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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > The North Face Ultra Fastpack GTX boots > Test Report by Gail Staisil

The North Face
Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX Boots

Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan

Page Contents:

Author
Initial Report:
October 3, 2014

Tester Information

Name: Gail Staisil
Age: 61
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 152 lb (69 kg)
Boot Size: Women's 11 US/42 EU
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com

For the last 20 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.

Product Information

Manufacturer
The North Face
Website http://www.thenorthface.com 
Model Women's Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX
Color 
Black/Beach Glass Green (also available in Cosmic Blue/Rocket Red)
Size
Women's 11 US (42 EU) - available in sizes 5-11 US (36-42 EU)
Manufacturer  Weight  1 lb 6 oz (630 g) pair (for size Women's 7 US/38 EU)
Tested Weight  1 lb 13 oz (822 g) pair (for size Women's 11 US/42 EU)
Model Year 2014
MSRP $150.00 US

Initial Impressions and Product Description 


The North Face Ultra Fastpack Boots arrived in the requested size and color. No hangtags were included but the shoe box had general information printed on the side that was specific to the boots. My first impression was that the boots are super lightweight for a waterproof boot.


Fit

I ordered the Fastpacks in a women's size 11 US (42 EU) and they fit fine. They are plenty roomy in the toebox and have a great fit when snugged down with the laces. They seem comfortable so far. The boots that I received are black with beach glass green accents. The accents include the interior collar, laces and part of the sidewall and web loop on the back of each heel. For the record, these boots also come in a Men's version, low-cut version and a non-GORE-TEX version.


Design and Technical Features

The Ultra Fastpacks are a mid-height waterproof (GORE-TEX) boot with combination type-lacing that consists of eyelets (8), loops (2) and hooks (4). Laces are flat with slightly rounded edges. Each boot is lined with a GORE-TEX bootie whereas the exterior surface features lightweight water resistant material. The GORE-TEX material of the interior bootie is printed with its logo in an attractive light gray and white pattern. A small fabric GORE-TEX tag lies on the outside of each boot.

The Fastpack's belong to a series of boots called "Ultra Protection Series" by the manufacturer. The emphasis on the series is lightweight but impact resistance plus protection from the elements (wind and water). The boots only weigh 1 lb 13 oz (822 g) for my size 11 US/42 EU which is the largest size for women. The boots are targeted at those who like to travel far and fast!

The padded collar area of each boot appears to be made with a wicking stretch material. The top of the gusseted tongue is slightly padded in the middle and covered by a sueded material. A pull loop is located on the back of each heel to facilitate both putting on the boots as well as removing them. TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) CRADLE technology is used for heel structure and  alignment.

The toe area of each boot features a wrapped rand that extends to mid-boot on each side. Double stitching is common on all of these seams.

InsolesAccording to the manufacturer, a patented Snake Plate "prevents stone bruising." This plate is flexible and is incorporated into the forefoot area to add protection from hard or sharp surfaces. The heel area has an extensive cap over the greater heel area which is composed of several materials. A decorative pattern criss-crosses the sides of the boots but also adds a structural element as it is made out of a hard flexible material that helps cradle each foot. 

The manufacturer reportedly adds a Pebax plate (shank) "for spring in step." Pebax (a copolymer) is added to materials to add extra flexibility and increased movement. It is often added to plastics for performance shoes as it saves weight plus it has a higher energy return. It also performs well in cold weather. EVA midsoles are featured as well as very light insoles which are perforated and lightly shaped. It will be interesting to see if they offer enough support or if I will have to switch to a more structured set. Vibram outsoles complete the boots. That material reportedly offers grip and durability. 
 
Reflective materials are found in the heel loop as well as part of the heel wrap and the side criss-cross design including the manufacturer's logos (which are on both the front rand in two places and back heel cradle as well as tongue of shoes).

A limited one year warranty is included with the boots which basically covers manufacturing defects, not abuse.

I'm looking forward to the next few months of testing them on everything from dirt and rocks to snow and ice.
 

