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Adventure, Alpine / July 20, 2016

Review: Scarpa Moraine Mid GTX Trail Shoe

Written by: Phil Lindeman

Say what you want about other gear — backpacks, raincoats, freeze dried whatever — but when you’re about 35 miles from the middle of nowhere, comfortable footwear can mean the difference between an unforgettable time in the woods and hell on earth.

I know this all too well. When I was much younger, I spent a few months living, working and playing in New Zealand. Hiking (aka tramping) was high on my priority list, and like most outdoor activities in the great, green south island, it’s not for the faint of heart — or the ill-prepared. I needed hiking boots that would handle rocks, dirt, rain, river crossings, a pair of crampons if needed and a long, sustained ridge line hike on year-round snow. In other words, I needed something like the Scarpa mountaineering boots my partner had.

Oh, but how young and naive I was. I was also on a budget, and so I bought a pair of $45 NZ boots with just enough tech to get by: leather upper, rubber outsole, metal lace grommets and little more. It worked for NZ legend Sir Edmund Hillary on his first trip up Mount Everest, right?

Wrong. Those boots lasted just two tramping trips before falling apart on the final day of a four-day hike along the Kepler Track, a gorgeous piece of forest-to-alpine hiking that passes through lush pine forests and skirts past fjords near Queenstown, the country’s winter resort Mecca.

The Shoe
Ever since then, I’ve gone the extra mile (and spent extra dollars) to get a hiking shoe that can handle the abuse, and handle it like a champ for years.

I’ve always been a fan of Scarpa, but before the Moraine GTX, I’d never had one of the company’s all-access models. These shoes are made for the masses, but they’re made with the same quality construction and materials as the $450+ expedition boots designed for mountaineers — the guys and gals who spend weeks at a time in the harshest conditions.

The Moraine has the same genes. On several long day trips (8-12 hours in alpine terrain), the shoes were supportive, secure and stable beneath a pack weighing about 20 pounds, on terrain that ranged from flat dirt to steep, tight corridors carved through boulders and loose rock. They were flexible like a sneaker when I wanted them to be, but they also stood up to abuse — say, glissading down the scree fields of Mount Democrat, a 14,000-foot peak outside of Leadville. I also like that it’s a mid-top with a bit of ankle support.

“comfortable footwear can mean the difference between an unforgettable time in the woods and hell on earth ”

This is a Scarpa product, so it won’t be cheap. Prices range from $140- $160 online, and chances are a brick-and-mortar dealer will charge more. Being a Scarpa product, it’s not the most attractive shoe in the world. But what difference does that make when it’s an all-purpose weapon, made for spring mud and winter snow alike?

That’s the Moraine’s only weakness: Like most shoe-style hikers it has minimal insulation and can easily seep water, even with the extra ankle support. I didn’t get the chance to take it out in truly cold or soggy temperatures, but after taking it through a few seasonal creek crossings, the shoe upper was cold and damp for about 30-45 minutes before finally beginning to dry out. The footbed smooshed with absorbed water for another 30 minutes past that. These are not Keen-style water shoes. They are hiking shoes.

Bottom line: Keep the Moraines dry if possible. The liner is thin Gore-Tex for a touch of insulation, but the upper doesn’t come with waterproof coating out of the box. Be sure to treat these with Nikwax at least once per summer season.

Again, this isn’t an expedition model. It’s made for the everyday man, including the everyday man who decides to tempt New Zealand without them. If I make it back to the Kepler Track some day, I’ll be sure to bring my Moraines.

about the author

Phil Lindeman

Phil Lindeman is a gear junkie based in Summit County, Colorado, where the powder is deep and the singletrack is nearly endless.

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