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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Wenger Xpedition Mid Boots > Test Report by Ben Mansfield
Wenger Xpedition Boots
Wenger Xpedition Boots
24 November 2010
The Wenger Xpedition Boots
The Wenger Xpedition boots are mid-height boots for on-trail hiking. The upper is a mix of ripstop nylon and Nubuck leather with a waterproofing membrane Wenger calls "OutDry extreme waterproofing." The toe box is protected by a rubber rand that can be seen in the photos to the right.
The idea behind OutDry, according to Wenger, is that the boots not only keep my feet dry inside, but that they actually shed moisture on the outside as well. This means that not only do my feet stay dry but the boots also don't take on any additional water weight. This is accomplished by bonding the membrane directly to the inside of the upper, eliminating any gaps or space inside the boot where moisture could collect. Systems where the membrane is not bonded, according to Wenger, allow water to be trapped between the membrane and the upper.
The Xpedition's lacing pattern
A glimpse into the sole of the Xpedition
The tongue and collar of the boots are padded, and the tongue has a strip of webbing through which the laces pass (at the third crossing) to help keep the tongue in place. The boots are laced in a manner traditional to most hiking boots that is very familiar to me.
There is a piece of webbing where the tongue joins the upper near my toes, four eyelets up each side of the boot, another webbing eyelet above those, and finally an open eyelet on each side to complete the lacing system.
A small loop of webbing is attached to the top of the back of each boot to help pull the boot on. Almost the entire back of each boot is also covered in what appears to be the same black rubber that's used to cover the toe box. I assume this is there to protect the leather when I kick the boots off with my other foot (vs. bending over and taking them off nicely).
Wenger calls the midsole "lightweight and cushioning" - it's otherwise unremarkable to me. The insole is unremarkable as well, which is pretty normal among hiking boots these days. This particular insole is molded foam with some additional thin foam padding glued on the underside under my heel and under the balls of my feet. It's also easily removable to allow replacement with an aftermarket custom footbed or orthotics.
The outsole of the Xpedition boots looks about as rugged as what I would expect for an on-trail rated shoe. Wenger advertises these boots to use "HyperGrip" soles which allow each lug to move independently for better traction. In addition to added traction, HyperGrip is also advertised to offer extended durability, even when walking on pavement. I normally reserve my hiking boots for hiking purposes and don't wear them around town much, except for a few days when they're still relatively new and I'm trying to make sure they'll do their job (and not rub my feet raw) before I take them out on the trail.
A hang tag on the Xpedition boots indicates that Wenger offers a three year limited warranty against defects in workmanship and materials. Like many other limited warranties, Wenger excludes ordinary wear, abuse, negligence, and improper repairs or modifications, among other things. They also limit their liability from any damages resulting from the purchase or use of the Xpedition boots.
Out of the box, I was impressed with these boots - their quality seemed good with all the stitching neat and all edges finished. The padding was even and smooth, and the boots were generally attractive. Even my wife, who thinks all hiking boots are pretty ugly, mentioned that these were better looking than my current pair.
The first evening after the Xpeditions arrived, I put on some mid-weight hiking socks and tried the boots on, wearing them around the house for a few hours. I pulled the laces a little too tight which caused some discomfort across the top of my right foot after a few hours. My feet are normal width but are fairly high volume thanks to an ample arch, and I experience this discomfort commonly with boots and shoes alike. I also noticed some discomfort around the inside "balls" of my ankles from the boot cuff being pulled too tight.
I've worn the boots a few additional times since that first experience, and I've been experimenting with different lace tension with good success. A nice trick I learned many years ago is related to the last eyelet at the top of the boots. Rather than running the lace up through the bottom of the eyelet like on the rest of the boot, I run the lace from the top down. This serves to lock the laces below the top in place while also allowing me to adjust the tightness of the very top of the boot. This sounds complicated, but it's shown in the lacing picture above and is actually quite simple.
With this method of lacing, I can apply just enough pressure to the main part of my foot to keep my heel locked in the heel cup of the boot and prevent sliding, and I can also minimize the amount of tension I put against my ankles with the boot cuff to minimize any pain there. In a few days of around town wear I've basically eliminated the discomfort I experienced that first day. I have not yet worn the Xpedition boots with any weight on my back, so I can't yet speak to whether this will impact the fit and comfort in a backpacking situation.
15 February 2011
Wearing Wenger the Xpedition boots in the snow
My two day hikes in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park were cold as well (I guess that should be expected this time of year), with a less-than-pleasant mixture of snow and ice. The CVNP features really well graded and maintained trails that are used year round, so hiking there is more like a pleasant walk in the park as opposed to a rugged backcountry experience. These easy trails greatly mitigated the ugly snow and ice conditions that I encountered.
Balancing to show off the Wenger Xpedition Boots
If I add up all of my trips, it totals to about 83 miles (134 km) of on-trail use so far. None of those steps were taken on dirt trails - they were all covered by some amount of snow or ice as we've had a really snowy year in my part of the world. I'm hoping that as the weather starts to warm a little bit I'll be able to get out and learn about these boots in more spring and summer-like trail conditions.
