WOLVERINE COMPASS HIKING BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY KERRI LARKIN
INITIAL REPORT - May 19, 2011
FIELD REPORT - July 24, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - September 16, 2011
kerrilarkin AT yahoo DOT com
5' 9" (1.75 m)
284 lb (129.00 kg)
I've been a car-camper and bushwalker for thirty years. Mostly I do day hikes as my passion is photography, which means I walk very slowly! I've returned to walking after some years away due to injuries and I'm learning to use Ultralight gear (and my new hammock!). I've traveled most of eastern Australia, walking in landscapes as diverse as tropical rainforest, snow fields, beaches and deserts. My fortieth birthday was spent trekking in Nepal which was a truly life changing experience.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: Wolverine.com
MSRP: US$ 190
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 2 lb 15 oz (1.34 kg). There was negligible difference between boots
Other details: The Wolverine website sums it up nicely with the following description; "Waterproof nubuck leather and mesh upper. GORE-TEX® waterproof breathable membrane lining. Removable full-cushion EVA with mesh sock liner footbed. Top loaded Wolverine iCS midsole. EVA/Rubber outsole. Cement construction."
These are serious looking boots! They arrived in a standard cardboard shoebox with an aggressive looking wolverine on the box, but inside, the boots were wrapped in tissue paper like a pair of fine Italian pumps. Make no mistake though, these boots were made for walkin' (sorry, couldn't resist that one).
Starting at the top, there is a gusseted tongue made from a single piece of material making the area that traditionally leaks far more likely to be, as claimed, waterproof. The laces seem sturdy and the eyelets holding the laces are some of the best quality I've seen. They appear to be firmly attached and built to last.
I have some misgivings about the mesh exterior as far as longevity goes as Australian scrub can be full of sharp twiggy bits, sticks, and ants that can bite through leather. I'll report more on this aspect as the test progresses. The boot is cut to give good ankle support, yet is still fairly lightweight for a leather boot. Inside the boot is a removable EVA innersole, under which hides the heart of the iCS (individual Comfort System).
This is a strange looking donut of orange silicone with an overall wedge-shaped appearance. By turning the donut around the high point ends up at one of four positions, which alters the level of support given to the foot. It sure seems like a simple idea and I'll be very interested in seeing how the four positions work over the next few months.
Moving on down, the sole of the boot looks like an aggressive four-wheel drive mud tyre. It's got a huge tread pattern which appears as though it would give enough grip to walk up the side of a building. Very sexy!
So, my first impression of the Compass boots are that they are very well put together and should last well under lots of nasty weather conditions.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions on fitting are minimal - after all, a boot is a boot, however, there is a small amount of info on the box lid that explains the use of the iCS system and how to set it. The four settings are:
I = Enhanced inner support for people with flat arches
O = Enhanced outer support for those with high arches
F = firm support for, "more energy return and bounce in your step." Recommended for long day walks.
C = maximum comfort for people who are on their feet all day
These instructions are also replicated inside the boot next to the iCS donut for easy reference in the field.
TRYING IT OUT
Because I've got weak ankles with fallen arches, I set the iCS donut to the "I" setting and put the inner sole back in before trying the boots on. I used a typical hiking sock and slipped my feet right on in. I was surprised to find the fit was just perfect and the boot seemed pretty comfortable. As with all boots, there will be a bit of a learning curve as I try to work out the best arrangement of tightness on the laces. Some areas need to be tighter than others to give maximum comfort, but I expect once I've worn these boots for a while they will feel very comfortable.
I'd planned on only wearing the Compass boots for a short time initially and building up the length of time as I wear them in, but events overtook me and I ended up wearing them a full day. I'm pleased to report that by 11pm that evening, I still had no blisters, sore points or unexpected aches. That's a pretty good start in my opinion!
The boots felt rock-solid on a number of different surfaces and gave me confidence walking on wet areas. I'll report more on this as the test progresses.
The Wolverine Compass hiking boots look to be both very well made and quite adaptable to individual needs. I'm looking forward to traveling some miles with these boots and trying the different iCS positions to see if they really do alter the comfort of the boot.
That concludes my Initial Report but I'd like to thank Wolverine and BackPackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test the Wolverine Compass Women's iCS Waterproof Gortex Hiking Boots. Please come by in around two months to view the results of my Field Test.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Ask and it is given. It's an old saying but it sure came true for my testing of these boots! I wanted water to test a waterproof boot, so it rained almost non-stop for six weeks. I think I'll need to be a little more specific with my requests next time.
