The best lightweight hiking boots I've ever had
Berghaus GTX Explorer Boots
This is about the experience I have had with my pair of Berghaus Explorer Boots that I bought twelve years ago, when the whole concept of lightweight hiking shows and boots was almost unheard of. This is a pair of boots that has seen service in the summer, the winter, in the wet, the dry, the muddy and the occasional snow fall and ice. They have been without a doubt the best lightweight hiking boots I have ever had, if not the best hiking boots I've ever owned.
I guess you could call this a review, but I really wanted to just share what I think has been one of the better purchases of my life with others, so often only hear of bad experiences and poor quality, and I just hope that I've added something positive, if that encourages you to buy a similar pair of boots, then that is great, if it inspires you to share one of your own positive experiences then even better. If not then I just hope you enjoy the read, please let me know what you think - there's a place to add your own comments towards the end.
As you can see from the image I took for this lens, they are fully intact if a little grubby, I've since given them their first proper clean in years.
Despite the Germanic name (meaning Mountain House) Berghaus are a British outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer, created in 1966 in the North East of England. The bulk of their products are jackets, rucksacks and boots and they are generally seen as providing excellent value for money, with robust and reliable products.
View of Kinder plateau taken from near the summit of Mam Tor on wikimedia
and reproduced under Creative Commons 3.0
The boots were bought because I needed some, because I didn't have any and my wife and I had decided to go away walking for the weekend in the English county of Derbyshire, and in particular in the vale of Edale which is part of the Peak National Park.
Historically there were no rights of way in much of the UK countryside, landowners were not keen on people using their land for recreation, even if they themselves only used it for a few days each year for grouse shooting. However, in 1932 a mass trespass took place and subsequent media lobbying eventually saw the creation in 1951 of the UK's first national park, The Peak District National Park. It's a lovely area and one that I've been visiting now for over thirty years.
I was expecting sore feet and blisters, both days were wet and blustery, we even got lost at one point on the bleak and featureless Kinder Plateau, my jacket - a cheap not very breathable one, completely failed me and I was soaked to the bone by the time we got back to the pub, but my feet were in good shape, dry and comfortable.
I can't remember how much I paid, or whether I got them on a recommendation, whether I read a hiking boots for men review in a magazine or whether they were the cheapest in the shop (I certainly didn't have much money, and I didn't own a camera), but given how long they have lasted it must be true to say they have been a fantastic bargain! I've worn them in some freezing conditions, but it's true to say these are not winter boots, they aren't stiff enough and can't take crampons.
The Green Man Festival, Black Mountains Wales, 2008
I don't like wellington boots, they are cold, unsupportive and uncomfortable, and however I knew from seeing plenty of photographs and hearing the stories from Glastonbury that when it rains at a festival, the sheer numbers of people walking about over a relatively small area quickly creates a quagmire.
I thought my trusty Gore-Tex lined Berghaus boots would do the trick, they are comfortable for long periods of time, and if the manufacturers were to be believed, waterproof.
All was good on the first day, the weather was nice and sunny and warm, and we sat on the grass and listened to the bands in the idyllic atmosphere and setting this wonderful festival has.
However, on the second day the heavens opened and it rained for hours. Everyone ignored this and carried on regardless, we had a great time, but the mud was getting thicker and deeper as the day wore on, tomorrow would really be a test of willpower over the weather!
The following day we left the tent to find the whole site under about three inches of mud, the kids kept losing their boots as the mud grabbed on, some other festival goers looked like drowned rats, a few tents had collapsed, but the festival continued. The main entry points to the arenas were the worst (see the big picture above).
Throughout all this my feet stayed dry and warm, although you really couldn't see that I was wearing boots under the thick layer of wet mud that coated them, I stood for hours in 3 inches of mud and at no point did any moisture find its way in, I was pretty sure that the conditions would eventually kill the boots, but they were almost eight years old so I thought that I had probably had my money's worth.
As happens the boots have since attended two more Green Man Festivals, 2010, and 2011, and I have never had wet feet!
