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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Zamberlan Crest or Rica GT > Test Report by Ken Bigelow

Zamberlan 154 RICA GT Footwear
Test Report Series by Ken Bigelow
Initial Report – November 2, 2008
Field Report - December 23, 2008
Long Term Report - March 3, 2009
Zamberlan 154 RICA GT

Personal Biographical Information:

Name: Ken Bigelow
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 8" (1.7 m)
Weight: 175 lbs (79 kg)
Shoe Size: Men’s 10 (US)
Email address: krb84108 (at) yahoo (dot) com
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA 

Backpacking Background:

My adventures vary in length from a weekend to over two weeks.  I am shifting my backpacking style to a lightweight approach.  I use hammocks and lightweight tents to reduce weight.  From spring through fall I typically backpack in the mountains or desert, while in winter I often go snowshoeing.  I typically see a wide variety of climates ranging from -5 F (-20 C) with snow to 90 F (32 C) and sunny with just about everything in between.

Initial Report
Initial Report – November 2, 2008
Zamberlan 154 RICA GT

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Zamberlan
Year Manufactured: 2008
Color Tested: Camel/Truffle
MSRP: $125 US
Listed Weight: 18.34 oz (520 g)
Measured Weights: 2 lb 6.8 oz (1.1 kg) per pair – 1 lb 3.4 oz (550 g) per boot
Size Tested: Men’s 10

Product Description & Initial Impressions:

The 154 RICA GT are part of Zamberlan’s ascent line.  The shoes arrived in a shoebox with a pamphlet title “Boot care & Reference guide”.  It describes the history of Zamberlan, a list of technologies and partners used in the production of Zamberlan footwear and a maintenance guide in English, Italian, French and German.  Based on looking at the Zamberlan website I’d say I received what I expected.

The footwear had two hangtags attached.  One is from Gore-Tex which is what the lining is composed of and the second describes Zamberlans patent pending AMS system.  The AMS, or Advanced Motion Structure, consists of a high grip outsole tread, supportive/protective elements located at the toe, heel and arch and a stability TPU plate under a multilayer of compression molded EVA midsole.  The system is supposed to provide shock absorption, support, stability and grip on all types of terrain.  Zamberlan’s website lists all the technical features and explains how Zamberlan only uses high quality components (everything from Hydrobloc leather to RRS rubber) and how they integrate these to enhance their footwear’s performance.  Whether or not these actually work or not will be determined in the field.

The pair I received are dark brown and tan which is referred to as camel and truffle by Zamberlan.  The rubber toe protection appears to be strong and sturdy with just a little give. The footwear are slightly loose if I wear light socks, but with thicker socks this isn’t an issue.  In most other brands a size 10 US does not feel as loose as these do and I can get by fine with wearing light weight socks.  The low cut shoes do not rub my ankle and my toes do not feel too tight in the toebox.  The laces are rather long and wearing them around my place I have stepped on them if they are tied with a single knot.  I almost always double knot my shoes so this isn’t a big issue to me.


Overall I like the 154 RICA GT boots.  They fit a little loose with light socks, but are really comfortable on my feet when wearing thicker socks.  I am looking forward to testing these out over the next few months and see how they perform.

