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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Patagonia Vagabond > Test Report by James E. Triplett

Lightweight-Waterproof Hiking Boots

Mens Patagonia Vagabond

Test Series By: James E. Triplett
INITIAL REPORT (1-October-2007)

FIELD REPORT (3-December-2007)

LONG TERM REPORT (1-February-2008)

Personal Biographical Information:

Name: James E. Triplett
Age: 47
Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Gender: male
Height: 6' 2" (1.88 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Foot Size:
12 US (as measured on a Brannock Device)

Backpacking Background:
I am an experienced hiker, backpacker, and camper, and am gaining more experience with winter camping every year. I hike every day, and backpack when possible, which leads to many weekends backpacking and camping each year. I try and take at least one annual week-long backpacking trip in addition to many one to three-night weekend trips. My style can best be described as lightweight, but not at the cost of giving up too much comfort. I generally sleep in a tent, and seem to be collecting quite a few of them to choose from.

Patagonia Vagabond Waterproof Boots
Patagonia Vagabond Waterproof Boots

Product Information & Specifications:

Manufacturer: Patagonia, Reno, Nevada (also in Canada, Japan, Europe, Italy, Chile, Argentina)
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website:

Style No. 79452
MSRP: $140 US

Color Received: Black (155)
Other Colors: Dark Brown (088)
Size received: 11½ US
Available sizes: 7 - 15 (US) with half sizes up to 11½

Listed Weight: 1020 g (36 oz)
Measured Weight: 1210 g (42.8oz -or- 2 lb, 10.8 oz)

Date Item Received: 26-September-2007

Additional Product Information:

From the website:


  • A lightweight, breathable hiking boot with waterproof construction


  • Upper - protective mesh with bellows tongue
  • Lining - fast-wicking, quick-drying Capilene® lining with natural odor control, and Waterproof bootie construction
  • Insole - Bi-Fit™ dual-density recycled polyethylene/polyurethane
  • Outsole - Vibram® Ecostep™ lug (up to 30% recycled rubber)
  • Midsole - air-cushioning disk in the 15% recycled EVA foam
  • Footbed - 70% recycled synthetic-cork with carbon component with antimicrobial qualities
  • Last - Medium width, full toe box, medium arch/instep

Recommended Use:

  • Hiking
  • Scrambling
  • The Approach

Patagonia Vagabond Laces
I've hiked a lot over the years and started out with some heavy (and I mean heavy!) Vasque steel-shanked boots when I did the lower third of the Appalachian Trail almost two-dozen years ago.  Times have changed over the years and from my perspective the need for thick, heavy, and stiff hiking boots has all but disappeared.  In no particular order, I have hiked in heavy-weight boots, mid-weight boots, stretchy sock-like shoes, trail runners, and even sandals.  Thanks to advances in technology it is now possible to have a boot that is lightweight, durable and even waterproof.  That is the niche the imported Patagonia Vagabonds are designed to fill.  This is desirable to me as I'm not going on 700 mile (1,100 km) hikes these days, but rather shorter more frequent hikes for which the Vagabonds should fit the bill.

Vagabond (vag-a-bond): rootless: wandering aimlessly without ties to a place or community; "led a vagabond life"; "a rootless wanderer"

Initial Impressions:
Based on the product literature available on the Patagonia website, I had formed an idea of what the Patagonia Vagabond boots would be like.  They are in fact pretty much what I expected.  The Vagabonds are a lightweight boot which rise to just above the ankle.  There are four pairs of eyelets for the laces, and two pairs of speed-hooks in rather close proximity at the top of the boots.  The toes are rubberized, and the sole is slightly rounded under the arch of the foot.  The backs of the boots are low, measuring 6.1 inches (15.5 cm) from the resting surface, and there are loops for tugging on the boots.  The uppers are a bit of a surprise, as they are made of a cloth fabric similar to canvas.  There are areas of leather, or simulated leather, around the eyelets and the base of the boots.  The gusseted tongues are heavily padded, and the laces are thin, round, and have yellow highlights making them rather decorative.  

Patagonia Vagabond Insoles

Inside the boots is a cushy Capilene lining.  The blue insoles are thin and contoured, without any built in arch support.  They are a rubbery material of a high density nature.  Under the insoles the lining extends to the base of the inner boot where there is a single zig-zag seam down the center of the boot (see image below).

Inside the  Patagonia Vagabond

The only literature coming with the Patagonia Vagabonds was a hang-tag which touts the 30% recycled rubber Vibram® Ecostep soles.  The Vibram soles are nicely lugged and fairly aggressive for a light-weight boot.  I like the way they are narrower in the middle, and the wrap up on the toes and heels should be good protection for stubbing toes on rocks and other trail debris.