Alela Diane had Tired Feet even if I didn't!
Boot care and cleaning kits
I really must get myself one of these!
Serbia 2011Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tara National Park, Serbia, 2011
In 2011 we decided to visit Serbia, this is an unusual holiday destination, but a good friend of ours has Serbian heritage and so we joined him and his partner for ten days, exploring the Tara National park in the south, as well as spending a few days in Belgrade.
We had decide to travel light, that meant a single carry on sized case for the entire ten days, I needed to wear anything bulky, which while in the mild temperatures of UK wasn't a problem, the 80 degree plus heat expected was not something I was looking forwards too, however I need not have worried about my feet, I wore the boots from leaving the house to arriving in our accommodation twelve hours later.
I can't pretend that I wasn't glad to take them off and walk on the cool pavement outside our apartment, but it was no trouble to wear the boots for that long at all.
I probably wore the boots for half the time I was there - paths and tracks were pretty rough, even the roads were not fantastically well maintained and I was so glad I had brought them with me as it meant I really enjoyed the walks we did.
One of the more spectacular walks we did was high up above the Drina Gorge, once at the top we were treated to views across to Bosnia and the site of golden eagles circling below, thankfully there is little evidence of the conflict (which to be fair took place mostly inside Bosnia) of a decade ago.
The great boot debate....
Which do you prefer your boots to be made from?
What is a lightweight boot?
The Berghaus Gore-Tex Explorer weighs in at just under 600g or just over 21 ounces each, the sole is a fairly soft and flexible (making it unsuitable for real winter walking and climbing) but has proven to be hard wearing.
The upper is a combination of suede and cordura, with a waterproof Gore-Tex lining.
The weight probably doesn't actually warrant inclusion in a list of the very lightest outdoor gear, many proponents of lightweight hiking will choose shoes over boots anyway, but I very much doubt a pair will last as long as these have for me.
On the other hand, my trusty Scarpa SL M3s, which are widely regarded as the best hiking boot ever made, weigh in a 900g each, that's 2lbs in old money, that's a lot of weight swinging at the end of your foot, and while your feet feel encased in leather armour, this can be tiring!
Where can you buy your own pair of these great boots? - My recommendation for the best hiking boots for men
Amazon sell these if no store locally to you carries them
How to have happy feet in the hills.
Having happy feet is essential for having a happy walk, the main thing is to ensure that everything fits properly, boot and socks, and that they are right for the type of walking or hiking you are planning to do.
If you’re not a particularly experienced walker then visiting a specialist shop and getting some advice, as well as taking advantage of any fitting service they offer is a good idea.
However, blisters can occur, particularly on long hot walks, so it pays to take some Compeed blister plasters or Spenco 2nd Skin Squares with you.
Spenco 2nd Skin Squares
I've never had a blister with these boots, but I have with my Scarpa's, and maybe you have some with your boots.
You get 200 of these fantastic squares in each tub, take a few out with you each time you go for a walk and you'll always be able to deal with you own blisters or if anyone else has sore feet you'll be extremely popular!
More Berghaus Outdoor Clothing and Shoes
Other notable adventures these boots have had!
- Long Mynd, Shropshire, UK
- Ben Nevis, Scotland, UK
- Les Arcs, Haut Savoie, France
- Snowdon, Wales
- Lake Vyrnwy, Wales.
- Tryfan, Wales.
- Tal Y Fan, Wales.
- Harter Fell, England.
- Skiddaw, England
- Scafell, England
- Sugar Loaf Wales
- Scafell, England
- Moel Hebog, Wales
- Cadir Idris, Wales
- Moel Famau, Wales
These boots don't just get used as hiking boots, I wear them several times a week to walk the kids to school, especially at the moment when it is wet, sometimes snowy and muddy on the paths to the school.
My Cleaner Hiking Boots!
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Photo Credit Note
Unless specifically credited, all photographs were taken by me and remain my copyright, all rights reserved.
Have your boots got some great stories to tell?