Field Report
December 23, 2008
Zamberlan RICA GT 

Field Locations & Conditions:
For the first portion of the test period I have used the Zamberlan 154 RICA GT boots for three days/two nights camping/hiking trip in Capital Reef National Park, three days/two nights backpacking trip in Zion Canyon National Park, for a total of six days/four nights basecamping and hiking in the San Rafael Swell area, for a day hike in Arches National Park (and an overnighter just outside the park) three dayhikes in the Wasatch Mountains and pretty much everyday in and around Salt Lake City. 
Temperatures have ranged from 20 F (-6 C) to 70 F (21 C). I’ve seen sunny, clear and partially clouded skies, some light rain, heavy winds over 40 mph (60 km/hr) and light to moderate snow.  Elevations have been between 4,000 ft (1,200 m) and 10,000 ft (3,000 m).  The terrain has varied and included thick mud, rocks, sand, snow and ice, dirt, slickrock and washes of almost every kind.
Field Performance:
After receiving the Zamberlans I headed out for Arches National Park and a quick overnighter near Moab, Utah.  I was a little concerned exposing the RICAs to the slickrock terrain immediately without breaking them in first.  I am happy to report that I have not had any blisters so far during the test period.  The ability to wear shoes right out of the box without worrying about blisters is a great quality in my experience and I am glad the RICAs fall into this category.
The RICA’s breathability is surely one of the reasons I did not form any blisters while wearing the Zamberlan shoes.  Whether heading up steep terrain, switchbacks, scrambling over rocks or chimneying through slot canyons I have not had my feet overheat and they have not been excessively sweaty after a full day of hiking/backpacking.  My feet do feel chilled when the temperature drops to freezing and I am only wearing a thin sock but I can always add additional socks, change to thicker socks or even add toe warmers if need be.
The grip on the RICAs has been excellent.  I am delighted to report that the Zamberlans have been able to walk on wet slickrock, snow, mud and even canyon walls while chimneying without much slipping at all.  I have had some minor slipping on pure ice but this was not a surprise as I did not have any traction aids on and I cannot honestly say that any other footwear I use would not have slipped on the same surface without some sort of traction aid.  I also had a minor slip on thick mud that had been completely saturated after three days of rain.  Again I was not surprised by this result given the circumstances.  In both cases I never fell to the ground so it was not a big issue for me.
The Zamberlans are very comfortable to wear.  I’ve worn them while hiking over slickrock and they do an excellent job as my feet do not feel completely beat up at the end of the day.  In Zion National Park and in the San Rafael Swell I was on a trail made of rocks for a significant stretch and it did not kill the bottom of my feet like it does in other shoes I’ve used.  I’ve had to scramble over boulders and in narrow slot canyons where I had to use my feet to chimney through some sections and my feet never felt unusually fatigued after using either technique.  I even had the opportunity to test the RICAs without wearing any socks. 
While exploring a slot canyon in the San Rafael Swell I ran into a number of deep potholes filled with water from the previous day’s storm.  The sides were too wide for my short legs to chimney across in some sections and after testing the depth with my trekking poles I saw that the water was well above my knees.  I had to either take my shoes off and wade through the potholes or hike in soaked shoes and socks the rest of the day.  Given that it had been below freezing the night before and it was still cool I took off my shoes and socks and crossed the potholes barefoot.  After wadding through six potholes my toes were frigid and the bottoms of my feet were covered in mud.  I wanted to get moving right away to warm my feet up but I was not sure if there were any more holes that required wadding plus my frozen feet were very uncooperative in properly flexing to allow me to put my tight fitting socks on while still shivering.  I threw my shoes on minus the socks and continued on.  I did have to stop to empty the mud (and small rocks suspended in it) as my feet dried but the shoes were still comfortable to hike in until I could put my socks back on.
  Deep Pothole and Bad Fashion Statement
One of the many deep potholes (left) that lead to wearing no socks (right) with the Zamberlan RICA GT Boots

The Zamberlan RICAs have been superb at water resistance.  They have been exposed to snow, rain, ice, mud and have not allowed any of the elemental moisture inside my boots and onto my feet.  I did use gaiters on a few trips in the snow to prevent water from running down my legs and into the Zamberlans (thus wetting my feet) but all other areas have been completely waterproof so far and I have not had to perform any special care or treatment on the RICAs. 

In Zion Canyon National Park I was exploring Hop Valley not long after a storm and had to hop over the creek countless times.  I occasionally missed the dry spot I was aiming for and ended up splashing water on my lower legs, upper sock or even into the RICAs from above (as I was not wearing gaiters on this trip) which would wet my feet slightly.  This appears to be the only method water or snow can penetrate the RICA’s Gore-Tex lining after two months of testing (I should note that every shoe I‘ve ever worn is susceptible to this method as well).
  Zamberlans in Zion NP
Zamberlan RICA Boots in Zion National Park

