Hanwag Alaska GTX

By Ryan Hatfield
Nearly 16 miles into our hike, my friend, Derek, and I stopped in a saddle to survey a high mountain basin. We were thankful for the opportunity to get away, see God’s country, and temporarily live the dream. We were scouting for my upcoming mountain goat hunt in Idaho and the hike had been a real test on both me and my equipment. Hot August days brought little sign of mountain goats but plenty of breathtaking views.

The trail had gone from steep to mild, back up to steep, over into “nonexistent” and up and down several thousand vertical feet. It was a circuitous trip that once you committed to it, there was no turning back – you were going to do the whole distance, like it or not.

Now, knowing that, how would you like to do it with a pair of boots that give you fits? Yeah, in the words of Brad Paisley, “Me Neither”. Fortunately for me, that wasn’t a concern. I was using a pair of size 14-1/2 (no, that’s not a typo) Hanwag Alaska GTX boots, and I made the trip with confidence and no foot/boot issues whatsoever.

The reputation of European bootmakers is as solid as it gets, with Germany and Italy being proverbial meccas for quality craftsmanship. German-based Hanwag is right there leading the charge in serious gear for serious hardcore hunters.

The Alaska GTX is at the very top of the list of boots to be considered for tough, backcountry hunts in the West. Made of a full leather upper with a perforated gloveskin tongue and collar for increased ventilation and comfort, the Alaska is both comfortable and tougher than nails. It has a rubber rand to increase the longevity and waterproof qualities of the boot, and also has a Gore-Tex liner.

The boot has a polyurethane midsole, proving that this boot doesn’t cut corners in quality of materials – it’s made specifically to last a long time. Polyurethane has an excellent reputation for not breaking down as quickly as other materials under heavy use. A Vibram Fuora outsole completes the top-to-bottom sturdy boot.

It’s not easy to find a boot that is made with both sturdy and rugged qualities yet is completely comfortable to wear – I could name you a very select few that can simultaneously meet these standards – but the Hanwag is one of them. I can’t think of any hunt, however extreme, that the Alaska wouldn’t hold up to.

Some points of interest to consider before purchasing would be 1) the boot is uninsulated. I have poor circulation to my feet, so I would personally wear this boot early to mid season, although most users would be fine using appropriate socks for later hunts; 2) this boot is available in every half-size increment from 7 all the way to 15, ensuring you will find the right size for you; 3) if you tend to have issues with proper fitting, buy them from Lathrop and Sons (www.lathropandsons.com). This company is highly skilled at custom-fitting boots; and 4) Like every other boot out there, I would recommend pulling out the standard footbed and replacing it with something better. Lathrop and Sons sells their “High Country Synergy” footbeds for $53.95, or you can opt for a more inexpensive version by going to a local store and getting some Dr. Sholes for $10-$15.

Two months after that hot August scouting trip, I returned in mid October for that goat hunt, carried comfortably and confidently yet again on the wings of my Hanwags. There, a shaggy, mature billy and I would cross our fateful paths…but that’s another story.