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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Montrail Featherpeak GTX Boots > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Montrail Feather Peak GTX Men's Boots
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: May 1, 2010
Field Report: July 19, 2010
Long Term Report: September 11, 2010
front view of the Montrail Feather Peak GTX boots
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Initial Report: May 1, 2010
side view of the boots
The Montrail Feather Peak GTX is a mid-height backpacking boot that despite having Feather in the name is also a mid-weight boot. In other words, there are lighter and heavier boots in this general configuration. The boot stands about 8 in (20 cm) tall and according to the website is a tall volume boot with a high instep, and roomy toe box. The boot is waterproof thanks to a Gore-Tex liner even thought the web-site does not list this feature. I figured this out by looking at other Montrail boots and shoes and the ones that were listed as GTX had the Gore-Tex liners. I also stood in moving water a few minutes and did not get the inside of the boots wet. These are not insulated boots and with the Gore-Tex liner they are supposed to be breathable so I hope they are good for hot weather which I anticipate during most of the testing period. The boots feature a Vibram sole called the Trek. It looks fairly aggressive to me.
Vibram Trek Sole
The laces for the boots are some type of synthetic and plenty long but the length is not listed on the website. I took one off and it measured just a fraction over 71 in (180 cm) long. Speaking of the laces, the Feather Trail has a total of 7 lace attachment points on each side of the boot. The top three attachment points are what are generally referred to as speed hooks. The bottom 4 pair feature a ball-bearing design for friction resistant lacing. Here as a picture of the ball-bearing.
ball-bearings for easy lacing
The Montrail Feather Peak GTX is pretty typical of boots in this class. The website has several good photos showing the boots from all angles so I found no surprises after viewing them online. I did notice one slight discrepancy in the description offered online and the boots I am holding. Namely, they say the boot has a scratch leather toe cap for toe protection but mine has a rubber toe guard, though interestingly, they list a Toe Counter of high abrasion rubber. I'm not familiar with the term Toe Counter other than in the story of the three little pigs but I think this refers to the rubber I am seeing over the toe area. But overall the boots look good and I am looking forward to wearing them.
Getting boots without trying them on is always a gamble, and since there is no Montrail boot dealer in my area I had to guess at the proper size. I knew that most size 12 shoes fit me pretty well and fortunately, these boots in a size 12 seem to fit very well. I can poke a finger down in between the back of the boot and my heel but they are tight enough that my feet are not sliding when walking downhill. The width seems adequate and they don't cramp the top of my foot at all. The toe box seems to live up to the roomy toe box quoted in the online description. The lining material is nice and smooth throughout the inside of the boot.
I wanted to at least wear the boots one time before writing my first report so that I would have a feel for the boots and it is now obvious to me that these boots are going to require a little break-in to be truly comfortable. For my first hike I had on a pair of what I consider medium weight wool socks. The boots felt springy when walking but after a half mile (1 km) or so I noticed the top of the boot was uncomfortable against my ankles, especially when headed downhill. The back of the boot is cut lower than the sides but it was digging into the back of my leg at the very top of the boot. I considered loosening up the top laces a little but decided that I could stand it and hopefully by keeping them laced up properly I will speed up the break-in period. I also noticed some pressure on the sides of my ankles when walking on parts of the trail that were leaning downhill. In other words, places where the trail was not level side to side. One positive was that the bottoms of my feet were fine during the entire hike. Even on the very steep section my feet stayed solidly planted inside the boots and I felt no hot spots which sliding around will cause. I also noticed that the boots have good traction. The trail was damp but not muddy except in a few places and the boots stayed put when planted. I also stopped at the creek a few minutes and actually stood in the water a couple of minutes to see if they were truly waterproof. They were!
testing waterproofness by standing in fast moving water
I ended up hiking about 4 miles (6 km) total and did not develop any blisters but I was glad to pull them off due to the constant pressure at the tops. I hope the stiffness I was noticing at the top of the boots goes away fast but I have dealt with the same thing breaking in other boots. It could even be that since I usually wear trail runners in the summer and high top boots in the winter that I am not toughened up in the area needed for this height boot.
Thing I like so far
* not too heavy
* good traction
Things I don't like
* will need some break-in
Field Report: July 19, 2010
The Montrail Feather Peak GTX boots on a rest break
Test Locations and Conditions
I have worn the boots on two overnighters so far. Both trips were in the woods near my home. The one on May the 17th saw a high of 77 F (25 C) and a low of 59 F (15 C). The next trip was on June the 4th and saw a high of 84 F (29 C) and a low of 66 F (19 C). I hiked about 4 miles (6 km) total on each trip. The day of the warmest conditions was on July the 11th. This was on a day hike down to the creek and up the other side, then back down and up again headed home. The purpose of this hike was for some exercise and covered about 5 miles at a pretty brisk pace. It was 94 F (34 C) when I left the house at 1 PM and 96 F (36 C) by the time I got back home at 3:30 PM. I have worn the boots on several other similar hikes but I usually left the house at around 5 PM to miss the worst of the heat. And last but not least, I wore the boots while mowing my grass several times. It takes me about three hours to push mow my yard if I don't take any breaks, but with the recent heat I have had to take it easy mowing, so it usually took me close to four hours to finish. The last time I mowed the yard it was 92 F (33 C) but very sticky and I actually soaked the socks and the boots. I used my GPS to see how far I walked when mowing and it showed 4.37 miles (7 km) but it did not track me when under 2 mph (3 kmph) so it was further. I know the hour and 55 minutes is off by about an hour but the elapsed time of 3 hrs, 34 min is correct since it counted my breaks and all other stops. If you're really bored here is the track. http://connect.garmin.com/activity/34676590
Performance in the Field
In my Initial Report I stated that the boots were going to take some breaking in. I am relieved to say that the boots are no longer causing me any discomfort. I will say that it took several weeks to archive the break-in but that is a pretty normal time span for breaking in boots. In fact, I've had boots that took longer. I should also mention once more that the only place they were causing discomfort was at the very top of the boot.
