Born for battle, but just as useful in the backwoods, the new ALTAMA Operation Oasis Mountain Hikers will be sure to find a home on the feet of outdoorsmen as well as soldiers.
Over the nearly a decade that we’ve been involved in the War on Terror, our military has seen its gear evolve in leaps and bounds. Troops have gone from dealing with committee-designed gear that took years to field, to being able to purchase Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) items on a unit level basis as well as the time honored tradition of private gear purchases by individual soldiers. One of the big benefits of this streamlined supply system is that gear manufacturers can much more rapidly respond to the needs of troops in the field. Long time supplier of military footwear, ALTAMA, was able to do just that with the new Operation Oasis Mountain Hiker boot.
With the difficult terrain troops have encountered in Afghanistan, DOD has looked to better solutions than the traditional combat boot and boot makers have been quick to respond with boots that bring years of experience in civilian outdoor footwear over to the military. What you end up with is a boot designed with the best influences of recreational footwear, but built to rugged military specs. For folks who’ve trod too many miles in their old issue leather combat boots, don’t despair! These new designs offer a lot more out of the box comfort than those old issue boots that took a few road marches and a ton of blisters to break in. The difference between the ALTAMA Mountain Hiker and my old issue boots is tremendous. First off, when you look at the boot, you think hiker, not combat boot. So it isn’t like you’re going to stand out on the trail when you go on your outings with the Sierra Club. The Mountain Hiker is a mid-height 7 eyelet boot with a full grain Nubuck upper mated to Polyurethane lower. The Nubuck upper is water resistant and the boot has a GORE-TEX liner to back that up. A rubber abrasion resistant band runs circumference of the boot along with a rubber reinforced heel. This band help protect the toe, heel and welt of the boot from cuts or other damage from rocks and rough terrain.
There’s a glove leather padded collar for comfort and a fully gusseted tongue with glove leather sides to help keep your foot snug and secure in the boot. Laces are of the speed lace design and thread through nonmetallic loops riveted to the boot body. The Mountain Hikers have what ALTAMA calls “padded impact pods” around the ankle of the boot, which help protect the ankle from any knocks and probably adds a bit of support as well. The sole uses ALTAMA’s proven Sand Shark tread which I had a chance to check out with ALTAMA’s Mountain Panamoc that I reviewed here on the Monkey in the spring. Weight of a single boot comes in at 35 ounces on my postal scale. Raw stats aside, the ALTAMA Mountain Hikers are solid boots. While probably a little heavier than many sport hikers, they make up for that in their rugged build. The leather and rubber upper is firmly mated to the Sand Shark tread and everything is very sturdily constructed. ALTAMA lists these boots as being assembled in America so presumably there’s some imported components used in their construction, but you can see the build quality in the even stitching and the clean, professional lines of the boot.
I first got the Mountain Hikers over the summer and I have to admit that I don’t get a lot of boot wear in when it’s hot out. I was in sandals and the occasional tennis shoe most of the time. As the weather cooled though, I pulled the boots back out both for trail use and day to day wear. When I did break them out for use this fall my first concern was, as always, would they be wide enough for my feet? I generally need at least EE width in boots and some brands tend to fit better than others. I had pretty good luck with the Panamocs in the spring, but even those were a little on the snug side for my duck feet. I’m extremely pleased to say though that the Mountain Hikers slid on without hesitation. Fit from these was excellent and I even have enough room to go to a thicker wool sock come winter. The toe box on this is quite roomy, and that’s the area where I generally run into trouble. With the laces threaded all the way through the boot eyelets I still had no problems getting the boot on and off with just loosening things up a little. A quick tug showed the speed lace system to work as advertised and I was ready to hit the trail.
I initially wore the boots close to home and just running errands to the store to get a feel for how much break in period I’d need for them. I soon found out that the answer was just about none. The Mountain Hikers were very comfortable right out of the box. I typically hesitate to hit the trail in boots until I’ve worn them around on for a while first but I have to say that break in time on these wasn’t really required. For my foot, these worked well right from the get go. Ankle support was very good and they performed well on day to day surfaces like concrete, pavement and grass. While not really designed as an urban boot, it handled that terrain with ease. The Mountain Hiker would make a good work boot, or a police patrol boot if the coloring was something you could wear in uniform. The real test as far as I was concerned though was going to be out in the woods.
While I didn’t get a true backpacking trip in while I was testing the boots I did get them out in the woods and on some day hikes on a number of occasions. Having the changing surface of dirt, rock, and mud under your feet gives you a much different feel for a boot than more uniform urban surfaces do. Add in the some hills, leaf covered slopes, and some stream crossings and you really start to get an idea if a boot will work for you. The one thing I really noticed was the lack of break in period needed for these boots. I mentioned before that they seemed comfortable out of the box, but I did wonder if my initial impression would change once I hit the trail. Luckily, that same fit and comfort level carried through. Even when attacking aggressive slopes, both up and down where I’d typically feel a new boot rubbing, or sliding on my foot I didn’t have any problems with the Mountain Hiker. The Sand Shark tread did a very good job stabilizing the boot on these surfaces too, which likely helped minimize and sliding of the foot within the boot while I was climbing. Typically If I’m out I’ll try and avoid the worst of the mud on a trail, and stay out of the water as much as possible. On an outing with my son and his Cub Scout den however I deliberately took the less hospitable route and walked through some mud pits and waded into the stream to see how the GORE-TEX held up and how the tread did on slicker surfaces. I came through dry so the waterproofing worked as advertised, and I managed not to take a spill even on some pretty slick rocks along the stream so the Sand Shark tread did its job as well. I came away impressed with both the comfort of the boot and how well they performed both in the water and as far as traction on the trail went.
The only mild critique that I noted was that they are a little heavier boot than I was used too, but I soon forgot that once I had a feel for them and was moving along down the path. There may be a slight tradeoff there in picking up some weight to gain some durability but I suspect it’s a tradeoff many folks will be willing to make for a solid, comfortable outdoors boot. MSRP on the ALTAMA Operation Oasis Mountain Hiker is a penny shy of two Ben Franklin’s but some shopping around found them in the $150 range, which is on par with other quality GORE-TEX boots. When you factor in the out of the box comfort, solid construction, and great trail performance the ALTAMA Mountain Hiker is well worth considering for your own camping, hunting and hiking needs. It’s a boot built to survive a battlefield and it’ll serve equally well in the brush back here at home.