Danner Nobo Mid GTX Boots

   01.14.14

Every year when winter comes to my corner of Michigan, I am inevitably faced with the choice of sticking to my usual spring hiking boots, or a pair of boots weighing approximately 50 pounds. At size 13, I am only slightly exaggerating. So this year I opted for a lighter boot, but one that retained all the protection and practicality of a larger one. After a few weeks of listless window shopping I came across Danner, an Oregon-based company that in addition to all the other selling points, is the current footwear provider for the U.S. Marine Corps. After browsing the selection, I eventually settled on the medium-sized Nobo, which looked just about tough enough to take on all comers. When it arrived, I was determined to put it through a strenuous endurance test. So it was just my luck that when the winter chill finally arrived three months later, it was Snowmageddon 2014.

Construction

The Danner Nobo is an excellent all-weather boot.
The Danner Nobo is an excellent all-weather boot.

First off, here are the stats as listed on the Danner website:

  • Durable, waterproof nubuc leather upper
  • 100% waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX lining
  • Antimicrobial mesh lining in the collar and tongue
  • Lightweight, moisture wicking, antimicrobial open cell PU footbed
  • Compression molded EVA midsole provides added cushioning
  • Co-molded TPU plate for underfoot protection and stability
  • Lightweight and athletic performance of Danner’s Trailguard platform
  • Danner Appalachian outsole for traction over rugged terrain
  • Nylon shank
  • 6″ height
  • Imported
  • 43 oz

Danner has a reputation for making good boots, which would make sense seeing how the company landed a contract with the U.S. government to supply the few and the proud. From what I understand, Danner’s Rugged All-Terrain (RATs) boots have garnered near-universal favor in the Marine Corps. That alone sold me on the company’s rep, so it’s really too bad I set out to break in the Nobo in new and creative ways.

I failed, more or less. The Nobo is far from indestructible, but it managed to stave off my abuse and emerge in one piece. Save for wear in all the usual pieces, the Nobo looks much the way it did when I first received it. There are no noticeable tears, malfunctions or other signs of a premature lifespan. I can’t attest for the boots’ smell—which I can probably use on black bears in lieu of bear spray—but I stand very impressed with the Danner’s durability.

That said, the Danner is not without flaws. One feature I would’ve liked would be all-metal lace hooks, which would considerably lengthen the boots’ lifespan. While there can always be improvements, at $160 I would consider the Nobo a good mesh of materials.

Comfort

The Nobo is not lacking for style.
The Nobo is not lacking in style…

Snow came late this year, and us Michiganders were forcefully reminded that our home is still a winter wonderland state. After trudging through knee-high snow and remembering the joys of hot chocolate and a good heater, I am very pleased I have the Nobo for company. The medium boots are surprisingly comfy and as warm as a Swedish sauna. One of the few benefits of having large feet is that they rarely get cold—or I rarely feel it—and with the help of the Nobo, my lowest extremities now have nothing to fear. In the rare case I would need to swap in an extra set of socks, the Nobo is about a half size larger than listed and facilitates this nicely. Unlike the old pair of boots I have festering somewhere in my closet, the Nobo does not make me feel like a mammoth. Granted, I did pack on a few pounds over the holidays, but I never feel sluggish or ungainly in these boots.

The Nobo cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called small, but it is surprisingly light. Even after long periods of trekking, my feet remain blissfully free of abrasions, blisters, or general soreness. These are not the cinder blocks our fathers wore in lieu of shoes, but they offer all the protection of one.

Anytime I see GORE-TEX on boots—or anything besides food—I automatically knock up the score a few points. GORE-TEX, being the wonder material that it is, allows the Nobo to breath. For me it’s a lifesaver, as I can probably generate enough heat in the boots to fuel one of those people farms in The Matrix.

Durability

...and is comfortable even covered in snow.
…and is comfortable even covered in snow.

I have a notoriously bad track record for shoes, and it may be because of my slow, grinding tread. This gets noticeably worse in winter as I unconsciously dig my heel into the ground whether conditions are icy or not. While I may enjoy impeccable balance, the end result is that I wear out my shoes much faster than any decent person should. I’m fairly impressed the Nobo weathered the storm with dignity. There is actually still tread patterning left.

There are people who treat their shoes with care and love; I distinctly remember pulling around a snowbank so one of my friends can disembark his limited edition whatevers on dry ground. I am not one of those people. That goes doubly in boots, where I have only one mode of stride: stomp. Danner’s Nobo is about as durable as a diamond chisel being used to cut snowflakes out of construction paper.

Practicality

The Nobo's tread patterning is meant for hiking through light brush.
The Nobo’s tread patterning is meant for hiking through light brush.

My overarching purpose for picking a medium boot over a heavier variant was because I wanted something for everyday wear. But, if I were to head into to the local patch of trees with nothing but a knife, rope and firestarter, it should also see me through. There are few things as disastrous as having your footwear fail you in the woods.

Everyday wear: A

A little too warm for office wear, although I still do it anyways. My advice? Buy a good set of shoe deodorizers.

Hiking: A

Hiking is what these shoes are designed for, so it is no surprise the Nobo excels here. Traction is superb but not overly aggressive.

Hunting: N/A

I did not take the Nobo out hunting this year, hence the blank score. However, I believe the Nobo would perform as well or better than any other hiking shoe in its class, but falls short of specialized hunting footwear.

Survival: A-

The Nobo is equally comfortable in snow, ice, dirt, and water. Not recommended for lava.

Conclusion

For its price of $160 retail, the Nobo is an excellent purchase. It has good traction, protection, and warmth despite being light and flexible. At its asking price, I would consider it a steal. The one lingering problem I have is the Nobo is perhaps a little too warm at times. The boots don’t leave steaming, melted snow in their wake, but there are times I’m surprised they don’t.

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