Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities, and the fall is my favorite time of year to be doing it. It can get mucky around here — especially if we run into light snow — but it’s cool enough that overheating is less of an issue, the bugs are a non-issue and the fall colors are always spectacular. With my daughter now old enough to babysit her brothers, my wife and I have had the opportunity to duck out for quick hikes this fall. We have to keep things realistic and stay close enough to get home quickly if a fight breaks out, so that means a mix of urban walking and light trails. Merrell sent a pair of Merrell Men’s Proterra Sport Gore-Tex hikers to try out, and the timing couldn’t have been better. If you’re in the market for waterproof, minimalist hikers that are comfortable to wear in mixed terrain, these would make a great choice.
While autumn is dryer than the spring (which can be a mess here in Southwestern Ontario thanks to the combination of melting snow, thawing ground and showers), there are still times when it’s all too easy to get a soaker if you don’t watch your step.
I’ll say upfront that these shoes are extremely comfortable. Like any Merrelll footwear I’ve tried, they’re well made, light weight (for what they are), supportive and they look good — actively outdoors, or with jeans just hanging around. These have an extremely compact lug design (less than 1/10th of an inch in depth). Merrell says it’s to increase ground contact and enhance stability. I wasn’t in a situation where monster treads might be called for, but I found the design made the shoes extremely well suited for urban use (no “rolling” sensation you can feel with deep treads walking on concrete), and they stuck to wet pavement like glue. In fact, they did very well on wet leaves, too, and those can be tricky. Ice, not so much, though.
I’ve had the chance to put the Proterra Sport Gore-Tex hikers through some unpleasant conditions too. The Stratfuse mesh upper and Gore-Tex membrane combined to make them completely impervious to water. The material held up well to muck — I was able to hose the worst of the mud off, throw the shoes in the washer and they came out good as new. I’ve had other hikers look old before their time and start weakening at the seams or fraying around suede trim bits when washed in a machine (even on Delicate setting), so being able to stand being scrubbed down is important.
I saw a review on Merrell’s site posted by a hospital worker who praised the Proterra Sport Gore-Tex hikers for their grip on slippery floors (no, I don’t want to know what the liquid is) and easy clean-up, so I’m not the only one who appreciates these features.
The Proterra Sport Gore-Tex hikers are priced at $140.
Merrell was also good enough to send a Big Sky jacket, a perfect addition for the fall season. This differentiates itself from similar fleece tops with its incorporation of wool (it’s 62% polyester/ 27% wool and 11% nylon). This makes for a heavyweight jacket, but still very breathable, with a stand up collar and a tailored fit —that still has give. I would have liked to see a breast pocket (inside or outside) for stashing glasses and the wool means it can’t be thrown in the dryer, but it’s very attractive and works well as an active top or a casual jacket.
I had a chance to test its warmth in a non-active situation when I wore it over a tee-shirt standing in a line-up outside Best Buy for an hour last weekend (they were taking any used Xbox game in exchange for a copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts). I gave up after the line hadn’t budged and stock appeared to be running low, but despite the 44 degree temperature, overcast skies and wind, I was perfectly comfortable in the Big Sky while many of the people around me were rubbing their hands, doing jumping jacks or hunched into their coats in an attempt to keep warm.
The Big Sky jacket is priced at $139.
Disclosure: Merrell provided product samples for the purpose of this review