Vibram Ecostep Soles

Initial Fit:
Slipping the Patagonia Vagabond Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Boots on reminded me of slipping into a new fleece sweater.  They are truly soft and luxurious.  This is in rather stark contrast to the utilitarian look and feel of the outside of the boots.  My feet measure right at size 12 (US) on a Brannock device, but from past experience I ordered the 11 ½ boots for the desired fit.  This worked perfectly and the boots fit like a glove while still leaving an adequate amount of room beyond my toes.  I have somewhat thin feet and sometimes lacing up boots can be problematic as I need to compress a lot of the bulky boot material to get them snug enough.  My initial trial shows that this is somewhat the case with these boots, but not to the extreme causing concern.  The laces are thin and slide easily through the eyelets and speed-hooks, so I will monitor how well I am able to tighten the boots as testing commences.  Over all, the boots fit delightfully well and I am anxious to get them out into the woods.

Test Plan:
I will be using the Patagonia Vagabond light-weight hiking boots for all my hiking, backpacking, and camping needs throughout the test period.  With the test period extending into early 2008 there is a good chance that this will include some use in the snow, so I will be able to test their claimed water-proofness in both rain and wintry conditions.  I will also be looking for signs of wear, and report on warmth and comfort.  I plan to use the Vagabond boots on daily hikes of 2 to 4 miles (3 to 6.5 km) and multi-day trips of up to 10 or 12 miles (16 to 19 km) per day.  I expect the Vagabonds to see dry dirt trails, wet grassy trails, as well as mud, pavement, creek beds, possibly snow and ice, and most other imaginable surfaces.  The current plan is for these hikes to take place here in Eastern Iowa.  The elevation is around 860 feet (262 meters) and the temperature and precipitation data can be found in the table below.

Temp Range
degrees F
Temp Range
degrees C
42 to 64
6 to 18
29 to 47
-2 to 8
16 to 32
-9 to 0
10 to 28
-12 to -2

Patagonia Vagabond light-weight hiking boots

The Patagonia Vagabond light-weight hiking boots are slightly unusual in that they have canvas uppers.  It will be interesting to see how this material wears both from durability and ease of cleaning standpoints.  The tread is moderately aggressive, yet is shaped with streamlined contours wrapping up at the toe and heel, and rising on the sides around the arch of the foot.  The height of the boots is reasonably low, which for me is desirable.  The styling is appealing and I am anxious to start testing!


Patagonia Vagabond in the snow

Locations and Conditions:
I have used the Patagonia Vagabond light-weight hiking boots for all my hiking since receiving them.  This has included daily hikes in the private woods near my home in Eastern Iowa, hikes in the Faulks Heritage Woods, Squaw Creek Park, and Pinicon Ridge Park, all also in Eastern Iowa, and three overnight backpacking trips in the aforementioned areas.  I estimate that I have worn the boots for approximately 100 miles (161 km).   Temperatures have ranged from a high of 65 F (18 C) at the beginning of the test period, to a low of 13 F (-10 C) during a recent trip.  The Vagabonds have been exposed to mud, rain, heavy dew, ice, and snow.  Elevations have been around 860 feet (262 meters).

Slight Staining when wet

Performance, Fit and Comfort:
As I reported earlier, the Patagonia Vagabond boots fit nicely and seemed exceptionally comfortable to slip on.  I have used the boots exclusively with the stock insoles, which seemed adequate for short hikes around my home.  Taking a longer backpacking hike in to a camping area at Pinicon Ridge Park, however, yielded different results.  With a pack weight of approximately 30 pounds (14 kg), and hiking about 8 miles (13 km), my feet grew tired and the arch support of the boots seemed lacking.  My feet felt hot and flat.  This has happened on three different occasions when going for similar distances.  As I move into the Long Term testing phase I intend to experiment with some off-the-shelf insoles which are thicker and have better arch support.  Ankle support offered by the Vagabonds is adequate, and in fact more than expected given that these are rather light weight boots.  Traction with the Vibram Ecostep soles has been good on dirt, muddy, and snowy trails.  The boots slip somewhat on wet rocky conditions, but no more than what I have experienced with other lugged footwear.

The canvas uppers have worn well and resisted staining for the most part.  As can be seen in the pictures, when the boots are wet the canvas discolors, but it generally restores itself to near the original appearance when the boots have dried back out.  When wearing the boots through some tall, dew-soaked, prairie grass, the boots kept my feet dry.  I have also worn the boots through standing water when there was no way around it on a particular trail, and found the Patagonia Vagabonds to be waterproof as advertised.  Snow has also not presented a problem.

One surprising development with regards to the durability of the boots is that the laces have broken on both boots.  The lace on the left boot broke between the third and fourth pair of eyelets when I was lacing them one morning.  I secured the broken ends together with a square knot (photo below), but the casing of the laces was still detached.  Shortly thereafter the lace broke again in a spot near the original break.  I don't fault the laces for this since the casing was not in tact, and only the inner cord was holding the laces together.  But then the right lace broke, and the left lace broke again, this time in an area where the lace had not been compromised.  I have had laces last for years and was disappointed that the laces on the Vagabonds seem to be inferior.

Patagonia Vagabond Broken Lace

I have worn the Patagonia boots with one sock layer consisting of cotton blend socks when it was warmer out, followed by SmartWool and Thorlo wool socks as temperatures dropped to freezing and below.  I have found the boots to insulate fairly well in the cold temperatures, yet not cause excessive heat buildup on warmer days.

