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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Wolverine Sightline Mid Cuff Boots > Test Report by Bob Dorenfeld



Wolverine Sightline Waterproof Mid-Cut Hunting Boot
Test Series By Bob Dorenfeld
Initial Report    November 8, 2014
Field Report    January 8, 2015
Long Term Report    March 8, 2015
Tester Bio
Name: Bob Dorenfeld

I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, and of course backpacker.  Home base is the Southern Colorado Rockies, ranging from alpine tundra to piņon-juniper scrub and desert at lower altitudes.  Many of my backpack trips are two or three nights (sometimes longer), and I usually shoulder about 30 lb (14 kg).  My style is lightweight but not at the expense of enjoyment, comfort or safety - basic survival gear plus extras like a camera and air mattress make my trips safer and more pleasurable.   My shoe size is US Men's 8.5 (EUR 42).

Email: geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
Age: 56
Location: Central Colorado, USA
Gender: M
Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)

Product Overview

Manufacturer:    Wolverine World Wide, Inc.
Website:    www.wolverine.com
MSRP:  US$120.00 
Listed Weight:  Not available
Measured Weight:   34 oz (960g) (pair)
Tested Size:   US Men's 8.5 Medium
Sizes Available:   US Men's 7-14 (by half size), Wide & Extra Wide
Color:   Dark brown body and brown & tan camouflage fabric
Materials:  Full-grain leather and diesel mesh upper, PC dry silver waterproof membrane lining, rubber lug outsole, nylon shank, EVA midsole


 Product Overview
These Sightline mid-height boots by Wolverine are aimed toward the hunter, but may also be used for other kinds of hiking.  The camouflage-patterned fabric side panels and orange highlights are distinctive.  The smooth leather uppers are of medium stiffness with good flexibility out of the box, and both toe and heel are more stiffly reinforced.  The tongue is gusseted for water resistance, and the boots are stated to be waterproof by virtue of Wolverine's own equivalent of Gore-Tex, called "PC dry".  There is a removable cushioned insole pad, and fabric-lined padding throughout the inside of the boot.  The Sightline welting type (where the insole meets the midsole) is cemented.  However, there is a protective rand around the entire welt to keep water from penetrating inside the boot.  It looks to me like the outsoles are replicable, but a professional cobbler would know for sure.

- Initial Report -


Definitely lightweight at 17 oz (480 g) each, the boots are as light as a pair of sturdy low-cut hiking shoes.  The Sightlines are low-cut for boots, rising to only about 1.5 in (3 cm) above my ankle.  They were comfortable for me right away while wearing my usual hiking socks (thin liner underneath a medium wool blend).  The top lace brackets are thread-through and do not let the laces free when untied, so it's just a bit harder to slip my feet in and out of the boots.  But they're solid while walking around the house and yard, and the sizing for me feels right so far.  The tongue seems nicely padded and also was snug on the tops of my feet.

I like the solid leather toe box where a boot absorbs a lot of impact on the trail.  I'm a little concerned about the durability of the fabric side panels, but we'll see how they perform in the field.  Along with the ankle-height fabric panels, they provide ventilation for the PC dry inner membrane.

The rubber lug outsoles have a pattern I've not used before on a hiking boot: I'm curious to see how they grip on the trail.  Fortunately the camouflage pattern is subdued (as I would expect), and its browns and tans match the greenish-brown leather quite well.  I'm not crazy about the blaze orange highlights but I can live with that color feature; I hunt only mushrooms, trees, rocks, great scenery and peaceful times in the backcountry.

top of tongueOK, just back from a quick 3 mi (5 km) inaugural hike on a groomed trail and found no obvious problems with fit or comfort, with perhaps one exception: the tongue seems too short.  Notice in the photo at left that the upper lace and knot fall just at the top edge of, or even above, the tongue.  That means the knot tends to lay hard with little padding against the top of my foot, at least on this first walkthrough.  Maybe I can adjust the lacing to compensate, or perhaps this initial issue will prove not be one after all.

During the next two months I'm going to look for comfort and durability: insole and interior side padding, midsole protection from rocks and trees, enough upper stiffness to keep me from rolling my ankles too much, water resistance and waterproof ability in snow, rain, and creek crossings.  One particular area I'll pay attention to is the welt at the instep (where the boot upper joins the midsole), since this is sometimes a weak point in welded/glued boot construction where the upper can separate prematurely.


- Field Report -

Field Conditions

In the two months following my Initial Report (above) I've hiked about 70 mi (113 km) in my Sightlines over trails that I rate as easy to moderate, and a short distance off-trail.  In my system easy trails are flat or gently rising/falling, usually groomed, with a mostly smooth dirt, duff, or sandy surface.  Moderate trails feature more demanding elevation gains and losses of up to 500 ft/mi (250 m/km), less grooming, and rougher, more unstable surfaces with rocks and other foot impediments.  Here's the breakdown of what I hiked:

Easy Trail 14 mi (23 km)  
Moderate Trail 51 mi (82 km)  
Off-Trail 3 mi (5 km)  

So far all of my hikes have been day trips averaging about 6 mi (10 km) per trip, with a daypack weight of 16 lb (7 kg).  Outdoor temperatures have varied from about 20 to 70 F (-7 to 21 C).  It's not the rainy season now where I've been hiking, so most hikes have been during dry days with a couple of treks with snow on the trail and/or falling.

