SoCalHiker takes the new Men’s ECCO Ulterra Mid GTX boots out on the ultimate trail test — a tough four-day backpacking trek over Bishop Pass and into spectacular Kings Canyon National Park.
When I started backpacking in the late ’70s, I saved my money to buy my first pair of real backpacking boots — a heavy pair of all-leather Vasque boots with clunky lug soles. I wore those boots on my first thru-hike on the John Muir Trail back in 1980, well before trail runners were a thing.
For this test, I did what you should never do — I wore a brand new pair of boots on a four day backpacking trip.
So how did they fare?
First off, this four day trek was part of the #MuirTaco adventure, where three of us carried carne asada, fresh avocados, cheese, tortillas and yes — even beer — for 20 miles. We were bringing unexpected nourishment and refreshment to thru-hikers on the JMT. All this meant that we were carrying a lot more weight that we typically would. In my case, that my initial pack weight was 50 lbs. Would the added structure of the ECCO Ulterra Mid GTX help? I soon found out.
Over those four days I backpacked over 38 miles with over 11,000 feet of vertical gain and loss. The terrain ranged from soft dirt trails to tough, rough granite. And not one blister or even a hot spot.
If my old, heavy boots from the ’70s and my comfortable sneakers had a love child, it would be the ECCO Ulterra GTX. They had the comfortable fit and feel of a pair of sneakers, but with the added structure and stability of a boot. This came in handy on the rocky trail over Bishop Pass and the steep descent into Le Conte Canyon.
ECCO is a company based in Denmark that owns their own factories and produces their own leather. The Ulterra GTX boots use yak nubuck with a waterproof Gore-tex liner. A lot of thought went into these boots, and it shows in little details like directional lugs under the ball of the foot for climbing, and on the heels for braking.
Since that first backpacking trip to Kings Canyon NP, I’ve worn them up Mt San Antonio twice and on numerous trails throughout SoCal. When the terrain is rocky or I’ll be carrying a load, this is now my go-to boot.
ECCO provided SoCalHiker with these boots but did not compensate nor influence our editorial content. They didn’t even ask for a review. I just happened to like them.