Field Testing Summary:
The Patagonia Vagabond boots are holding up well, with the exception of the broken laces, through this first phase of the testing process.  The boots are quite comfortable and offer decent support for a lightweight boot.  I will try some more supportive insoles during the long term test to see if they aid in comfort on longer backpacking trips.  Overall the fit and comfort have been first rate, and there was no break-in period required prior to heading out on a backpacking trip.

JET in the Vagabonds


Patagonia Vagabonds

Test Location and Conditions:
I have worn the Patagonia Vagabond boots for almost all my outdoor activities since receiving them in September 2007.  The exception was a few days at Christmas when I loaned them to my son-in-law, as their luggage was lost for a few days while they were flying up from North Carolina.  We were all outside shoveling snow and he needed footwear.  I have worn the Vagabonds on backpacking trips to Pinicon Ridge Park, and Palisades Kepler Park (both in Eastern Iowa), as well as on day hikes on both public and private land near my home on the edge of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The elevation in this region is approximately 860 feet (262 meters).   

The weather conditions have been rather extreme for this test period.  Back in September it got as warm as 64 F (18 C), and believe it or not, this month, January 2008, it got up to 65 F (18.5 C).  In between it has hovered around freezing several times, been below 0 F (-18 C) for days in a row, and gotten as cold as -20 F (-29 C).  Perhaps the strangest day was this past Monday when it was 46 F (8 C) as I went on a hike in the morning, but the temperature fell throughout the day and it got down to -2 F (-19 C) within 18 hours.

Because of this wild range of up and down temperatures, I have been able to wear the Vagabond boots in a variety of conditions, from rain and sleet, to damp heavy snow, light powdery snow, and packed snow and ice.  Average snowfall for the entire winter around here is 33 inches (84 cm), and we've already had 31 inches (79 cm)!  I've worn the Vagabonds on a variety of surfaces (dirt, grass, rock, etc.), but that has been covered with snow for at least the last six weeks, so it is somewhat irrelevant.

The performance of the Patagonia Vagabond lightweight waterproof hiking boots has been unremarkable, which in this case is a good thing.  My feet haven't gotten cold even when hiking in sub-zero (below -18 C) weather.  I haven't developed any blisters or had any other bad-feet experiences.  The boots have proven to be waterproof, and remained 
that way throughout the test.  And comfort, traction, and stability has been quite adequate from the first day through today.

Patagonia Comfort

Fit and Comfort:
When I Think of "Patagonia" what typically comes to mind is a sweater, or maybe a fleece jacket, either of which being soft and comfortable.  When I slipped on the Vagabond boots for the first time, they were indeed soft and comfortable.  Remarkably so, in fact.  Now that I've worn them for approximately 200 miles (320 km), including about 25 miles (40 km) in snowshoes, I've gotten spoiled and take the comfort for granted.  They are still just as comfortable, but I have to admit that I've stopped noticing it.  I did discover that on long hikes, or days when I wear them for 6, 8, or 10 hours, my feet would feel rather tired.  I put in some Sof-Sol insoles, and noticed a marked improvement.  

Bad laces.  Bad.

Durability of the Patagonia Vagabond's has proven to be sufficient over the four-month test period, with the exception of the laces.  The laces were simply dismal.  Each time a lace would break I would tie it back together and continue on.  This happened at least five times.  Recently I replaced the laces with some nice red hiking laces.  For some reason, with the new laces, the boots are nice and snug again, and feel more secure.  This is either due to my tentativeness in tightening the old (easy-to-break) laces, or the knots were causing issues and not letting the tension distribute properly.  I wish I had replaced the laces earlier because now I am interested to see if there are sharp edges on the eyelets or some other reason that the boots caused the laces to fail.  My inspection of the eyelets indicates that they are fine.  I'll put an addendum to this report if the new laces fail abnormally quickly.

So back to the durability of the boots themselves.  For non-leather boots I am rather impressed.  When they are wet they look stained, but when the dry they go back to their original appearance.  There are some slightly frayed places near the eyelets, but they were there from the beginning and are simply the edge of the material where the canvas is attached to the black material.  The tread is in almost perfect condition.  Both the clean uppers, and well preserved tread, are likely attributable to daily usage in snow, where there isn't much abrasion on the tread and the snow cleans the uppers.

New laces and ready to hit the trail

Final Summary and Conclusions:
The Patagonia Vagabond lightweight waterproof hiking boots are about half a pound (225 grams) lighter than my next lightest hiking boots.  Though not offering quite as much support as heavier boots, I have found the Vagabonds nicely sufficient for hiking the trails of Eastern Iowa.  Traction is very good, as is durability (except for the laces), and the over all performance of the boots has met my needs.  I have found the Vagabonds to be comfortable and truly waterproof.  They also fit nicely into my snowshoes.

This concludes my report series on the Patagonia Vagabond lightweight waterproof hiking boots.  Thank you to and Patagonia for the opportunity to participate in this test series.

Respectfully submitted,

-James T.

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