Every now and again, a hiking boot comes along that deserves to be shouted from the mountaintops. And so I will (draw lusty breath of crisp mountain air, unsheathe alpenhorn…): “LOWA Vantage GTX Mid, bitches!”
Fit: Runs true to size. Since it’s a hiking boot be sure to always go a half-size up from your normal size. I wear a 7.5 shoe but a size 8 in boots.
Fit, however, is dependent on a couple of things. First and foremost, did you lace them correctly? If you didn’t know that there’s a special lacing technique used to cinch your heel into the boot, watch Boot Lacing 101. Sure the star of the vid is a LOWA boot but the concept is applicable to any boot. Your toenails will thank you.
Second, always try your boots on at the end of the day when your feet are naturally swollen. Be sure to take your own hiking socks along, too.
Break-in Period: None. I took them out of the box, clean and fresh and virginal, and climbed Mt. Democrat, Mt. Cameron, Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Bross a few days later.
Waterproof-ness: “GTX” is code for “Gortex”. The Vantages, therefore, are waterproof.
Allow me to clarify what waterproof means in a hiking boot.
Can you walk into a knee-deep lake or river and emerge on the other side with dry feet? No. But if you’re hiking in pouring, sheeting, pelting rain and wading through puddles your feet will stay dry.
The Colorado trip had its share of pouring, sheeting, pelting rain, though it was limited to the day before the climbs but still left puddles and “raging” alpine springs left behind.
No matter how great your balance, there will come a time where your rock-hopping over shallow streams lands you in the drink. For me, it just so happened on the first crossing. The LOWA’s waterproof-ness crushed it. My foot stayed dry even though the boots were submerged to the laces.
Stability: No boot is immune to loose, gravelly scree but the Vantage GTX Mid’s have an extra layer of shock absorber in the heel to make descents less sufferable and a stiff, responsive platform to help boost up the ascents. I did a lot of ascents that day so I became very intimate with the performance of this stiff platform.
Traction: LOWA named the outsole for this particular boot the “Trac® Lite II”. In all honesty, the name means nothing to me. It’s marketing fluffery.
What does mean something to me is the lug pattern. If you look closely at the outsole, you’ll notice a widely-spaced tread pattern. A wider tread is better for shedding mud and debris and that ultimately is what improves your traction.
So, yes, the LOWA’s kept me upright over wet rocks below 12,000 feet. Once above 12,000 feet (in September at 6am in the morning) there was a whole different wetness to worry about: frost-covered rocks.
I still managed to stay upright but I can’t say if it’s because of the LOWA’s traction or if it was due my own heightened sense of awareness.
Comfort: The LOWA Vantage GTX Mid are plenty flexible for a hiking boot. After a day of climbing 14ers, kicking them off my feet when I got back to camp wasn’t Priority #1. Which was good because I didn’t bring any other shoes with me on that trip.
Quality: Outstanding. They’re made in Germany (not China). Even the materials are sourced locally, the cows shot on site (I made the part about the cows up). Germans have pretty high standards for hiking boots and LOWA represents that national pride in the art of bootmaking.
Boo, hiss: That whole “Made in Germany” and “materials sourced locally” bit? Comes at a price. Budget-minded hikers will find the $245 price tag more painful than a blister on the Inca trail without packets of BlisterMedic and GlacierGel.
Final thoughts: “LOWA Vantage GTX Mid, bitches!”