An easy way to get the latest news on the outdoor equipment industry is to get on the mailing lists for outdoor companies, PR companies and trade organisations. They are extremely efficient at sending out press releases featuring their latest products and technical developments.
One that we are signed up to is Mammut, and I always look forward to receiving their trade news. Mammut are one of those inspirational brands that always seem to be pushing the boundaries of technical development and innovation. I see them firmly fixed at the top of the equipment pyramid as a premium brand.
They also fit well with me as I am unashamedly drawn to products that push the boundaries. New materials, creative ways to use existing materials and new design or construction methods. I can’t help finding all that stuff really fascinating. In another life I would definitely seek to be a gear designer.
So, when one of Mammut’s emails arrived inviting me to test their Ducan High GTX boots, I jumped at the chance. I had already become aware of this model through news from the ISPO Munich trade show and other sources, and talk of knitted construction, welding and corrugated steel midsole’s sounded like a gear geek’s heaven. Yes please Mammut! Here is my detailed review….
The Ducan High GTX is one of a few models in the Ducan range. Besides this model, there are mid and low ankle height models and a 3D knit version which, although I haven’t seen them in the flesh, sound like intriguing technical wizardry. There are also men’s and women’s versions in the range.
Mammut describe the Ducan High GTX as an ‘agile hiking shoe for multi-day outings, trekking excursions and fast paced hikes in the mountains’, and first impressions are that they are well featured to fit that brief. They are very light at only 545 grams for size 8.5’s and yet they feel stiff enough to offer plenty of ankle support and the right balance of stiffness to flex in the sole.
Some of the features listed below will definitely need more explanation, but here to start with is a brief overview. The boots have a Mammut ‘engineered mesh’ upper combined with mono-tongue and asymmetric lacing. Further down, there is a protective PU rand and inside Mammut have added a well shaped and supportive footbed. Underneath this is the midsole featuring the fascinating Flextron technology (more on this later) and a Vibram outsole.
The first thing I noticed about the Ducan is the styling – Mammut just seem to get that so right every time and I love the look of the Ducan High GTX. The pair I was sent are all black and they look very cool. There are other colour options.
When you first pick the boots up you notice the usual Mammut quality shining through. The construction is spot on and attention to detail is typically Mammut – there are little things like the neat reinforced lace loop stitching and the subtle printed logo’s which look great. Of course, all manufacturers are keen that their models are the ones potential buyers will fall for on the shelves of their local outdoor retailer, and Mammut have certainly created a looker.
The upper of the Ducan High GTX is constructed from ‘engineered mesh’. This is a tightly woven textile composition which allows for a foot hugging fit and also allows Mammut to dial on levels of durabilty and breathability. The technology, while quite new, means that the boots will be comfortable straight out of the box and and, in use, provide both a strong and flexible upper. I have used this technology on a few items of footwear and my findings have so far been that the technology certainly lives up to the hype.
In the case of the Ducan, these might well be the most comfortable boots I’ve ever used (and I don’t make this statement lightly as I’ve been privileged to use a lot of boots!). The boot wraps around your foot and bends naturally with each step, and yet still manages to offer plenty of lateral support.
The fit is also aided by the rather intriguing mono-tongue and asymmetric lacing. A mono tongue is a tongue that only opens to one side. This feels a bit weird to start with, and yet feels very natural as soon as you get used to it. The tongue is elasticated allowing easy on/off and yet, once your foot is in the boot, it is held snugly and comfortably in place.
The foot is actually held so well that you could walk easily (only recommended to try this on easy terrain!) without fastening the laces but, of course, you’d also fasten the laces up. For this task, Mammut have added a thorough system of low profile tape loops at the lower end of the boot and then a metal loop followed by metal hooks at the top. Fastening and adjusting them is a breeze and I really like footwear with a low profile lacing system to avoid snagging. Spot on Mammut.
The lacing system also pulls the foot securely into the heel cup and this is helped by reinforcement bands that are welded into the upper. As you pull the laces you feel the heel being pulled snugly into optimum position. Finally, durable PU reinforcements on the upper have been added for high wear areas.
Okay, so after all of that, the next consideration is the lower part of the boot. Inside the Ducan High GTX Mammut have used their Flextron technology midsole. Flextron is a corrugated steel sheet that offers rigidity in a lateral orientation and flex in a forward orientation. Put simply, the bend on the Flextron plate allows an efficient range of movement through the whole motion needed for an efficient step and yet the boot offers great support laterally – something you will certainly notice on uneven terrain or when boulder hopping.
I haven’t come across the use of steel for such a use before, but Mammut have chosen it for its unique combination of strength, durability, longevity and performance. It is also, in contrast to what I would have previously imagined, very light. A fascinating use of a traditional material in a high tech product.
You can actually see the Flextron plate by turning the boot over as Mammut have added a little window in the Vibram sole. This probably wasn’t really necessary as users that have bothered to read up on this technology will understand what it is all about without seeing it and users that doesn’t research this technology won’t really know what the little chunk of orange they are seeing through the window actually is. This is probably added more so that shop assistants can point the feature out to prospective buyers. No problem though….it is rather cool to be able to get a feel for what is working with you inside your footwear.
Mammut pride themselves on the quality of their insoles and I really agree that the Ducan ones are very capable. In many boots I end up swapping out the insoles as they soon degrade or, at least, lose their shape. Mammut use a firm and supportive insole that is well ventilated and will stand up to hard use. I’ve not felt any need to change them.
The final link in the Ducan chain is a Vibram sole. This has a grippy featured tread which works well on a variety of surfaces and looks like it will last well. One thing we’ve had to deal with a lot this rainy early summer is wet grassy terrain, wet rock and mud. The Vibram sole of the Ducan has performed superbly on all counts.
Finally, Mammut have added a Goretex sock to the Ducan’s. This is a great addition and it opens up use of the Ducan for more varied conditions and, in particular, makes them suitable for wetter conditions like we get in the UK. The conditions we’ve experienced this summer (the UK monsoon!) have been the perfect testing ground for this technology and the Ducan’s have stood up perfectly to the wet conditions – not once have I had wet feet whilst wearing them.
So, after all that, what about the way these boots are to walk in? Well, put simply, I love them! The Ducan High GTX is extremely comfortable and extremely capable. Like all footwear, the fit and comfort will depend on your feet, but I have found them spot on from the very first try on. The engineered mesh offers a contoured shape which wraps around your foot and the mono tongue is simply brilliant – the boots can be pulled on and off with no problem and yet, once on, the tongue holds your foot in place perfectly.
Beyond that, walking in the Ducan is also just the right combo of forward flex and lateral support. I have been out in them to climb a stack of easy grade Peak District climbs and scrambles and the Ducan’s were superb. I could side step on fairly small holds with no problem at all and the Vibram sole worked a treat on the gritstone. They aren’t the boots I would choose for regular scrambling as there are others better suited to this, but for occasional gnarly terrain they are spot on.
Everything about the Ducan High GTX is spot on. The styling is subtle and classy, the fit is sublime and the performance is perfect. Mammut have really hit the sweet spot with the Ducan High GTX and, provided they suit your foot shape, they will surely become a trusted mountain ally. Do search some of these out to try if you are looking for a very capable and extremely lightweight mountain boot. The Ducan High GTX retails for £179 and more details are available on the Mammut website here. Please also have a watch of Neil from Mammut talking about the Ducan range to Dan from UKClimbing in the short video below…..