It’s been awhile since I’ve had a pair of true backpacking boots. I’ve typically been loyal to Raichle (now Mammut) hiking boots as the two pair I’d had previously had seen me through hundreds of solid miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, Olympic National Park and all along the Wasatch before giving up the ghost. With limited long-distance hikes in recent years, day hiking with lighter-weight boots has become the norm.
That said though, I was anxious to try out these new backpacking boots from Merrell. The quality of materials and construction seem well beyond the $185 pricepoint, so the value seems to be there, but how is the ride with such a burly boot?
About the Merrell Outbound Mid Gore-Tex Boots
Built as one of Merrell’s burliest boots, the Outbound Mid hiking boots are built with Gore-Tex liners for waterproof performance in all conditions. These boots are stiff and sturdy–capable of weeklong backpacking trips or excursions where waterproof, supportive boots are necessary. Looking at the specs, the Outbound boots have all the right components from Gore, Vibram, Ortholite and Aegis that’s topped off by a slew of Merrell technology. See below for the rundown.
- GORE-TEX® Gasket Construction
- Cordura, Synthetic and Ripstop Mesh Upper
- Comfort Padded Lycra® Collar
- GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort Lining Treated with Aegis®
- Breathable Padded Bellows Tongue
- Metal Hook and Lacing Eyelet
- Reinforced Silicone Molded Synthetic Instep and Heel Stability Arm
- Molded TPU Abrasion Resistant Full Length Toe and Heel Bumper
- 4.5mm Ortholite® Anatomical Footbed
- Merrell Spring Motion™ Technology Insole; Grade 4 Men’s, Grade 3 Women’s
- Lightweight Direct Injected Polyurethane Midsole
- Merrell Air Cushion
- 7 mm Sole Lug Depth
- Vibram® Outbound Sole/ CT Rubber
- Men’s Weight: 3 lbs.
- Colors: Black/Red or Black
- MSRP: $185
Merrell Outbound Mid Gore-Tex Boots review
After a quick office break-in, I was headed out in the Wasatch with my wife to climb Sunset Peak. This is a relatively quick hike that takes you from Alta Ski area to the convergence of Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and American Fork Canyons. The views are spectacular and the hike is well worth the effort.
As I was breaking them in, I was quick to notice just how stiff these boots were. Laterally, you’d be hard pressed to twist your ankle or feel in any way compromised in its stability. The stride of these boots feels very natural and the forefoot flexes just enough to keep things comfortable. One of the great features of these boots is the combination of Merrell Air Cushion and Merrell Spring Motion™ insole. With the 7mm Vibram-lugged sole, the midsole support and cushion is just enough to reduce shock and keep things comfortable over the long haul.
You don’t want a super-squishy boot for long-distance backpacking, but the cushioning midsole on the Outbound feels to be the perfect combination of stability and comfort/shock absorption.
Lacing them up for the trail, it was easy to cinch them down for a proper fit. With just a midweight pair of EMS-brand hiking socks, I was confident that I’d be blister-free and I was. In the lower-angle approach trails, the tightness of the forefoot and cuff was just right, but when the trail reached the ridge and got considerably steeper, my ankle wasn’t able to flex enough fore and aft for comfort. As a result I just shortened my stride a tad to slightly reduce the ankle flex–I was too lazy to re-lace, but could have done that easily.
Just keep in mind that these are stiff boots that are built to protect your foot and support your body for heavy-duty backpacking. As such, you will sacrifice some flexibility, but the lugged Vibram sole makes up for some of that lack of flexibility in its excellent terrain-hugging grip. This outsole provided excellent uphill and downhill traction on rocky and loose terrain.
I tested out the waterproof capabilities of these boots by stepping in a stream. The DWR finish on the Cordura exterior combined with the Gore-Tex liners were impossible to penetrate. Water just beaded up and nothing came close to penetrating the boot. I’m sure over time, the DWR finish will wear off, but the Gore-Tex liner will be worth its weight in gold should you choose to hike these in wet conditions (like my homeland in Washington State).
Good Outbound Boots
- Love the supportive comfort of the Air Cushion and Spring Motion midsoles
- Vibram outsole is very grippy in all terrain
- Excellent waterproofing with Gore-Tex and DWR finish
- Surprisingly breathable
- Supportive and sturdy in technical terrain
Bad Outbound Boots
- Gore-Tex could get hot if hiking in extreme heat
- Upper tongue seems a little thick
- Not a whole lot of flexibility for steep/technical climbs
The Bottom Line: Merrell Outbound Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots
Sturdy and stable while maintaining an excellent comfort level, the Outbound Mid boots are a solid option for long-distance backpacking or technical hiking when a burly boot is desired. Gore-Tex is a nice touch for those living in wet climates. And, the price is solid for what you’re getting.