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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > REI Spirit III GTX Hiking Boots > Owner Review by Brett Haydin

REI SPIRIT III GTX HIKING BOOT
BY BRETT HAYDIN
OWNER REVIEW
March 14, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydinAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 35
LOCATION: Denver, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 195 lb (88.50 kg)

I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry heavier loads in excess of 45 lb (20 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

REI Spirit III GTX side view and soles
REI Spirit III GTX side view and soles
Manufacturer: REI
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.rei.com
MSRP: US $199
Listed Weight: 3 lb 10 oz (1.64 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lb 13 oz (1.73 kg)
Size purchased: 10.5 US Men's
Sizes available: 8 - 13 US including half sizes

Other details:

The REI Spirit III GTX hiking boot is a one-piece, full height, full-grain leather waterproof boot. They stand 7.125 in (18 cm) high at the highest point, not including the tongue. The waterproofing is provided by a GORE-TEX layer, referred to as a "bootie" on the website. Cambrelle is the brand name of the inner lining, which helps "wick away moisture." Vibram is the brand name of the soles. The boots also feature a rubber toe cap. While REI is listed as the manufacturer, I was told by the salesperson that the boots are constructed, under contract, by Raichle. There is a Raichle logo on the insole, which supports this claim.

Inside View
Inside View
I feel that the full height boot offers better ankle support than low or mid height boots. The round nylon laces that came with the boots are threaded through a series of metal loops, four on each side, before 3 sets of speed loops.

There is soft padding on the interior of the boot to provide comfort for the high ankle, as well as near the top of the tongue. On the rear of the boot, the leather material is used about three-quarters of the way up the boot, with the remainder being made of fabric.

According to the manufacturer's website, the "polyurethane midsoles are designed with more rocker for a smooth stride; full-length nylon shanks add stability and shock absorption." The soles of the boots are stiff, but I found there is enough cushion and support inside to make it a comfortable fit for me.

The discrepancy of the listed weight and measured weight is easily resolved. REI uses an average weight for a size 9 US (8.5 UK) boot. The size I purchased was a little larger than the size REI uses.

FIELD USE

I have used the REI Spirit III GTX boots in a wide variety of conditions for 10 months now, with over 30 days of use in the field. The conditions have ranged from summit hikes of over 13 mi (21 km) with over 5,100 ft (1550 m) elevation gain on rocky, mountainous terrain, to winter hikes in snowy conditions. I estimate that I have traveled over 150 mi (242 km) with these boots. I purchased these boots in the spring of 2007 because I needed a boot that could fit my wide feet. After trying several pairs of boots on, these felt the best as I tested them out around the store.

The first thing that I noticed about the boots was that the laces seemed rather rough on my hands as I laced them up tight. Lacing the boots several times over the course of the day of hiking caused blisters at my knuckles. I attributed this at the time to having hands that lacked enough calluses to prevent this, but subsequent uses resulted in similar, although not as severe, discomfort. I have since replaced the laces and have experienced no more problems with lacing the boots.
Front and Back View
Front and Back View

The boots provide a lot of ankle support and have likely spared me from numerous injuries as a result. During one particularly grueling hike, coming down the mountain I stumbled quite often, and each time, the support of the boot saved me from rolling my ankle. My foot feels secure and does not slide or shift once laced in. For example, I had to scramble off the summit of Longs Peak in a thunderstorm and these boots held up to the high stresses I put on them. I almost always wear a liner sock and a mid-weight wool sock, and I find there is still enough room for a thicker sock.

I have a bony protrusion on the back of my heel that frequently causes me blisters. However, this hasn't been much of a problem with this boot, although I still use moleskin to mitigate the problem. I have not experienced any blisters elsewhere, nor have I noticed any uncomfortable spots.

Traction with the REI Spirit III GTX is excellent. I am able to scramble around on boulders when I need to and it holds equally well on gravel. The trail will give before the boots will, in my opinion! I did take these boots hiking in the winter with my dogs without snowshoes or other devices to add traction for about 3 mi (5 km). I found that the boots held up reasonably well, even with the heavy snowpack; only on the steeper grades did I feel unstable.

The GORE-TEX has held up very well to-date. My feet have remained dry and warm in rain, snow and after crossing streams. To test the waterproofing, I stood for 5 minutes in a mountain stream where the water came up to the top of the leather. After the time passed, my feet were dry and warm, even despite the frigid water temperature.

I have found that after a long day of hiking, particularly in the summer, my feet get noticeably hot. I have always preferred full-leather boots, and do not think these are any warmer than others I have worn. I have noticed that the boots do a good job of wicking away any excess moisture, especially when combined with quality socks. During my winter hikes, my feet stayed dry and warm, although I did wear thicker wool socks and temperatures were never lower than 22 F (-5.5 C).

SUMMARY

I am extremely satisfied with these boots. Once I replaced the laces, they have served me well. I am normally accustomed to wearing heavy, sturdy boots and I appreciate the security of the high ankle support.

The insoles that come with this boot are not exceptional, but neither are they terrible. I might consider upgrading to a more supportive commercial insole, especially with the amount of mileage I have put on the boots so far.

As a consequence of the all-leather boot type, my feet tend to sweat a lot, but the linings do a fair job of wicking away the moisture. I like the peace of mind that comes from having a full leather boot from a durability standpoint. Overall, the gains outweigh any setbacks, and I would gladly buy another pair when these are worn out.

DURABILITY

The boots have held up well thus far. The GORE-TEX continues to provide excellent waterproofing. The Vibram soles show some wear, but seem to be holding up well. There are a couple of places where the black Vibram is cracking, specifically in the arches. This portion of the material is thinner than where the treads are, and in one section has broken away.

The leather is so far intact, except for some scuffing on each side. I consider this normal considering the types of uses and abuses that I have put this pair through. I would rate the durability as above average.

THINGS I LIKE

1. Excellent ankle support.
2. Waterproofing has held up well.
3. Superior fit to my foot type: wide foot with bony protrusion on heel.
4. Very good durability.

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

1. The laces were rough on my hands and I chose to replace them.
2. My feet get warm and sweaty because of the full-grain leather construction combined with the GORE-TEX lining.
3. Insoles are not especially comfortable.
4. The Vibram soles are showing signs of cracking in the arches.

By Brett Haydin

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

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