I am ALWAYS on the lookout for the perfect lightweight hunting boot. This Zamberlan Baltoro Lite review comes from that pursuit. Zamberlan hunting boots have proven to be top notch in our team’s testing, but there normally seems to be a significant sacrifice required in order to use lightweight hunting boots rather than traditional full leather boots.
For some, the sacrifice is too great and ensuring dry feet and a more rugged boot is paramount over weight savings. However, for others, the extra agility and energy saved by using a lightweight boot makes up for the potential compromises. If we could just have it all in one boot, that would be nice!
For me personally, I am a huge fan of lightweight boots but not at the cost of having wet feet. Durability is also a top concern with many of the lightweight boots I have tested, but the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite seemed like it could be an exception to that rule without adding substantial weight. They are significantly more robust than the Zamberlan Anabasis boots I tested this year and offer a more aggressive tread pattern, taller 8-inch height, and a flexible but robust midsole.
Looking for something different than the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boots? Check out our other boot reviews!
I am always skeptical when it comes to ultralight boots as you typically have to give up some performance, heavy load support, water resistance, durability, or comfort (or several of those things) to achieve the light weight. However, after putting many miles on these Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots (most of them off-trail and/or with a heavy pack), I found there to be minimal compromises and they excelled in just about every category. These turned out to be one of, if not my favorite, lightweight hunting boots that I have tested so far. But that is getting a little ahead of myself. Time to get into some of the details first.
Sizing Note – Zamberlan Hunting Boots
One thing to note if you are considering picking up some Zamberlan hunting boots is that they run about a half size big vs most of your other boots. For me, I typically wear a US men’s 11.5 in my boots and running shoes, but I had to go with a US men’s 11 in these Zamberlan boots. This was the same for the Anabasis boots I also tested this year, and Zamberlan will tell you that most folks find them to run big. Save yourself the headache of a return and bump down a half size.
The Testing – Zamberlan Hunting Boots
Here at Backwoods Pursuit we do our best to thoroughly test gear before we publish reviews, and that was certainly the case for this Zamberlan Baltoro Lite review. Most of the miles I put on these boots were off-trail on unforgiving mountain terrain, through shale, sharp rocks, and days on end in wet, rainy conditions. I have put other lightweight boots through similar conditions and most did not survive.
I also tested these boots regularly with heavy loads during training hikes, packing out elk and deer we harvested, and even used these boots while riding over 100 mountain trail miles on my motorcycle where they were regularly getting scraped, rubbed, and slammed against rocks and brush.
What I put these boots through might even seem like an unfair test for an ultralight boot, but at the end of the day, we had an unusually wet, cold season and they needed to survive this use for me to consider them as my go-to lightweight hunting boots.
The Specs – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
If you are looking at the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots, you are likely interested in their specs and know that lightweight footwear makes a HUGE difference. I have even heard it said that every pound on your boots/shoes is equivalent to having five pounds on your back. Now, I am not sure if that is true, but what I can say is that when I lace up ultralight boots vs heavy all-leather boots, fatigue comes much slower and agility is enhanced.
Here are the specs and details that you get with the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots:
|Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boots
|Weight (1 boot, US size 8 / EU size 42)
|Yes – Gore-Tex
Perwanger leather with Hydrobloc treatment – Cordura
|Double density molded EVA
What really stood out to me in these specs is their incredibly light weight relative to their full 8-inch height and mostly leather construction. They also provide an aggressive Vibram Starlite outsole that gave me exceptional traction without the extra weight. Additionally, the EVA midsole provided exceptionally good support for every terrain I put them through, even hauling heavy loads. Typically boots with a weight of just over 1 lb each are not very good while carrying a heavy load but that could not be further from the truth with the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite.
Craftsmanship/Build Quality – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
One of the things that immediately stood out to me when I was looking over the various pairs of Zamberlan Boots at last year’s Western Hunt Expo was the attention to detail and build quality. While to some degree boots are, well, just boots, and they are meant to be tortured, run through mud, creeks, snow, rocks, and otherwise brutal conditions. However, when you start with exceptionally fine craftsmanship, the end result is oftentimes a longer lasting, more comfortable boot.
Out Of The Box Comfort – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
With some boots you know you are going to have to give them a substantial break in period, but I was not quite sure what to expect with the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots given their unique combination of being an 8-inch leather boot but still flexible and lightweight. While they did not take long to break in, a couple hikes did improve the fit for me as you would expect. Over time and use, they become even more comfortable. No real break in was needed as they were comfortable right out of the box, but once they had a few miles on them, they fit like a glove.
Lightweight vs Heavy Duty Boots
Arguments can certainly be made both directions when it comes to lightweight vs heavier full leather boots, but I have personally come to love lightweight boots and use them whenever possible. That being said, there are absolutely times when I grab those beefy, heavy, all leather boots.
