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Reviews > Footwear > Winter Boots > Wolverine Gauge Boots > Test Report by Derek Hansen

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Photo courtesy Wolverine World Wide, Inc.

Wolverine — Gauge Boots

Test Series by Derek Hansen

TESTER INFORMATION

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NameDerek Hansen
Age37
GenderMale
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight170 lb (77 kg)
Email Address pix-obfuscated
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I am a lightweight backpacker with a typical overnight pack weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and a multi-day weight of 20 lb (9 kg), each of which includes food and water. I prefer backpacking with a hammock as part of my sleep system.


PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer Wolverine World Wide, Inc., Michigan, USA
Year of Manufacture 2012, made in USA
Manufacturer’s Website wolverine.com
MSRP US$170
Listed Features

Molded TPU, abrasion resistant mesh, waterproof Americana leather upper. Wave mesh lining with waterproof membrane. 400 grams of 3M Thinsulate ultra insulation. PESU II EVA with NXT order [sic] control sockliner. Compression molded EVA midsole. Dual-density rubber lug outsole. Cement construction.

Manufacturer Recommendations

None yet listed.

Measurements
Specifications What They Say What I Say
Weight N/A 28.45 oz (806 g) each boot; 57 oz (1.6 kg)
Colors Brown; Black


INITIAL REPORT

29 Dec 2012

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

Boots in the Box

The Wolverine Gauge is a waterproof winter hiking boot featuring a hybrid plastic frame exoskeleton with treated leather uppers. The one-piece plastic "frame" covers the toe and sides of the boot, interspaced by openings showing an abrasion-resistant mesh. The plastic front is contrasted with the leather that wraps the heel and the ankle area. There are seven pairs of threaded eyelets for the laces (no speed hooks). Between the first pair of eyelets is a metal loop to accept a hook or clasp from some gaiters.

The Eyelets

The Gauge boots are rated at -40°F (-40°C) and use 400-gram 3M Thinsulate Ultra insulation. The tread is wide and has deep lug traction. The insoles are removable.

plastic toe area the sole Thinsulate

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I've enjoyed walking in these boots nearly every day since I received the boots to get my feet accustomed to the fit and to "break in" the soles a bit. It's been a LONG while since I've had such tall boots and it has taken some getting used to. The stiff ankle support had me walking with a pronounced heel-toe strike. My kids appropriately nick-named them "moon boots" and I agree in part: I feel like I'm walking on the moon! The foot bed is light and comfortable and I feel like I'm walking on a few inches of foam padding; In all truthfulness, I probably am.

One of the first things that struck me was the obvious attachment points for gaiters. I'm a huge gaiter fan and use them a lot when I use my trail running shoes during the summer. Not only do they help keep out debris, they also help with abrasion—and during the winter, they help keep my pants dry. After getting the boots unpacked, I immediately attached my tall gaiters. The front clip is perfectly situated, and my gaiters now have a semi-permanent home around the top of the boot when not in use.

On the heel of each boot is a heel cleat that can help keep snow shoes securely attached. This is a welcome addition as I've had a problem keeping the heel strap on my snowshoes in place with other boots.

I'm a little worried that the boots are too narrow for my foot. I received the regular size (not wide) and I wonder if I might need to migrate to the wider model. After a 2-mile (3.2 km) hike, I was feeling rubbing against my big toes. Fit is the single most important component with a boot, so I'm going to watch this closely in the next few weeks.

The only thing so far that I'm disappointed with is the obviously missing heel strap. I find that boots really benefit from having a loop located on the back of the boot to help in getting the boot on. Since the laces must be threaded in the eyelets, it's difficult to adequately loosen the laces so my foot easily slips in the boot. I have to hold the back of the boot securely and shove my foot in.

I often squat and sit on my toes when I do camp chores. These boots are fairly comfortable in this position, but I can feel a slight pinch where the plastic is bending and placing pressure on the metatarsal phalangeal joint.

INITIAL SUMMARY

While I haven't tested these boots in -40°F (-40° C), they have been HOT so far. Stomping around in snow and in 15°F (-10° C) temperatures haven't fazed it yet. The regular size might be too narrow for my toes.

PRO—Very warm with a comfortable foot bed.

CON—No heel loop. No quick-lacing hooks on the upper three eyelets.

FIELD REPORT

19 Mar 2013

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've used the Wolverine boots on two backpacking trips and a few day hikes, totaling 8 days and more than 40 miles of backpacking.

I also wore the boots daily while on a road trip visiting family during the holidays (Dec 30-Jan 2). Most of this use was walking in town and a city hike of about 2 miles

Jan 8, 19; Feb 20: Old Caves Crater, Arizona. I did a few day hikes around the cinder hills, each about 5 mi (16 km) long. The elevation change was 700 ft (213 m). The trails had about 6 in (15 cm) of snow and the temperature was around freezing.

Feb 15-16: Fossil Creek, Arizona. This was a 10 mi (16 km) backpacking trip into the Fossil Creek canyon. The elevation change was 1,700 ft (520 m) with a top elevation of 5,700 ft (2,000 m). During the night, the temperature dropped into the mid-50s°F (~10°C).

Feb 27-Mar 1: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. This was as 22 mi (35 km) backpacking trip into the canyon where we experienced more than 10,000 ft (3,050 m) of grueling elevation change. The coldest overnight temperature was 28°F (-2°C) and the high was around 62°F (17°C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Customer Service - When I first used the boots, I liked the snug fit, and walking around town on roads and sidewalks, the boots managed very well. But after my first day hike on the trail, I began to really feel pressure on my toes and a lot of rubbing on the sides of my big and little toes. I decided that if I were to take these boots on my upcoming backpacking trips I would need to "upgrade" to a wider toe box. One of the challenges with testing gear sight unseen, especially shoes and clothing, is the possibility of a poor fit. I was relieved, after contacting Wolverine's customer support, that they would gladly send me a new set of boots in the new size. Everything went so smoothly and I had my new boots within a week.

