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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Montrail Helium GTX Boot > Test Report by Ryan Lane Christensen

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Montrail Helium™ GTX®

Test Series by Ryan Christensen

Last Update - March 31, 2009

Montrail Helium
Montrail Helium™ GTX® hiking boots


November 28, 2008

February 2, 2009

March 31, 2009

November 28, 2008

Reviewer Information

Backpacking Background

Name:  Ryan L. Christensen
Age:  44
Gender:  Male
Height:  6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:  235 lb (107 kg)
Email:  bigdawgryan(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country:   Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA

I began backpacking at twelve, continuing until 25. After an extended hiatus, due in part to a bad back, I resumed cycling, hiking, and backpacking several years ago. I also began snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I share my love for backpacking and these sports with my children. I am a midweight backpacker, but carry a full array of necessary gear.

Product Information:

The information below comes from the Montrail website.

Montrail Helium™ GTX®

Manufacturer: Montrail
Manufacturer website:
Place of Manufacture: China
Year Manufactured: 2008
Materials: Upper: synthetic
Toe Cap: plastic
Outsole: Gryptonite™
Shank: composite
Waterproof Liner: GORE-TEX®
Insulation: None
Colors Available: black
From the Montrail website
One-Year Limited Warranty

What This Warranty Covers. 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. Montrail does not warranty and is not responsible for damages caused by misuse, abuse, accidents, neglect, laundering, the natural breakdown of materials over time, or problems that may be reasonably expected with normal wear or failure to follow care instructions. The Montrail Warranty Department will inspect the product at no charge to you. If the Warranty Department determines, in its sole discretion, that the product has a defect covered under this Warranty, we will repair or replace it within approximately four weeks. During peak season, turnaround time can take up to six weeks. You may seek resolution directly through the retailer where you purchased the product. In many cases, the retailer will be able to assist you.

How Long This Warranty Lasts. This Warranty lasts for one year. Coverage ends if you sell or transfer the product. Proof of purchase is required.

MSRP: $220.00 US

Product Specifications
Manufacturer's Specifications  
Weight: 1 lb 8.6 oz (0.69 kg)
Tester's Actual Measurements  
Weight: 1 lb 11.3 oz (0.77 kg) each
3 lb 6.6 oz (1.55 kg) pair
Height: (bottom of sole to top of collar) 7.5 in (19 cm)
Size Tested: 10.5 US (9.5 UK)
Color Tested: black

Product Description:

Back Front The Montrail Helium™ GTX® is a stylish, high-cut, Gore-Tex lined hiking boot. From the bottom of the sole, to the highest point on the collar, these boots stand approximately 7.5 in (19 cm) tall. On its website, Montrail describes these boots as "A whole new way of thinking about big boots for big adventures. Our men's only trekking boot is ultra-light with mega protection for heavy loads and off-trail backpacking."

The uppers are primarily synthetic materials. However, there is some suede leather along the top of the collar and the gusset. These boots also have a Gore-Tex® liner. Sewn between the suede leather and synthetic fabric at the collar, on the outer edge of the boot, there is a small tag with the Gore-Tex trademark sewn on it. The gusset (a tongue attached at the bottom and both sides to prevent slipping to one side and to prevent water from entering from the top) is attached to the collar approximately 2 in (5 cm) down from the top. The gusset is padded and also has a Gore-Tex membrane. The inside of the gusset has a mesh lining that extends approximately its entire length. The collar is also padded, and has both suede leather and synthetic fabric on the outside. There is a scuff-proof toe cap that covers the majority of the toe area. On the back of the boot, there is a black plastic piece, with the Montrail name and logo raised in grey. There is no pull-tab on the back of the boot--not sure whether I like that or not. The lacing system consists of four pair of metal D-rings and four pair of metal cinch hooks. The laces are 5mm (0.19 in) diameter woven nylon. There is an uninsulated lining. However, the website contains no information as to what it is.Lacing System


The footbeds are approximately 0.25 in (0.64 cm) thick molded material. On the bottom of each footbed are a raised Montrail logo and a depressed oval with M-2-2 in raised letters inside the oval. The topside is covered with a fabric of some sort with the Montrail logo on it. The footbed has a heel cup that is approximately 0.5 in (1.3 cm) deep, with raised sides. The raised sides begin in the arch area and grow deeper moving to the heel, with the deepest section at the back of the heel.

