High Gear: On the trail with the Scarpa Moraine GTX hiking shoe
August 3, 2016
There's something comforting about the perfect hiking shoe.
And no, I don't mean comfortable — there are plenty of shoes out there made to keep your feet cozy and warm and cushioned. I'm talking about a hiking shoe that makes you feel like you can tackle anything — come rain or snow or rocks or glissades or simply a gorgeous day on the trail.
I've long been a fan of Scarpa footwear. I'm not much of a skier, and so I've never tried the Italian manufacturer's line of alpine touring and cross-country boots. But, if they're anything like the high-end boots and shoes I've owned, they're worth their weight in gold, or whatever outrageous price folks are charging for AT gear these days.
But, just because I've known and loved Scarpa for years, I shouldn't give the company a pass. It comes back to the comfort thing: There's a difference between liking a shoe and trusting a shoe, and, when you're facing 8-plus hours (or 8-plus days) in the wilderness, you want a shoe you can trust. It should take a beating and come back for seconds — week after week, month after month and even year after year, depending on how much time you spend on the trail. Every shoe falls apart at some point, but the best of the best survive longer than you'd expect.
The 2015 Moraine GTX is the latest version of a shoe I've worn for about five years. The original, GT, had everything I wanted and nothing more: breathable liner, durable suede upper, plenty of arch support, a double-stitched toecap and a rugged outsole. That pair survived three Tough Mudders, five 14ers, a handful of overnight backpacking trips, dozens of hikes up Vail Mountain and Mount Royal as well as even more camping trips. The toecap finally melted when I left them too close to a fire.
The updated version takes the bones of the original and adds a few new touches, like a Gore-Tex lining and a Vibram outsole for improved grip on the trail. It's also slightly lighter than the original — about 0.5 ounces, hardly noticeable for a shoe — and now comes in three different models for men and women: the standard Moraine, the Moraine Mid and the Moraine Sport, which features a low-cut ankle for a hybrid running-hiking shoe.
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Question is: Do all of these new additions make for a better shoe? Or is it too much of a good thing? After spending most of summer in the 2015 Moraine, it's comforting to know that Scarpa still crafts one hell of a good shoe. I haven't had the chance to take it on an extended backpacking trek — life tends to get in the way — but, after about 10 hikes on local trails, plus some random wandering in the woods, they're a fitting replacement for my first pair. I can't wait to see how they handle evening winter hikes.
That said, this is a three-season shoe, and so it doesn't come with waterproofing out of the box (a coating of Nikwax once per season does the trick). It also isn't a boot — the ankle sits low, and there is no reinforced ribbing or frame through the upper — so don't expect to pair it with anything heftier than Yaktrax. If you need crampons, you already know that Scarpa has you covered for an extra $100 to $200 with the Grand Dru GTX or Mont Blanc GTX.
My only complaint: Scarpa made the new-and-improved Moraine uglier than the previous model. In the grand scheme, that's not a deal breaker — but come on, charcoal and mustard? I won't be wearing my pair around town anytime soon.
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