For almost one hundred years, the American company Danner has been helping countless intrepid adventurers traverse some of the planet’s wildest and most diverse terrains. The company has built an enviable reputation by creating footwear that is designed to cope with pretty much anything. In this feature, I put their standard-setting Mountain Light boots to the test.
If I chose the three things that bring me the most pleasure, they would be my wife’s company, meditation, and being outdoors surrounded by nature. Hiking is a pastime I have championed in recent years. So, you can imagine my excitement when the Portland-based company, known for crafting some of the finest walking boots available today, contacted me asking if I would like to try a pair of their most-lauded boots; I didn’t need to be asked twice.
My wife and I are massive fans of hiking, and we’ve discovered that experiencing nature’s magnificence, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, brings us an almost endless range of health benefits. Doing this wearing Danner’s, a brand we class as ‘heritage’, along the lines of Morgan Cars and the wristwatch company Breguet, will no doubt bring extra pride to our excursions.
Our shared passion has contributed to many life-long memories during our 20+ year marriage, and it’s an activity/hobby that we constantly promote to whoever will listen.
Fortunately, many of our friends have found our lifestyle inspiring, and we now find ourselves inundated with photographs of spectacular outdoor locations, with incredibly natural scenery and beaming smiles through emails and messages and on our social media feeds.
Hiking is something that almost anyone can enjoy; however, when venturing out on any hike, particularly one that might involve some challenging terrain, you’ll need more than enthusiasm and a reasonable level of fitness. It is vital to have the right equipment, and aside from donning appropriate clothing, there is nothing more important than what you have on your feet.
I am obsessive about hiking footwear; far too many times, I have purchased highly-touted branded shoes and boots, thinking they were appropriate, only to discover miles into a tricky hike that I was wrong, and that’s even after ‘breaking them’ in.
Blisters, blackened toenails, tender skin and pinched toes are just some of the things I have experienced, and if you do discover a problem with your footwear miles into a hike, there’s no upside. You’ll have to grin and bear it, hobbling back mile after mile to where you started, waiting for that moment when you can release a huge sigh as you free your feet.
Before I get into my Danner Mountain Light Boots experience, Let’s look at the company behind them.
Danner was founded in 1932, which means it has been crafting boots for nigh-on a century. The company was founded by Charles Danner, who envisioned creating the world’s best boots for loggers. Armed only with this, a commitment to craftsmanship, and respect for the Pacific Northwest’s incredible landscape, he was able to achieve his goal. His company has continued to build on this by forging an enviable global reputation for high-quality boots made to last.
Today, Danner continues leading the way in long-lasting footwear, with a range encompassing the needs of the military, law enforcement, hunting, general work, hiking and lifestyle. In addition, it also offers clothing, boot care products and accessories, including backpacks, flasks, boot dryers and more.
Helping the Planet
Regular readers know that we admire companies who find ways to be more sustainable and who also realise the importance of recycling. In this respect, Danner is a company deserving of our highest praise.
The default option for most manufacturers is to make products that will last for a ‘reasonable’ length of time, and when they break down or need repairing, they sell the customer a replacement.
Danner takes a different view than most; their goal is to craft boots that are designed to last as long as possible. However, even with the best intentions and the finest materials, humans will always find ways to damage even the most robust of products, and almost everything will eventually need some TLC (tender loving care) if used regularly in harsh environments.
Rather than convince a customer to buy a replacement product, Danner offers an upscaling service, which is available internationally. The company realises that when you have a trusted and reliable pair of boots, they are pretty much irreplaceable. So, it offers a service where its boots can literally be rebuilt from the ground up.
With Danner’s Recrafting service, the boots are repaired and restored by hand, using new components and the same machines they were originally built with. The available options include a new set of soles, reconditioning of the leather, and stitching repairs. They also sell reconditioned boots, which are like new boots, at a discounted price. I feel comfortable stating that Danner started setting a benchmark in 1932, and they still are today.
The Danner Mountain Light boots
Danner launched its Mountain Light boots more than thirty years ago, and from the day they were unveiled to the world, they’ve set a benchmark that many other brands have tried to replicate.
Before I discuss the boots in detail, I want to mention a recent Zoom call with a friend in the USA who holds a senior position in government land management. As we’re both fans of the natural world, I wanted to share how excited I was to have a pair of Danner’s boots to try.
After telling him, he said, “Danner are the best, and I don’t think anything comes close to them, but as good as they are, I won’t wear them anymore as I think they are now made in China?” I was taken aback by this and decided some investigation was in order.
My friend was wrong; union members still handcrafted Danner’s best-known boots in Portland, Oregon, including the Mountain Light boots sent to me.
Moving back to the boots. The Danner Mountain Light boots arrived in a brown cardboard box adorned with the company logo, reiterating the above as they were marked ‘Made in USA’ and ‘Union Made’, with Portland-themed-graphics and, interestingly, in small lettering on the side, the words “Keep Portland Weird”! Which made me chuckle.
Upon removing the boots from their box, I immediately saw they were very high quality. The boots came with two pairs of bright red laces, one round the other flat, and after thoroughly examining the materials, I could tell they were more than a few notches above my go-to Lowa boots.
The Mountain Light boots were ready to wear with the round laces already threaded, which, fortunately, was my preferred choice of laces.
Breaking In: Before even contemplating venturing far and wide, all boots should really go through some form of breaking-in process, which is where they are worn on less-intensive hikes to allow them to become more flexible and adapt and mould to one’s feet; it is also the ideal opportunity to discover any potential issues.
On my first outing, my left boot started to wear the skin on the back of my Achilles tendon, which meant continuously adjusting my Merino wool socks and experimenting with the tightness and position of the one-piece leather tongue and laces. Eventually, I found the right combination and serenity (sans moaning) was once more restored in the countryside.
Minor issues, like the one above, are commonplace with boots, and this is why it is important to go through a breaking-in process, which can take anything from a few miles to many depending on the material quality, with those made with Full Grain leather requiring more.
Although a sizing guide is helpful, it is by no means foolproof, as every person’s foot is different. Plus, some people’s toes tend to spread when traversing downwards (myself included), whilst others don’t. The good news with the Danner Mountain Light boots is they are made with decent toe room, which was a massive relief, considering my history of pinched toes and blackened nails!
The main features of the Danner Mountain Light boots are:
- A Full Grain leather upper with a one-piece leather tongue area to keep out debris and water
- The boots are GORE-TEX and are 100% waterproof, breathable, and come with GORE-TEX liners
- The boots have a Vibram® Kletterlift Outsole, which offers excellent shock absorption, traction and stability
- A handcrafted stitch-down construction made at the company’s factory in Portland, Ore
- The boots weigh 62 oz per pair and are 5″ boots with a fibreglass shank
At the time of writing this, I have yet to venture out with them on what I consider one of my more extreme hikes as we are currently in the UK stormy season, meaning high winds and rain at any moment. The good news is that bad weather won’t prevent me from walking, and while I wait for an improvement, I can put in many more miles on Britain’s roads and pathways.
There’s a feel-good factor when wearing the Danner Mountain Light boots. As you traverse the miles, there’s comfort in knowing that your feet are encompassed in hiking history and that the boots were hand-crafted by people who want you to achieve your goals safely and comfortably.
Until I have put the requisite breaking in miles on the Danner boots, my Lowa’s, which probably have 500+ miles on them, will continue to experience the sunlight before venturing into the darkness, joining the five or six other pairs of hiking boots, keeping each other company in a cupboard.
Overall, I am thoroughly delighted with the Danner Mountain Light Boots. The build quality and attention are clearly obvious as soon as you take them from the box. The one-piece leather tongue design is superb and will no doubt bring extra confidence when walking through shallow water; it is akin to having a pair of high-end leather ‘wellies’ on your feet.
Admittedly, Danner’s high-end boots are priced higher than some other boots; however, as I’ve written many times in the past, whenever possible, price shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to ensuring comfort, health and safety. If you choose to invest in a pair of Danner Mountain Light boots, I have no doubts they will become a reliable companion on your hikes for many years to come.
Danner Mountain Light Boots – Where and how?
The Danner Mountain Light boots come with a 365-day warranty. The boots are available in sizes from 6.5 to 13 (US) and are available in five styles: Black leather, Dark brown leather, Wallowa (suede upper, shown below), Sienna Clovis (the version tested) and Kenton, which is tan leather with a light coloured sole. The boots are currently available to purchase from https://global.danner.com/, and at the time of writing, the Danner has a sale on, offering large discounts.