I had the chance recently to try out Hi-Tec’s newest light hiking boots, the Sierra Lite I WP. My marketing spiel for them would be something they, “pull together Hi-Tec’s advanced technology into comfortable, rugged, light-weight hiker.”
Or something like that.
Hiking boots are such a personal thing that I’m not going to say this boot is perfect for everyone. If it fits you, awesome. If not, then you’ll have to find a different boot. For me this boot fit great. I’ve been having issues trying to find a great lightweight boot that fits and won’t fall apart and so far this boot has been ideal for me.
I’ve been on some great snowshoes and day hikes with the Sierra Lite and I’ve been comfortable and dry the whole way. The last 2 pairs of boots I’ve had have had Gore-Tex waterproof liners so I was a little worried with these boots not having them. After jumping into puddles and spending days in wet snow, I’m convinced they’re perfectly waterproof without having a Gore liner. The nubuck leather and ion-mask treatment keep your feet nice and dry. They felt fairly breathable as well and my feet never got too hot in them, even on good uphill grunts on my hikes. It sounds like I might have the insoles and ion-mask to thank in part for that breathability.
Big, heavy boots have never really had a big place in my heart. I haven’t yet found one that I really like wearing. Even if I do find one that fits, I’ll probably end up wearing the lightest boot I can for my trips. If Andrew Skurka can do his big trips in trail runners, I think I can go lighter too.
The Sierra Lite’s use some of Hi-Tec’s newest technology to do the things they do. Here’s a quick run down of the neat stuff they’ve been up to.
The reason the Sierra Lite’s are actually so lite, err light, is their V-Lite technology. V-Lite is not really one technology, it’s a bunch of things combined to make the boots strong while shaving off a lot of weight. A bunch of different pieces go into making the boots and every piece has had some weight reduction.
The uppers on the boots (material that goes around the boot) is lightweight and has non-metallic hardware on it. It will be interesting to see how this hardware holds up. I saw a lot of broken eyelets with some brands of boots when I used to work at Valhalla Pure Outfitters.
The insole is an important part of the boots and they’ve been made lighter as well. Bigger boots tend to have bigger insoles but these are still light and comfortable.One of the main reasons larger, stiffer boots tend to be heavier is because of the shank they have in them. These are basically metal roads in the base of the boot that helps keep it’s stiffness and rotational rigidity. Their goal is to make a boot stiff so you’re feet don’t have to work as hard but not too stiff that it’s awkward and uncomfortable to walk in them. The Sierra Lite’s us a Stabila Flex Plus Lasting Board instead of a steel shank so you get the stiffness without the weight.
A lightweight EVA midsole absorbs hard impacts before pound your feet and a Vibram carbon rubber outsole gives you good traction without the heavy lugs that larger boots have. In some situations those big lugs are nice to have but for a lot of hiking, they’re just extra weight. On longer trips, the weight savings is pretty nice.
I touched on the Sierra Lite’s insoles up above in the V-Lite section and it’s come up again because they’re using more cool technology in the insoles themselves aside from just making them lighter. They help keep air circulating in and around the insole, keeping your feet cooler. My feet get crazy hot in any kind of boot, especially in the summer. The Comfort-Tec insoles in these boots helped cool them down a bit. They’re not a magic bullet for cooling down your feet by any means but I’m not going to turn down any help I can get!
They’ve added a patented biocide to the insoles to cut down on the bacteria and fungus that give your boots that lovely scent. Sorry, you can’t hide it. And when science can’t even help your insoles smell decent, you can throw them in the wash and they’ll come out ready for a hiking trip.
The Sierra Lite’s use light-weight outsoles from Vibram. If you haven’t heard of Vibram before, you probably haven’t spent much time around hiking boots or trail runners. They’re on a huge number of boots and shoes these days including the Vibram Five Fingers. The lugs on the soles aren’t that big so that might pose a problem in really wet conditions but I have yet to have an issue with sliding around in them. Next time it pours rain here, I’m going to head out and find a muddy hill to boot-ski down. If that actually happens, I’ll be sure to post photos of me careening down the hill into a mud-lake at the bottom.
Reading up on the boots before I got them, I was especially interested in Hi-Tec’s new ion-mask technology. They had a couple of videos on their ion-mask page about what this stuff actually is. I’ll see if I can whip up some science skills and explain why this stuff is cool.
The ion-mask gets applied to the material that makes up the boot. This forms a very, very thin protective, hydrophobic layer around the molecules of the fabric. Wow complicated. Basically it’s making the fabric water resistant down it’s very basic structure. After it’s got it’s ion-mask jacket on, the fabric actively resists any water it comes in contact with.
In the video with the guy from the Gadget show, he puts a piece of paper coated with ion-mask into a tank of water. When he pulls it out, it’s pretty much dry. I thought that was cool but he didn’t really leave it in the water very long. Then he pulls out a paper towel and puts it in the water. Something that’s built to be as absorbent as possible is sitting in a tank of water. He pulls it out and it’s try, the water beading on the towel. Cool.
A few other cool points to ion-mask. It’s only nanometers thick so it doesn’t really add any weight to the fabric it’s on. The fabric doesn’t lose any breathability after it’s been coated. You can build boots and shoes any way you want after the fabrics have been coated. They don’t have to be built around a waterproof fabric like a Gore liner.
So far I’ve been very happy with the Sierra Lite’s. I don’t think they’ll be replacing my heavier mountaineering boots but because they’re so light and comfortable, I will be wearing them a lot more.