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Fit - The wider toe box was noticeable, and I had just enough time to "break in" the boots before my backpacking trip into Fossil Springs Canyon. I mention breaking in the boots, but I should clarify that since these boots are mostly constructed with stiff plastic components, the only flex is inside the boot with the insulation. I noticed a degree of change inside the boot as the insulation compressed to conform to my foot movement.

My major complaint about these boots is definitely the missing heel pull. Getting the boots on and off can be a chore, especially when I have my gaiters on because it is not easy to loosen shoelaces entirely. My biggest wish is that there was something to hold when I pull my boots on.

The boots also fit fine in my Tubbs snowshoes, although I didn't get out much to use them with snowshoes during this test period due to lower-than-expected snow conditions.

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Appearance - The boots have maintained a great appearance, even after a lot of scuffing and mucking in the mud and snow. There are a few places on the toe that seem permanently marked, but otherwise the tread and uppers look good to me.

Weather Resistance - As long as I don't completely submerge the boot so the water can enter from the top, the boots are certifiably waterproof. Both at Fossil Springs and in the Grand Canyon, I had multiple opportunities to cross creeks and I made it a point to avoid rock hopping and walk directly through the streams. This tactic worked great until I crossed a stream in the Grand Canyon that was deeper than expected and I submerged one foot completely. I cursed inside because I could feel the water draining into the footbed. I was mostly worried about blisters forming at that point, but it turned out that the heat generated from hiking helped dry out my sock well enough that I didn't have any problems.

Comfort/Warmth/Traction - These boots are warm. I never had cold feet. This was both an advantage and disadvantage on my Grand Canyon hike where we hiked through cold, packed snow at the rim, but after a few miles we transitioned to hot and dry. In the canyon, my feet really heated up and I wished for sandals. Fossil Creek was similar, but the trail was primarily on the north side of the canyon and had a lot of snow and cool temperatures.

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Hiking down into the canyons was brutal on my feet. The boots really rubbed the sides of my feet with every downward step. I was grateful for the wide foot box because it gave me a lot more room and I could position my toes with every step to try and avoid the rub. I couldn't avoid all the rubbing and I worked some some nice hot spots on my feet.

I was lucky - no blisters. I attribute this to paying careful attention to my feet, careful hiking, and that my feet have toughened through a lot of "barefoot" hiking. At Phantom Ranch, we spent a full day in camp, so I was able to "rest" my feet. I also walked barefoot in camp and tried to keep my feet out of my boots as much as possible.

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Hiking uphill was a different story. I didn't have any problems with the boots or my feet hiking out of the canyons. For the Grand Canyon, that meant 10 miles (16 km) and 5,000 ft (1,524 m) of elevation change in 4.5 hours. Once back in the car, I switched to some sandals to give my feet a rest.

The traction on the boots served me well in the pack snow in the canyon. For the most part, I didn't have any issues, but over ice I used my trekking poles for support because I slipped a few times.

I used gaiters for every hike I went on, and pulled them down over my ankles when I didn't need them.

FIELD USE SUMMARY

I'm glad I got the wider boot, but even then, downhill hiking took its toll. I'm lucky that I didn't get any blisters, but it was still painful and uncomfortable when my feet jammed into the foot box. For most hiking, the boots were fine and I didn't have any trouble.

My biggest complaint, apart from the downhill, was the lack of the heel strap. I really, really could have used one as I tried to pull the boots on.


LONG-TERM REPORT

20 May 2013

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The weather really warmed up mid-April. I was only able to complete two day hikes in this period and then it was just too warm for these boots.

Apr 9, 17: Flagstaff, Arizona. A few day hikes on the foothills near my home, 5 mi (8 km) each. Elevation gain was 700 ft (213 m) on both trips. Temperatures were variable from 35°F (2°C) on one day and 50°F (10°C) the next. There was a little snow on the trail April 9, but by mid-month the snow was gone.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

One thing that has nagged at me ever since getting these boots has been the plastic toe box. While it hasn't been a huge drawback, I really noticed it on these last few day hikes; it may have been because of my sock choice. Unlike other, more flexible materials, the plastic is rigid and therefor retains its shape well. How this played out on these hikes was a slight pinching or pressure across the top of my foot when I hiked and the toe area flexed. The plastic never really "breaks in" and conforms to my foot.

Aside from this pinching, the boots simply became too hot to use. The high outside temperatures, lack of snow, and low humidity really contributed to my feet overheating. The boots really are warm, so I had to stop using them.

The materials and overall look of the boots has held up very well. Even the shoelaces, which I "crank" down on when tightening them up, show no signs of abrasion.

FINAL SUMMARY

These boots have been the best when hiking around fairly even terrain in cold temperatures. I don't think I'll ever take these boots on a demanding trail, such as the hike into the Grand Canyon, but I will continue to use them snowshoeing, light hikes, and basic winter camping trips.

PRO—Warm boots; great insulation. Excellent traction.

CON—Inflexible plastic uppers pinch my foot.


I would like to thank Wolverine World Wide, Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.



Read more reviews of Wolverine Boots gear
Read more gear reviews by Derek Hansen

Reviews > Footwear > Winter Boots > Wolverine Gauge Boots > Test Report by Derek Hansen



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