As you’ll probably know, we love heritage brands here, so when we received a pair of Mountain Lights to try out, we were stoked. The Danner Mountain Light is possibly one of the most iconic pieces of outdoor gear ever made and the famous silhouette is instantly recognisable. Brands around the world have imitated the design, but none can compare to the original mountain boot.
Danner first started making the Mountain Light 30 years ago in Portland, Oregon where the company remains to this day. Since then, the overall design of the boot has changed very little on the surface: the one piece leather upper remains, as do the signature red laces (as standard). However, Danner has refined the construction of the boot to meet the needs of the modern day explorer.
The retro shape may still look the same as it did decades ago but, in fact, it is very different. The one-piece upper is made from full-grain leather- the strongest and most durable form of leather which you can really feel when you hold the boots for the first time. If strong leather and no seams don’t keep moisture out, the Gore-tex lining is sure to keep you dry. Put all this on top of a sturdy Vibram Kletterlift sole and you’ve got a bombproof boot that also looks amazing.
Like me, you may have formed the pre-conception that Danner boots are uncomfortable. Think back to the film ‘Wild’ in which Reece Witherspoon famously throws her boots off a mountainside after getting killer blisters hiking the PCT. When I first started wearing my Mountain Lights I was convinced they would rub. But no. Nothing. After a couple of days, the boots had broken in nicely and were surprisingly comfortable. I’ve been wearing them non-stop ever since and can’t fault them one bit.
Until recently I had been wearing the boots exclusively off the trail. More of a lifestyle boot than a hiking boot if you will, perfect for any occasion or outdoor activity. But I decided to take them to the trail to really test the new model on terrain for which they were designed.
Out on the hill, the Mountain Lights were great: good support around the ankle (really ratchet the laces up), good traction on slippery ground and extremely waterproof provided you don’t let water breach the ankle.
We hiked the trail along the Motatapu valley to Fern Burn Hut for a night in the hills. The trail climbs through dense red, silver and mountain beech forests before entering New Zealand’s tussocky low-alpine. Through the forested section, the trail was wet and slippery but the Vibram sole handled it well and the Gore lining kept my feet bone dry despite numerous stream crossings. I wouldn’t choose them for a multi-day hike or anything serious, but for a casual amble into the wild, they’re perfect.
If classic styling and comfort weren’t enough, Danner boots can all be repaired/recrafted to look like new, and the Norwegian-welted Vibram sole can also be easily replaced meaning your boots will last for years.
Find out more about the Danner Mountain Light and the whole range here.
Sidenote: Although the red laces are iconic, I’ve swapped them for a black paracord lace which I think look great. Nothing against the red laces, just a personal preference for a more understated look.