My only real complaint about the Zamberlan Rica GT boots is their weight.  They aren’t exceptionally heavy for their category but if the terrain isn’t particularly rough I would go with lighter trail runners over these.  I do find these shoes to be more comfortable to wear on rougher terrain (slickrock, boulder hopping, rocky trails, etc) than trail runners.  In the end it’s just a balancing act between weight and comfort so it really depends more on what kind of terrain I expect to encounter and my personal preference for comfort.
So far over the course of the test period the Zamberlan RICA boots have been exceptionally comfortable, waterproof and breathable.   I was able to wear them right out of the box with little to no break in time.  I am happy with their performance on all kinds of terrain and look forward to testing them over the next few months.  I would like them to be lighter but I can say that for almost all my gear and for rougher terrain I am willing to take the tradeoff.
Things I like:
  • Little to no break in time required
  • Comfortable to wear both with and without socks
  • Waterproof
  • Excellent Traction on multiple surfaces
Things I am not thrilled about so far:
  • Heavier than some of my other footwear

Long Term Report
March 3, 2009
Zamberlan RICA GT
Long Term Testing Conditions:
Over the final two months of testing I have used the Zamberlan RICA in the Wasatch Mountains, the Uinta Mountains, Laurel Highlands State Park in Pennsylvania, just outside Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Great Falls State Park in Virginia in and around Salt Lake City, Utah and Washington DC.  Elevations have been between 100 ft (30 m) and 9,000 ft (2,700 m).  Temperatures have ranged from -5 F (-20 C) to 60 F (15 C).  I have used them hiking/snowshoeing on snow, ice, sand, rock, dirt and mud.  I have experienced rain, snow, sleet and sunny days while wearing the RICAs.
Long Term Report:
After four months of testing I am still able to grip the terrain like I was when the footwear first arrived.  In fact on a trip to Laurel Highlands State Park the trail cut across a very icy ski slope.  I was the one of the only ones that did not slip and fall on the slick ground and I did not have the advantage of traction aids.  I was impressed with the RICA’s ability to help me keep my balance while avoiding skiers flying down the slope.  I was also able to maintain my footing on very muddy trails on multiple occasions after rain and snow storms.  I love the stability I have while wearing the Zamberlan shoes.
Snowshoeing and postholing in the Zamberlan RICAs has required gaiters and rain pants to keep snow from getting inside my footwear.  I suspect I could get by with just the rain pants if the RICA were a mid or high top but as I have the low cuts I need additional protection in this area.  If I were purchasing boots specifically for winter use I would consider buying this model only in a mid or high top for this reason.  For desert hiking the cut has not been an issue at all and in fact I prefer the lower cut for this terrain.

Gaiter plus Rain Pants
Gaiter and Rain Pants Are Required To Keep Snow Out With the Low Cut Shoes 

While backpacking in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands State Park I decided to see how the Zamberlan shoes performed with a larger load.  For the last few miles of hiking I carried two people’s packs in addition to my own.  I estimate that the packs weighed in around a combined 75-85 lbs (34-39 kg).  While carrying the heavier load the Zamberlans did well.  I was still able to negotiate slick, albeit relatively flat, terrain en route to our shelter for the night.  My feet were not sore nor did I experience any rubbing which kind of surprised me.

  Extra Load
Carrying Extra Weight in the RICA Shoes

I have not had any durability issues with the Zamberlan RICA GT shoes.  They have been waterproof to date without any additional treatment.  The tread is down slightly but not as much as I expected considering I wear these shoes just about every day.  They do look like they have definitely been worn and have a slight fade in color but over all I still believe these shoes have many miles left in them.  The laces are still perfectly fine and intact.  I do tend to keep the laces tied while in and around town and just prefer to slide my feet in and out of the RICA shoes.  This does cause quite a bit of bending where the heels come in.  I am surprised I have not seen any permanent deformation in this area from putting on the shoes repeatedly in this manner.  All of my trail runners do show deterioration in this area from abusing footwear in this way.
The Zamberlan RICA GT shoes are a comfortable, waterproof, durable trail shoe and make a good addition to my footwear collection.  I would definitely considering purchasing them when in the market for this type of shoe.  I have enjoyed testing them and expect to use them for some time.
Things I like:
  • Little to no break in time
  • Comfortable to wear under a variety of loads
  • Waterproof
  • Excellent traction on multiple surfaces
  • Durable
Things I didn’t like:
  • Heavier than some shoes
  • Low cut is not ideal for snowshoeing and postholing

This concludes my Report.  Thanks to Zamberlan and BackpackGearTest for allowing me the opportunity to test the 154 RICA GT boots.

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