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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Patagonia Vagabond > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

PATAGONIA W'S VAGABOND WATERPROOF BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY KATHLEEN WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
January 22, 2008

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: TheMiddleSister@usaring.com
AGE: 56
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.63 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

I started hiking in 1998 after an eye-opening climb up Hahn's Peak in Colorado. Hooked, I return to Colorado often. I've hiked/snowshoed glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in domestic and exotic locations, including Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. At home, I plan for 2-3 hikes of 6-8 mi (10-13 km) weekly and one weekend hike monthly. Weekday hikes take place in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, a mixture of heavily-wooded moderate hills and flat terrain. Weekend hike locations vary. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) including food and water


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Patagonia, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.patagonia.com
MSRP: US$140.00
Listed Weight: 1077 g (38 oz)
Measured Weight: 33.5 oz (950 g)
Colors Available: Dark Brown and Light Blue
Color Tested: Light Blue
Sizes Available: 5-11, 12 US/3-10 UK/36-43 EURO/22-29 cm
Size Tested: 8 US/6 UK/39 EUR Women's

Guarantee: "We guarantee everything we make. If you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to the store you bought it from or to Patagonia for a repair, replacement or refund. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge."
Patagonia Vagabond Boots
Patagonia Vagabond Boots


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - September 2007

Patagpnia Vagabond Sole
Patagonia Vagabond Tread
These are very snazzy boots! The light blue and gray boots I received look better than depicted on the Patagonia website. They are less "bright" than I thought they would be. The main body of the boots is gray canvas-like material with light blue suede eyelet, side and tongue accents. A black rubber -like material borders the toes, wrapping around to the mid-foot. Matching material covers the back of the heel almost to the cuff.

The shoe laces are light blue round laces with black accents and the boots use the ordinary lacing system with the two "fast-lace" hooks at the top.

The tongue of the Vagabonds is semi-attached and sports a fabric mesh center over the mid-step.

The gray Vibram soles of the Patagonia Vagabonds are very interesting looking. Rows of black graduated lugs alternate from side to side in the forefoot and the heel. The ridges look a lot like small vertebras! There isn't much of a noticeable arch to the soles.

Discreet "Patagonia," "waterproof," and "Vibram" labels are visible on the tongue, heel, sole and ankle of the boots.

The Vagabonds appear to be very well constructed with no loose threads, snags, excess glue or any other imperfections of any kind.

Trying on the Patagonia Vagabond W's Boots was nice! I wore a pair of mid-weight wool socks with no liners.

Based on the Patagonia website sizing chart, I ordered my usual size 8 and the boots fit perfectly. The attached black and blue heel loops were handy to guide my feet into the boots. I had a little bit of difficulty pulling up the laces as they don't hold after being tightened. It wasn't until I actually tied the laces that I felt they were secure. The laces are long enough, without being so long that I have to worry about double bows and tripping.

My toes felt quite comfortable with ample room in the toe box and my heel was held firmly. A nicely padded collar supported my ankle. The inner soles of the Vagabonds are smooth with no lumps or bumps and on first try the arches feel just right.

TESTING STRATEGY

I love testing boots! A gal can never have/test enough footwear, I think, and that includes boots. So, I'm definitely ready to test these babies out.

Out in Colorado, boots are the footwear of choice anyway and since I will be Colorado for the whole testing period, I will be wearing boots almost all the time. This means I will be vigorously checking out all aspects of the boots, including fit, comfort, performance and durability.

Questions that my inquiring mind wants to know the answers to:

Fit - Does the initial good feel of the boots continue when I get these babies out on the trail? Or will the fit change after the Vagabonds are broken in? Can I wear my thickest socks or will I need to use just my lighter pairs?

Comfort - Do any bumps, lumps or other protrusions appear in the boots after the break-in period? Is there any irritation to my feet when wearing the boots on the trail? Do any hot spots develop? Is there a stiff or flexible feel to the soles on the trail? The uppers? Do my feet stay warm enough? Will my feet sweat? Does the Capilene lining wick away any sweat? Is there enough ankle support? Will my toes bump against the toe box when going downhill? Will my arches get sore from rocky trails, especially with a heavier pack weight? If I need to, can I replace the stock inner sole with a custom one? Will cactus spines prick right through the boots and wedge into my foot?

