Hiking and Backpacking Boots
Oboz Bridger Mid Waterproof
$180, 2 lbs. 6 oz. (men’s size 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-15, women’s 6-11
Hiking and Backpacking Shoes
Oboz Bridger Low Waterproof
$140, 2 lbs. 3 oz. (men’s size 9)
Sizes: men’s 8-14, women’s 6-11
As someone who makes his living walking on- and off-trail a lot, I’m very selective about my footwear. I manage the 200-mile Ridge to Rivers trail system in Boise, Idaho—and on any given day I might put in anywhere from three to 10 miles of hiking. I need boots that provide lateral support and comfort and stand up to hard use. After testing both of these models extensively, I can’t speak highly enough about how well the Oboz Bridger Mid and Low Waterproof boots and shoes performed.
Wearing the Bridger Mid on a three-mile, trail-building project in the rugged hills above Boise, I was walking on rocky hillsides with consistent 60 to 70 percent side slopes up to six hours a day for a week—while always carrying a pack weighing at least 25 pounds—and support was exceptional in those challenging off-trail situations, thanks to solid torsional rigidity, stability, and cushioning from the single-density EVA midsole with a TPU forefoot plate that also provides protection underfoot.
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Oboz’s proprietary outsole, with its deep, widely spaced, multi-directional lugs, gave provided reassuring traction on rocky, loose, slippery slopes while hiking off-trail, as well as on trails of all kinds: packed and loose dirt, rocks, and scree.
The Bridger Mid fit like a perfect pair of gloves, wrapping my feet securely with absolutely no slipping: no blisters, no hot spots, no sore feet, no sore ankles—and perhaps best of all, no break-in time. I literally pulled these boots out of the box and headed into the Foothills. At the suggestion of a fitter at a local gear shop, I got boots a half-size larger than my usual size 10 and was glad that I did as the length was perfect: no sore big toes on long downhills. My feet are slightly wide (probably the result of running around barefoot on the soft sand beaches of Hawaii for 20 years—a duck could paddle with these feet), so the wide toe box characteristic of Obox footwear really enhances comfort, while the form-fitting heel cup and midfoot hold feet in place even for hikers who don’t have wide feet.
In fact, their form-fitting design leads to my one minor complaint: The Bridger Mid require some effort to get on and off, due to the high, snug cuff and the consequent need to really loosen the laces. But the effort pays off in the fit and comfort achieved.
The brand’s O Fit insole, used in all Oboz footwear, offers far more support and cushion than standard, flimsy insoles in most hiking shoes and backpacking boots.
The Bridger Mid also scored high on durability. After a weeklong trail-building project, a 15-mile backpacking trip in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and numerous days off-trail chasing deer with a heavy hunting pack, these boots have yet to show any signs of wear, and the soles are dirty but unscathed. Credit the tough, fully nubuck leather uppers and rubber toe bumper,which isn’t as bulky as found on boots from some brands.
Oboz’s proprietary B-Dry waterproof-breathable membrane kept my feet dry through numerous hours over multiple days of walking through wet snow on trails. Plus, having shied away from waterproof boots in recent years because I’ve found few that breathe adequately to avoid uncomfortably sweaty feet, I was pleased that the B-Dry membrane did not leave my feet uncomfortably hot and damp with sweat.
[NOTE: The Big Outside has reviewed numerous Oboz shoes and boots, most recently the Sawtooth II Low Waterproof shoes trekking through fresh snow in Spain’s Picos de Europa Mountains, and consistently found the B-Dry membrane to be reliably waterproof. The B-Dry also consistently breathes reasonably well, although breathability is also affected, in any footwear, by the material used in the uppers; and the Sawtooth II Low Waterproof have mesh vents in the leather uppers and a breathable mesh tongue, which enable the shoes to release moisture effectively and dry quickly.]
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I used the Bridger Low Waterproof almost daily for several weeks in fall and winter while hiking the trails of the Boise Foothills for work and pleasure, almost always carrying a 10- to 15-pound daypack, and routinely putting in five to eight miles per day. The Bridger Low excels on trail, delivering a high degree of comfort on both smooth and rocky trails, and a surprising degree of foot protection due, as with the Mid, to the leather uppers and single-density EVA midsole with a partial TPU plate. (I did not hike off-trail in these shoes because they lack the lateral stability of the higher-cut Bridger Mid.)
As with the Bridger Mid, too, I ordered a half-size up in the Bridger Low—a 10.5 instead of my usual size 10—and achieved a great fit both in length and width. Not surprisingly, the Low do not present the same challenge getting on and off as the Mid: They slip on and off quite easily.
Like the Mid, the Bridger Low demonstrate very good durability: After six weeks of daily use, the leather still looks almost as it did when I pulled them out of the box, and the outsoles show almost no sign of use.
Overall the Bridger Low is what one would expect: a scaled-down version of the Mid that’s not quite as terrain-versatile, but an excellent on-trail shoe for carrying moderate loads.
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Well-constructed, very comfortable, and fairly priced, the Oboz Bridger Mid Waterproof is an all-around solid boot for on- and off-trail backpacking and dayhiking, and the Oboz Bridger Low Waterproof is ideal for on-trail dayhiking or lightweight or ultralight backpacking. Just choose a color you like—you’re going to have them for a long time.
Note from Michael Lanza of The Big Outside: David Gordon is the manager of the 200-mile Ridge to Rivers trail system in Boise, Idaho, an experienced backpacker and hiker, and a friend with whom I’ve backpacked, backcountry skied, and mountain biked for years.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase the men’s or women’s Oboz Bridger Mid Waterproof boots at backcountry.com, Moosejaw.com, or rei.com, or the men’s or women’s Oboz Bridger Low Waterproof shoes at Moosejaw.com or rei.com.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.