The Helium's outsoles are made of Gryptonite™, which Montrail says is a "Sticky rubber compound engineered for optimal performance with a combination of traction and durability on both wet and dry surfaces." In addition to the "sticky rubber compound" and an aggressive tread, the soles are quite stiff. In fact, I was unable to bend the soles with my hands. These stiff soles should provide great support for heavy loads. In fact, Montrail says these boots provide "mega protection for heavy loads and off-trail backpacking."Outsoles

Initial Impression:

Right out of the box, I was impressed with the overall appearance of these boots. They look well-suited for rugged mountaineering and trekking use. The Montrail Helium boots look identical to those shown on the manufacturer's website. So, from that standpoint, they were as I expected them to be. I was however surprised at the stiffness of the soles. The website contains very little information about these boots. In addition, the boots came without any hang tags or other product information. This lack of available information amazed me somewhat.

The Montrail Helium GTX hiking boots appear to be well made. The materials seem to be of very high quality as does the workmanship. There were no loose threads, misplaced globs of glue, or other abnormalities.

Initial Testing:

After thoroughly inspecting the boots, I tried them on. Several months ago, I read a review of the Helium GTX boots, which stated they are best for medium to high-volume feet. Because I have medium-volume feet, I was somewhat doubtful these boots would fit my feet properly. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they fit my feet. I wore a lightweight liner and a medium-weight merino wool hiking sock. It will be interesting to see how well these feet as I try them in the field.

Initial Likes:

  • rugged feel
  • sticky outsole
  • unique appearance

Initial Dislikes:

  • None

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February 2, 2009


During the Field Test Phase, I wore the boots approximately twenty days. I have been pleased with their performance thus far.

Likes Thus Far:

  • fit
  • support
  • traction
  • waterproofness

Dislikes Thus Far:

  • a little difficult to lace

Field Locations and Test Conditions:

In Snow In late November, a friend, two of my three teenage sons, and I hiked in to the Catamount yurt, which is located in the Portneuf range southeast of Pocatello, Idaho. The hike into this yurt is 2.25 mi (3.62 km) across mostly open, rolling terrain. Total vertical rise is 816 ft (249 M). We began hiking about 8:30 p.m. The skies were clear, winds calm, and the temperature was approximately 27 F (-3 C) when we began. The ground was bare when we went to bed. However, when we awoke, there was approximately 3 in (8 cm) of new snow on the ground.

In late January I went on a day snowshoe hike in the Kelly Canyon Nordic Area, which is located 26 miles (42 km) northeast of Idaho Falls in the Targhee National Forest. The Nordic Area starts at an elevation of approximately 5,900 ft (1,798 m) and reaches elevations of 6,700 ft (2,042 m). Temperatures were below freezing, 32 F (0 C).

Numerous times during the Field Test period I wore the Heliums on walks and while urban snowshoeing near my home in southeastern Idaho at an elevation of 4,700 ft (1,433 m).


The Montrail Helium GTX boots have performed exceptionally well thus far. Early in the Field Test Period, I took the boots straight from the box and wore them on my hike into the Catamount Yurt near Pocatello, Idaho. I wore a polypropylene liner and mid-weight merino wool hiking sock. Even though I had not spent any time breaking in the boots, this combination did not cause any problems with blisters, or even hot spots. This was very pleasing and somewhat surprising as my initial impression of these boots was that they are best suited for medium to high-volume feet. However, they fit my medium volume feet quite nicely.

The soles on these boots are quite stiff. Consequently, even though I have worn them to work and just kicking about town, I would not recommend them for that primary use. However, the stiff soles make them ideal for hiking and even snowshoeing. The stiffness of the soles seems to propel me forward as I roll my feet from heel to toe. I have enjoyed that thus far.

The boots fit comfortably. Although I generally use after-market insoles in my boots, the insoles in the Helium GTX boots seem to be pretty good for OEM insoles. I have also been quite pleased with the gusseted tongue and padded collar. In addition to being comfortable, they provide excellent support to my weak ankles.

The majority of my time in these boots has been spent walking on snow, from fresh powder to hard packed, icy stuff. I have been rather impressed with the traction these boots offer on hard packed snow which is often quite slick. In addition to the traction in the snow, I have been very pleased with how dry these boots have kept my feet in the snow. The Gore-Tex lining has performed flawlessly while snowshoeing in deep snow with gaiters and hiking and walking around town in somewhat less snow. Because I have worn these boots primarily in very cold temperatures (down to -12 F or -24 C) I have not experienced problems with perspiration or breathability. I will monitor this as temperatures should warm as we move into the Long Term Test period. To date, the boots have kept my feet dry and warm throughout Field Test period.

