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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Montrail Helium GTX Boot > Test Report by John Waters

MONTRAIL HELIUM GTX BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 31, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 59
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on 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 Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. 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.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Montrail
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montrail.com
MSRP: US$220.00
Listed Weight: 1 LB 8.6 oz (0.69 kg )
Measured Weight: 1 lb 10 oz (0.74 kg)
Colors Available: Black
Color Tested: Black
Sizes Available: US 7-12, 13, 14, 15 • UK 6-12, 13, 14 • EUR 40-47, 48, 49
Size Tested: US 10.5
Made in China
Montrail Helium GTX Boot
Picture Courtesy of Montrail


Features & Benefits (courtesy of the Montrail website)
* Enter the next generation of big boot backpacking comfort in a lightweight, finely tuned package.
* New synthetic upper with breathable Gore-Tex provides all-day waterproof protection for crossing small steams and snow fields.
* Weight saving composite shank provides sturdy underfoot protection with less bulk and a molded anatomical heel counter gives ankle support.
* Gryptonite™ “sticky rubber” outsole delivers confidence while hiking on a variety of trail conditions.

Footwear One-Year Limited Warranty
"This One-Year Limited Warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship in Montrail-brand footwear manufactured by Montrail. This includes defects that may occur under normal wear."

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS-Nov 08

The Montrail website is short on text but it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Montrail delivers in their enlargement link of the Helium boot. My boots look just like the picture, only bigger.

The Helium boots are big, solid-looking boots, yet light in weight. The thing that was most immediately apparent was the hefty sole. It blends into other hard materials which rise up high onto the heel and instep and ends in a generous suede-like toe cap. A rubber-like band stretches up the back of the heel from the sole and wraps down the sides of the boot to the sole.

The body of the Helium is a black and gray cloth material, topped with a gray "V" on the sides of each collar.

The laces are corded black and white and pass through four eyelets before they secure the boot using three quick-tie style hooks.

The tongue of the Helium is thick and gusseted to within 2 in (4.7 cm) of the top of the tongue. The top of the tongue is the same gray suede-like material as the collar "v" and has the Montrail logo on it.

The Montrail logo is on the outside heel on the boot in black on a swath of green which wraps around the heel just above the sole. The name "montrail", also in green, is just at the instep. To round out the logos, there is a gray combination "montrail" and logo at the back of the heel.

Inside the boot is mostly smooth gray material. A rougher textured black material covers the inside of the tongue and a band made from the same black material wraps around the collar of the boot.

The sole of the boot has the "Gryptonite" name and logo clearly embedded in it in gray while most of the rest of the sole is black. There is a vertical strip of gray at the middle of the foot from just behind the toe box to the arch. This strip has two vertical rows of square treads. The rest of the treads are on the outer edges of the boot. The tread in the front and forefoot appear to be more aggressive than the one in the rear. They do form an interesting pattern.

The Montrail Helium boots appear to be well made with no loose threads, excess glue or rubber. All seams are tight and straight. I could not see any obvious defects in workmanship or quality.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Obviously, I don't need instructions on how to put on or wear boots. I've been tying my own shoes since I was four. But I usually do check out any promotional material regarding a product to see if there is some twist or quirk I need to know about, particularly with regards to maintenance. With the many new synthetic materials being utilized in technical gear, I'd like to know if there is any special care needed.

Surprisingly, to me, there were no hangtags, materials listing, packing slip or any care instructions at all included with the Helium boots. Even more surprisingly, except for the bare minimum of information on the Montrail website (reproduced above in the Product Information), there was no information available there either.

However, on the side of the boot box, there was this: "Raise your right foot, and repeat after me: 'I, __________, give my word as a morally righteous Montrail consumer to always play fair with others in the great outdoors and to recycle or reuse this box.'". It was repeated in French.

TRYING IT OUT

With new boots I think about what the break-in time will be. I've read such horror stories about people getting messy blisters and pulled tendons. I've been rather fortunate I guess. The last several boots I've gotten new needed no special break-in time and I've never had any hot spots and certainly no blisters. It may be that I always wear really good hiking socks. So I do nothing special. I put them on and go.

However, I am always concerned when ordering boots without trying them on. There being nowhere in Colorado that I could try these on before hand, I only hoped that the 10.5 men's I ordered would fit well. They did. My foot, flat on the ground, measures 10.25 in (26 cm) big toe to heel.

