Solomon Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boot

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The Solomon Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boot in the Alaskan ArcticThe Solomon Quest 4D Hiking Boot on auf ice on the Anaktuvuk River, in the berryful tundra above the Colville River bluffs, on dry riverbanks of the Niglik Channel, and in the brackish water of the Colville River delta, just a mile from the ocean.

Paxson: "The Solomon Quest 4D is a true 21st century backpacking hybrid boot. Part nimble trail runner and part burly backpacker, the Quest 4D has the shell of a bulldozer and the heart of a Ferrari. It's much lighter than you might expect looking at photos, and its snug, immediately comfortable lacing system make it feel stable and fast. At the same time, it's built with a high top out of tough, water-and-abrasion-resistent materials and has a stiff sole with a serious tread. This shoe represents a concerted attempt to apply a trail-running philosophy to a competent and capable backpacking boot, a strategy that seems perilously full of compromise but was just too tempting for me to pass up.

On Expedition Arguk, I used the Solomon Quest 4D for 70 miles of wilderness backpacking in the Brooks Range, and then as my boat shoe for 245 miles of Arctic packrafting. Right off the bat, it must be said: these shoes are comfortable. The lacing system pulls the boot snugly and evenly around your foot, and they require very little break-in period. Brooks Range hiking is notorious for the tussocks, small grassy knobs packed side-by-side for miles that sway and bend chaotically when you try to walk on them. As if that's not enough, the space between the tussocks is often full of marshy, boot-soaking water. It's probably one of the most challenging environments out there for a backpacking boot. But the stiff, stable Quest 4D's kept my ankles happy and my feet in stellar shape, and I ended the trip without significant blisters on my normally blister-prone feet.

The Quest 4D's are waterproof in the sense that you might be able to walk across a creek without water entering the boot, and they can definitely handle puddles and splashes. However, sustained rain or walking through wet foliage (or the dreaded tussocks) will cause water to slowly creep in. While trail runners can usually be "walked dry" in a few hours, the Quest 4D's stouter construction also makes them more difficult to dry out. In fact, once my boots got soaked through during a long creek crossing our first day in the Brooks Range, they never really got dry again until we reached Anaktuvuk Pass a week later. During the 245-mile packrafting portion of the trip, we frequently had to stand in the water, and my feet were soaked almost constantly. Sitting in a boat with wet feet in the Arctic seems like an invitation to misery, but the Quest 4D's kept my feet warm and comfortable. When hiking in the Brooks Range or packrafting, it's better to be comfortable with wet feet than try (and, almost inevitably, fail) to keep your feet dry. While the 4D's are not fully waterproof and are tougher than trail runners to dry out, they remain a high-performing and warm shoe under all conditions.

I noticed two durability issues with these boots. First, one of the lace eyelets pulled through the green nubuck leather on one side. Second, on both shoes the lighter plastic portion of the soles pulled away from the black rubber sole at the same place. Neither of these issues caused any problems on the trail and are more or less easily fixed at home.

tl/dr: These shoes bring the best of a top-quality trail runner into a stable, hugley comfortable, and very light backpacking boot. While they probably won't be the last boots you ever have to buy, they may, for now, be among the best."