Gear Review: Danner Explorer 650 Hiking Boot

Putting the newest (and lightest) silhouette from the storied Oregon boot maker through its paces in town and on the trail

A month or so ago we had the rare opportunity to visit Oregon with Danner, makers of some of the most iconic—and hardwearing—hiking and work boots on the planet. The occasion? To test the Explorer 650, the newest silhouette to come from the storied manufacturer. From pounding pavement and touring the 85-year-old brand’s factory in Portland to racking up miles on dirt and rock hiking around Central Oregon, we put the all-new design through a rigorous few days of nonstop movement.

Modeled after the legendary Danner Light hiking boot, the Explorer 650 manages to find a comfortable balance between heritage-inspired design and modern technology. Out of the box the 6” boot seemed primed and ready to go, with little to no break-in period, and a fit more akin to a sneaker than what we’ve come to expect from Danner. In other words, it’s really comfortable. We had no problem with a handful of consecutive 12+ hour days in the boot, both on the trail and in town.

And did we mention it’s surprisingly lightweight? As in literally half the weight of the Danner Light—exciting news for the maximalist boot maker.

The custom Vibram SPE midsole is largely responsible for the extremely cushioned feel—plus it’s two times more resilient than standard EVA—along with an open-cell PU Ortholite footbed. A Vibram outsole takes care of the grip, while Danner Dry waterproofing with a gusseted tongue makes the suede and leather boot fully protected from the elements.

We put a dozen or so miles on the boot over far fewer days, with the most at once landing around four miles while hiking Smith Rock's aptly named Misery Ridge Trail. And they felt fine throughout. Dang good even. What's left to be seen is whether they'd be a wise choice for extended backpacking or not. Though nowhere does Danner claim they would be—the Explorer 650 seems firmly positioned as an all-around boot for doing as it's name implies, exploring, both around town and on the trai. That said, we'll put some serious miles on the new boot later this summer, and report back.

For years the Mountain Light was our go-to boot in and out of our hometown of New York City. Then the Danner Light took over such responsibilities, after proving its worth well in and on even the gnarliest weather and terrain in Peru. And now, the Explorer 650 might just take top spot as our new all-around adventure boot.

$190 (currently on sale for $119) for men and women from Backcountry.com

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