Brasher Hillwalker II GTX Leather Boots

Author: George Tod

Evaluation



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Please note that since 2014 Brasher has been owned by Berghous, so their boots currently (2017) have both names on them. The brand name Brasher is now being phased out, but the same boots will be sold using only the Berghaus name.

Brasher Hillwalker II GTX Leather Boots after 820 Miles

Note: I now measure mileage using my GPS, which generally gives about a 10% higher figure than that measured from maps.


General view of Brasher boot

Still plenty of tread remaining on soles

Right Boot - stitching starting to fray plus wear to leather near sole

Left Boot - leather completely detached and hole through GORE-TEX®

What might be called 'Well Ventilated'

Cost

£90 in December 2014 (Internet Price)

About the boots

I had had such good service from my previous pair of Brasher boots that, when they finally neared the end of their days after 1600 miles of walking, I decided to go for another pair of the same. Generally, I have looked around shops with discounted prices and just taken anything that felt reasonably comfortable that was being sold at a reasonable price. I had deliberately never bought online because, having feet of an awkward shape (wide with a high instep) it was always necessary to make sure of a comfortable fit, which is best done in a shop. However, having decided on the same boots again, I knew that they would fit properly, so I could just look for the best value and was able to get some for £90 including delivery.

When I tried them on, they felt comfortable from the start and my first walk didn't reveal any problems, so I was perfectly happy. I did, however, notice slight differences in the design and was a little surprised that they were sold with what I thought was exactly the same name, though there was nothing that concerned me and I even thought them to be better as they were lighter in weight. All was well for two and a half years in which I did about 700 miles without any concern, thinking that they would last me for another 700 miles or more judging by experience of the previous pair. In July 2017, I was just getting ready to walk the last section of the Cambrian Way when I noticed that some stitching near the sole of my left boot was showing sign of fraying and the leather itself some signs of wear. I was almost about to set off, so there was no time to get new boots and I would just have to set off and hope for the best.

Despite the fraying of the stitching, the boots performed perfectly well and left boot did not let in any more wet than the right boot (I had some very wet weather so neither stayed perfectly dry). As the walk progressed, however, the leather became detached and eventually there was a large loose flap, exposing the inner GORE-TEX® layer, which was still doing a sterling job of keeping the water at bay. I hardly noticed anything wrong as I was walking, as they still felt firm and stable, though I could feel a bit more cold when I walked through puddles. By the last day but one, the situation had deteriorated further, when a big hole appeared in the GORE-TEX®, allowing water to run in and out quite freely. Miraculously, I was able to reach the end of the walk with nothing more than a wet foot, though I had so much wet to contend with that my feet were seldom dry anyway. In any case, the water that flowed in freely could flow back out again with the same ease. The right boot, though largely still intact, was showing signs of wear in the same place, but only about the same as the left boot was at the start of the walk.

When I returned home, I started to compare the boots more carefully with the previous pair and realised that there were significant differences. For one, the material used inside around the ankle and tongue was fabric rather than the soft leather of the previous ones. More significantly, the rand, which is a strip of rubber running round the join between the sole and the upper, was missing completely on these boots. Therein lay the problem, as there was nothing to protect the lower part of the leather upper from sharp stones, hence the excessive wear. It is only as I have started investigating this that I realised that they were actually two different models: the first pair being Hillmaster II GTX and this pair Hillwalker II GTX and I had just failed to notice. I have now bought a new pair of the Hillmaster boots for £99 online (Retail price £160), whereas the Hillwalker boots have a retail price of £130.

Comfort

The comfort of these boots was extremely good right from the start, and I had no real problems in breaking them in unlike many other boots. In fact there was not even much breaking in to do apart from a slight rubbing on my ankle bones. This is one of the things that Chris Brasher, the late owner of the company, set out to achieve after suffering problems from other makes of boot himself. They remained comfortable throughout their somewhat short life. These are considerably lighter than many boots, which makes for easier walking, and they are quite low at the back to allow easier ankle movement, though this can result in water entering from deep puddles, as mentioned below.

Water Resistance

One of the important features of these boots is the GORE-TEX® lining, which ensures that, even if wet manages to soak in through the leather or creap in through the stitching, feet are still kept dry. In very wet weather, I have never found any boots that keep my feet completely dry. Even if water does not enter the boot through the material, socks can get wet and some of this can soak down into the boot. Also, in deep puddles water may come over the top of the boot and enter that way. Even without those possibilities, sweat from feet can also make the feet damp in some conditions. With these boots the back of the boot is rather low to allow freer movement of the ankes, this can sometimes result on water coming in this way, but there is a compromise between easier ankle movement and protection from water, so I was prepared to accept this. Overall, I would rate these very highly for their water resistance, being among the best I have experienced.

Wear

Unfortunately, this is what let these boots down in my case, as the rugged walking that I undertake caused premature wear in the leather near the soles, which was noticeable after 700 miles and resulted in catastrophic failure after 800 miles. This could have been largely prevented had there been a rand around the boot to protect them. I hasten to point out, however, that much of my walking is done over rough and craggy terrain and, in places, there are very sharp rocks sticking up that can cut into the leather. For someone who does most of their walking on good paths and smoother ground, I am sure that they would give much longer service, and the advantages of having lighter and more flexible boots (I think the leather may be thinner as well) can be an advantage much of the time. If there is not a need for a very sturdy boot then the lower price tag is also a good reason to buy these. Other things such as the tread and the lining showed very little sign of wear, so they would easily last for several hundred miles more.

Good Points

Bad Points

General Assessment

These boots were very disappointing as far as I was concerned because of the amount of walking I do over rough terrain, which resuted in a much short life than I anticipated for the price. However, I could not fault them for their general comfort, which started from day one. They were also very good for keeping my feet dry until they started to come apart towards the end of their life. I could well see that under gentler walking conditions they could last for much longer and be much appreciated for their comfort and light weight. It is just a matter of horses for courses and, for rough terrain, a tougher boot is required.

Having seen the deficiences in these boots for my type of walking, I decided to go back to the Hillmaster ones like my previous pair, having finally worked out the difference between Hillwalker and Hillmaster. I bought another pair of the Hillmaster boots for £99 online with free delivery in September 2017. So far I have not walked very far in them, but I am sure they will give the service that my earlier pair did. Again, these were comfortable from the very start and the fine quality stood out immediately.


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