MERRELL MESA VENTILATOR II MID HIKING BOOT
February 20, 2009
San Diego, CA, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
195 lb (88.50 kg)
As a kid I spent every summer (and parts of each spring and fall) camping--mostly car camping, but hey what did I know. I also spent just about every weekend hiking (my dad liked it because it was cheap-I thought it was good fun). I returned to the hiking/backpacking fold in the last few years as my two sons are Cub scouts and are increasingly interested in hiking/backpacking and as Assistant Cubmaster I tend to lead the group hikes. We are currently training up for longer backpacking trips, by taking 3 to 6 mile (4.8 to 9.7k) hikes.
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: www.merrell.com
MSRP: US$ 90
Listed Weight: 34 oz (960 g)
Measured Weight: 32 oz (907 g)
Product Description: The manufacturer describes my version of the Mesa Ventilator II as Walnut, but to the untrained eye they look to be a light gray-brown with silvery-gray accents. The boot itself is a mid rise-mid weight boot, the ankle support is slightly lower in the back than the front (5.5 in - 6.25 in [139.7 mm - 158.7 mm]). The silver-gray accent panels seem to be what gives the boot the Ventilator name because they are a waffle weave that presumably allows the shoe to breathe. The boots' vibram soles are more aggressive than a tennis shoe, but do not have the deep lug of heavier duty boots. The total height of the tread is 2/3 in. (16.7 mm) The laces run through a series of woven loops (4 to a side) and then through a closed metal clasp with a final hook clasp at the top. The front of the boot is sealed with a rubber toe bumper. The manufacturer says the upper is pig leather, but since I didn't see the pig myself I couldn't prove it was true. My shoe is an 11, but as far as I know they make this shoe in lots of sizes.
I originally bought these warm weather boots on a trip to Colorado in March 2006. I tried on a wide variety of boots, but I was looking for something that would provide some support to my ankles (which occasionally decide that a quick painful twist is the order of the day.) I hadn't worn a high top shoe in years besides some 8 hole Dr. Martens and didn't want a heavy sheath around my leg. I decided that the mid level (high enough to give me some ankle support, but not so high that the boot was scratching my knee) was the way to go. Little did I know that buying new hiking boots was going to put the hiking bug back into my craw.
The first thing I noticed about these boots was the way they laced up. I've always been partial to eyelets on my shoes, especially eyelets with metal inserts. For some reason they have always felt sturdier to me, less likely to break. These shoes did not have eyelets. For a minute or two I was worried, would the small loops break under strain? There was no need to worry, the lace loops have held up for at least 100 miles (160 km) of hiking and dozens of other days of general use without any sign of strain. The top two "loops" are a bronze color metal riveted to the shoe. The lower one is a closed clasp and the upper is a hook. The two upper metal loops allow the shoelaces to be tugged tightly without straining the lower loops. I like my shoes tied snugly with a double knot on top and this system works well.
The tongue of the boot is sewn to the upper by more of the ventilated material up to the last lace loop. This keeps the tongue straight with minimal need to readjust as the boot is tied. The tongue itself is padded from the middle of the foot to the top of the boot. The padding tapers as it descends into the boot. Like most padded tongues I have found that they need to be straight to avoid discomfort; the sewn webbing helps that considerably. The tongue has never irritated me (something which occasionally happens with a pair of skateboard style shoes I own) no matter how long I've been hiking.
Contrary to the best advice of every shoe guru in the history of man, the shoes had no break in time at all. Not more than thirty minutes after purchase I was hiking the relatively flat trails of the Valley of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Watching my kids enjoy themselves among the dirt and nature reminded me of what I liked to do when I was their age: get out and explore. Luckily, I picked a good pair of shoes to start my hiking again. I didn't get a single hot spot or blister despite the zero break in time and to date the only problems I have ever had was after an 8 mile (12.8 km) night hike with 800' (250 m) elevation gain (where I got to carry my six year old for the last mile or so, the poor little guy was done). After that unusual hike, the tips of my big toes were a tad sore from rubbing against the toe bumper, but I think it was do the added stress of carrying 55 lbs (25 kg) of unbalanced weight on my shoulders.
The tread on the soles is a little more aggressive than a normal cross-training tennis shoe, but not as aggressive as many heavier duty boots. As seen in the above picture there is very little tread wear (just a tiny bit in the middle of the ball of the foot) despite over 100 miles of hiking. I tend to be very easy on my shoes. I am one of those lucky people who tread evenly across the shoe with no tendency of wearing down any party abnormally. The sole itself is flexible. I am easily able to bend the toe back to the top of the laces without any apparent stress to the boot.
I have worn the boots both on a day to day basis (like I said they are very comfortable) and on approximately 20 day hikes since I purchased them. The average length of those hikes is 3 - 5 miles (4.5 - 8 km) and I typically carry a small hydration pack or larger bookbag sized daypack. I would say the weight carried is never more than 5 - 7 lbs (2.27 - 3.18 kg). The boots have provided excellent traction and have worn well (the treads almost look brand new). Since I have never worn them under a heavier load I do not know how much support they would provide if I was carrying a pack. But then again, they are designed for lightweight warm weather hiking which is the normal weather condition in San Diego and how I use them, so it's never been a problem.
The boots are well ventilated, I almost never notice any major sweat buildup; not even when I climbed Cowles Mountain on a 110 F (43 C) degree day. (Cowles Mountain is the tallest spot in San Diego city limits, and is only a moderate climb for any average hiker: 3.0 mile (4.5 km) roundtrip, 950' (290 m) elevation gain). I used to wear cotton socks (I know, I know 22 demerits) but even then did not have many problems with the dreaded sweaty feet. The boots are well designed for their purpose, having kept my feet relatively cool even on hot days.
In Southern California there is rarely an opportunity to see how gear holds up when wet. It just doesn't rain enough. However, on two separate occasions I have worn them during light to moderate rain fall (approximately 3/4" or 19 mm over a matter of hours). While the exterior of the boot got rather wet, the interior remained mostly dry and the boots dried out quickly afterwords (within a few hours of continued hiking). Neither time did my feet suffer from the boot remaining wet, the ventilation seemed to do a good job of helping dry the boot out.
I have worn them twice in the snow. Both times I wasn't hiking, just using the boot for a walking about shoe. Neither time did I notice much water seepage, but from my experience in the rain I would not trust the boot to stay water proof. (I did waterproof them myself for some additional protection.) Merrell does not contend that the boot is waterproof, I only comment in case anyone is curious.
The boots provide good traction when climbing boulders. The soles have deep well defined treads that grab well.
Despite moderate to heavy use, the boots have held up well with no loose threads, gussets or rubber at the sole. In fact I have only changed the laces once.
When these boots wear out I would have no qualms about buying another pair. (Note: it seems that Merrell no longer makes the Mesa Ventilator II, but has replaced the boot with the Moab Ventilator. From all appearances the two boots are extremely similar.)
THINGS I LIKE
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
Not designed to be waterproof (more a comment than criticism).
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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