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Field Report:
January 3, 2015

USA Locations and Conditions

During the field test period I have worn the North Face Fastpack Boots for three backpacking trips, dayhikes and snowshoeing. Locations of all activities were in the State of Michigan and ranged from lakeshore to boreal forest. Elevation ranged from above 600 ft (183 m) to 2,000 ft (610 m).

Location of Trip #1: Porcupine Mountains Wilderness  - Ontonagon County, Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail/rustic cabin stay (cabin located several miles from trailhead)
Distance: 7.5 mi (12 km) with fully loaded backpack, 4 mi (6.5 km) dayhike, rowboat/unknown mileage
Length of Trip: 3 days, 2 nights
Pack Weight: 28 lb (12.7 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, some rain and sun
Precipitation: Small amount of rain
Temperature Range: 37 F to 48 F (3 C to 9 C)

Location of Trip #2: Hiawatha National Forest - Alger County, Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 17 mi (27 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days, 1 night
Pack Weight: 26 lb (12.7 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, partly sunny,
Precipitation: None
Temperature Range: 14 F to 31 F (-10 C to -1 C)

Location of Trip #3: Hiawatha National Forest - Alger County, Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail; sledge and backpack trip to snowshoe-in rustic cabin
Length of Trip: 4 days, 3 nights (carried pack only two days)
Pack Weight: Approx 15 lbs (6.8 kg) for pack, as sledge contained heavy gear
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, partly sunny, light snow
Precipitation: Light snow
Temperature Range: -8 F to 21 F ( -22 C to -6 C)
 
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Trip Talk

The North Face Fastpack Boots quickly adapted to my feet during the field test period. During the first few weeks of the test I wore the very thin stock insoles that came with the boots. Although I didn't have any significant problems such as blisters, I felt like I needed a bit more cushion to feel less from the bottom of the boots (very rocky terrain). Another factor is that I needed less space in the boots (my feet felt like they were sliding forward). This was quickly resolved by placing a pair of SOLE insoles into the boots. I have been totally happy every since. I am sure they add a few more ounces to these lightweight boots but it has made a huge difference.

As far as socks that I have worn with the boots, I usually wear a light-medium pair of wool socks. I have topped the boots with gaiters when necessary (deep snow).

The trails here are quite hilly and rock and root laden. Although there is not a lot of difference in elevation, there are very few flat sections. The rocky terrain is often wet so I exercise caution when I walk. I usually trek with a pair of poles so that if I do slip, I can catch myself. That said, traction has been great on both rock and ice as well as wet leaves in the autumn. There have been various forms of snow including slush. I have hiked in wet conditions for up to five hours at a time without a problem.

As stated earlier I have been wearing the Fastpacks with snowshoes as well. This has worked rather well with the bindings of the snowshoes. The Fastpacks aren't insulated but the fact that they are waterproof has kept my feet dry and happy. I have snowshoed in below zero (0 F/ -18 C) conditions and my feet have stayed warm while active.


Care and Durability

At first, the boots were subjected to all kinds of water and mud as many trails were wet and sloppy all during the fall season. The boots looked quite dirty but I didn't clean them as I knew they would be just as dirty the next time I went out. I smacked the soles together to shake off loose dirt and was they were good to go the next time. I barely had the boots a month when winter weather started in earnest. One thing I always like about winter here is that it is very clean. The temps stay mostly below freezing and footwear stays nice and clean in the pure snow. Snowshoeing with the boots on got rid of all the dirt!!

I have also worn these boots as my go-to boots for shoveling snow and for wear to and from the trailhead for ski adventures.

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Long Term Report:
March 2, 2015 

USA Locations and Conditions

During the long term period I have worn the North Face Fastpack Boots for two extended trips, snowshoeing and general wear. Locations of all activities were in the State of Michigan and ranged from lakeshore or ice travel and boreal forest. Elevation ranged from above 600 ft (183 m) to 2,000 ft (610 m).