To get the boots broken in I tried to wear them at least a few hours every day. If I was not walking around a lot I managed to wear them all day but if I did need to walk a lot, they usually became too uncomfortable to wear after a few hours. A classic example was when mowing my yard for the first few times in the boots. I managed to mow for about an hour before they started causing pain (upper ankle area as described in the Initial Report) so I would switch over to my tennis shoes. However, after a few weeks of this, I was able to wear them for the whole yard.
Once broken in properly I wore the boots on several long fitness hikes as well as on a couple of short overnighters and have found the boots to be very comfortable. And even though we have had a recent heat wave with temperatures near 100 F (38 C) on several occasions, the boots do not seem all that hot. On a recent day hike I stopped for a short rest break and pulled my boots off for a few minutes. The following photo shows just how much I was sweating. I will say that a lot of the sweat was what was running down my legs instead of just sweat from my feet. The dry area is what was protected by the tongue of the boot.
sweat mark inside boot
I have worn the boots approximately 40 miles (64 km) so far and I am happy to report that the boots are holding up great, with just a couple of scratches which are just about impossible to avoid when hiking. The sole is also showing very little signs of wear. Here is the worst looking scratch but there are others all around each boot. And below that a photo showing the sole of the boot.
typical scratch marks from hiking
the sole is not showing much wear so far
I have had one issue with the boots so far...or should I say, one of the boot laces. Just a week ago as I was getting ready for a day hike I had a lace break as I tightened it on my left boot. It did not break completely into, however, the outer sheath was completely into so I had to go ahead and cut it at the bad spot. I took a match to the new end so it would not fray. The photos below shows the bad lace and then the repair.
burning the lace end to prevent further fraying
As for the lace failure, I had not noticed any signs of fraying before, so I'm not sure if I may have somehow damaged the lace earlier and just didn't see it or if perhaps I just pulled at a bad angle and cut the lace with the speed hook. Luckily, it was while at the top-most speed hook so I didn't loose all that much string. In fact, I measure the broken off piece and got 14 inches (36 cm). Since the string originally measured 71 in (180 cm) long, I now have a 57 inch (145 cm) boot lace. This is just long enough to tie the boot properly. I have had no problems with the boots coming untied, however, the next time I'm in town I plan to pick up a slightly longer lace. The original laces are a little long for my liking so I may just go with a pair of 66 inch (168 cm)) ones if I can find a pair.
shortened lace all tied and ready to go
Summary Thus Far
Now that the Montrail Feather Peak GTX boots are properly broken in I am really enjoying wearing them. The soles provide a very secure grip on nearly all surfaces, the exception being the slickest rocks down by the creek where a softer sole might be better. However, the waterproof qualities built into the boots have been really handy for crossing the creek. And while they are a little heavier than the trail runners I normally wear this time of year, I have not really noticed the boots feeling clunky or being overly hot, despite the fact that a few of my hikes were in very hot conditions.
This concludes my Field Report. Please check back in approximately two months for my Long term Report to see how the Montrail Feather Peak GTX boots are doing. I would also like to thank BackpackGearTest and Montrail for letting me test these boots.
Long Term Report September 11, 2010
Testing Locations and Conditions
My testing locations have pretty much remained the same during this last phase of testing with the addition of wearing the boots to work a few times. I took another overnight hike of 4 miles (6 km) as well as several day-hikes of similar distance. It did get rather hot the last month and a half but I still managed at least one hike a week down to the holler for a total of around 80 miles (129 km) since getting the boots. And how hot am I talking about? Well, the entire month of July and most of August saw temperatures at or above 100 F (38 C). And as previously, I usually waited until late in the afternoon to do any hiking. I did not experience any rain during my hikes but I did get the boots wet plenty of times as I crossed the creek.
Long Term Test Results
As I continued to put miles on these boots they have become more and more comfortable. I did find one interesting phenomenon I had not noticed until wearing them to work a few times. I had not previously worn them while driving and for some reason these boots put pressure on the back side of my upper ankle area while driving. I think the fact that I drive a straight shift contributed to the discomfort because I tried them in the wife's car and found they were a lot better, but still not as comfortable as my tennis shoes. If I had to drive a long ways to a trail-head I would just wear a different shoe until I arrived.
As for hiking related performance, the Montrail Feather Peak GTX boots are about as good as it gets. I experienced no blisters and the boots have kept my feet dry during all my creek crossings. Of course it was so hot I would have almost welcomed a leak and did in fact take my boots off and wade around several times. One thing all the hot weather and my subsequent sweating caused was a salt stain to form around the top of the boots. On my last overnighter I was concerned that leaving them out under my hammock might attract some critter but they survived the night. Below are a couple of photos that illustrate my concern.
sweat stain around top of boot
boots resting under my hammock
Long Term Durability
I know 80 miles (129 km) is not a lot but I have used them enough to satisfy myself that they are tough boots. After breaking the lace (see Field Report) I have had no further problems with laces and have continued to wear them with the one shorter lace. The boots have a few more scratches but they are purely cosmetic and in no way indicate any problems with the boots.
The Montrail Feather Peak GTX boots have lived up to my expectations. Despite early concerns about comfort, they are now as comfortable as any pair of boots I own, which is a big improvement over the pain I experienced while breaking them in. And while not ideal for real hot conditions, I have no reservation in recommending them as a sturdy waterproof hiking boot. Just be prepared for a lengthy break in period. This concludes my testing of the Montrail Feather Peak GTX boots. I would like to thank BackpackGearTest and Montrail for letting me test these boots.
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