$189, 1 lb. 13 oz. (men’s US 9/Euro 42)
Sizes: men’s US 7-14/Euro 40-48, women’s US 5-10/Euro 36-42
Sometimes a piece of gear seems better every time you use it. That’s what happened to me with these low-cut hiking shoes. From dayhikes on the slickrock and sandy trails of Zion to the packed dirt and scree of Glacier and the wet, slippery, rocky trails of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, to hiking and scrambling in Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park on days of rock climbing, the Mescalito shone for exceptional traction, support, and protection.
Perhaps most impressively, the Mescalito excels at gripping all kinds of dry and wet ground. The outsoles never once slipped on a dayhike of nearly nine miles and 4,000-plus vertical feet on wet, rock-strewn trails on Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains, or on the scree of the Scenic Point Trail in Glacier National Park. On the descent off Cervidae Peak in the Boise Foothills, I noted just one slip while coming down 1,800 vertical feet of often-steep, sandy, pebbly trail. The shoes owe this traction to the high-friction Vibram Megagrip outsole with moderately shallow, widely space lugs and a patch of smooth rubber under the toes.
On days of hiking and scrambling in Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park while rock climbing, I wore them climbing an easy route, and found the shoes grip large footholds well, but don’t have the stickiness and sensitivity for more-delicate easy moves on steeper slabs—in short, they’re a very good hiking shoe, but not so much a climbing shoe.
There are lighter low-cut shoes in this approach-hiking category, but that’s because the Mescalito is armored for hard use. Weighing a few ounces shy of two pounds for a pair (US men’s 9/Euro 42), the Mescalito features suede uppers and a full perimeter rand with rubber in front and polyurethane wrapping around the sides and back—providing superior protection and durability. I bashed these shoes numerous times on rocky trails without any repercussions for my feet—although the low cut obviously leaves ankles unprotected—and the uppers show no wear beyond some scuffing on the rand. Vibram LightBase technology also makes the outsole base thinner and relatively lighter.
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The fit feels comfortably snug from the heel through the midfoot and toe box for my medium-volume feet, and has good support for my slightly high arches: I felt no slipping inside the shoes even on the steepest trails. That close fit is thanks partly to lacing that extends to the toes. Although the shoes felt good out of the box, and the uppers and forefoot flex do loosen up after a few days wearing them, they may not be the best choice for people with wide feet.
The EVA midsole has good cushion and the kind of torsional rigidity you’d find in a midweight boot—you can’t easily twist or wring these shoes (like a towel), making them very stable and supportive on rocky trails and difficult off-trail terrain.
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Breathability is predictably fine but not outstanding, given the full leather uppers and wrap-around rand; but the lack of a waterproof membrane helps with breathability. In hot sunshine but comfortable temps on an October dayhike of the Observation Point Trail in Zion National Park, my feet got a bit warm, as they did on a warm, early September, steep hike up and down Cervidae Peak in the Boise Foothills. But on both days, my socks never even got very damp. For hiking in generally warmer temps, another favorite shoe in this category, the La Sportiva TX3, is more breathable than the Mescalito, but not as protective or durable.
While the suede uppers shed light moisture, these shoes are not waterproof, making them better suited to one-day outings than backpacking. Scarpa also a mid-cut, waterproof-breathable version, the Mescalito Mid GTX in men’s and women’s sizes ($239, 2 lbs. 4 oz.), for single- or multi-day adventures in rugged terrain.
For hiking on rocky, rugged trails or off-trail scrambling and mountain climbing, when you need superior traction, support, and protection for your feet, the Scarpa Mescalito excels, and its top-quality construction and materials assure hundreds of miles of hard use.
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See also my “8 Pro Tips for Preventing Blisters When Hiking,” my reviews of trekking poles and “The 8 Best Hiking Daypacks,” which includes my expert buying tips, and all of my reviews of hiking gear.
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.