Location of Trip #4: Hiawatha National Forest - Alger County, Michigan (Feb 8-11)Wearing the Fastpacks with MicroSpikes in the ice caves
Type of Trip: Trail; sledge trip to snowshoe-in rustic cabin
Length of Trip: 4 days, 3 nights 
Sledge Weight: Approx: 60 lb (27 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Sun, clouds and snow
Precipitation: 4 in (10 cm) of snow
Temperature Range: 4 F to 21 F (-16 C to -6 C)
 
Location of Trip #5: Hiawatha National Forest - Alger County, Michigan (Feb 22-25)
Type of Trip: Trail; sledge trip to snowshoe-in rustic cabin
Length of Trip: 4 days, 3 nights 
Sledge Weight: Approx 60 lb (27 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, snow
Precipitation: 3 in (7.6 cm) of new snow
Temperature Range: -28 F to 20 F (-33 C to -7 C)

 
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Trip Talk
Snowshoe to Laughing Whitefish
During the long term period the North Face Fastpack Boots have continued to keep my feet happy. Although the temperatures were often very cold my feet stayed dry and warm. I wore the boots during a couple of multi-day trips to a rustic cabin. They were worn with snowshoes for both pulling the sledge and for snowshoe outings of up to four hours while I was there. The temps have been quite cold but my feet were perfectly fine. In fact when I pulled the sled in on the second trip the temperature was -5 F (-21 C) with very strong wind chills. I also took the boots on a multi-day winter camping trip (not listed above) but they really didn't see much use as my main mode of travel was mostly skiing.

I have only worn wool socks with the boots...sometimes knee high and at other times mid-calf length. The thickness of the socks has never been more than a medium thickness. This worked rather well and my feet had plenty of room in the boots to feel comfortable. Gaiters have been par for the course with these outings, sometimes low-cut ones and at other times knee-high gaiters.

The Fastpacks were also worn on many dayhikes to nearby wilderness areas. Usually these were faster-paced hikes as I wasn't loaded down with a huge amount of gear. During one recent two-plus hour hike while wearing MicroSpikes in combination with the boots, the temps were well below 0 F (-18 C) and the windchills in the double digits. The MicroSpikes were easy to place on and off the boots without interference. I also had no trouble keeping my feet warm as I was moving at a quick clip. At other times, I also do notice that when I wear snowshoes, the work load is such that cold feet are not a problem.

I have also worn the boots with MicroSpikes to explore nearby ice caves and for walking on Lake Superior. Once in the caves my movement became slow but I never felt that my feet were freezing, just slightly cold.

The snowshoes I have worn with the boots have also varied with different types of bindings.They included MSR and Tubbs brands. Because the Fastpacks don't really have any ridges on the back of the heel area to keep the heel strap from slipping, I looped a thin piece of cordage over each snowshoe heel strap and tied it in front of each ankle to keep the straps from slipping downward. 
  


Care and Durability
Scratches
Because there has been nothing but snow on the ground since November 10, the boots have kept clean. The only wear spots are likely from snowshoe bindings and these are merely scrapes around the perimeter of the soles. The light aqua blue color is showing through the black in many places and although it is rather unattractive it does nothing to hinder their performance. The inside of the collar of the boots are also slightly dirty (very light aqua blue color so that is not surprising)

I have also continued to wear the boots for shoveling snow and in traveling to and from ski trailheads.


Overall I am impressed with the Fastpacks. They are comfortable, have great traction, are light and most importantly waterproof! The majority of my testing during the entire five month testing period was in snow and I have been really happy that these boots worked for me. I do know that The North Face does make more insulated boots but given my activity level, it wasn't a problem. Looking forward to wearing the boots in the warmer months as well. I am also considering looking into their low-cut version as they have been perfect light weight footware.
 


Pros

  • Waterproof 
  • Pebax plate has added flexibility so that the boots aren't stiff
  • Easy lacing
  • Comfortable
  • Very lightweight for mid-height boots

Cons

  • Stock insoles are too thin
Tester Remarks 

Thanks to The North Face and BackpackGearTest for this opportunity to test the Ultra Fastpack GTX Boots. This concludes my Long Term report and the test series.

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Read more gear reviews by Gail Staisil

Reviews > Footwear > Boots > The North Face Ultra Fastpack GTX boots > Test Report by Gail Staisil



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