Gear Closet: Danner Crag Rat Hiking Boots

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of testing a pair of Danner Crater Rim hiking boots and came away very impressed. The boots were comfortable, durable and provided plenty of support on the trail. They ended up being one of the biggest surprises that I’ve had all year in the way of gear and after sufficiently breaking them in, I was regularly hitting hiking trails with very happy feet.

Part of my surprise came from the fact that the Crater Rim boots looked rather uninspiring when I first took them out of the box. They had a very classic look about them that appeared dated when sitting next to other hiking boots from Danner’s competitors. That staid look wasn’t great for first impressions, but the Crater Rims made up for that when I got them on my feet.

A few weeks back I received a new set of boots from Danner and based on my experience with their previous offering I was eager to open it up and see what was inside. This time I found a pair of hiking shoes that had looks to match their performance. The new Crag Rat boots update the classic good looks of the company’s other hiking shoes with a splash of color and a more modern design. But these shoes aren’t just about good looks, they also happen to maintain Danner’s high level of performance.

Built from Nubuc leather, these boots require a bit of a break-in period as well, but once the leather has loosened up, they become a flexible, comfortable trail shoe. Danner lined the boot with Gore-Tex which keeps them waterproof and warm – a bit too warm for summer in Texas I might add – although I’m sure they’ll be fantastic in the fall when the cooler weather sets in. The Crag Rats also features a Vibram outsole that works nicely with Danner’s patented Dynamic Response System to create a protective barrier for the foot that also happens to provide plenty of stability on unstable ground. Inside they’ve placed a soft footbed that molds to the foot, becoming more comfortable over time.

Putting these boots through their paces only served to reenforce my positive impression of Danner. The Crag Rats are incredibly well constructed and resistant to wear, absorbing every bit of punishment I threw their way. The pair I tested look like they just came out of the box, aside from a bit of mud and dirt from the trail and despite using them on the rocky Texas trails, there is nary a scratch or scuff on them.

I aslo appreciated the high ankle support these boots provide, which when coupled with Danner’s speed lacing system, cinched up nicely around my feet. Since spraining both my ankles in the Costa Rican rainforest last year I’ve had particularly sensitive and tender ankles. But the Crag Rat boots not only cradled them extremely well, they prevented me from rolling them and re-injuring them again.

One of the elements that stood out for Danner when I tested the Crater Rim boots a few months back was the fact that they were handmade in their factory in Portland, Oregon. The company is clearly proud of its heritage and the fact that their boots are made in the USA. The pair of Crag Rats that I received included a stitched in label that noted that they were made in Vietnam however and I’m not sure if that is a new direction for Danner or if the pair I’ve been using are simply an advanced prototype built overseas before production is moved stateside. While I really didn’t detect a huge difference in quality between the two boots, I still thought that this little element was worth mentioning considering Danner’s reputation.

Unfortunately I haven’t received any word on when these boots will be available for purchase or at what price they’ll be introduced to the market. The Crag Rat boots are an incredibly high quality pair of boots that hikers and backpackers will find very enticing, but for now we’ll all simply have to wait for their arrival in stores to discover these final pieces to the puzzle. If I were willing to bet, I’d guess these are scheduled for release this fall, when I think they’ll be a popular choice for outdoor adventurers.