Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gear Closet: Obōz Bridger Mid BDry Boot

While I was at Outdoor Retailer last month, I saw a number of really great looking, lightweight hiking boots. These new shoes promise to provide plenty of comfort and support, in a package that weighs next to nothing, while still managing to look great too. In the months ahead, I hope to provide several reviews on different models of these types of boots, and recently I've been putting my first pair through their paces. They are the Bridger Mid BDry from Obōz, a company that specializes in making shoes designed for those with an active outdoor lifestyle.

One of the first things that will catch your eye about these boots is their sense of style. At first glance, they look like a classic boot that you could have found on the trail 20-years ago. This is in no small part thanks to the durable leather upper, which gives these shoes a great look that feels like it was designed for the outdoors. In recent years, some manufacturers have started to incorporate flashy colors and odd design choices into their shoes, but Obōz has given the Bridgers an understated look that still allows them to stand out, without being overly obnoxious.

Personally, I like my boots to look good, but perform even better. The classic look of the Bridger boots is supported by some decidedly new technology that your feet will most certainly appreciate. For instance, Obōz has incorporated a multi-layered sole into these shoes that is designed to protect the foot while on rocky, punishing terrain. This sole includes a lightweight chassis that provides comfort and added stability, along with serving as a shield from the tough ground. They've added even more protection inside the boot in the form of a tailor made insole that cradles the foot, providing good support for your arches. On the outside,  a molded heel cup helps with helps to keep the shoes firmly in place, while adding yet another level of stability from lateral movement. Add in the company's proprietary BDry fabrics, and you have a shoe that will keep your foot free from external moisture, while still allowing them to breathe nicely on warm days.



Of course, all of these features look good in a product description, but it's how they perform on the trail that really matters. The Bridger Mid doesn't disappoint in this department either. They are incredibly comfortable to wear, offer nice support for your ankles, and have excellent traction, even on wet surfaces. I was impressed with how well they clung to the ground, keeping me moving up and down hills without missing a beat, and because they weigh just 19 oz (538 grams), they don't feel like you're lugging around cumbersome, heavy boots on your hike.

The Bridger Mids have a snug fit, which happens to be something that I personally prefer. For me, this helps to convey a better sense of the trail I'm hiking, keeping me well connected to the ground. That fit also helped me to feel more agile and light-footed, which is not something you find all that often in a boot. The lacing system, and pliable leather upper, on these shoes allow you tailor the fit to some degree, wrapping them more snugly around the ankle for instance, while providing a bit more room in the toe box. This versatility comes in handy when you're searching for just the right fit for your needs.

There is a bit of a break-in period with these boots, although it isn't particularly long. When I first put them on, I was a little dismayed with how they felt around the ankle, as they seemed a bit stiff, which in turn restricted movement to a degree. I was relieved to find that that stiffness didn't last long however, and within a short time of wearing them on the trail, they loosened up nicely. The rest of the boot, while comfortable from the start, also gave way some after some hiking as well, and while they maintained the snug fit that I like so much, they also became more flexible to the varying trail conditions.

Obōz lists these boots under their "Mid Hiking" category, but quite honestly they provide enough support and comfort to be used on backpacking excursions as well. Their lightweight design, matched with all of the built-in support, makes them a great option for extended trips, or for fast packing expeditions. Personally, I think their comfortable enough to wear around town too, and the BDry fabrics will be most welcome on rainy or snowy days.

Considering the amount of performance that these shoes deliver, they are also quite affordable. With an MSRP of just $160, Obōz has managed to deliver top tier performance and versatility, at a wallet-friendly price. The Bridger Mid boots are lightweight, without making compromises, and they will make an excellent trail shoe for three season hiking and backpacking excursions across even challenging terrain. I think they make a great shoe for beginners just getting into the outdoor scene, but they have enough features and comfort that veterans will love them too.

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