I've worn the Wolverine Compass Hiking boots almost daily since receiving them - not just in the bush, but also around town, and even around my soggy garden. I believe I have a pretty darn good understanding of their waterproofness now.
Temperatures have ranged from highs in the mid 20's (70-80 F), down to lows around 3 degrees (37 F). At no time did my feet feel cool, let alone cold.
Terrain has ranged from urban concrete pavement to sandy tracks, to very boggy sedge fields and rocky headlands.
A recent trip to Mutton Bird Island gave ample opportunity to test the boots in slippery, rocky conditions.
Camping has been a mixture of cold, dewy nights and wet grass, to muddy tracks and fields in coastal lowlands.
|No, I don't wear my pants that high. A wearer's eye view.|
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
So how did the Wolverine's perform? Magnificently! My feet have stayed warm, dry, and blister free even after a full day's walking. That's the short version; now for the longer...
Considering I have a bit of a disabled arm, I found the Wolverine's very easy to get on and off. The lacing system allows me to open the top part of the boot nice and wide so I can pretty much step in to it rather than have to fight to pull them on. It took a few days to get the Compass boots adjusted to suit my feet but the small loop in the gusset, which the laces pass through, effectively creates two 'zones' for lacing. That means I can have one area of laces tighter and the other looser, or any combination of tightness, allowing me to tailor the fit to my specific needs. Once I figured out how to make the boots fit most comfortably it really improved the feel to the point where they didn't seem much heavier than a normal track shoe. That's a pretty fine feeling for such a solid boot.
There's been no rub on the back of my ankle where the boot finishes and the only problem I have is with one big toe constantly wanting to hit the side of the boot. I'm certain that's more a feature of my feet rather than a fault in the boot design but it does highlight the need to go up a size compared to normal shoes to allow for thicker technical socks.
The laces show no signs of wear, and the eyelets appear just as firmly attached as on Day One. Adjusting the laces is easy, and thanks to that 'zone' system I mentioned above, there's no need to unlace the entire boot to fix one area. The laces are also plenty long enough to tie easily, without a ton of leftover lacing that needs to be wrapped around the boot two or three times - that's a welcome change.
The gusseted tongue is something I've historically had trouble with as they often feel like they bunch up around the front of my foot. I had a similar issue with the Wolverine, but to a far lesser degree. Somehow, the cut of the gusset seems to fit better than most and doesn't leave a tight ridge running down my ankle like some boots have.
One thing I must say is I don't think these would, for me, be a summer boot. My feet usually run hot anyway but while the Gortex is breathable, it still seems to trap a lot of heat. That's been great over the winter here, but I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be in hotter temperatures. Hopefully that's something I can comment on during my Long Term Report.
I'm not sure I 'get' the iCS system - I understand the principle - but I can't honestly say I've noticed a terrific difference when I use the different settings. I must confess that I mostly leave it on the "C" for comfort setting, but really didn't feel a lot of change when I switched to the "F" for firm setting. Maybe my feet just aren't sensitive enough to pick up the changes?
As for traction, these boots have got it in spades! The aggressive lugs on the soles felt absolutely steady on pretty much any surface, including some slippery rocks. For someone with weak ankles and knees, that's a real boon. It really is surprising just how much more confidence I felt tackling the terrain knowing that my boots would not leave me looking like a flipped turtle on the track. Another really nice feature of the Compass Hiking Boots is that the tread pattern on the soles seems to be very much self-cleaning. It didn't matter how much mud or sand I walked in, as soon as I was clear of the bog hole the boots left a trail of little mud bricks behind as the lugs cleared themselves. Really nice on the track, but not so good when I walked in my front door. Oops!
One thing I would have liked to see included in the box was care instructions. While most dirt seems to pretty much brush straight off of the boots, I'd like to know how to care for the Nubuck leather parts. These parts are not like a normal shoe where I could use shoe polish as they have an almost suede-like feel about them. I'm I bit hesitant to apply anything to it. The rubber - especially around the toe caps - is looking a bit dirty and scuffed, but mostly comes clean with a wipe down from with a damp cloth. Perhaps that's all the care instructions would read, but it would be nice to have it spelled out. I've also not owned Gortex boots before, so I'd like to know if it needs any special attention or reproofing later.
|My firend Bibek looking over the Orara valley|
So far, the Wolverine Compass Hiking Boots have greatly exceeded my expectations.