In the following sections I'll summarize my field experiences so far with these boots.  As a general comment I'd like to note that the Sightlines are very light for an all-leather boot (just over two pounds (900 g) per pair); so light, in fact, that I often thought I was wearing shoes instead.


Comfort & Fit

Overall I found the Sightlines fairly comfortable.  There was no break-in period since they fit my feet right from the first step on the trail, and I haven't noticed any change in the way they fit after the 70 mi (113 km) I've hiked in them so far.  Most of the time I wore my usual two-sock combination (thin liner underneath thicker wool), although on several shorter hikes I tried just the medium-weight sock.  I've had no blisters, hot spots, or any foot soreness that I could attribute to the boots.  Padding around the ankle and foot is comfortable and feels about right for this style of light boot.  Since these are low-cut boots (the collar just barely covers my ankle), and I'm rather used to higher-cut boots, I do tend to notice the collar contacting my leg just above the ankle - not enough to cause any discomfort, but just enough to let me know that the boot top ends there.

In ActionI've been monitoring two issues that are ongoing (also described in my Initial Report, above), and both are what I consider to be design flaws.  First, the tongue is definitely too short.  In my opinion, all shoe and boot tongues should extend at least to above the top of the tied laces.  This not only adds additional protection from dirt and water, but more importantly gives a needed cushion against tightly-tied laces.  Unfortunately whenever I needed to tighten my boots (e.g. on downhills) I could feel that knot pressing against my foot.  The second design flaw is that the top two lace eyelets are thread-through and not wrap-around.  Therefore each time I put the Sightlines on or take them off I need to spend time tightening or loosening all of the top half of lacing (especially when wearing double socks).  Both of these issues could have been easily remedied by small design changes.

Although there are no intended loops on the tongue to help keep it in place on top of the foot, I found that the tongue hardly moved at all from side to side, even when I had the Sightlines loosely tied.  While I did discover a loop at the top of the tongue (it's the Wolverine brand tag) and I tried it briefly as a tongue-retainer by threading the laces through it for about 10 mi (16 km) of hiking, this option didn't in fact add any functionality but only made it harder to get the boots on and off.  Furthermore, the brand tag wasn't designed for lacing and started to pull off.

One other small issue is the noticeable curvature of the heel from front to back (photo, below):  walking on hard flat surfaces feels a bit odd, as if a pebble is lodged in the tread.  Heel CurveAll of my other medium or heavy boots have flat or nearly flat heel profiles (something that up until now I've never noticed).  It seems as if this heel was designed to make for a more comfortable gait as the foot rolls forward on each step, but it doesn't work for me on the street or hard-packed trails.  However, as soon as I move to uneven/soft trails the curved heel doesn't bother me.  More importantly, a curved heel would have less ground contact while walking, so for the balance of this Test I'll be checking to see if this is indeed the case when I need good traction.


Negotiating the Trail

The Sightlines' light weight was definitely a benefit on smoother and flatter trail sections where footing is good and obstacles few.  However, as trail difficulty and obstacles increased I found the boots' "airy" feeling a detriment: this is because for most hiking I prefer heavier boots weighing around 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) per pair.  Sometimes I'm an "ankle-roller", especially when dealing with larger rocks, holes in the trail and branches in the path, so I found the low collars a disadvantage because they didn't provide enough stiffness for me in such situations.  The Sightlines' relatively thin leather uppers also don't provide as much protection as I would have liked when banging against rocks and tree branches.  I suppose being aware of the boots' collar and stiffness limitations did help me avoid potentially hazardous footing, but at the expense of being able to track rougher off-trail terrain and poorly-maintained trail.

So far in this test I rate the outsole tread pattern as excellent.  The lugs tended not to retain the dirt and small pebbles that boots normally pick up on trails (I attribute this to the larger spacing between lugs than is found on some other outsole patterns), and they were easily cleaned by either picking out with a stick, or lightly banging the boots against a rock or tree.  The rubber outsoles gave me good resistance on steep slopes and large flat rocks.

I am not so impressed with the midsole, however.  I find it to be too soft and flexible.  Even for a light boot like this one, I expected more stiffness and protection from feeling sharp rocks under my feet.  This is part of the reason, as I pointed out earlier, that while wearing the Sightlines I often feel as if I'm wearing a shoe instead of a boot.  Up to this point in the Field Test my longest single hike in the Sightlines has been 9 mi (14.5 km) on moderate trail in dry weather, and while my feet were not sore at the end of the hike, I could feel the trail tread more than I like.


Testing water resistanceWater Resistance

The Wolverine Sightlines' leather uppers come with a factor DWR (Durable Water Resistant) coating, and so far I've not added my own treatment to any part of the boots.  While walking through small streams and shallow snow I found water resistance to be excellent - no penetration into my socks that I could detect.  I conducted two tests: one where I stood in a gentle creek about 3 in (8 cm) deep for five minutes, another where I walked in that creek about a quarter mile (0.4 km).  Both times after stepping out of the water my feet were high and dry.


