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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Chaco Canyonland Mid > Test Report by John Waters

CHACO CANYONLAND MID HIKER
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 18, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 59
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Chaco Inc
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.chacousa.com
MSRP: US$110
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 40 oz (1134 g) Pair
Sizes: Men's US 7-12, 13, 14, 15
Size Tested: 10.5
Colors: Burl (brown) and Oxide (gray)
Color Tested: Oxide

Other details: Getagripô Outsole - "The multipurpose Getagripô outsole is made with non-marking butyl rubber providing excellent slip resistance and traction on all types of terrain. Built-in flex points encourage a natural stride."
Chaco Canyonland Mid Hiker
Picture courtesy of Chaco website



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - Jul 2008

I'm looking for the perfect light-weight summer hiking boot. I've tried some and the issue has been fit, not performance. I like the ones I have now, but where I've been hiking and scrambling the past several months it gets up over 100 F (38 C) and I was hoping that I could find lighter weight boots that would be more comfortable. Not that the ones that I have now are unbearable, just that something that fit better would be even better. So I am excited to have a chance to test the Chaco Canyonland Mid Boots

The Chaco Canyonland Mid model I am testing is a mid-height summer weight boot. They are 5.5 inches (14 cm) from the top of the boot at the rear to the bottom of the heel. I have other full sized boots that are 7.5 inches (19 cm) at the same point. The top of the Chaco boot just barely touches the bottom of my ankle. Since I do a lot of rock scrambling on hillsides, I am always skittish about twisting an ankle. I've broken my foot before and I was out of commission for quite a while (plus it really hurt). So I am very particular about having good ankle protection. There is padded ankle support all around the top of the boot that's up to 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) high at the rear but dips to 3/4 inch (1.91 cm) just under the ankle bones on the sides.

The boot is light smoky gray with darker gray accents; a dark gray toe, dark gray heel guards and pumpkin colored accents. The interior is light gray. The sole is light gray. The pumpkin striping adds what I feel is just the right amount of accent coloring.

I'm still a huge fan of quick tie hooks, the kind where you can quickly tie the last 3 or 4 shoelace wraps by looping the shoelace under the hooks. The Chaco's top two loops are quick tie hooks. The rest are cloth loops that are part of the pumpkin accent striping. The laces are thinner than what I'm use to: 1/8 inch (0.32 cm) round and gray with pumpkin dashing. The fast tie hooks have a way of locking the lacing in. The lacing "snaps" or "pops" into the quick tie hook and makes a very positive connection. My concern is with all that popping, whether the laces will wear out faster. Only time will tell, but I like the security of the laces locking in place. Also, because the laces are thinner, I've started playing with inserting the sides of the lace bow into the quick tie hooks instead of double tying the bow like I normally do. There is enough room in the hook to snap the bow into the same quick tie hook. I'll see how that goes. These are really easy to get on and off and adjust so far.

The 4th lacing eyelet on each side is part of a plastic finger that is molded with two lace holes to accommodate the lace in two positions. I'm guessing that the inner or outer position will allow adjustment for tighter tie-down for heavier feet. I'm leaving mine in the inner position for now and then I'll report on the difference later. This finger is attached to the composite side molding of the boot via one of those flexible, supposedly unbreakable, thin plastic hinges like the ones seen on cell phone connector covers. The side molding then meets up with the sole.

At this early stage, the jury is out on the tread design. It seems rather passive with 3/16 inch (0.48 cm) depth and just a bunch (31) of diamond shaped lugs and an outer band of rectangular lugs. It looks like someone took PhotoShop and just placed the diamond shapes evenly spaced within the allowed area and handed it to production. I wonder if any thought as to performance was considered or if this format has been proven to work well. Anyway, we're headed to Northern Michigan next month for some sand dune hiking and then back to Colorado in 3 weeks for the real test on rough terrain. I'm really curious to see if I can stay upright scrambling down pea sized scree on a 45 degree slope with these.

I usually wear a size 10 shoe and the web-based printable sizing chart on the Chaco site (which I tested and checked for proper measurements) said I should order a 10. But I wanted downhill toe room, so I ordered a 10.5. Good thing I did, too. My toes are almost touching the tip of the toe box just standing normally. If I had ordered a 10, I'm not sure I would have been able to get into the boot at all. An 11 may have worked better for rough downhill traversing; however they do fit okay and not as tight as some others I've worn. I'm still experimenting with the lacing settings and I'll need to get very much more rough usage in to really check out the sizing. Right now they seem comfortable even with just thin liner socks. There is a slight rough spot right above the 2nd metatarsal joint behind my left toe. Thicker socks may take care of that. I'll see.

