Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Hi-Tec Walking Boots – A Review


I’d reviewed a couple of items of Hi-Tec footwear:

Some three season boots – here;

and some trail shoes – here.

Both were extremely comfy, but they only lasted for about 500-600 kilometres hard use.

So after trashing these items I thought it unlikely that Hi-Tec would be prepared to send me anything else.  I was wrong.  I suggested some running shoes, but James Campbell at Hi-Tec was determined to prove a point.

“I’m happy to send you some of our Rainier Event backpacking boots, which really are our top of the range boots and will have no issue with durability.”

They looked pretty impressive when they arrived.


The Rainiers have now been replaced as Hi-Tec’s top of the range offering by the very similar Bernina boots, with HI-TEC’s website proudly proclaiming the following:


    • Full Grain leather upper for durability
    • Locking hook for adjustability
    • Full leather tongue for added protection and durability
    • Sympatex membrane technology for protection from the elements whilst offering breathability
    • Dual density midsole for all day comfort, stability and durability
    • Rugged Vibram outsole for durable traction
    • B1 Classification - compatible with flexible C1 crampons
    • Italian made and lasted for superior yet versatile fit

The RRP is about £150, but they are currently available for £120 or less.

Here’s what I thought about the Rainiers.

Fit and Finish:

  • the EU size 43 were good for my average sort of feet.  Unlike with the previous offerings from Hi-Tec, I found a need to break these boots in gently as the stiffer leather rubbed my ankles.  This gave me encouragement that James’s ‘durability’ claim wasn’t just hot air 
  • the construction was fine, though not quite up to the standard of the Scarpa boots I usually wear.  The main problem at the end of the day was that the thin leather fabric inside the heels eventually gave way, resulting in a shoehorn being necessary to put the boots on.  Perhaps this problem has been addressed in the Berninas.  They were good, solid boots though
  • HI-TEC’s stated features for the successor Bernina, with an emphasis on their durability, are listed above
  • the boots were completely waterproof, given the leather finish and their Event membrane.  As waterproof as my Scarpa Infinities
  • forgetting all the technical jargon, the boots were extremely comfortable for serious backpacking trips
  • at 1600gm, they are slightly heavier than similarly priced fabric boots, but that’s quite acceptable for a serious pair of mountain boots
Practical Use:
  • between March 2011 and September 2012 I wore these boots for the equivalent of a total of about four months’ continuous hard use, including a TGO Challenge, a five week trip to the Alps, and a further two week trip to the Ecrins in France.  Only when the heel fabric wore through in the Ecrins did they cause me any trouble, but the need for a shoehorn (an improvised insole) was a minor inconvenience, though they were retired after that trip, having covered about 1900 kilometres by then
  • in contrast to the other Hi-Tec products I’ve tested, the waterproofing qualities were excellent and the durability quite acceptable  
  • the excellent ankle support made these boots very suitable for walking for long periods on steep ground with a heavy backpack

Here’s what the boots looked like on 16 September 2012, after about 1900km (1190 miles) of use, as referred to above.


As you can see, apart from the damage inside the heel that is evident in the top picture, and the poor condition of the leather that is partly attributable to limited maintenance on long trips, the boots are essentially intact and would have continued in use but for that heel problem.

  • there are lots of alternatives to these three-season boots.  My own favourites are the Scarpa Infinity boots, but these have now been discontinued, as have the Rainiers.  Hopefully the Hi-Tec Berninas are at least as good and they should therefore be suitable for serious hillwalking and backpacking.  As with previous Hi-Tec products, I was fortunate in that the boots posted to me fitted perfectly, but I would always commend users to try on boots and shoes before buying them – different products suit different feet
  • once they had been broken in by way of a couple of weeks’ worth of mountain days out, these boots provided me with comfortable mountain footwear for a good 18 months.  They remained waterproof more or less to the end, and were only let down by insufficiently durable fabric inside the heel
  • whilst the heel problem slightly diminished my enthusiasm, I can agree with James that he has finally provided me with a ‘durable’ product.  Well done!  I wonder what the Berninas are really like, James?


Alan R said...

Great review Martin. Those Berninas look durable and probably heavy. They remind me of the old days of MOAC and Meindl. I wonder why they changed eVent to sympatex? I would have liked to see the rubber toe guard come up a big higher too.
Hope you do a review on these as well.

Andrew W said...

I have had a couple of pairs of Hi-Tec boots in the past, but both failed on the heel cup.
Their lightweight 3/4 boots I used for a TGOC fell apart after a crossing.
The ION mask ones, (Not sure what it does, because it seems to have bugger all to do with keeping water out), I wore on the infamous Peebles Moffat trip and they let water in after about 20 minutes.
Mind you neither were leather.
I am looking even now for some decent leather boots.
Although issues with heel cup are not good. All my Innov8's have failed big time with that issue.

Anyway, have a great trip in the Pyrenees, and say hello to the Humph from me.

Jules said...

I read this post (and the linked posts) with interest, as I'm always looking to improve my gear when I have to renew, and I get the feeling that new footwear might be necessary before very much longer! Besides that, the RRP of footwear appears to be rising rapidly with no discernible improvement in quality.

Although you find some merit to this pair(and the other pairs) I detect that your endorsement is not entirely wholehearted, despite the best efforts of Hi-Tec to be supportive in regard to remedying the quality issues.

Which is a pity because new options are always interesting, but only if they can be relied upon to do the job they are designed for - especially in those toughest moments.

Phreerunner said...

Thanks, Alan, Andy and Jules.

Alan, I'm not sure why they changed from eVent to Sympatex, but I suspect it will make little difference. I don't know whether I'll get a chance to review the Berninas, but it would be interesting if I did.

Andy, I don't actually know of any better value leather boots, though I suspect the professional reviewers may have opinions. The Rainiers (and therefore probably the Berninas) are in a different class to the 3-season Ion Mask boots, and any durability issues fade into insignificance compared with the Innov8 Roclites I had that lasted virtually no time at all.

Jules, I do find merit in these boots, and I enjoyed wearing them for 1900 kilometres. They actually stayed waterproof for just about the same time as the Asolo Fugitives and Scarpa Infinities I've had. But would I choose them from an array of the latest products in their price range? Actually, perhaps; it would depend on the 'fit'.

noel said...

Very helpful review. I'm thinking of buying a pair of berninas. They look like excellent boots for the price, compared to other brands like scarpa, meindl, brasher etc