There are no real design flaws here, just a good, honest hiking boot that will do anything I ask of it. Wearing the Compass boots is such a revelation compared to my heavy old leather boots. It's like comparing a canvas tent to a cuben fibre tarp. That means it needs far less energy to move my feet which, in turn, means I can walk further or I can arrive less weary. Either option is a real bonus to me. It's nice to stop at the end of the day without the sore hips I usually get from lifting heavy boots.
The Wolverine's also look really good. I can wear them around town under long pants and they look like a track shoe, or I can wear them with shorts to see the elegance of the design in its full glory. A sexy hiking boot? Well, there's a first!
I'm looking forward to continued use from the Compass boots, and will be especially keen to see how they feel as the weather warms.
That concludes my Field Report on the Wolverine Compass Hiking boots. Please check back in a couple of months for my Long Term Report.
I'd like to thank Wolverine and BackPackGearTest.org for the opportunity to continue testing these boots.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I've continued to use the Wolverine Compass boots almost daily since my last report. They've been on two camping trips of two days each to rainforest areas, walked through the concrete jungle, and done the hard yards in the garden.
Temperatures have ranged from lows around 4 C (39 F) to highs of 22 C (72 F).
About fifty percent of the days I wore the boots were wet - I don't mean just showers, I mean really, really wet. One day we had 125 ml (nearly 5 inches) of rain.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Compass boots have coped with everything I've asked of them. They are outstanding in the mud and I've been amazed at how great the soles of the boots are at shedding mud from the lugs and grooves. This self-cleaning feature increased my confidence in their ability to maintain traction in difficult conditions. In fact, I've never once felt these boots slide or lose grip. That's a pretty darn nifty feature.
With all the bad weather and mud, I'm pleased to say the Compass boots have been very easy to clean: brush the dried mud off and give the rest of the boot a wipe over with a damp cloth and they look pretty much as good as new.
I continued to play around with the different positions of the iCS cushioning system, but can't honestly say I've noticed much difference between the positions. That said, my favorite (and default) position is the "comfortable" setting.
One thing I have noticed is that there seems to have been a longer than normal breaking-in period with these boots. After two months there were still a few areas that weren't as comfortable as I would have liked, but now, after four months, they are incredibly comfortable. Where I was initially glad to take them off at the end of the day, I hardly notice I've got them on anymore. I did find that using slightly thinner socks than usual boosted the comfort significantly.
As far as wear and tear goes, the boots look pretty much as good as the day I received them. There's no sign of any fraying of stitching, no sign of the upper detaching from the sole, and no sign of the eyelets pulling through the leather. Further, there's no sign of wear on the soles either. It looks as though these boots will last a long time.
As spring rolled on, I found the boots were starting to become uncomfortably warm for my feet. Perhaps this is the price to pay for having a waterproof boot (as I said initially, I've never owned waterproof boots before), or just a phenomenon of my feet as I find many shoes and boots too hot. When I changed to a lighter sock, things improved enormously, and I would certainly recommend using a lighter, cooler sock than normal when wearing the Compass boots.
In my Field Report I mentioned I was having some problems getting the lacing comfortable. I'm pleased to say that continued wear has resolved that problem and I've worked out how to best tighten the laces for maximum support and comfort now. Speaking of support, I've not felt like my ankle would roll wearing the Compass boots, and have found they provide plenty of support where it's needed without weighing too much.
|Still looking almost as good as new.|
I've just re-read my Field Report to see if there were any other areas I needed to comment on and realized it reads very similarly to this Long Term Report. I feel that's a real endorsement of these boots: four months down the track and I'm still appreciating the very same qualities I was when the boots were only two months old. I've not found any real negatives with these boots, and am still struck by how good they are. That's a nice place to be at the end of this testing. It's both a vindication of the boot and of my early impressions.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
There are many things to like about the Wolverine Compass Hiking Boots and, used with appropriate socks, I see no further problems with wearing them over the coming summer.
So, in summary, the Compass boots are a quality piece of kit that look like they will last me for many years to come. I certainly expect to continue wearing them now that the testing phase is complete and reckon I can reduce my shoe collection significantly! These will be my 'go to' boots for inclement weather, but are likely to remain comfortable enough to wear in virtually any weather.
That concludes my Long Term Report on the Wolverine Compass Hiking Boots and I'd certainly like to take the opportunity to thank both Wolverine and BackPackGearTest.org for the opportunity to be a part of this test series.
Read more reviews of Wolverine Boots gear
Read more gear reviews by Kerri Larkin