Initially, I was concerned that there was no rear pull-up tab. However, the 4 quick-tie tabs open up the footbed wide enough so these guys slip on without the need for one.

These boots are stiffer than trail shoes. I can not feel pebbles underfoot. The boot form does not flex from front to back very much. My foot hits the ground with a thud. So I am looking forward to being able to get tough with these and really put them through heavier duty trekking than I've been able to with other boots. The tread is aggressive. The bottoms look like they'll protect my feet from water, snow and rocks. Since they are comfortable after wearing them all day for 8 hours hiking around, I am pretty sure I can get right into trail work without issues.
Montrail Helium Lacing
Montrail Helium Lacing System
Montrail Helium Sole
Montrail Helium Sole

There is plenty of toe room. Lots of wiggle space up and around. The most space I've ever had in a toe box. So I am going to try wearing these with more than one sock since there appears to be plenty of room. Even with the extra toe room, the sides and heel sections were firm fitting and did not rub or wiggle. They felt good and solid. These are not for wearing around the house or walking around the mall. These are serious trekking boots. I am really looking forward to seeing what they can do.

SUMMARY

This concludes my Initial Report of the Montrail Helium GTX Boots. Please see below for the results of my first two months' testing of these boots.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS - Jan 09

Since my initial report, I've worn the Montrail Helium GTX Boots (herein after referred to as the "GTX Boots") in a variety of hiking and snowshoeing activities from 4,500 ft to 11,300 ft (1400 to 3400 km) above sea level, from -5 F to 75F (-21 C to 24 C) and in wind chills as low as -25 F (-32 C). In all, they've been on my feet for over 30 miles (48 km) on trails and even several miles/kilometers on concrete at the Outdoor Retailer Show.

They've been subjected to terrains of all sorts: rocks, sandy grit, shale, scree, mud, snow, ice and concrete, mostly in south central Colorado in the Cooper Mountain range. I've also worn them snowshoeing on Mt. Evans, Colorado, on the Rainbow Trail in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Colorado and at the Outdoor Retail Show's Backcountry Base Camp held at Snowbasin, Utah.
Snowshoeing at Snowbasin, UT
Snowshoeing at OR Show

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Montail Helium Thread
Montrail Helium GTX Thread
Again, I am amazed at the traction on ice that the Gryptonite soles provide. I continue to annoy my wife by trying to slide on sheet glare ice. It appears as long as there is no surface melt that I can comfortably walk on ice without sliding. It's nothing like walking with add-on boot grips under the soles, but quite effective on flat sheet ice. I know that if there is water on the surface of the ice, I can fall on my face (because I almost did), but it's a real secure feeling when the ice and the boots are both under freezing temperatures.

I've never worn anything other than my favorite wool hiking socks while wearing the GTX boots. My feet never got wet or cold while snowshoeing at 0 F (-18 C) with a wind chill of at least -25 F (-32 C). We've snowshoed in 4 ft (1 m) deep snow, walked trails with snow half way up the boot and walked through wet mud and slushy snow. The GTX boots never gave in. My feet were always warm and dry.

The GTX boots have a real quick entry and exit because their quick loop tabs go down almost to the curve along the top of my foot. It makes it easy to just slide my foot right in while wearing heavy wool socks. I've been able to easily take off my street shoes while sitting in the car driver's seat and slide into the GTX without even touching them with my hands. I guess that's why Montrail didn't need to include a rear pull tab.

The only issue I've had so far is that the 2nd quick tabs from the top are placed slightly towards the rear, making it difficult to hit the tabs all the time while lacing up because they are not fully visible. I'd say about half the time I miss them when lacing up. I've discovered that I don't need to have them included in the lacing if I'm in a hurry. The boot is quite stable and I get little ankle movement. I feel quite secure and stable in these boots.

I've noticed that I am not sweating as much in the GTX boots. I have lighter weight boots that I sweat in more. I also don't notice as much odor as I get in other boots - even lighter weight ones.

There has been no sign of defects or issues caused by wear and I see no deformity of shape or movement of the tongue from center. I report this because I have had boots that, after a while, I can't keep the tongue centered when lacing up or the tongue moves around while being worn. The GTX boots are solid and stable and everything is still in place.

