Lowa Camino GTX Boot

Plenty of people shy away from leather hiking boots because they perceive them to be stiff and uncomfortable, requiring a painful break-in period. But the Lowa Camino GTX boot for trekking and backpacking defies that thinking.

OK, sure, these backpacking boots aren’t exactly lightweight (a pair weighs about 3 pounds, 7 ounces), but they’re surprisingly comfortable and flexible due to a clever lacing system and a few other design touches.

A key to the Camino’s supreme fit is the lacing system. Look closely at the boots, and you’ll notice that the laces run through leather flaps that aren’t completely riveted to the main body of the shoe. This gives the laces the freedom to shift as the foot flexes, so the boot moves with you and feels less restrictive. While descending a steep trail in North Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness, I noticed that the boot didn’t put great pressure on the tops of my toes, as often happens with backpacking boots. It also helps that the boot’s gusset is made of buttery soft leather, so the tongue also flexes very easily and doesn’t strangle the foot.

Also, the boot proved to be very flexible in the ankle area, as I moved up and down steep paths. Here again, the boot moves with the foot because the lace hooks located near the ankle are not riveted to the upper and “float” to a certain degree. Also, because they aren’t riveted to the boot, the lace hooks do not create a pressure point at the ankle, which happens all too often with backpacking boots.

The Camino’s lacing system also prevents pressure points because it has two zones, allowing you to custom fit the upper and lower regions of the boot. Once you cinch up the laces in the bottom four eyelets, you can lock them off in metal hooks. You can then tighten the laces to a different degree at the ankle and above the ankle. The two zones not only helped me achieve a custom fit, but they made the boots feel better when I loosened the laces for big climbs and tightened them for long, steep descents.

Another helpful tool is the knob on the front of the tongue. You can wrap the laces around it and prevent the tongue from drifting left or right as you hike. (Great idea!)

While the Camino is sturdy and built for backpack loads up to 50 pounds, it’s no clodhopper. As I walked in this boot, it rolled from the heel to the toe easily, allowing a natural gait. And with each step, I was landing on a platform of polyurethane foam in the midsole, which adds some cushioning. Certainly, polyurethane foam is not as cushy as EVA, but it’s more durable over a long period of time.

While lightweight, fabric shoes continue to lure hikers, the fact remains that the more leather you have in a boot, the longer the thing is going to last. And the main body of the Camino is made of thick nubuck leather, which resists abrasion, and it’s reinforced with rubber at the heel and toe areas. The upper on this boot is going to maintain its form and function for many hiking seasons, and it will withstand the bumps and scrapes of rough and rocky trails. Lowa also outfitted this boot with waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex, so you can wear it in the nastiest weather.

The Camino rides on a Vibram sole that is relatively lightweight, grips dirt and rocks pretty well, and excels at braking during steep descents. Our concern is that the rubber on the outsole might be too soft, as it has worn down quickly after a few backpacking trips. The small rubber ridges at the far rear of the heel began to tear and rip after about a dozen miles. So, we hope that Lowa will eventually construct this boot with a rubber outsole that’s more durable, even if it adds a bit of weight and sacrifices some softness.

Aside from the issues with the outsole, the Camino is one of the most comfortable and forgiving boots we’ve worn for backpacking. And it certainly counters the notion that hardcore backpacking boots must be stiff and clunky.

Traveler’s Notebook

Want to know more? Visit www.lowaboots.com

Retail price: $280

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