BackpackGearTest
  Home Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Oboz Footwear Beartooth Boots > Test Report by Rick Dreher

Oboz Beartooth Boots

IMAGE 1

Test Series by Rick Dreher
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 01, 2011
FIELD REPORT - January 28, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT - March 28, 2012

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Rick Dreher
EMAIL: redbike64(at)hotmail(dot)com
AGE: 58
LOCATION: Northern California
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (2.10 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.40 kg)
FOOT SIZE US men's 11.5
TORSO LENGTH 19.5 in (50 cm)
YEARS HIKING 41

I enjoy going high and light and frequently take shorter "fast- packing" trips. My longest trips are a week or so. I've lightened my pack load because I enjoy hiking more when toting less, I can go farther and over tougher terrain, and I have cranky ankles. I use trekking poles and generally hike solo or tandem. I've backpacked all over the U.S. West and now primarily hike California's Sierra Nevada. My favorite trips are alpine and include off-trail travel and sleeping in high places. When winter arrives, I head back for snowshoe outings in the white stuff.


INITIAL REPORT

Product Information & Specifications

Product: Oboz Beartooth hiking boots
Model year: 2011
Manufacturer: Oboz
Manufacturer's website: www.obozfootwear.com
Size tested: Men's US 11.5 (EU 45) medium width
Weight (manufacturer): 30.7 oz/870 g (men's 9)
Weight (measured): 67 oz/1,900 g
MSRP US$200

Initial Impressions

Description

The Oboz Beartooths are "old school" rough & tough hiking boots loaded with new technology. They feature beefy construction and extend over the ankle. The armored uppers are a combination of rubber, leather and man-made textile, lined with what Oboz calls "BDRY": a waterproof -breathable (WPB) membrane (of polyurethane laminated between an external mesh and hydrophilic inner face). Support comes from a stiff outsole and midsole coupled with a molded heel counter, and the soles are aggressively lugged.

The Beartooth "BFit" lacing combines typical heavy duty metal hardware with an instep strap anchored to the heel counter. Loops are provided at the back to aid pulling them on. Inside, leather lines the heel and tongue and a removable insole features heel and forefoot cushioning.

The Beartooths practically scowl with serious intentions from their box, and they're quite weighty compared to my typical mid-season trail sneakers. Flexing them by hand takes a lot of effort, both bending and twisting. They're clearly built to provide significant support and stability.

The design is complex, with uppers constructed from various plastic, rubber, leather and armored fabric pieces. The lugged soles are cut away at the instep and will accommodate gaiter straps, important for poor-weather footwear. For amusement, on close viewing one can make out a topographic map molded into the sole, between lugs. Oboz informs us it's the Wind River Range, bits of it anyway. The lugging pattern is complex, with groups of lugs angled in different directions, perhaps to aid traction both uphill and down. Time will tell.

The lacing system comprises four pairs of riveted metal lace guides across the forefoot, the BFit instep strap anchored to the heel counter using metal D-rings, and two pairs of metal speed-lace hooks on top. The boot opens fairly wide to ease donning and removing. Unlike a lot of footwear I've bought recently, the laces are sized correctly and not a foot too long.

Lacing
Beartooth lacing system.



Construction appears neat and clean. The Beartooths are assembled using a combination of stitching and glue, all of which look neat, clean and gapless. Some stitching is exposed beneath the removable insole, but doesn't appear vulnerable to wear and has no sharp edges.

Reading the Instructions

No information was supplied with the boots, either printed on the box or on a hangtag. The Oboz Web site does have a page for the Beartooths, from where I gleaned my technical information. One spec that appears whoppingly off is the weight which, if per boot would be at least in the ballpark for these but if the case, is an odd way to spec shoe weights.

Trying Them Out

Pulling them on while wearing mid-weight socks, I'm relieved to find the Beartooths fit pretty well for brand-new boots, so the sizing initially seems correct. (I'll wear them inside a day or two to ensure this is the case before I go muck them up.) The lacing system seems to spread tension evenly across my foot and I can feel the BFit strap pull my heels into place. Walking in the stiff, new Beartooths is eased by a bit of rocker (curved sole) build in to reduce the "clunk-clunk" motion typical of super-stiff, climbing style boots (note: the Beartooths are heavy duty hiking boots, not mountaineering boots).