The footbed inserts are stock weight that I expect to see in boots purchased directly from the manufacturer. Even with these basic inserts, my feet did not complain when walking several miles in one day on concrete at the Outdoor Retail Show. My feet liked them better than well padded soles in my street shoes.
Montrail Helium Inner Sole
Montrail Helium GTX Inner Sole

SUMMARY

I had a pair of boots that were my favorite for many years. The GTX boots have moved up into that favorite position. They are too heavy for summer wear though, but here in Colorado and where we hike, we have many months out of each year in which I can use these boots. The GTX have been comfortable and they have performed very well.

We are going to head out to a trail before the end of this test that has a stream crossing 13 times before reaching the trail end. If the stream is flowing, it'll be a good test of waterproofing and stability on wet rocks. I'll see if the GTX soles continue to perform on stream crossings the way they perform in snow.

Please see below for the results of my next two months' testing the Montrail Helium GTX Boots.



LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The Montrails were used extensively in winter weather.

Here is where these boots went:

Mount Evans - a mountain in the Front Range region of the Rocky Mountains, in Clear Creek County, Colorado. It is one of 54 fourteeners (mountains with peaks over 14,000 ft/4300 m) in Colorado, and the closest fourteener to Denver. This was a 3 mi (5 km) snowshoe trek cut short because we didn't expect the wind chill to be so bad. At 11,200 ft (3414 m) above sea level, the ambient temp was -1 F (-18 C) and the wind was blowing at over 40 mph (65 kph), creating a wind chill below -25 F (-32 C).

Sangre De Cristo mountain range - west of Westcliffe, CO and at about 9,000 ft (2743 m) above sea level. Using different trails on 3 different snowshoe treks of about 2 or 3 mi (3 or 5 km) each. Temperature ranged from 5 F (-15 C) to 22 F (-6 C)

Ski Cooper at the Tennessee Pass in Leadville, CO - at over 10,000 ft (3048 m) above sea level. Snowshoed for 2 days and over 9 mi (14 km) in temps from 12 F (-11 C) to 28 F (-2.2 C) in moonlight and sunshine.

Ridgway, Colorado at up to 7,000 ft (2,133 m) above sea level on a 7 mile (11 km) trek on rock, sand, mud and snow.

Plus, I wore these boots almost constantly all winter while handling my outdoor activities, including tower climbing and working on my Fremont County wireless network.

Through the entire course of this test, I would estimate that these boots saw well over 300 mi (160 km) of wear.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

They fit my snowshoes well - both brands. I never had an issue with them slipping or sliding on the snowshoe boot bed. They are hefty and solid, so they hold the snowshoe straps quite well.

I never had an issue with my feet getting cold or wet. All I've worn at temps down to -1 F (-18c) were just heavy wool socks without liners. Even in 4 ft (1 m) deep snow and my feet being constantly covered with wet snow, I never experienced the boots soaking through and my feet were always completely dry. In fact, even after vigorous snowshoe trekking, my feet didn't sweat either. Dry feet. How nice.

On one trek in southern Colorado we walked through water that was quite cold (not sure of the water temp, but the air temp was down to 14 F (-10 C) the night before). The boot shed water like a duck and my feet remained dry. Of course, I was careful not to submerge the entire boot so water didn't go down inside, but the water level did reach up about half-way up.

We also hiked around Ridgway Reservoir on a wide and long rock field (see pictures below). I never had an issue with losing footing or twisting an ankle. These boots have really good traction. I feel very secure when using them.
IMAGE 3 IMAGE 4

There were no manufacturer defects encountered. There were no issues at all with fit, parting seams or other malfunctions. The tongue is exactly in the center. Everything looks I just took them out of the box a few days ago and just got some dirt on them.

SUMMARY

I've truly enjoyed wearing the Montrails. It's really too bad that they are too heavy to continue wearing for spring hiking. They have superb cold weather traction (sounds like I'm describing a snow tire), even on glare ice. They handle well (there I go again) and are quite comfortable. They clean up well, even from thick sticky mud. They are waterproof even with standing snow covering them for hours. They are heavier than other boots I have and the soles are not as flexible, but I can not feel rocks through the footbed like other winter boots I have, making it less tiring to trek on rocky paths. They lace up high and securely (although I still miss that 2nd fast tie hook a lot). The laces pretty much stay where I set them, unlike other boots I have that pull together closer to the toe box after wearing them for a few hours.

In all, these are quite a winter boot favorite. Until now there was one and only one that was my favorite for winter, and now there are two, with this pair being number 1.

My sincere thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Montrail for the opportunity to test these boots.

John R. Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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