When it comes to hiking and backpacking we happen to be living in a golden age of footwear. Gone are the days of searching high and low for the appropriate boot or shoe to accompany us on our adventures.
Instead, we now tend to be overwhelmed with options, ranging from low-priced, lightweight hikers that are great for day hikes on our local trails to more rugged and durable boots built for trekking through some of the most rugged and remote landscapes on the planet.
Deciding which of those options best meets our needs can be difficult, after all, many of us just need something that falls somewhere in the middle ground. Fortunately for us, Scarpa makes the ZG Trek GTX, a boot that offers plenty of comfort and stability, as a price point that will keep our wallets happy too.
Before I get too far into the weeds with what makes the ZG Trek GTX standout from the crowd, it is always a good idea to point out buying any type of shoe –– be it a hiker, a runner, a cross-trainer, or a pair of dress shoes –– is a very personal affair.
What feels good on my feet may not work for you, which is why it is important to try on a pair of boots or shoes before you buy. All of that said, I think Scarpa’s boot is an excellent utility player that will not only meet, but exceed most people’s needs, whether that’s hiking local trails, heading to the AT, or trekking to Everest Base Camp.
Classic Good Looks Impress
Straight out of the box, the Scarpa ZG Trek GTX impresses with its classic good looks. This is enhanced by the boot’s suede leather upper, which offers an attractive, understated design. At a time when some outdoor companies are embracing retro styling and 80s throwback colors, I was happy to see that the ZG Trek was more reserved in its approach.
The boot itself features a unique, but subtle, pattern in its leather that looks really nice, it just doesn’t happen to be overly flash, which is totally alright with me. This allows the boot to look like something that could have been made at just about anytime in the past 20 years, providing timeless good looks that will stay relevant in the years ahead too.
Plenty of Modern Technology
But don’t let those looks completely fool you. Underneath the hood, the ZG Trek is sporting plenty of modern technology. For instance, it is infused with a Gore-Tex membrane that keeps it waterproof while still maintaining a high degree of breathability.
That means your foot stays comfortable and dry while out on the trail, even if you have to make stream crossing or splash through rain and mud.
That performance extends to keeping your foot dry from perspiration too, as the membrane allows heat and moisture to escape from the interior. This helps to prevent blisters and hot spots, which are the bane of every hiker’s existence.
Partnership with Vibram
Underneath, Scarpa has worked in conjunction with Vibram to develop its own outsole. Dubbed the Salix Trek, this sole is built specifically for use with the ZG line of boots, providing excellent traction and mobility, without adding excess weight and bulk.
In my testing, that sole proved to be extremely competent on a wide variety of terrains, including hiking in alpine environments. I’ve worn this boot over mud, dirt, rock, thick grasses, and a variety of other types of rugged ground and came away quite impressed.
In fact, the biggest compliment I can give the boot is that I forgot that I was even testing them. That means they simply performed up to m expectations with ease, not drawing undue attention to any glaring performance deficiencies along the way.
Breaking Them In
One of the first questions I usually get when it comes to recommending hiking shoes and boots is, “how long does it take to break them in?” For the ZG Trek, the answer is “not very long at all.”
Other than the fact that the boots were a little stiff out of the box –– which is to be expected with any new shoe –– there was minimal break-in time required. After an hour or so of hiking in these boots, they started to loosen up nicely, and once again I soon forgot that they were new boots at all.
Instead, they felt like a comfortable pair of shoes that I’d owned for years. As always, before embarking on a major hike, you should wear your chosen footwear around a bit to make sure they’re ready to go.
In this case, the suede leather was supple and pliable enough straight out of the box that I wouldn’t hesitate to use them on a significant trek after just a short hike or two to break them in.
Great Build Quality with Ample Support
Built for use in fast hiking and rugged, off-trail alpine locations, the ZG Trek features good ankle support without being overly aggressive. That support extends over the ankle and up the leg to a degree, but not so much that it feels like it’s impeding your natural stride in any way.
This helps to make this boot a great choice for those who are taking on serious hikes, but it may be overkill for someone who just wants to take short walks down easy trails without much in the way of challenging terrain.
That extra stability does come in handy when carrying a heavy pack though, which should help the ZG Trek become a popular model with the backpacking crowd.
Tipping the scales at 2 pounds, 12 ounces (1.2 kg) these aren’t the lightest boots on the trail. Then again, considering what they are designed to do, you most likely don’t want something overly light anyway.
Weight-weenies will want to stick to trail runners and minimalist boots, but the rest of us will appreciate the rugged polyurethane underpinnings that will not only keep our feet well protected from rocks and other items but will ensure that this boot continues to be comfortable to wear for years to come.
Tons of Performance for the Money
The Scarpa ZG Trek GTX hits the sweet spot in terms of affordability, performance, and design.
Yes, there are lighter and less expensive hiking shoes on the market, and many of them are perfectly fine for the day hiker who is just looking for a nice, gentle walk in nature. But for those who are a bit more adventurous and are looking to take things beyond the trail, this is a boot that will provide outstanding performance and long-term durability, at a good price.
Beyond that, however, this is a boot that will also provide confidence and support to see you through adventures that can take you to some far-flung places. Whether that is thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or to the summit of Kilimanjaro is totally up to you. Just rest assured, the ZG Trek GTX is up for the adventure as long as you are too.
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