7E Chronicles Special - Early Review of Ridge Reaper Infil Ops Gore-Tex boots
The 7E Chronicles, sponsored by Gaia GPS (sign up here with a discount). Some camo gear provided by Under Armour Ridge Reaper (shop here on Amazon).
|$249.99 on Amazon|
All it takes is one look at these boots to tell they're great. For starters, the 10" height stands out and screams "ankle support," then it yells "debris protection," and then whispers "oh yea, I'll keep water off your mid-calves." The next thing that sticks out is how awesome the texture of the upper looks. Now, does that add to the performance? No clue, but I like how it looks. I will say, though, the "fabric" seems to help shed weight and encourage a form-fit.
As you get into the details, you'll notice the Vibram soles and the Gore-Tex liner. Details that made me comfortable shelling out $200 bucks last year on a pair of Under Armour boots (more on that later). The Vibram soles provided great grip on downed trees and branches, and dug into the steep ridge-side to provide traction on my hike down the mountain.
Perhaps the most astounding spec is their weight. They manage to cram 10" of height, Gore-Tex, Vibram, etc., into a 19.1 oz package. That's 1 pound, 3.1 ounces. By contrast, my Salomon Quest's that I usually hunt in weigh in at 45.2 ounces per pair. You read that correctly. One Salomon Quest boot weights about 3 ounces more than the pair of Infil Ops. To put it into even better context, compared to my favorite trail shoes - Nike Wildhorses - the pair of boots is a mere 3 ounces heavier than the trail runners.
That lightness is immediately apparent on the foot. When I wore them around camp a couple weeks ago I quickly forgot they were on my feet. As I wore them tromping around the woods this weekend I could feel the difference in effort to climb up a thousand feet off trail in these feathers. But lightness doesn't mean you lack on support. I was carrying a backpack with about 40lbs of gear (including 5 liters of water) and my ankles always felt locked in, even when walking on and around the life-sized pick-up-sticks playing field of blown-down aspen or traversing the sprain-waiting-to-happen of steep pitch covered in leaves.
Under Armour explains that this is accomplished by using the same tech they put in Steph Curry's basketball shoes in these boots. It is absolutely incredible.
As for fit, I wore these in size 14. I will say, Under Armour sizing can be frustratingly inconsistent across all products. No store in Phoenix carries these so I had to try on other UA hunting boots. In every pair I tried, 14 was just small enough that my toe would bash the box. So last year when I tried them I got a 15, which ended up being bit too big. This time, I went back to 14 and they fit great. I did have to tighten them up a couple times throughout the day, but I attribute that to breaking in the material and making them more pliable where I actually could tighten them. Once I did, my foot was pretty locked in and secure. The only bit of discomfort was around the heel cup towards my Achilles, which seemed a bit rigid. Hopefully that'll change with time; if not, I'll just suck it up because it's not actually that bad.
As mentioned above, my first experience with these boots was last year for Virginia's deer season. I had the unfortunate luck of getting a defective pair, though. The waterproof lining immediately leaked on my first small creek crossing. Under Armour customer service was great, though, and accepted the return with no problems. The new pair was provided by Under Armour, which is partially outfitting my hunt. But that does not affect my opinions.