The boot liner is air vented with tiny holes throughout and is very easy to slide in and out of. The insole is removable and quite thick: 1/8 inch (0.32 cm) rubber for the front 1/3 inch (0.84 cm) to the mid-sole and then ramped up with a spongy material to almost 1/2 inch (1.37 cm) thick at the heel. The liner is felt lined at the bottom for the back 2/3, very much like an add-on insole and is labeled "Biocentric Countor" which means nothing to me right at this moment other than it's formed for the foot maybe.

When the insert is removed, it exposes a tan cloth material that is sewed (stitched) to the sidewalls, not molded. The insert comes out easily, but getting it back in is more difficult because it just will not slide against that cloth footing. I had to insert the heel first and push the material down working towards the toe. Such a removable insert should help get things dried out much more quickly when necessary, plus the front 1/3 being all rubber, my toes should not be squishing in damp material and getting blisters.

I haven't had a chance to use these on rough terrain yet, so I can't report on the performance of the sole cushioning and other technical aspects. The real testing, when the going gets tough, is still a few weeks away. These are such good looking boots that I am going to hate getting them all muddy and messy, but it'll also be a good test of how well they clean up and how well they hold up. In Colorado, I'll also get a chance to see how they work against prickly pear cactus and scorpions. I hate getting cactus spines in my ankles and hate getting bit by scorpions even more.

TESTING STRATEGY

I wear my hiking boots a lot. Not only do I wear boots on day and weekend hikes, but I will be in Colorado hiking several miles/kilometers almost every day (60 or more miles (97 km) per month) to and from destinations that cannot be reached by vehicle. I wear hiking boots almost every day on rugged trails and rough bushwhacked paths. So it's especially important to me that my boots be very comfortable and well built. Since I encounter lots of rocks, my boots must be durable and supportive enough to protect my feet scrambling over bedrock, through plenty of cactus, and have a tread can handle the slick conditions of snow, ice and slippery mud as well.

Over the next four months, I will be hiking several times a week in southeast Colorado with at least 2 days of each month dedicated to overnight backpacking (weekends). Plus, during the course of business, I have to hike into remote locations often for antenna/tower work. This has me climbing up rocky random paths and remote access roads which are not maintained. I always wear hiking boots in these situations and may hike 4 or 5 miles (6-8 km) each day through this terrain, putting on as much as 30 to 40 mi (48 to 64 km) each week and 60 to 80 mi (97 to 129 km) or more each month. My boots get quite a work-out. During this hikes, I'll carry a pack with as much as 25 to 40 lb (11-18 kg) of gear while scrambling over very rocky sloped and slippery terrain.

Colorado weather during this period will be mostly dry, windy, with some rain. Temperatures will range from 60 F (15 C) at night to 100 F (38 C) in the daytime.

Terrain will cover everything from flat sandy BLM trails to the shale-y mountainous Cooper Mountain and Wet Mountain regions in south central Colorado. Also, lots of mud! Elevation will range from a low of 5000 ft (1524 m), and up to 13000 ft (3962 M).

SUMMARY

I'm going to be wearing these almost constantly over the next several weeks as I travel and hike around the desert and rocky areas of Canon City, Colorado and hit the shores and dunes of Lake Michigan in Michigan. One advantage of testing these in Colorado is that being in the "banana belt"; we get a lot of sun, so I should be able to test these summer weight boots well into the end of the testing period without getting into snowfall. Our treks along the dunes in Michigan will allow me to report on how many ounces of sand will fit in the boot along with my foot.

Happy hiking!

John R. Waters

This concludes my initial report on the Chaco Canyonland Mid Hiker Boots. Please see below for the results of my first two months' testing of the boots.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS-Sep 08

Hikers in Buffalo Gap Grassla
Hikers in Buffalo Gap Grasslands
I've been wearing these boots almost constantly for 2 months. I haven't yet worn them when I got dressed up or when I was sleeping, but if I was hiking or working they were on my feet 90% of the time. I'll estimate that they probably have over 150 miles (242 km) on them. I know I can't count the 3000 mile (4830 km) drive back and forth between Colorado and Michigan or the 3000 mile (4830 km) round-trip drive between Colorado and North Dakota. Sitting in the driver's seat doesn't count. BUT they were comfortable in that cramped position and did not annoy me at all during over 90 hours of driving.

I've used these boots to climb radio towers, hike rough rocky terrain, walk on concrete and dirt, scramble down lose pebbles, and walk through inches of mud. They've been subjected to temperatures from 48 F to 100 F (9 C to 38 C), bright sunlight from over 6,000 feet (1829 m) above sea level to sea level, sand storms on the plains of North Dakota and rain in Michigan.