Performance - How well does the tread hold in various terrain such as sand, gravel, dirt, scree and boulders? How well does the tread deal with mud and slick conditions on the trail? Does the boot flex well enough to handle scrambling up rocks? Will the tread hold on downhill as well as ascent? Will the ankle support protect me from side to side slips? Does the tongue keep out trail debris? Will I be able to ford streams or hike in downpours without having wet feet? How well and long does it take for the boots to dry out when wet?

Durability - What sort of wear will the boots show after four months of near daily use? Will the tread be noticeably worn? Will the toe box be torn to shreds from my not-so-graceful stride? Will the body of the boots rip or tear from contact with tree roots, cactus and sharp rock? Are all the seams and stitching tight, even and straight? Is the sole firmly attached to the boot? Does it stay firmly attached to the boot? How about the shoe laces, will they need to be replaced due to unraveling? What sort of care is needed to keep the boots presentable? I will be experiencing lots of very sticky mud. Will I be able to clean the treads and uppers easily? Will the Capilene liner stay "put"? Will the boots smell?

Of course, I will also report any other issues that arise during the testing period.

SUMMARY TO DATE

I'm a great fan of Patagonia products and some of my favorite gear is made with Capilene and Vibram. Couple that with the intriguing concept of recycled material in a hiking boot and my interest is piqued! I'm very excited about testing the Vagabond boots and mean to give them quite a workout.

See my Field Report with the results of my first two months of testing below.

Kathy Waters


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS-Nov 07

During this field testing period, all of my backpacking took place in south central Colorado. All backpacking trips were weekend jaunts into the approximately 100,000 acres (40,468 hectares) of BLM land encompassing the Cooper Mountain range/Royal Gorge area near Canon City or the Wet Mountains south of the Arkansas River Valley.

The Cooper Mountain range is mostly pinon pine and juniper-covered high desert with rough primitive game and mining trails (for the most part) and is easily accessed just outside of my property fence line. So this was (and will be) most often chosen for my weekenders. My husband and I generally pack up, grab the GPS, pick a trail and go without any planned destination in mind.

The Wet Mountains rise up from the Arkansas River Valley and are dense ponderosa pine and sage forests. One of my favorite trails there is the Barlett Trail in the southern part of the Wet Mountains.

Elevations I tested in ranged from 5000' up to 14,000' ( 1524 m to 4268 m) and temperatures over summer and fall varied from 50 F to 95 F (10 C to 35 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Since I've been in Colorado, I've been wearing boots at least 50%, if not more, of the time. Until our house is built, home is a 35' RV parked on our building site which is a beautiful "hogback" (just like it sounds - a rolling mound of earth, shaped like a hog's back). This means, as soon as I go out the door, I'm in dirt, or mud as the case may be and within steps of the door, I'm in brush, boulders, shale and other untamed earth surfaces. Hence the need for boots in my wardrobe!

Due to the unseasonably warm weather this autumn, I mostly wore the Patagonia Vagabond boots with a mid-weight sock, namely Fox River's Organic Crew Sock which I am also currently testing. On only one or two occasions when I had a full pack load, did I wear a heavier weight pair of socks. Both sock weights worked well with the boots, with little discernible differences. Neither sock weight caused undue sweating and while the socks externally felt damp after a long day on the trails, the insides of the Vagabonds did not.

Which brings me to "smelly-boot-syndrome" - there wasn't any! I mean, the boots don't smell like a rose, but except the night after I stepped in a fresh pile of horse manure, the boots didn't make my tent uninhabitable!

While it doesn't really count as hiking, almost everyday, I walk down to our mailbox which is a 5 mile (8 km) round trip trek. This is down a dirt, sometimes very rutted, road. It is always an up and down climb with up to a 25% grade and a +/- elevation gain/loss of about 300' (91 m). I also put countless miles/kilometers on my boots lugging gallons/liters - 4 gallons (15 L) at a time - of water down into our valley to water newly planted fruit trees. This is up to 6 trips a day, every other day, when it is dry and sunny which it has been almost every day for the last 2-1/2 months. That adds up to a good 180 miles (290 km) of just "around the house" usage. But not the typical "around the house" usage, more like the "around the high desert foothills to the Rocky Mountains" usage.

