Hike New Hampshire
Trips in NH
a.k.a. Black Death Boots
Review by:Click Me to learn more about the reviewer.
Quick Facts
(And Overall Rating)

5 out of 5! The best ever.
Type Backpacking -- for rough terrain / heavy loads
Construction Full Grain Leather
Mfg. Weight 3 lb, 9 oz.
  • 3mm Waterproof Full Grain Leather (Thick & Durable)
  • Leather Bellows Tongue (1 piece so it doesn't leak or move around and hurt your foot)
  • Tesivel 3-Bar Knit Lining (Wicks to keep your feet dryer and prevents blisters)
  • Italian Hardware (I guess the Italians make great boot hardware, who knew?)
  • M2 Dual Density Footbed (Keeps your tootsies happy under heavy loads all day long)
  • Microporous Rubber/Rubber Midsole (Makes tootsies even happier)
  • 5mm Leather/TPR Insole (Wears for a long time -- keeps your foot from wearing through)
  • Norwegian Welt Construction (Stitched, not just glued. Lasts forever, and can be resoled)
  • Crampon Compatible--Step-In (But not insulated real well -- for ice climbing in warm weather maybe?)
  • Vibram Roccia Block® Sole/Trek Rubber (Grips like hell, wearls like iron)

In 1992 I was getting ready to graduate college and wanted one more adventure before I was done. I volunteered with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), and actually made it through the selection process. My assignment was to spend 16 weeks on the Medicine Bow National Forest, patrol wilderness area trails, and catalog remote campsites and their condition. The description that I had of the job indicated that it would require a good 3-4 days a week of living out of a pack on the trail. I had hiked in the East a little, but didn't know what to expect in the high country of the West. I realized early on, however, that a good pair of boots would be indispensable for that much hiking. Now I had owned a lot of boots up until that time. But I tended to do most of my hiking in my old, beat up Timberland work boots. And they were fine for the long day hikes I tended to go on, or the short overnight hikes on flat trails in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But even I realized that there was a big difference between a quick overnight with a 25 lb. pack in Pennsylvania, and four days with a 55 lb. pack on mountain terrain in Wyoming.

And so I went in search of a good pair of backpacking boots. I went to the best outfitting store I could find in Keene, New Hampshire (Summer's Backcountry Sports, on West Street), and started asking questions. I don't remember much about the purchase, it was so long ago. But I do know that they asked me just as many questions as I asked them. And, I tried on a bunch of different boots until I found a brand that fit. Then it was a simple matter of looking at the different models they offered until I found what I was looking for. In the end, I settled on Merrell as a manufacturer, and decided on a boot that many people said was "overkill" for a backpacking boot: the Merrell Wilderness.

About the Wilderness
Now, seven years later, I have never regretted the decision. The Wilderness is not really a beginner's boot. It's kind of heavy (although light for the materials it is made from), stiff (for carrying heavy loads), ugly (Chris calls them Black Death Boots), and requires some break in. But, they are strong as steel, grip like your feet are glued to the trail, waterproof, supportive, and perhaps the most durable piece of footwear I have ever seen in my life. If there is such a thing, this is a professional's boot. Merrell's own description is a testament to this:

Best-selling Norwegian Welted boot on the market.A versatile, lightweight favorite that’s recommended by the instructors of Outward Bound and NOLS.Available in 3 widths. Made in Italy.

"Professional" vs. "Beginner" Boots
Now I know what you are saying: "Take it easy, it's only a pair of boots. What makes a pair of boots 'professional' and what are 'beginner' boots?" Please click here to see the differences.

So what exactly does all this mean? Basically, Merrell Wilderness boots are great if you are going to be carrying heavy (40+ lb.) loads over moderately or very rough terrain. They are a stiff all leather boot that requires time and effort to break in. If your typical hikes are day-hikes or quick overnights, then the effort required to break in and care for these boots probably won't be worth it (I myself own a pair of Vasque fabric/leather dayhikers for shorter trips). If you are a person who doesn't like boots, then these boots are not for you. They are thick leather, and don't breathe that well. If you prefer the comfort of sneakers, then look elsewhere. But, if you gain comfort from the support of a good pair of boots, then I highly recommend these. If you are in the market for a pair of backpacking boots for carrying heavy loads over rough terrain, and you are willing to put in the break-in time and take care of the leather, these just may be the last pair of boots you will ever have to buy. As a testament to their reliability, I can honestly say that this is the first pair of boots I have ever walked the soles off of. Click here for the story.

So, basically, I love these boots. After so many miles, they fit my feet better than my sneakers. They are waterproof, supportive, and have great traction. They have the equivalent of 17 years of normal useon them and they are still going strong. As I sat down to write this, I thought about what qualities these boots have that make them so great. Before I even got the banner below from the Merrell website, I had come to the conclusion that I like these boots so much because I never have to think about them while I am hiking. My feet don't hurt, they don't get blisters, and my knees and hips don't ache after miles with a heavy load. The boots don't leak and they almost never slip or lose traction. So, the best thing about these boots is that I never have to think about them. I put them on, I walk through, over, or around anything, and then I take them off. In between, I never worry about foot pain, water leaking in, or slipping and falling. And with all of the other things you have to worry about when you're on the trail, that peace of mind is the best feature of all. "On your feet, not your mind." That says it all.

Rob says, buy these boots now at PlanetOutdoors.Com and help us pay for this site.

Note: Men's sizes not currently available!

Wmns Wilderness Hiking Boot

Wmns Wilderness Hiking Boot

The Merrell Wilderness. You want the classic boot for backpacking? This is it. All leather, norweign welt and Vibram soles that can handle heavy loads make the basics of this boot. These boots are simple. If you're not too into the new 'techy' boots of today but want all of the features, the Wilderness has all the same bells and whistles, but won't have you looking like you came from Mars.

Please note that anything I say here is simply my opinion. I am an expert (and a legend) only in my own mind. For the official corporate scoop, check out this product atMerrell's Website.You can click here or on the banner below.


Click to go to Merrell's Website



Copyright © 1999-2008
Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy