Hiking and Backpacking Boots
Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Waterproof
$175, 2 lbs. 7 oz. (US men’s size 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-15, women’s 5-12
Between the days of backpacking 11 to 12 miles with up to about 7,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain and loss, the seven miles of steep and loose off-trail hiking, the need to carry eight pounds or more of water weight at times, and of course, the heat, one might speculate that our six-day backpacking trip to Utah Flats and Clear Creek in the Grand Canyon was no more than an elaborate ruse to put hiking boots to a severe test. (Some of my companions went so far as to suggest a plot to inflict physical suffering on them. Yea, whatever.) But after all was said and done, the Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Waterproof shined through all the canyon (and I) hurled at them. Here’s why.
The Sawtooth X’s strength as an all-around boot for backpackers and dayhikers begins with its support. The boot contains a rubberized, dual-density EVA midsole that delivered ample cushioning even when extra water weight pushed my pack toward 40 pounds in the canyon. And I expect many backpackers would find these boots adequately cushioned even with more weight than that on their back.
Similarly, the medium-volume fit is typical Oboz: comfortably snug from heel to midfoot, to prevent your heel from shifting and rubbing or your foot slipping forward when going downhill, with more space in the toe box than you’ll find in footwear from many other brands. No matter what your adventures, that’s the kind of fit that serves many hikers and backpackers well, especially as feet expand slightly over the course of a day on the trail.
The outsoles, featuring widely spaced, multi-directional lugs under most of the foot and a tread under the toes for traction when ascending steep slabs, gripped securely on packed-dirt trails; off-trail scrambling over boulders and walking over slickrock and miles of going up and down very steep and loose scree on canyon walls: I slipped and fell onto my back side just once over a few hours of descending steep scree.
The uppers combine oiled nubuck leather with Cordura fabric mesh ventilation holes and a toe bumper that extends to behind the toes on the sidewalls, ensuring very good durability with plenty of protection from hard use on rocky trails or off-trail terrain while enhancing breathability—and the breathability is pretty good for a mid-cut boot with a membrane: Even on hot afternoons in the canyon, my feet never got uncomfortably sweaty or developed hot spots catalyzed by too much dampness and rubbing. While the non-waterproof, likely more breathable Sawtooth X Mid may be better for hot desert hiking, the waterproof mid may be a better all-purpose choice for backpackers who hike in wet climates as much as dry.
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Oboz’s proprietary B-Dry waterproof-breathable membrane kept water out of the boots even when I stood in shallow creeks, performing as it has consistency through more Oboz boot and shoe models that I’ve tested over the years than I can remember. And the brand’s proprietary O Fit insole offers better stiffness and cushioning from midfoot to heel than standard, flimsy insoles that come with most hiking boots.
The Oboz Sawtooth X series includes men’s and women’s Sawtooth X Low B-Dry ($150) and two non-waterproof models for men and women, the Sawtooth X Mid ($150) and Sawtooth X Low ($125).
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Comfortable, protective, and durable, with solid waterproofing and good breathability, the Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Waterproof stands out as an all-around boot for on- and off-trail backpacking and dayhiking—at a price that’s hard to beat for this level of quality.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the men’s or women’s Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Waterproof boots at moosejaw.com or backcountry.com, or any model in the Sawtooth X series at moosejaw.com or backcountry.com.
See all reviews of hiking shoes and backpacking boots, “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots,” and “8 Pro Tips for Preventing Blisters When Hiking,” and all reviews of hiking gear and backpacking gear at The Big Outside.
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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 The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of all reviews and expert buying tips.