LIGHTWEIGHT BOOTS – BEST USES
Within the lightweight boot category, I have found quite a wide variety of options, most of which suffer from sub-par durability and less than satisfactory waterproof performance. Unfortunately, that is just something most lightweight boot fans learn to live with. For this reason, I prefer to use lightweight mid-hiker style boots for my scouting trips and early season archery hunts as I typically do not encounter as much adverse weather or cold temperatures. Here are some of the pros and cons of lightweight boots:
- Lighter weight
- More flexible
- More agile
- Reduced fatigue (less weight)
- Faster drying
- More breathable
- Less durable
- Less waterproof
One of the downsides of these kinds of boots is that if you need to walk through heavy dew-covered vegetation, or if an unexpected storm rolls in, you might find yourself a bit wet. In these situations you may wish you had laced up your tall leather boots but it is too late to make the switch. That is just one of the risks associated with a minimalist approach and going with a lightweight boot.
That being said, if you select a quality pair of lightweight boots like the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite, you will minimize that risk as they performed admirably.
HEAVYWEIGHT/LEATHER BOOTS – BEST USES
When it comes to handling harsh weather, a good pair of heavy duty leather boots is often times the right decision. Leather aids in keeping rain, snow, and cold out better than most synthetics, and as such, you will stay dry and comfortable longer which will keep you in the field. As mentioned before, you will pay the price in weight and agility, but I am more than willing to put up with that for warm, dry feet on a cold winter day. That is simply a no brainier. Another benefit of many leather boots is that you oftentimes have an insulated option for when temperatures really drop.
For experimentation sake, I tried a pair of synthetic “waterproof” boots on a cold, wet day of hunting in the rain and snow, and there simply is no comparison to a pair of quality waterproof leather boots. The leather boots kept my feet dry for days on end rather than being soaked on the first day with my lightweight synthetic boots, even though both had a Gore-Tex waterproof liner. The treated leather makes a big difference.
Based on my experience over the last 30 years of wearing all different kinds of footwear, here are some of the pros and cons of heavier leather boots:
- Better durability
- More waterproof
- More rigidity
- Better ankle support
- Better with heavier loads
- Less agile
- More “clunky” feeling
- Take longer to dry
Factory Insole Replacement – Zamberlan Anabasis Boot Review
When doing a boot review, I always give the factory insoles a fair chance to perform before replacing them. And, while the ones that come with the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots are not bad, after a couple trips the factory Zamberlan insoles just did not provide the comfort I was looking for.
With pretty much EVERY pair of boots I have ever worn I ended up replacing the insoles. Typically, I have gone with some old standbys and long time favorites: the SuperFeet Trailblazer Insoles. Over the last couples years, though, I gave the Sheep Feet custom orthotics a try, and man, what a difference! Those Super Feet are great for a budget-friendly option, but there was simply no comparison to these Sheep Feet custom orthotics. It is more money and a bit of a process to get Sheep Feet insoles but it is absolutely worth it as you get a fully-customized orthotic, made just for you, based on the imprint of your foot.
Sheep Feet sends you an impression box to take your foot imprint and then you mail it back to them (prepaid shipping provided). A few weeks later your custom-made orthotics show up. Now, I learned the hard way to ease your feet into using these. Given that your feet likely are not used to the kind of support they provide, start with shorter hikes or walks with the Sheep Feet, and transition your way into using them full time.
I failed to follow that process prior to taking them on a weekend hunting and backpacking trip, and I came home with sore arches. That was my fault as the instructions said to slowly transition into them but I rushed the process. Word to the wise, give yourself time for your feet to get used to them!
Stiffness & Support – Zamberlan Anabasis Boot Review
Over the years I have gone back and forth between more flexible, lightweight boots and stiffer, more rugged boots. This year I tested the Zamberlan Anabasis hikers, and last year I tested some lightweight boots that have a stiffer midsole like the Crispi Thor II boots (see that Crispi Thor II review here). Some love that stiffer feeling and some are opposed to it. I often find that more flexible boots come with the penalty of feeling more of the ground under your feet which can be unpleasant depending on the surface.
As I hoped, the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots were far better than others I have tried in the ultralight category, providing a fantastic combination of flexibly and support. I felt agile traversing steep sidehill terrain but also had plenty of support during heavy pack outs with a load of elk meat in the pack.
Another area of concern for a lot of folks is the amount of footbed cushion a boot/shoe provides. This can be particularly critical for high mileage hikes, heavy load hauling, people with nerve issues in their feet, or those who may have more of a propensity for getting sore spots underfoot.
Admittedly I do not have nerve issues in my feet and am not prone to underfoot soreness, so I may not be the best to assess this attribute, but I can say that I did not experience any issues whatsoever with the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots. I felt like they offered a generous amount of underfoot cushion, particularly for a relatively lightweight boot. For the off-trail, rugged terrain, meat-hauling miles that I put these through, the footbed cushioning was spot on in providing plenty of cushion for long days hiking without giving me hotspots. Given the flexibility of these boots, you might expect to sacrifice some footbed cushion, but I never once felt that this was lacking.
Lacing Eyelets – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
There is not anything particularly special or unique about the lacing system of the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots, but the hardware they use is robust and never gave me the slightest trouble. The ankle hooks are set nice and deep to ensure your foot does not slide, and they are robust and never once bent or curled like others I have used.