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Let's first take a look at what Chaco says about these boots.

On their website, Chaco says "the Canyonland Mid features a removable 'BioCentric' (trademarked, too!) footbed for maximum support and long-trail comfort".

I Googled "BIOCENTRIC" and Wikipedia says "biocentrism" is "the belief that all forms of life are equally valuable and humanity is not the center of existence" so that may not be what Chaco is talking about ... or is it? There are over 166,000 results for "biocentric". Who'd have guessed?

Chaco specifically means, from what I gathered on their website, that their BioCentric footbed provides support and comfort under stride during any activity. Does it actually do so?

I have several tests I have developed over the past few years when evaluating boots. One of those tests is to walk across a bed of 1 inch (2.5 cm) rock gravel laying on a hard dirt surface. I then evaluate whether I can count the pebbles underfoot and if I can feel pressure from the pebbles on the soles of my feet.

I have hiking boots, for example, that give me no idea whatsoever that there are pebbles under my feet. Then there is the Canyonland Mid that lets me count the pebbles and even figure out their shape. In fact, the soles on these boots perform pretty much the same as when I walk over the pebbles with my nice deerskin moccasins with street soles.

Walking over rocky, pebbled terrain for hours is pretty harsh on the soles of the feet. For example, I did a 5 mile (8 km) hike the other day in really rough terrain and I have to admit, the bottoms of my feet were feeling sore. Fortunately I had really good heavy Darn Tough Vermont socks on, even though it was 87 F (31 C). I've learned to not wear these boots when hiking off paved/hard-packed paths without wearing heavy socks to add more protection to the soles of my feet. So the BioCentric footbed, while comfortable when on paved, sandy, or hard packed ground, is too flexible and too thin for really rough terrain.

Below are two pictures of the BioCentric footbed. I removed it from the boot to be more easily seen. There is definitely a sculptured shape to the footbed. It's probably not the exact shape of every foot in the world; Chaco production program probably found the "average" shape. The picture shows the front half has a rubbery bottom sole, which is very flexible. The rear half is solid and firm. It is not very thick. The thin and flexible BioCentric insole and the thin boot sole are what permit me to feel the shape of 1 inch (2.5 cm) pebbles underfoot. It's also what helps make the boot so comfortable on paved/hard-packed trails.
Chaco Canyonland Mid Hiker boot
Canyonland Hiker and Inner Sole
Chaco Canyonland Inner Sole
Bottom of Canyonland Hiker Inner Sole

That being said though, these are lightweight boots. Lightweight means ... not heavyweight. So I have to give up some things I guess because these boots DO feel almost as comfortable as my moccasin slippers. It's just that I would not do extreme hiking in my slippers.

The Canyonlands lacing system takes some getting use to. As I said in the initial report, I am not use to working with such thin diameter laces. I found myself constantly missing the 2nd quick lace from the top either because the lace didn't catch or I completely missed because the top hook and the 2nd hook down are so close together. Because of this combination of thin lacing and the closeness of the hooks, quick lacing became frustrating lacing sometimes and tangled lacing other times. I also see now that because there is less friction with thin lacing, the lacing slides more easily between all the eyelets. This is good for adjusting the width of the boot, but it also causes the width to get narrow sooner. So I have had to pull the lacing through more frequently than any other boot I own to keep the boot from being too tight. When properly adjusted, they are quite comfortable. Keeping them in that "sweet spot" requires frequent re-adjustment.

I have not seen any noticeable wear and tear on the boot at all. I am not gentle on boots, so that is impressive. No nicks. No cuts. No torn material or scrapes anywhere. Even the soles are unmarked.

As far as odor, these are not the "least smelly" boots I've owned. I've had my favorite boots equipped with anti-bacterial insoles. So I think I will do the same with these and see if they work. In doing so I will need to replace the Chaco BioCentric insole with the one I select to use. I did not want to do that because I wanted to test these without modifications. So I will wait until the test is over to do so.

Waterproof? I have not forded any streams yet. We've been under extreme fire watch here and all the streams are dried-up mud holes right now. And I have not had and will not have a chance to test these in the next two months under winter snow conditions, although I think these boots are too light for winter wear anyway. We'll do a trail with over 30 stream crossings in the next week or so before we head for Arizona and the Grand Canyon in October. That should tell me how these boots handle water and slippery rock. Up to now, the only water I've encountered was rain and the boots showed no signs of leakage.