BFit
BFit connects heel cup to instep.



The boots seem well padded at the tops, ankles and beneath the laces, hopefully adequate to avoid bruising and hotspots. They're cut lower to the back, presumably to not irritate the Achilles tendon. The Beartooths are not insulated beyond the padding, so shouldn't be considered winter-specific boots even if that's how I'll be using them. (The Sierra Nevada simply isn't Montana or Maine, even in January.)

Summary

sole detail
Soles have aggressive lugs.



The Oboz Beartooth hiking boots are beefy and seem ready for nearly everything late fall and winter might throw their way. Initial fit is good and it's obvious they're heavy, but at least they don't feel like I have a brace of anvils strapped to my feet. Because they use both waterproofed upper materials and a WPB (waterproof breatheable) liner, they should repel water and wet snow. Whether they can both do this and vent perspiration will be one of the key test questions.

Suggestions for Improvement

Nothing to note on first examination. I'd recommend Oboz reconsider how they spec their weights.

insole
Insoles have padding at heel and forefoot.

Acknowledgments

Please check back in two months for the field report.

My sincere thanks to Oboz and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test the Beartooth boots!

--rtd


FIELD REPORT

Field Locations & Conditions

I wore the Beartooths around home and town, all of which is flat and at sea level. Temperatures ranged from 40-75 F (5-24 C) and weather was mostly clear but with some rain early in fall. I wore them day hiking in the Sierra foothills, mostly on hilly canyon trails. Temperatures ranged from around freezing to the mid-60s F (0-18 C) and weather varied from sunny to light rain. My mountain hikes have all been in the Tahoe Sierra, between 5,500 and 7,500 feet (1,680-2,300 m) on rocky, icy, and steep trails. Weather ranged from clear to cloudy with temperatures as low as the mid-20s F (-4 C) with winds from dead calm to strong.

IMAGE 6
Beartooths hit the dirt.

Performance in the Field

A note about weight: I mentioned in the initial report the Beartooth weight is more than double the spec published by Oboz. After the report was posted they contacted me to confirm yes, their weight specs are per size 9 shoe/boot for men, size 7 for women and they have taken the extra step of their Web site to clarify this spec for each model listing. This is great responsiveness on their part, and I applaud Oboz for caring about what we crazy hikers--especially the gram counters--want to know and adding this desirable information to their literature.

Fit: After break-in the Beartooths fit snugly, but not too snug. My heel doesn't rub and my toes don't hit in front, even going downhill. Lace tension is reasonably even across my foot. They untie on their own during the day if I don't double-knot them and I occasionally need to retie them after they loosen.

IMAGE 7
Beartooths hit the rock.



Comfort: Ideally, footwear should never call attention to themselves and the Beartooths generally don't. During break-in I developed a small blister atop one of my toes, which a piece of tape took care of for the rest of the weekend. That's been a one-time occurrence. Hiking in the hills I can get sore where the boot tops meet my ankles, despite the generous padding. This has been an annoyance rather than a problem but I'll continue to watch and see whether it lessens and hopefully disappears with further wear. In warm weather my feet do get pretty hot, not surprising given the waterproof membrane and overall armoring, but I didn't experience heat blisters. (This has happened with other boots after when my feet got wet. It's now January and I won't be doing any more warm weather experiments during this test.)

Traction: Grip is good on most surfaces. The lugs give solid traction on turf, dirt, decomposed granite and granite slab, uphill, downhill and side-slope. The rubber grips reasonably well on a variety of wet surfaces, although it's been slippery on mossy streamside rock, wet wood, and ice. Note I haven't mentioned snow. It did snow at some point this winter, I think it might have been in November. In mid-January the only snow left in the mountains lies in deep shade on north-facing slopes, and it has either morphed into outright glare ice or at a minimum is nearly hard as a rock. Where this icy stuff isn't level it's very hard to navigate. Needless to say I don't sink into it wearing the Beartooths so I can't yet comment on how they grip in softer snow and whether snow ever balls up on the soles.