I like that the upper three pieces of hardware are hooks rather than loops or closed rings and have found this arrangement to be my preferred lacing system style over the years.
Traction / Outsole – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
When I look for a lightweight mountain boot able to handle the rigors of steep, nasty terrain, I prefer a deep tread pattern that is also soft enough to grab wet, slippery rocks. While this is asking a lot of any outsole, the Zamberlan Vibram Starlite does exactly this.
I NEVER ONCE felt like I was sacrificing traction in any condition with the Baltoro Lite boots, and as mentioned above, I had these in everything from snow to rain, cold to hot, and on soft and firm ground. Put bluntly, these are my favorite (so far) outsoles of all the boots I have tested to date, at least for an early season boot.
Materials – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
One of the most interesting things about the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite is that they are made of a unique Perwanger Leather with Hydrobloc. If you are like me, you might be completely unfamiliar with Perwanger Leather. To the touch it feels almost like a suede material but is much more durable. I was honestly quite concerned about the durability of this Perwanger Leather upper when I first put my hands on them as they do not have the feel of traditional leather but they proved to handle everything I threw at them.
Waterproof Testing – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
One of the tests a boot must pass in order for me to consider it my “go-to” hunting boot is to be at least reasonably water proof. As mentioned earlier, it can be expected to sacrifice water resistance to some degree when talking lightweight boots, but the combination of waterproof, lightweight, and durable seems to be a unicorn.
With that in mind, I was presented with the “perfect” conditions to test during our September archery season. An uncharacteristic cold front moved in for our opening weekend hunt which brought lots of rain and unusually cold temperatures. Here in Idaho this certainly is not the “norm” for early September but I am thankful that the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots held up to the test.
I can honestly say I do not ever remember temperatures being cold enough to warrant building a fire to dry out in early September, but this year they sure did. We were caught in some absolute downpours over the weekend, but even with walking though wet vegetation and getting thoroughly soaked for three days, my feet stayed mostly dry in the Baltoro Lite boots. The inside of the boots were slightly damp after the second day but I cannot be sure if that was from sweat or if some rain/moisture crept in. My pant legs were regularly soaked up to my knees so it is also entirely possible that some rain crept down my socks as well.
This is all to say that they performed the best of any lightweight boot I have ever tried when it comes to water resistance. I truly believe if I had brought my my First Lite Brambler Gaiters and worn them all weekend, I would have stayed completely dry, but it was one of those trips where the storm was far worse than the forecast and I did not pack them.
After a Full Season’s Use – Zamberlan Anabasis Boot Review
My worries of how these Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots would hold up were put to rest after a tough season that saw a lot of harsh conditions. For the most part, they came out unscathed and ready for another year. None of the stitching came apart, the midsole was still very supportive, and there were no signs of the them wearing out except for some cracking in the Vibram outsole.
I was quite surprised to find a few small hairline cracks in the Vibram outsole on the right heel, and then on that same heel, a small split in the rubber on the very back of the outsole. I am not sure what caused that and it was only on the right boot, but there appears to be something that took its toll on that right heel. I do not remember an “event” that would have put undue strain on that boot, but something unpredictable could have happened as we were chasing elk through the mountains.
This is the only “blemish” I could find on the boots after a lot of miles but it was still a bit disappointing to find. It would have been nice to see them come out completely unscathed but these Baltoro Lite boots can be resoled, so worst case I could have new soles put on after another year of use if the outsole cracking proves to be an issue.
Annual Care – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
One of the beautiful things about this Perwanger Leather is that they require very little annual care to keep them looking great. Simply use some mild soap, water, and a soft brush to remove dirt and debris before spraying with some Zamberlan Hydrobloc Spray and then storing for the offseason.
What I liked – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
If you cannot yet tell, I was extremely impressed with the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite boots. They provided far more support, comfort, durability, and water resistance than just about every other lightweight boot I have tried while still being extremely comfortable and plenty flexible. I just may have found my new favorite lightweight hunting boot.
WHAT I LIKED
- Lightweight (just over 1 lb each)
- Very durable
- Flexible but very supportive
- Great traction (Vibram Starlite outsole)
- Very water resistant
- Fast break in
- Comfortable toe box
What I Didn’t Like – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
There was really only one thing that I did not love about the Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boots. I was disappointed to see that the outsole cracked on one of the heels. While I am not expecting it to be a performance-related issue, we will see over the course of the next season if that proves to be a problem.
If I want to be SUPER picky, I noticed that there was a little excess leather on the top of the toes that protruded up as the boots broke in. This could be particular to the geometry of my feet but it was something that I noted.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
- Outsole cracked
- Extra material/protrusion on top of toes
Conclusion – Zamberlan Baltoro Lite Boot Review
At the end of this Zamberlan Baltoro Lite review, these boots vaulted their way to the top of my list of lightweight hunting boots. Sure, they give up a LITTLE to more robust full leather boots in terms of water resistance and durability, but you do not have nearly as many compromises as other lightweight hunting boots I have tried. It is nice that the price point reflects that of a boot between a “hiker” and a full leather hunting boot as well. While still not a “cheap” boot they will not break the bank either. Give them a try and I do not think you will be disappointed.
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