Of course, I've spent at least 5 of the past 8 weekends backpacking. Most of the time, I carried a pack weight of 25 lb (11 kg) or less. It's been unseasonably warm, so I haven't needed to pack along heavy duty clothing or bedding. This naturally meant that I had less pressure on my feet. Counteracting the easy pack weight was the very rough terrain for the most part. The Vagabonds came through nicely, protecting my soles from the rigors of the trails which were mostly very rocky, varying from gravely to outright boulders. I never felt any sharp thrusts to my toes and heels even though the shale around here often splintered when trod upon.

All this gravel and shale gave the Vagabonds' tread quite a workout. At no time did I ever slip due to the Vagabonds - I'm often just plain clumsy - and the treads seemed to do their job on all surfaces. The soles of the Vagabonds are moderately stiff, but still flexible enough to handle climbing up rocky inclines. I have yet to experience any wet conditions though and our famous "mud" is still a future challenge for these boots.

Good ankle support is truly a must for me because of all the unstable trail surfaces. With the laces securely tied, I now have complete confidence in the ability of the Vagabond boots to minimize ankle rolling.
Vagabonds in Action
Patagonia Vagabonds in Action!


As for wear and tear up to this point, the Patagonia Vagabond boots have definitely proven their mettle. Except for numerous scratches on the suede from contact with cactus, errant branches and rocks; and some dried-on dirt, the boots are in great shape. Even the laces have yet to unravel and I've had to pull countless sticky briars and things off of them. We have one particular weed out here that is very tenacious and I've ruined some articles of clothing (and my fingers) pulling them off, but the Vagabonds have been an exception.

SUMMARY TO DATE

The Patagonia W's Vagabond boots have been working really well for me so far. They fit right out of the box without any break-in period. I've had no issues with support even in the roughest terrain and the cushioning underfoot has been totally adequate even with a fully loaded pack. I'm totally enjoying this test!

CONTINUING TESTING STRATEGY

Finally, this coming Thanksgiving weekend, the weather is going to behave like a proper autumn and turn colder. Then I will get an opportunity to see how the Patagonia W's Vagabond Boots handle the cold, wet and snow. I will continue to wear the boots a minimum of 24-36 hours a week with various socks, including mid-weight and heavy-weight socks with and without liners. Wear will include casual walking, backpacking in the usual haunts and weather-permitting, lots of snowshoeing.

This concludes my Field Report. Please see below for the results of my long term testing of the Patagonia W's Vagabond Boots.

Kathy Waters


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS -Jan 08

As in my Field Report phase, during this period of long-term testing, all of my hiking/snowshoeing experiences were day hikes which took place in south central Colorado. All trips were 2 to 6 hour jaunts into the approximately 100,000 acres (40,468 hectares) of BLM land encompassing the Cooper Mountain range/Royal Gorge area near Canon City or the Wet Mountains south of the Arkansas River Valley.

The Cooper Mountain range is mostly pinon pine and juniper-covered high desert with rough primitive game and mining trails (for the most part) and is easily accessed just outside of my property fence line. So this was (and will be) most often chosen for my day hikes. My husband and I generally pack up, grab the GPS, pick a trail and go without any planned destination in mind.

The Wet Mountains rise up from the Arkansas River Valley and are dense ponderosa pine and sage forests. One of my favorite trails there is the Barlett Trail in the southern part of the Wet Mountains.

Elevations I tested in ranged from 5,000' up to 14,000' (1524 m to 4268 m) and temperatures while hiking/snowshoeing over the past two months varied from 10 F to 52 F (-12 C to 11 C).


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

There are four factors I test for in a boot and below are my findings after 4 months of constantly wearing the Patagonia W's Vagabond Boots.

Fit - After near daily wear - casual as well as backpacking/snowshoeing - the Vagabonds continue to fit snugly on my feet with no discernible stretching or breakdown of the footbed or the ankle support. I found that my heels are still firmly encased by the boots' heel cup and the toe box while roomy does not cause undue friction with my toes' movement. I can wear a variety of socks, both mid-weight and heavy-weight, without my feet feeling squished. Even after hours of hiking, I don't feel the need to adjust the laces due to slippage. I do, however, sometimes tighten the laces when going down a particularly steep hill.