Water Resistance: I've worn the Beartooths in light to moderate rain, across soggy fields and through small streams. I've not yet seen the leather uppers wet through, much less had any water seep inside, past the BDRY membrane. So far, so good. I have yet to wear them in heavy rain (we're hoping to see some of that before summer), immerse them for an extended period or slogged with them through slushy snow--I can't yet say whether or when the waterproofing might fail. While they can become sweaty on warm days, in cooler temperatures I haven't found them uncomfortable after walking for a few hours, so the membrane technology does seem to breathe. This is especially important near and below freezing, when dry feet are warm feet.

Also because I've not soaked them, I can't comment on how long it takes the Beartooths to dry.

IMAGE 8
Beartooths hit the ice.



Socks: I've worn a variety of mid-weight socks with the Beartooths, all providing a good fit, warmth in cold weather and sweat absorption when it's hot. I wear my usual backpacking wool blend socks on day hikes--they're tough, comfortable and blister-resistant and warm. The Beartooths aren't insulated winter-specific boots, so sock choice is important below freezing.

Paired With…: I've worn the Beartooths with mid-height gaiters to keep debris out of the boot tops. The cutaway sole provides room for the gaiter strap and the boot lacing anchors the gaiters' front lace hook. While I've test-fitted them with two pairs of snowshoes (Atlas Race and MSR Lightning) there hasn't been enough snow for me to actually snowshoe this winter. Hopefully I'll be able to add this activity to the long-term summary. What I needed last weekend while skittering across the Sierra ice was added traction, but it didn't occur to me to carry any, such as my Kahtoolas.

Lace Hooks, and a Repair Initiated: From the start of this field test I've often noticed one or another of the top two inside-facing lace hooks of either boot would become bent outward while I was wearing them. The hook has to be bent back so the lace won't slip off and I don't gouge the opposite calf with it. This has happened to more than one hooks, perhaps all four at some time, but I never actually saw it occur. Was I catching them on the other boot's lace hooks or lacing? Was I catching them on brush? Were the laces themselves pulling the hooks open? If it happened while hiking I'd have to press it closed using a handy rock; if I noticed it at home I'd use pliers. Finally, one broke off during a hike. The silver-colored hooks are golden inside and not magnetic, so I presume they're brass. In any case, metal fatigue finally claimed one so this pair is slated to be sent off for repair by a cobbler (courtesy of Oboz). I'll update the repair in my long-term report.

IMAGE 9
Lace hook bends on the go.



IMAGE 10
The bend gets bendier.



Wear and Tear: Moving past the hardware issue, the boots remain in excellent shape. There are no cuts, bad scrapes, failing seams or other noticeable problems. The soles look used but show no unreasonable wear.

Support: Oboz customer service and their communications rep couldn't be more responsive. I had responses from both within an hour of emailing about my broken lace hook and quickly arranged for repair.

IMAGE 11
Enough bending eventually leads to breaking.

Summary

The Oboz Beartooths are (mostly) performing as I'd hoped and expected. They're rugged and allow me to stomp around most anywhere and not worry about smashing my toes and ankles or bruising my soles. They grip well on a variety of challenging surfaces, even at steep angles. They fend off moisture and keep my feet dry and warm. They're comfortable after wearing them a day. The failure point of the lace hooks is certainly a concern-I'll add that my pair were made early in the production run.

IMAGE 12
Detail of the point of failure. Brass?



While they're decently light for a boot in this category I can certainly tell the difference in fatigue between a day in the Beartooths versus a pair of trail sneakers. But these two categories of footwear both have their place, in my view. I still hope to wear these snowshoeing, which I consider my prime activity to pair them with.

Finally, I'm impressed with the quick and responsive Oboz customer service. My interactions have all been positive and I'm comfortable in saying they're outdoor enthusiasts rather than just another company slinging gear.