As far as loose pebbles on downhill traversing, I have had worse, but these still let me lose footing and gave way underfoot to serious downhill free falls. I would not traverse downhill with scree underfoot without the use of good hiking poles for support. The treads are just not deep enough to really grip lose scree and loose dirt to provide the level of safety I like.

I have not had any issues with ankle support. Even in cases where I felt uncomfortable in downhill traverses on loose scree; I never even started to feel any ankle twist. I have a habit of tightening the top lace quite tight at the top of a mid boot to hold my ankles in place. The Canyonlands never allowed me to feel like I was going to twist my ankle at any time. It may be due to the heavy plastic side supports. I like the secure feeling. I've broken bones before due to sideway twisting of my foot and it's not fun, so I am very guarded about that when evaluating footwear.

SUMMARY

These have been the best hot weather mid boots I've used. Although they have a very thin sole, they are great for use in the desert and I can put up with feeling pebbles underfoot to enjoy the comfort. I'll test these more in hot weather over the next month as we hike into the Grand Canyon and mess around in streams. It'll still be into the 90 F (32 C) range here in Colorado where we are and it should be hotter in the Grand Canyon. Over the next month, I'll add dozens more miles/kilometers on these and we'll see how they hold up.

This concludes my Field Report on the Chaco Canyonland Mid Hiker Boots. Please see below the results of my last two months' testing of the boots.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

These boots have been around. After the last Field Report, we tripped off to Arizona, where I put another 50 miles (81 km) or so on the Chacos as we hiked the Mogollon Rim Country at up to 7200 ft (2100 m) and then several miles/kilometers into the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. Arizona was mild in October with cool weather at the rim (45 F/7 C) but warmer temps 1,000 ft (305 m) below the rim (85 F/29 C). In Colorado, I wore them all the time practically, as I roamed state and federal land near our home and as I climbed to tower locations at temps ranging from 45 to 85 F (7 to 29 C) at altitudes from 5300 to 7300 ft (1600 to 2200 m). In all, I probably put another 100 miles (161 km) on these boots.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

* I continue to find these boots comfortable. They never have had any hot spots and have been quite a pleasure to wear. There were days when I had them on for 10 or 12 hours and did not feel uncomfortable at all. I've worn boots that I couldn't wait to take off and these are just not like that.

* The Chaco Mids are certainly not waterproof. That was proved for sure when we forded streams in the Arizona Mogollon Rim Country. Once water reached the fabric tops, the boots just sopped up the water and soaked my feet within 3 seconds. Fortunately I had a good pair of wicking socks on and within 13 minutes my feet were pretty much dry. Slightly damp, but dry enough. I never felt squishy like there was water inside the boot with me. But it can seen in the picture, my feet were wet. The temp was around 75 F (24 C) at about 6800 ft (2100 m) on this occasion and the humidity was probably around 30%. I will not wear these to cross streams if it is going to be cold and damp and there is a chance of getting hypothermia. The water just beaded up and rolled off my wife's boots doing the same traverse.

Stream Crossing in AZ
Crossing a Stream on the Arizona Trail
Chaco Canyonland Boots - Wet
Wet Chaco Canyonland Boots


* We climbed a rather steep trail that rose 1400 ft (427 m) in 1.5 miles (24.km) and there were some sections that we had to scramble up broken bedrock and limestone at 70 degree angles. The Chacos handled the upside okay, with some slippage. But when coming down I was very careful to have my climbing poles well placed because I was slipping frequently. I have not gotten confident that the sole pattern on these boots is adequate for secure scrambling. I was spending too much time concerning myself with slipping. I have other boots that would be more secure handling this kind of landscape because I've used them without the same insecurity. For me, the Chacos have their limitations.

* I have seen no significant wear and tear on any part of either boot. No loose fabric. Slight nicks and scratches (and that's quite good considering where these boots have been). A few loose fabric threads along the seams in 3 or 4 places, but they are not looking too bad at all. I'll need to clean them. The gray fabric seems to collect mud and it needs to be washed off. I can't just brush off mud. May be something to do with the "stickiness" of the rubber the manufacturer uses.

SUMMARY

I will continue to wear these boots until it gets too cold. They are light, so I'm not sure how cold it can be to wear these comfortably. This final report is being filed in mid-November and the temps here in Colorado right now are the coldest I've worn them, around 38 F (3 C). I have no issue with them at this temp while wearing good wool socks. Unfortunately, I won't be able to report on wearing them at lower temps. However, they have proven to be a favorite for warm weather wear as long as I'm not getting them soaked or doing near-techincal scrambling on loose scree and pebbles.

John R. Waters

This concludes my testing of the Chaco Canyonland Mid Hiker Boots. Thanks to Chaco Inc. and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

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

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