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I hike and hunt some of the most rugged country west of the Rockies. My philosophy is the steeper the better, the further the better, the tougher the better. The only difference in 2011 was that my hikes and hunts were steeper, further, tougher, and ultimately better than years before.
If you are like me, you are constantly looking for gear that can not only withstand the relentless punishment of the backcountry, but also provides you an edge when you need it. There is a lot of essential gear to consider for serious backcountry travel but I don’t think there is a piece of gear more important than your boots. If your feet break down due to poorly designed boots you aren’t going anywhere.
Crispi – I know, it sounds more like something you’d eat rather than a boot brand built to last in the roughest backcountry environments. Founded by Italian Alessandro Marcolin, Crispi has been making top of the line boots since 1975. I recently learned that CrispiUSA (the US division of the company) is currently working to bring the Crispi line of high-quality boots to retail stores. Knowing of Crispi’s long history as a premium boot maker, along with getting a recommendation from a couple friends that spend a lot of time in the backcountry, I bought a pair prior to my Oregon and Montana 2011 hunting seasons.
Would you buy a boot if a trustworthy source told you they were the most comfortable boot they have ever had straight out of the box? Or that they have better ankle support than most if not all the boots on the market right now? That they have a sole that grips to nearly any surface, they don’t leak period, and they have stood up to over 500 miles of rugged backcountry hiking? If so, please read on. I will my share my experience with the Crispi Kanada HTG GTX boots to help you make a more informed decision, and putting you one step closer to summiting that backcountry peak or tagging that trophy of a lifetime!
GORE-TEX-Waterproof, breathable liner
- A.B.S.S.-Ankle bone support system
- Vibram Super Grip Technology
- S.W.C-Single Wave Construction for ease on and off
- Protection: Rubber heel and toe-cap
- D.T.L-100% waterproof, breathable, long-lasting footwear
- Monster asymmetric sole Vibram sole with shock absorbing “plugs”
- Height: 8” tall
- Weight: 800 grams or 1.77 lbs per boot
Honestly, I was a little uneasy about buying a boot that I couldn’t try on before purchasing but the moment my Crispi Kanada boots arrived I called my friend and told him how impressed I was with the boots right out of the box. Specifically, I was impressed with how well they appeared to be made, the quality of leather they used, and how incredibly comfortable they were! The fit was nothing short of perfect for me. They fit like I had been hiking in them for months.
I wore the boots around the house for a few days to make sure they felt good and were going to work well for me. Crispi’s return policy states that the boots must be clean and in “New” condition so this step will ensure you get the right boot. The fact that Crispi boots are sized in both U.S. and European sizes may help you get the perfect fit.
While the Crispi boot insoles are of high quality, the first thing I do with every new boot is replace the insoles with Superfeet insoles. They really make a difference for me when I’m loaded down with a heavy pack.
I wore the boots for a few weeks without issue and before long it was time to head out for my month-long wilderness elk hunt where I’d put them to the real test.
My first hike took place over a few days, hiking over 20 miles a day. I opted for my old boots because I was worried that I hadn’t broken in the Crispi Kanadas enough for such a long hike. While I was carrying a 60+ pound pack and traversing some rocky terrain, I stumbled on a loose rock, severely spraining my left ankle. Back at camp, I taped up my ankle and switched over to my Crispi Kanada HTG GTX. With the support of the tape and the Crispi’s A.B.S.S. (Ankle Bone Support System) specifically designed to provide ankle sprain protection, I was back on the trail with very little pain. The Crispi A.B.S.S. gave me such solid support that my ankle was bearable when I was wearing my boots, but once I took them off I could barely walk on it. I tried my old boots several times and the lack of ankle support was so noticeable I didn’t wear my old boots again the rest of the season! The Crispi boots provide more ankle support than all my other boots, even my taller boots.
Within a week I was out of tape and putting on the miles. I hiked hard the rest of the season, taking longer hikes and attacking steeper country, pushing my entire body to its physical limit. Amazingly enough, even though I was hiking long distances in some of Oregon’s most rugged and steep country, my ankle was able to heal allowing me to finish out the season and take a good bull. Packing that bull out by myself really put me and my Crispi Kanada boots to the load test; mile after mile, trip after trip, navigating a natural obstacle course of blow downs, rock ledges, creeks - steep and deep!
Then I was off to Montana, dropping into dozens of coulees full of sticky gumbo mud, crossing countless creeks, navigating rock fields, and covering seemingly endless country. My Kanada HTG GTX boots supported me every step of the way, day in, day out.
The proprietary Vibram Crispi boot sole with Super Grip Technology is the best I’ve ever experienced. It had great traction in mud and loose shale. They were incredibly “sticky” on large boulders, giving me confidence in my footing under heavy loads. Due to my ankle situation, I was lacing my boot up really tight, putting lots of strain on the lace hooks. None of them pulled out of the leather or failed in any way.
The lacing configuration and tongue design are made to fit together in a way that completes the ankle support system while keeping water out. Additionally, the tongue is designed so that it doesn’t create a pinch point at the front of the ankle. No runner’s lace or special lacing required for these boots.
Unlike a lot of other well-made, high-end boots, these Crispi boots utilize state of the art materials to make them very lightweight for how robust they are. The sole and upper bond stayed married without a hint of separation between the two. My Crispi Kanada HTG GTX boots saw plenty of extremes, from 80-90 degree heat during the early season to 22 degrees during the late season, water, mud, and snow. Crispi’s DTL technology (Dual Tech Lining) truly provides a 100% waterproof, breathable, long lasting boot. Though they are a minimally insulated boot, they were comfortable in both extremes and all points in between.
The on-line price is $369.00 from the CrispiUSA site. These boots aren't cheap but the cliché rings true for Crispi - you get what you pay for! There wasn’t one detail about these boots that I really didn’t like. The only component that wore out was the rubber toe cap or toe rand, which took an immense amount of abuse on sharp rocks. It performed its job of protecting the leather toe but in the end it perished after the 500+ miles of abuse I put it through. Despite the wear and tear, the leather underneath was untouched and in new condition. I fixed the rubber with some glue and the boots are ready for more backcountry action.
As my hunting season came to a close, I actually missed not wearing my Crispis as much. The two of us had been through so much together that they truly had become a part of me. For the first time, I never had to think about my feet during an extreme hunting season. They took me through crusty spring snow, down incredibly steep cliffs, across raging spring rivers, and allowed me to safely traverse jagged boulder fields. And they carried me every step of the way while packing my Oregon bull out of some of the most rugged backcountry in Oregon, through some of the slickest sticky Montana mud or “gumbo” I have ever experienced, and through three foot of new snow in the late fall - all without a single blister. They are truly the perfect balance of innovative technology and Italian craftsmanship in footwear.
I doubt you can find a pair of boots that have seen more miles, more country, and more abuse in one season than my Crispi Kanada HTG GTX boots, or a boot more highly recommended by a true hardcore hunter. To me, Crispi sounds like the perfect Italian-crafted boot for hardcore backcountry adventures where only the best survive.