Prior to receiving the Xpedition boots I had just about broken down a pair of fairly rugged mixed-use boots that were heavier, stiffer and uglier than the Wengers. I appreciate the lighter weight of the Wenger boots, but I have to admit I was a little skeptical that they might be a bit too "light duty" for me. So far, I've been wrong about that. Admittedly, I haven't had much rugged terrain to hike over, since the trails that I've been on have always been snowy thus far. The boots have offered plenty of grip over snow-covered trails, iced-over bridges, and slippery stream crossings. Of course, I did slip into a creek here and there, but I don't blame the boots.
Originally I found that if I pulled the laces too tight, my feet hurt, so I was worried that they would have to be either loose and comfortable but not hold my foot securely, or tight and uncomfortable. It turns out that I can lace the Xpedition boots much looser than I would normally pull my hiking boots, and I still have not had any rubbing or hot spots.
The Wenger Xpedition boots keeping my feet warm and dry in the snow
On all of my trips, I've worn a light-duty gaiter over my boots to help keep snow from getting in over the top of the boots. I find that this also tends to keep me warmer, as my socks and pant bottoms stay dry as well. My gaiters have a pretty typical configuration - a simple clip that hooks over the laces on the top of the boot, an elastic band that wraps around the boot, and a strap that goes from the inside of my foot, under the boot sole, and back up to the outside of my foot to keep the gaiter from riding up. I haven't had any problem installing or removing the gaiters (a little ice and frozen snaps aside), and they have stayed in place faithfully throughout the day. The Wenger Xpedition boots seem to work just fine with this style of gaiter.
The "OutDry" waterproofing has done a very good job of keeping my feet dry, which was critical in the conditions under which I've been hiking this winter. Besides being buried in snow for days on end, I've also had to deal with lots of stream and little creek crossings made scary by thin layers of ice and slippery rocks and downed trees. In more than one occasion, my foot slipped off and into the frigid, shallow water and in every occasion the Wenger Xpedition boots kept my feet dry. The boots also didn't absorb much water, which would have been obvious because it presumably would have frozen and turned my feet into blocks of ice. I have not treated the boots with any aftermarket waterproofing or other treatment.
On every trip so far I've worn a winter weight wool or wool-blend sock and no liner in the Xpeditions, and I typically change my socks every day in the winter to ensure that they're dry and clean to start each day. As lightweight as the boots are, they have also kept my feet relatively warm. For full disclosure, however, I'm not a cold feet kind of person and my extremities generally stay warm. Even pulling on partially frozen boots that sat out in the cold all night (one of the rare pleasures of winter backpacking), my feet warmed up within the first mile or two.
Because they haven't really seen any dirt, the boots look almost as good as the day they arrived. They're also not really showing any tread wear, though I don't wear them around town.
Long Term Report
19 April 2011
Long Term Observations
I was able to take two more overnight backpacking trips since my Field Report. The first trip was a muddy mess in Zaleski State Forest in Ohio. The trail conditions were not the greatest, and we decided to cut the trip short to minimize out impact to the trail (as well as the risk of injury). We had planned to hike the entire trail, which is actually two loops connected by a short connector trail, but ended up hiking only the lower loop, about 16 miles (26 km). My second trip was a cold but snowless outing on the Tracy Ridge trail system in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. Tracy Ridge is a trail that winds around a few hills large enough to be interesting and scenic, and is interconnected by countless side trails, which means that I can pretty much hike any distance loop I want. My trip was about 18 miles (29 km) in the two days we were there.
In total, I've worn the Wenger Xpedition boots for about 15 days and 117 miles (188 km) on trails and in the backcountry. That's a low daily average for me, but the bulk of those days were slow going snowy hikes and short winter days.
I finally had a chance to wear the Xpeditions on a few trails that were not snow-covered. My trip to Zaleski in particular really challenged these boots. There are a number of places along that trail where the footpath runs directly up (or down) a hill, with no switchbacks, steps, or other erosion control in place. This leads to a trail in those spots which is more like a mud slide when wet. In these areas the Xpeditions had to give all they had to provide some footing, and it took a lot of careful foot and trekking pole placement on my part to ascend or descend the trail. I'm not sure what type of boots could be used to muster total confidence under these kinds of conditions, but the Wengers did about as good as I could have asked from any normal footwear.
Perhaps more interesting than how well they held up under extremely muddy trails is how well they shed that mud once I was back on flat ground. I didn't have to kick or scrape mud out of the boot treads at all - in fact the mud pretty much just didn't stick to the boot soles at all.
I continued to experience good things in terms of the boots' waterproofing. My feet stayed dry and warm, and the upper remained only surface-wet as well (in other words, the OutDry idea seems to work pretty well). The upper also didn't pick up a whole lot of mud or dirt even when subjected to a couple of days of abuse on a really nasty trail. They don't look quite new any more, but they are holding up extremely well. I let all the mud that did accumulate on the boots dry, and then was able to brush it off easily by banging the boots together and brushing them with a dry scrub brush in stubborn spots.
My fears about fit have been unfounded. The boots continue to hold my feet securely in place even though I'm not lacing them as tightly as I would normally. I have not experienced any blisters or even hot spots while wearing these boots. I don't wear sock liners, and I normally use a wool or wool-blend hiking sock of a thickness and weight appropriate to the temperature. I do change my socks daily for long-weekend and shorter trips.
These boots have really surpassed my expectations. I'm really happy with the way they fit, and my concerns about having to lace them too tightly have not come to light. The Xpeditions performed really well on a wide variety of conditions, from deep snow to deep mud. They've kept my feet warm and dry, and have proven to be a great lightweight alternative to what I've worn in the past.
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