so did [my husband] John. But my feet stayed warm and dry throughout the hike. While the boots did not get wet from water, they did spend a good bit of time in the snow. I didn't feel any wetness from that. I really appreciated the stiffness, height and support of the mid feature of the boots. At least when I did slip, I felt my ankles were protected somewhat. The laces never slipped either. Even when traveling over baseball-sized rocks, the cushioning in the boots was sufficient for me to not feel any poking or prodding underfoot. However, after a while, my calves felt fatigued and I think it was from the weight of the boots coupled with sliding down the snow-covered icy portions of the trail."
On Fremont Peak
On the Fremont Peak Trail
2.) Fremont Peak Trail, Fremont Mountain, Colorado - "...On this hike, the snow was not packed down as much and the snow was over the top of my boots a lot. I did not get wet or cold feet at all during the hike. The boots were very sure-footed at all times and the snow did not stick under the tread. The laces stayed where I put them and except for one very steep downhill, my foot didn't slide forward at all. Had I not been too cold and lazy and stopped to adjust the laces before the downhill, I probably wouldn't have had that problem at all. The boots continue to be very stiff and supportive, especially in the ankle area."

One hazard I encounter frequently on the mountains behind my property is mud. Lots and lots of gooey, sticky, absolutely horrid mud! We have what is called "expansive soil" around here which is - short version - dirt that expands when wet. What this means for boots is when slopping through mud on the trails and when bushwhacking, the mud sticks to the soles/treads and sides thickly. It is almost impossible to shed.

Thanks to the relatively wide spaces between the lugs in the front half of the boots, the Merrells did a better job of channeling the mud out and away from the soles of the boots. However, the heel area has its lugs more closely positioned and it was there I had difficulty with "clumping" I can certainly have done without the extra weight this caused. To be fair, my other winter boots have the same problem. I have, though, improved my core strength simply by having to balance on one foot while whittling out mud from treads with my trekking poles!

Albeit dirty, the Merrell Outbound Mid Boots are still in very good condition with no breakdown of the insole or cuff padding, fraying of the laces, pulled stitches, or degradation of any of the glued sections. Everything points to many more miles/kilometers of hiking pleasure for me and my Outbound Boots!

SUMMARY

Testing the Merrell Outbound Mid Gore-Tex Boots has been a great experience for me. Winter was no match for the Boots' aggressive tread, ability to keep my feet dry and stellar ankle support. I felt as sure-footed as our mountain goats on rocky terrain and well-protected from bruising of my soles and toes.

I like the looks of these Boots, too. They remind me of old-fashioned mountaineering boots similar to those pioneers of Mt. Everest wore - of course, with the great new technology, I bet Hillary would have like them, too! And while I most definitely won't be climbing Mt. Everest, I will be wearing these Boots on future treks!

Thank you to Merrell and for the opportunity to try out these great new boots.

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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