Thus far, there are only two things with which I am not completely satisfied. First, for me, the boots are a little difficult to lace up. Quite frequently as I lace them up, I miss the second cinch hook which is set back along the ankle bone. This is an annoyance, but does not influence the overall performance of these boots. The second item slightly influences my perception of the boots performance. As stated in the Initial Report, these boots are tall. Being tall, the collar and tongue put some pressure on my upper ankles/shins. I am hopeful this will diminish as I put more miles on these boots. Please check my Long Term Report for further discussion on this particular issue.

The boots have held up well thus far. There are no loose seams, fraying material, and the soles show no sign of wear. I will continue to monitor this through the balance of the test.

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March 31, 2009


During the Long Term Test Phase, I wore the boots an additional ten days. I have been quite pleased with the performance of these boots throughout the test series. I would not hesitate in recommending the Helium GTX to anyone looking for this type of hiking boot.


  • fit
  • support
  • traction
  • waterproofness


  • a little difficult to lace

Field Locations and Test Conditions:

Gaiters In Snowshoes
In mid-February, I wore the boots on two cross-country skiing and snowshoeing outings in the Kelly Canyon Nordic Area, which is located 26 miles (42 km) northeast of Idaho Falls, in the Targhee National Forest. The Nordic Area starts at an elevation of approximately 5,900 ft (1,798 m) and reaches elevations of 6,700 ft (2,042 m). We began skiing around 8:30 pm. On the first outing, the temperature at the time I got out of my vehicle was 8 F (-13 C) and there was a mild wind. On the second outing, the temperature was probably in the low 20s F (-5 C) when we began skiing. On both outings, the overnight low was around 0 F (-18 C). When snowshoeing, I wore the boots with a combination of a lightweight and a medium weight merino wool sock

In mid-March, while carrying a 10 lb (4.5 kg) day pack, I wore the boots with a lightweight and a medium weight merino wool sock, on a 5 mi (8 km) day hike in Hell's Half Acre National Landmark. Hell's Half Acre is a 66,000 acres (267 km2) lava field and is the youngest of the eastern basaltic lava fields of the Snake River Plain of southeastern Idaho. The elevation is approximately 5,300 ft (1,615 m) above sea level. The high temperature was 37 F (3 C) and the winds were calm and the sky was partially cloudy.

I also wore these boots slogging about in the snow during my daily activities that included going to work, shoveling snow, and walks around the neighborhood.


Most of my boot testing has been in cold, snowy conditions. I am happy to say the Helium GTX boots lived up to Montrail's claim that the "New synthetic upper with breathable Gore-Tex provides all-day waterproof protection for crossing small steams and snow fields." Not once during my testing did the boots leak. In addition to keeping my feet dry, when I wore a lightweight merino wool sock under a medium weight merino wool sock my feet stayed quite warm.

These "big boots" fit nicely in my snowshoes. There was absolutely no issue getting my Gore-Tex gaiters, or the snowshoe straps, around these boots. The boots fit nicely on the deck and remained secure. I believe the stiff soles on these boots enhanced my snowshoeing experience.

On my day hike in Hell's Half Acre National Landmark, I got to test the traction and ankle support of the boots. The lava rock is extremely sharp, glassy and fragmented, with open cracks, lava tubes and caves. Due to the uneven surfaces, footing can be sketchy. Here again, the boots lived up to Montrail's claim that the "Gryptonite™ “sticky rubber” outsole delivers confidence while hiking on a variety of trail conditions." In addition to providing excellent traction on the snowy lava flows, the boots provided great overall support. Good ankle support is something that I really look for in a hiking boot. The Helium delivered. However, in this instance, I wished the soles had been a bit more flexible for even increased traction on such uneven surfaces.

The boots have held up well throughout the test series. The tread shows minimal wear which is to be expected as most of my use was in the snow. There are no loose threads or fraying material.

Although the test series is over, I am anxious to see how these "big boots" perform out of the snow. I will be testing them in such conditions as soon as the snow is gone. Should any issues arise, I will submit an addendum. Otherwise, I am quite pleased with these boots--the first boots by Montrail that I have used. I would not hesitate in recommending the Helium GTX to anyone looking for this type of hiking boot.

Thanks to Montrail and BackpackGearTest for allowing me to test the Helium GTX hiking boots.

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