Acknowledgments

My thanks to Oboz and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Beartooth boots. Please check back in two months for the long-term report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Long-Term Test Locations and Conditions

Once repaired, I used the Beartooths for yard work at home, a few photography excursions, a couple day hikes in the foothills and, finally!, snowshoeing in the Sierra.

Weather included clear and warm, cold and rainy, and snow. Temperatures ranged from the mid-70s F to below freezing (+23 to -5C). Terrain included dead flat to mountain-steep, over turf, dirt, gravel, rock, mud and snow. Elevations ranged from sea level to 6,500 feet (1,980 m).

My longest day was 7 miles (11 km).

IMAGE 13
Gaiters are snug but great for keeping out snow and debris.

Performance in the Field

The Repair: To repair the broken lace hook noted in the Field Report, Oboz had me ship the boots to their cobbler, who replaced the broken hook as well as its counterpart on the other boot. These two were the ones most likely to snag laces, branches, etc. The replacement hooks are cast or forged rather than the stamped sheet metal of the originals, and are smaller. The top lace hooks weren't replaced, although they too occasionally bent.

Somehow the cobbler left no trace of opening up the boots when replacing the hooks, and the repair didn't add exposed rivets so the padding and smooth cuff remain as before. Most importantly, I had no further problems during the brief long-term test period.

Snowshoes: I got in a day on snowshoes at last, taking a hike in the Tahoe Sierra after a series of storms left a couple feet after a long, dry winter. The Beartooths just fit in my lightweight snowshoe bindings and I also wore gaiters to keep snow from entering the boot-tops. Over several hours wandering in snow of varying depth and all manner of slope angles and over rock and brush, the boots handled the snowshoes well. Control was good, with no twisting or slipping inside the binding (a problem I have with trail sneakers in snowshoes). I could center my weight on the forefoot crampon when I needed traction. My feet stayed warm and mostly dry, even though I plowed through snowmelt marshes. The moisture in my socks at day's end was typical of normal sweat, and I didn't see evidence of wetting-through. My conclusion: the B-Dry lining works as intended.

IMAGE 14
Beartooths controlled light snowshoes easily.



Gaiters: I wore soft-shell gaiters with the Beartooths to ward off water, snow and debris, as well as keep the lace hooks from being exposed. They were a tight fit for my size large gaiters, but were a good match for the boots, otherwise. They stayed in place during the day without frequent adjustments.
Hiking: I didn't have another "zamboni" hike so no further slipping and sliding along mountainsides during the long-term test. Other than snowshoeing, my hikes were all in the Sierra foothills, mostly hilly with an array of trails and scrambling. The Beartooths were stable and kept my feet dry. Traction was usually good except where the going became really slippery. The soles skate across certain wet surfaces, and I'm not inclined to try comparing them against other types of rubber soles.

Summary

Wear and Tear:The broken lace hook remained my only failure point. I had other problems during my test. The soles show only moderate wear and the uppers look barely different than when new. Likewise, inside shows little wear and no damage. It's fair to conclude the Beartooths will last a long while for the type of use I gave them. They should be re-soleable as well for folks who travel across harsh environments, such as lava fields.

Plusses: Fit, comfort, warm, dry, physical protection, good traction on most surfaces.

Minuses: Weight, lace hooks, sweaty in hot weather, slippery on ice and water-slick rock.

Continued Use

IMAGE 15
Ugh—Beartooths didn't wet-through even in a snowy bog.



I'm not a consistent boot user but the Oboz Beartooths proved very useful for fall and winter hiking, as well as general knocking around in sloppy weather. Most importantly, they're comfortable and I also believe the lace hook problem has been solved. As a result I plan to continue wearing the Beartooths a good long while.

Acknowledgments

This concludes my Beartooth test. My sincere thanks to Oboz, Oboz customer service and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to participate!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Oboz gear
Read more gear reviews by Rick Dreher

Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Oboz Footwear Beartooth Boots > Test Report by Rick Dreher



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson