Racing across ridgelines, through creek draws and down steep trails can lead to a quick setup and sometimes-long period of motionless waiting. Boots must offer ankle, arch and heel support for active trekking, yet allow the degree of flexibility that's needed when in a sitting position. Early in the spring of 2007, I purchased a pair of our Mountain Hiker Elites. In May, I wore them on a memorable Nebraska turkey hunt, where they proved to be an exceptional pair of waterproof hiking boots.
The old tom thundered a tremendous gobble – then casually strutted out of sight nearly 150 yards away. My hunting partner and I realized our decoys and calling, while alluring to the mature Merriam's turkey, were no match for the live hen clucking and purring only feet in front of him. We waited nearly thirty minutes, and, hearing no gobbling, slipped quietly up the creek we were sitting by to set up on the spot where he was last seen. Creeping through shallow water and streamside brush, we crested the bank and set up beside a large cottonwood. Twenty minutes later, our subtle call yielded a close-by gobble, and the game was back on. The tom, hen in tow, cruised by us at 12 yards, giving my hunting partner a close but awkward shot directly beside us. At the thunder of his gun the grand bird was on the ground. Proudly displaying a beard of nearly 11", he had seen many harsh western Nebraska winters and eluded many a predator animal and human alike. We were proud of our accomplishment, and satisfied that our gamble of moving in on a close turkey had paid off.
When choosing a pair of serious hiking boots, I consider several factors before making a final decision. Foremost is fit. Though my Mountain Hiker Elites required a relatively long initial break-in period, common in quality hiking footwear, precludes the comfort of the sought-after "worn-in" feel. Fit may also be altered by the addition of high-quality insoles. Weight is also a major consideration. At 3 lbs. per pair, these boots are a great balance of rugged and lightweight. Support for ankles, especially when traversing uneven terrain, is critical. Low-cut hiking boots will not provide support when creeping across rock-strewn ravines, while high-top boots often become stuffy in warm weather and become heavy as a day on the trail lasts until dark. The Mountain Hiker Elites' seven-inch cut puts them squarely in the middle of hiking boot height, making them a great choice for both novice and veteran hikers. For hunters, they offer comfort any time a supportive warm-season boot is desired for flat-ground or mountain hunting.
I like the full-foot lace support the Mountain Hiker Elites provide. The lacing system is both speedy and secure. While the laces require a double knot to remain tied, they have stayed fray-free after four months of wear. I replaced the factory insoles with a pair of aftermarket insoles due to my narrower-than-D-width feet. The waterproof GORE-TEX® liner continues to provide a no-fail barrier between dew-laden grass and my socks. I have found wearing two sock layers when hiking long distances and over varied terrain is important for any hiking boots, and the Mountain Hiker Elites are no exception. For the outer layer, I use medium-weight wool socks. For the critical inner layer, a pair of lightweight liner socks with a moisture-wicking blend of wool, spandex, silk or polypropylene is the best option.
Externally, durability is outstanding. The leather uppers withstand repeated soaking and drying, and the rubber heel and toecaps still look like new. I like the protective rubber around the entire boot just above the sole, especially when leather-chewing boulders and barbed wire are in your path. The sure-gripping Vibram® soles provide great traction and shed most mud and debris before you step into your vehicle or walk in the door at home. My Mountain Hiker Elites continue to show very little wear for their age and heavy use. I expect them to last for many years to come, ready to make a move on a tough-to-get gobbler or to take a long ascent up a boulder-strewn mountain trail.
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