Backpacking Gear Review: Danner Rough-Out Desert Combat Boots (Gore-tex)
Just an initial note: These are my personal choices in long-term backpacking/hitchhiking gear. Use this to compare to your own stuff, or leave a comment and tell me what you use!
Danner has to be the brand for military personnel in the United States military, as well as that of the Canadian Forces. After having served for five years in the infantry, I have heard countless tales of how great Danner boots are. I'm a "boot guy" myself, with a fairly large collection of Steel-toed Doc. Martens, to more practical issue and non-issue military boots. I would like to think my review means something.
Danner! Enough Said?
On first viewing these boots, they have a simple yet comfortable look. They aren't over-the-top fancy with vent holes, fancy stitching, or any of that stuff the common soldier doesn't need. The sole of the boots do have that 'next-gen' look, but when it comes down to how well they grip the earth, I couldn't care less how the sole looked. The leather uppers are strong, feel like quality material, and they are very soft, so soft that you feel as though they have been broken in for you (and that is a major plus, especially if you need to use them right away). The vents on the side of the boots are a duller shade of tan, and don't make these boots look like a pair of runners, fortunately (the pictures make them look shinier than they are).
Firstly, you can get these boots with a goretex lining, or a moisture wicking lining (If they are Gore-tex, "GTX" will be in the model name). Because it rains just about everywhere in this world, and it only takes one bad day of rain to soak your boots and possibly cause blistering and general discomfort, I opted for the gore-tex. This allows me to wear the boots in basically any climate, and have my feet kept dry, save for the inevitable sweating. Moisture, however, will breathe through the Gore-tex eventually, and if you change your socks out when you need to, your boots should never end up soaked. The mositure wicking liner is a cheaper option, but if you get these off an auction site like ebay, they can be about the same price, if not cheaper.
The lacing system is absolutely fantastic. This is the "speed-lace" system being implemented in most modern combat boots. This means that you never have to delace these boots to get them on or off, instead you simply pull on the laces until they tighten up in one go, and simply loosen them when you want to take the boots off. When your fingers have gotten raw after handling weapons, equipment, tools, or whatever else put in the elements, this difference is a Gods-send.
The aspect that sold me on these boots was definitely the comfort. My right foot is a tad bit bigger than the left, so my right foot usually ends up suffering with blisters on the sides of my toes. It has taken me many pairs of boots to find a good-fitting pair, and my search has ended. These boots feel like a comfortable pair of slippers, and even the included insoles are of good quality - I still use them. From my research into these boots before-hand, I found out that many people have had the same experiences with these boots - they just fit really well with most people. They are even roomy enough that when the temperature drops, all I will need to do is remove the insole to accommodate some very thick wool socks. I have yet to try these in extremely cold weather, but from reviews I have read, they are great, given you have the right socks for the cold weather.
I have hiked quite a distance in my Danners. I live in Vancouver, Canada, so the environment is most always wet, moist, grassy, and/or muddy. These boots performed excellently, and although they were meant to grip sand and gravel, they worked quite well on the slippery logs and muddy trails in my general area. I have walked distances up to 10km in these boots, and after the initial period of getting used to them, they felt great. I didn't notice any hot-spots, and my usual blister areas were, well, blister free!
Oh, and a smaller yet excellent addition is the 'pull-tab' on the top-rear of the boot. This piece of leather is very tough, and unlike other boots you definitely don't have to be scared of ripping it off as you quickly shove your boots on in the morning. I never really used the tabs on other boots, but this works just swimmingly.
I have owned these boots for almost three quarters of a year now. I think it is safe to say that out of my decade or so wearing combat boots on a daily basis, that these are the best I have ever worn. I don't think I have read one bad review on these boots, and i'm not surprised. Soon enough I will wear them to Europe and Asia, where I will likely see just about every climate. I will likely do a follow up review in time, but I see no reason for my thoughts to change much. If you have ever considered nabbing a pair, I would obviously recommend them. For those currently serving, you would do your feet a favor. At around $200 (or less if you're the ebayer type), they are an excellent investment, and good friends for the trails of the world.
UPDATE: After two years travelling
From the summer of 2012 to the summer of 2014 I was hitchhiking, hiking, and volunteering around Europe, and a small section of North Africa. I only wore my Danners, and the video below is what's left of them after returning home.
I probably walked through most climates, from the rainy and wet lands of Northern Scotland, to the searing heat of the Sahara desert of Morocco. The soles are worn almost completely flat, there are holes large and small in most spots where there is constant movement, and in general the material has deteriorated to the point where they must now be retired.
From those in the outdoorsy community, most comments have been positive on these boots. Some people break down the cost as having spent around $1.50 a week, and say I got more than my moneys' worth out of them. I never thought to look at it that way. Considering that point of view, and the fact that I never got blisters or any real soreness over carrying between 40-50lbs of weight over thousands of kilometers, I think I can say these boots did their job.
Would I buy them again? As in the next generation of these boots? I'm not sure. The goretex membrane I could do without,as it caused a lot of sweating, which lead to some foul foot odor after the extremely high temperatures I experienced in Morocco. Additionally, the Goretex didn't breath near as well as I had hoped.
The suede material of the boot itself didn't stand up to the test of time that regular leather would have. It dried and cracked after only a few months in Greece, which was my first experience of high levels of dry heat. I hadn't experienced such cracks, rips, and a general breakdown in material in any leather boots before these.
The Danner Rough Out Goretex boots certainly gave me back my moneys-worth, in the end. My feet were comfortable most of the time throughout my travels, and absolutely no blisters was a major plus. I would recommend them for casual wearers, for sure, but if you're planning a major or long-term trip, the decision becomes one that's completely up to the buyer.
UPDATE: After two years on the road
- Danner - Desert TFX G3 8" Tan
Made for soldiers required to pursue combatants over diverse terrain, the Desert TFX™ has a rugged, aggressive outsole and Danner’s patented, lightweight TERRA FORCE® X system, which provides stability and support. The waterproof, breathabl