Warmth

I've found that the boots keep my feet moderately warm during the coldest temperatures in which I've taken them out.  This was while wearing my normal thin-thick sock combination.  Since the Sightlines have the "PC dry" water barrier I expect to feel somewhat warmer than in a similar uninsulated boot, but at the same time I didn't feel any undue dampness.  I normally don't have a problem with too-sweaty feet in boots anyway, but I do appreciate any extra warmth that the boot insulation provides.


Wear & Durability

70 miAt this point in the test, I would say that wear and durability are two of the Sightlines' strongest points.  The outsole rubber is looking very good with 70 mi (113 km) on them, and there are no signs of any separating or splitting lugs.  Likewise with the welt area:  all edges look strong with no evidence of separation at the glue joint with the outsole.  The stitching also looks good so far, and the fabric panels along the sides, tongue, and heel seem just like new and able to take whatever I've given them up to now.  The laces have held up well and don't show any significant abrasion or weak points. Finally, the leather uppers are looking fine despite showing the usual dings and scratches that come with trail use (see photo).

Additional Usage Notes

I recently had a nice opportunity to test using trail crampons with the Sightlines.  This was on a sunny calm day just below freezing with about 3 in (7.5 cm) of packed and unpacked moderately dry snow on the ground and trail (with deeper snow in the hollows).  With a pair of Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras, I found that the Wolverine boots performed quite well in these conditions.  However, the size range of the Hillsound Medium crampons I was using is intended for US Men's 8-10 (EUR 40.5-43), and is probably one size too big for these boots.  On occasion the rear elastic band of the crampon slipped down, causing the crampon points to become loose and misaligned with the boot bottom.


Summary of Field Test

So far here's how I judge the Wolverine Sightlines, using a rating scale of poor/fair/good/excellent:
  • overall comfort:  fair to good
  • tread:  excellent
  • midsole stiffness:  fair
  • stability for foot & ankle:  fair to good
  • wear & durability:  excellent


- Long Term Report -

After an additional two months of use I can do no better than agree with my Field Test comments.  I put on an additional 30 mi (43 km) of easy to moderate trail, mostly dry, but also occasional light snow or mud conditions.  The boots' appearance and condition is pretty much the same as the photo (above) "Condition after 70 mi (113 km)". 

As in my Field Test summary, I still rate the Sightlines' overall comfort as good.  I found that the Sightlines do best for me on groomed trails and easy footing.  The outsole tread is very good for these trails, as is the adequate midsole stiffness.  Since the boot ankle height is low, on easy trails that's enough for me to feel confident in them.

In my Field Test I noted the curved heel that seemed to lead to less ground contact and how that might be a problem for me.  However, since I've stayed on easier trails it hasn't been an issue.  For level or almost level trails with ice or snow, the heel was OK. 

The factory DWR finish has held up very well - water rolls right off with no sign of wetting out.  Likewise the stitching on the upper (and there's a lot of it): no sign of loose threads or separating layers.  Interior padding has also proven durable.  I have noticed a slight squeak when I walk, but in my experience with leather boots that's a normal side effect, and I don't count it against these boots.  (In any case, given my long experience with leather boots, I expect that squeak to probably change or go away with use.)

The breathable water barrier in the boot uppers seems to be working, because I didn't get sweaty feet.  However, since I didn't conduct controlled tests this is anecdotal evidence only.  On the several times I walked across or in shallow streams my socks and feet stayed dry, as they did while walking through shallow snow (lower than the boot tops).

Overall, I rate the Wolverine Sightline boots as good to excellent for light-duty use on groomed, easy-to-moderate trails.  They provided adequate support for my ankles and soles.  Right out of the box they were very comfortable, and the boot last that Wolverine uses seems to be the right one for my foot: good fit for toe and heel, and for my foot width as well.  Fortunately I have an easy foot to fit, and most boots I wear (provided I get the correct size) give me no lasting issues like blisters or sore arches.  Because they are very lightweight, the Sightlines are not my first choice for backpacking when I have an extra 30 lb (14 kg) of weight on them and need to count on extra foot support.  Their best use for me is on day hikes, when I carry only 10-16 lb (5-7 kg), and when I expect easy trail conditions.

Summary

Pros
    - lightweight
    - comfortable
    - excellent water repellency and quick drying uppers
    - very good traction on easy to moderate groomed trails
    - good boot for day hikes with light pack


Cons
    - tongue not quite long enough, does not give padding for tightly knotted laces at boot top
    - upper sets of lace brackets are lace-through instead of slide-around, preventing easy loosening and tightening of laces
    - too lightweight for backpacking: not enough upper and midsole support



This concludes my test report on the Sightline boots.

Acknowledgments    

A big thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and to Wolverine World Wide Inc. for the chance to test the Sightline Hunting Boots.


Reviewed By
Bob Dorenfeld
Central Colorado Mountains




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