brasher Hillmaster II GTX
Weight per pair (men’s size 9) 1,482g; (women’s size 5) 1,174g
Sizes: men’s 7 to 14 (all half sizes except 12½ and 13½) ;women’s 3 to 9 (including halves)
Material: 2.2mm to 2.4mm full-grain leather with Gore-Tex Performance Comfort Footwear waterproof membrane
Country of manufacture: China
What do you want from a walking boot? The question struck me as I tested these thoroughly British, but Chinese-made, boots in typical UK weather: torrential rain and 30mph wind.
I reckon if you can pull on a pair of boots and set off up the hill without worrying whether your feet are going to get soaked, blistered or tired out, the job’s sorted.
And in that respect, the latest incarnation of this 30-year-old design does the job. Put them on: walk; forget them.
brasher has put a lot of thought into the Hillmaster II, which is on sale at a select few retailers now, but will be widely available in the New Year.
Counterintuitive moves such as reducing the sole’s lug depth to increase grip and replacing EVA in the sole with polyurethane to increase comfort and shock absorption are just some of the design decisions which were the culmination of protracted testing by a professional team.
brasher’s Philippe Galland, a Frenchman in charge of developing this icon of UK hillwalking, said the boot is ideal for British conditions.
After a low-level night-time launch-day jaunt around Wasdale, followed by an initial trip up our ‘test hill’ which included a sprinkling of snow, we decided to put the Hillmaster II GTX to the test in some proper British weather.
On one of those days when the paths had turned into small rivers, the wind was throwing the heavy rain at me with a ferocity that produced a cacophony on my waterproof’s hood, and soft mud was plentiful, the boots performed well.
Traction going uphill was good on loose rocky paths, and soft mud on the uphill route provided no problem for the Hillmaster II. The only movement was the mud itself, the boot stayed put even if the hillside didn’t.
Wet limestone, of which there was plenty, provides the severest test of grip. In our experience, nothing will guarantee firm footing on polished limestone, but the brashers were at least as good as any other boot we’ve tested. The only footwear we’ve found that gives any real confidence on wet limestone is a fellrunning shoe with super-sticky soles, but today was not a day I wanted to be in that type of shoe.
On the scrambly gritstone section of the route, confidence returned and I found the boots proved up to the task too.
The Hillmaster II GTX is as traditional looking as you’ll get. The archetypal brown boot almost looks like an extended shoe. It has only six lace hooks, whereas many boots have the hooks going further forward towards the toe.
Despite this, the fit is good. A little experimentation with the relocated locking hook, the fourth of six, getting a good tight knot without exerting too much pressure on the foot, ensures the foot is held into the heel cup well, with no heel lift on uphill sections, which could lead to soreness or blistering.
brasher makes great play of the fact its footwear is comfortable straight out of the box, and with careful lacing, this is true of the Hillmaster II GTX. There is plenty of padding round the collar, with memory foam, and the combination of the new midsole and new footbed provided good shock absorption on the hard, rocky track sections of our test route.
The boots are gender specific too, built around different lasts for men and women.
On descents, braking was good, with surefooted grip on gravelly paths, rocky sections, wet grass and muddier sections.
And the Hillmaster IIs kept my feet dry and warm on a day when there were numerous occasions when I was wading through water and the heavens were throwing most of the lower atmosphere’s H2O at me.
The first waterproofing protection comes from the leather, and is backed up by the Gore-Tex membrane. In more than two hours of constant wetness, the leather didn’t soak through. Reproofing should ensure that remains the case: leather boots should be retreated regularly.
M Galland thinks by the time you get to the end of your walk, your feet should be just as comfortable as when you set off and, though I perhaps wouldn’t recommend the Hillmaster IIs as a substitute for slippers, the desire to get the boots off as quickly as possible is absent with this footwear.
They’re also quite light for leather boots so, for a longer journey, combined with their overall comfort and shock absorption, I think they would fit the bill.
Overall, a good boot for Britain’s hills and their glorious mixture of mud, water, rock, grass and more water.
Details and stockists are on the brasher website.
We weren’t so keen on:
Style: a bit ‘trad’
- The boots were provided by brasher.