Kit review: Zamberlan Ultra Lite GTX boots

Kit review: Zamberlan Ultra Lite GTX boots

Break ups are hard. It’s taken me a year but I feel ready to talk about it. 12 months ago, I said goodbye to a partnership which lasted 16 years. We’d walked up mountains together. Watched sunsets together. Skipped through fields. And occasionally got downright dirty. Letting go was tough. My trusty Zamberlan walking boots had served me well.

Sturdy boots, and a decent waterproof shell, are two bits of outdoor kit you shouldn’t scrimp on. Get these right and getting outside becomes that much more comfortable, enjoyable and safe. And while you can get away with a slightly ill-fitting coat, the wrong boots make for a miserable ride.

Boots are a highly personal thing too. What fits one person like a glove can be agony for another. And with so many options for different activities, choosing the right pair can be difficult.

That’s why, when you find ‘the one’, it can be hard to let go. I’d put off buying a new pair of boots for a while, until the cracks appeared in our long and happy relationship (well… the leather), and I needed to move on.

Out with the old and in with the new…

Luckily, the Zamberlan Ultra Lite GTX came along to fill the void. I was instantly drawn to their traditional looks, light weight and Gore Tex properties. They looked like the perfect boot for general hillwalking in this country. Let’s see how they’ve fared after a year of use.

Features

The Zamberlan Ultra Lite GTX are a traditional-looking, lightweight, leather walking boot. Packed with features, they have a full rubber rand, Gore Tex liner and Vibram sole. The cuff sits lower on the ankle than some boots, so it doesn’t feel restrictive but still offers good support.

The lugs on the tread are deep, so there’s plenty of grip on offer and they should last many years before wearing out.

Zamberlan uses beautifully-soft Italian leather, so they should feel comfortable out of the box for most people and only take a few walks to break in. It’s easy to care for them too. Simply scrub off any mud after your hikes, allow them to dry then apply some Hydrobloc to the leather. Seriously low maintenance and this ‘little and often’ approach should keep them looking like new.

They look great too – like how I imagine ‘stout footwear’ should look. I like the darker leather and modern details like the Italian flag on the tongue, which bring a touch of modernity to an iconic design. 

Who are they for?

If your hiking itinerary is made up of general three-season walking across a variety of terrains where comfort is paramount, these boots take some beating. While they are excellent across easier terrain, they’ll handle the pointier stuff too. But you might prefer something with a stiffer sole if you frequently find yourself on rocky ground. General hillwalking in places like the Lake District is where these boots come into their own.

What’s good about them?

I’ve appreciated the low weight of these boots, particularly on long walks when your legs start to tire and you become clumsy. The Zamberlan Ultra Lite GTX make it easy to pick your feet up after a long day and the car/pub/café still feels far away.

The sole is flexible, which adds to the comfort on good paths, yet feels stiff enough across rockier mountain tops.

The Vibram sole offers plenty of grip. I’ve used the Zamberlans in muddy conditions and across greasy rocks and they’ve kept decent traction every time. This inspires confidence on trickier terrain but they are happy to settle into a longer trudge along country roads too.

I’m not sure if the Gore Tex liner adds anything. My previous pair didn’t include one and they always felt breathable and waterproof enough. Having said that, I’ve not felt my feet overheating on hot summer walks, nor have the boots leaked when crossing swollen streams in the wetter seasons, so it must be doing its job.

Room for improvement?

I’m struggling to find much wrong with these. If I’m being picky, I do worry about how long the Gore Tex liner will last before it starts to wear. And a rubber rand around the whole boot is welcome but it looks a little flimsy.

But appearances can be deceiving and they’ve shown no sign of wear this past year. Zamberlan is a quality brand used by top mountaineers so I trust they’ve built them properly. Only time will tell if they’ll last the 16 years I had from my previous pair!

Should I buy them?

Absolutely. I’m glad I found these boots. With lots of options out there, I was nervous of the search for a replacement pair. I paid £150 for mine, which is incredible value for the features on offer.

Yes, you can pay more for boots which excel in more specialist areas but for general hillwalking in Britain, the Zamberlan Ultra Lite GTX might be the perfect partner you are looking for.

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