Comfort - The Patagonia Vagabonds have been surprising comfortable in the wide range of temperatures I've experienced over the testing period. When it has been hot, I have not noticed sweating - and I sweat easily even in cold temperatures, especially in the sun and high on the mountains. The Capilene lining wicks away the moisture as advertised. After hiking, I can put my hand inside the boots and feel a slight dampness to the linings. The outsides of my socks can be downright wet, but still my feet are dry.

Conversely, I've had days where my husband and hiking companion, John, is complaining about cold feet and I realize I haven't even thought about my feet! In the lowest temps, I have trudged through snow over the top of the Vagabonds and have not been cold. When I stop and am standing still, my toes will start to feel a bit cold, but never numb or painful.

The soles of the boots remain supportive and fairly stiff but not uncomfortably so. No bumps, lumps or protrusions have appeared to irritate my tootsies. I have found with a heavier pack weight that I feel some of the trail rocks a bit more than I did when I first started wearing the Vagabonds. Ankle support remains good with nary a twist or roll to report and for me, that's amazing considering my lack of trail "grace". And as long as I tighten the laces before tripping down a steep slope, I've had no trouble with black and blue toes from sliding and banging forward.
Performance - Tread wear over all the distances I've walked/hiked/snowshoed these past months is minimal which is a relief since the tread on the Vagabonds, brand-new, was not overly aggressive (deep). Actually, the relatively shallow tread gives me mixed feelings. First, the shallow tread means I "collect" less mud in wet terrain which translates to less weight attached to the bottom of my feet. That's a good thing. It also allows me to clean the ever present (at least from the first snowfall to late spring) mud from the soles of the Vagabonds. That's also a good thing. However, in less than favorable conditions - snow, ice, and mud - I have less traction with the Vagabonds versus some of my other boots. I REALLY slide in mud when wearing these boots. I can't really 'kick" into a secure hold. I need to be very slow and careful which is not my nature. That's not a good thing.

I've had no support issues while wearing the Patagonia Vagabond boots. The ankle support has given me complete confidence when scrambling up rocks and on unstable surfaces. The tongues of the boots have done a great job of keeping any "hitchhikers" out, both plant life and snow flakes.
Muddy Soles of Patagonia Vagabond Boots
Muddy Soles of Patagonia Vagabond Boots

While I did not have any opportunity to stand in water to test the waterproof qualities of the Vagabonds, they spent a considerable amount of time covered in snow last month while snowshoeing and hiking in the Cooper Mountains. I never felt any wetness at all even when I could tell the boots' exteriors were wet through by the darkened nylon upper.
4 Months of Wear
Vagabonds after 4 Months of Testing
Durability - After 4 months completed testing, the Patagonia Vagabond boots are dirty, but no worse for all the wear. I see no signs of any future fabrics failures, stitching unravelings or glue degradations. For all the contact with rocks and cactus, there are no cuts or tears in the nylon or suede uppers. Even with all the friction caused by my snowshoe bindings, the toe box doesn't yet show any signs of suffering. The boot laces are still smooth and tightly woven.

The interiors of the boots remain totally intact with no fabric wearing or lifting of the insoles. The Vagabonds actually still retain that new boot smell to some degree - a chemical sort of smell. Definitely, there is no dirty sock odor to be found.

The boots are moderately dirty. Up until now, I haven't spent any time trying to keep them clean. It would be a frustrating and ultimately futile effort in our location. I just scrape off the excess mud on the nearest rock in the field, use one of those bristly boot cleaner things when I get home and after the mud has had a chance to dry out; I take a stiff brush to the remaining caked-on dirt. Short of soaking them in water, there doesn't seem to be any way to get the mud totally out of the tread.

However, they don't look too bad and I still can wear them to town. But then again, I live in a town where there is a cattle brand billboard on Main Street!


SUMMARY

I like these boots a lot! They are very comfortable in fit and in construction. I feel supported and confident in my hiking except when in icy snow or mud-covered terrain.

My Favorite Things:
1.) Light weight which minimizes leg fatigue
2.) Really keeps the wet out from both sweating and external forces
3.) Lacing system provides good ankle support and consequently no toe stubbing

My Least Favorite Thing:
1.) Tread doesn't provide enough traction in mud

This concludes my testing and reporting on the Patagonia W's Vagabond Boots.

Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Patagonia for the opportunity to test these boots.

Kathleen Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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