Last year, in need of some new hiking boots, I decided to take a shot on a pair from Ridgemont Outfitters, a company I’d been following on Instagram for some time. I didn’t know much about the company or their products other than I really liked their social media presence. Maybe that’s not the best reason to buy something, but the more I looked at their boots, the more interested I became. When they posted their cyber Monday sale prices, I took the plunge.
There are lots of boots in the world, and they all fulfill different needs. Some boots are perfect for hiking long distances or covering difficult terrain. Others are fashionable for a night out on the town. Some are great for hanging out in the backyard, and others shine when you’re doing some manual labor. My Ridgemont Outfitters Monty Hi boots aren’t perfect at any of these things. Instead, they’re good at all of them, at an incredibly accessible price.
I first got my Montys when I returned home from my trip to Southern California. Excited, I yanked them out of the box and pulled them on. A bit snug at first, I wore them around the house for about an hour while they loosened up. I soon found them incredibly comfortable. That was really all the breaking-in that they needed.
Most technical hiking boots have a longer break-in period, and it’s hard to know just how a pair will feel until you’ve put at least a few miles on them. Not so with the Montys; since they’re designed with a sole similar to a “skater shoe,” they have greater flexibility out of the box. That, as well as a specialized foam insole, means these boots feel comfy almost right away.
I wore them to work on casual Fridays and out and about on the town a bit, prior to putting them through the paces on a trail. Unlike a lot of other hiking boots, these didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Clearly, the Monty Hi looks like a hiking boot; but compared to my old pair, they look much better in a casual setting. The other colors the Montys come in are apt to look even better in town.
At work, walking to and from the local brewery, and grocery shopping, these boots were comfortable and didn’t make me look like I had just backpacked into the bar. So far so good. Then I decided to put them through some tougher trials by wearing them on my winter overnighter.
The terrain on that trip was hilly and covered in a thin layer of snow. I traversed some small creek beds, and ditches while hiking to and from my campsite. The Montys performed admirably, though not perfectly. On some of the hills I would have preferred a boot with a bit more tread on the sole, and I took care not to lose my footing (but remember these aren’t technical winter hiking boots). I was incredibly impressed with the ankle support, however; it’s phenomenal for a more casual boot, and my feet, ankles, and legs felt great.
Another thing I like about these boots; you can lace them tightly or loosely to vary the fit, depending on your needs. This may seem like an obvious feature, but plenty of technical boots don’t accommodate varying layers as well as I’d like, necessitating different boots for different seasons. That’s not a big deal if you’re an avid hiker, but can be daunting if you’re a weekend warrior or just starting out.
I did have to experiment a bit when it came to layering my socks; my feet were warm and toasty as long as I was moving, but didn’t fare so well while sitting still. This wasn’t a problem of insulation so much as breathability. The tops or uppers on the Montys are a strong nylon which does seem to let some moisture evaporate out of the boot, but the body is largely oiled suede. This is pretty awesome at keeping water from getting in, but not so great at letting moisture out of the boot. Technical boots and high-end winter boots may deal with this problem better, but I’ve had similar issues with more expensive footwear, so I’m not judging the Montys too harshly. By changing socks, and experimenting with a couple of different sock layering options I was able to keep my feet mostly warm and mostly dry throughout the trip.
I experienced no water leaking into the boots from kicking around the snow, so I further tested their water resistance when I returned home. I plugged the drain, stood in the tub, and started filling it up. The waterline rose up past the sole without any issue, and even crested over the upper without a problem. No water leaked in until I started moving my feet. Splashing, stepping, bending my feet, and standing on my toes let the water start to leak in through the tongue and lace holes. No water seemed to get through the stitching holding the sole, and very little seemed to come through the nylon on the upper.
This isn’t a field test, so it’s not a perfect apples to apples comparison for how the boots will hold up to water in the wild, but I think it’s safe to say that dew and puddles won’t pose too much of a problem in these boots. A few inches of water carefully traversed aren’t likely to soak your feet, but crossing anything deeper will probably prove too much for these shoes.
Their water resistance was further tested during a recent day-hike at Black Hawk State Historic Site. Though we didn’t cross any streams, the trail was muddy. Kicking through the mud and small puddles, my feet didn’t get wet. Some soppy mud coated the top of my right foot, and I squished along waterlogged trails, but I marched along with no moisture seeping in. I also found a good compromise on my sock layering; a synthetic liner and some merino wool socks made a good balance that kept my feet warm but not too sweaty. While hiking through some of the wetter areas, the soles had trouble gripping in some spots where the trail was slick with mud, but nothing that couldn’t be traversed with care.
The Montys really proved their meddle, however, when we left the trail, cleaned the mud off, and then walked into the grocery store. They were as suitable there as they had been in the wild. That’s what’s great about these boots; they’re equally at home in town and in the woods. They’re made for people who live in both of those worlds and want to be able to cross back and forth without having to change shoes halfway through. Just make sure you kick the mud off before you head into the bar.
Let’s break it down now:
Comfortable; The vulcanized rubber sole makes for easy walking, the insole is comfortable right out of the box, and for being a casual boot the ankle support is incredible. Though not necessarily a winter boot, they’re plenty warm when socks are layered.
Good quality; These boots are made of pretty rugged material. I’ve been abusing them since day one, and they’re holding together incredibly well. It’s true that I’ve only had them for two months, so I can only estimate their lifespan, but from how they’re working out so far I feel that I can safely say I’ll be sporting these boots for a year or two.
Effective on the trail and in town; This is the selling point Ridgemont Outfitters makes up front. They’re not trying to convince anyone that these are the best hiking boots in the world. They’re claiming that these are solid hiking boots that will serve you well in town, at the movies, and at the store, in addition to performing well on the trail. It’s honest advertising, these boots do well in all of these environments.
The price is right; At $99, these boots are a bit of a steal. Sure, you can find cheaper hiking boots, but I wouldn’t vouch for their quality or comfort. I doubt they’ll look as sharp as these Montys either. You may have to pay shipping, but Ridgemont Outfitters has had free shipping sales a few times since I’ve bought mine, so keep your eye on their webpage.
The tread is lacking for some terrain; When going up and down snowy or muddy hills, I could have used more tread. If you’re planning on regularly covering challenging terrain, you might want to consider a more technical boot.
Breathability; As I mentioned, these don’t breathe as well as some technical boots. I would recommend layering socks in cooler weather, with a moisture wicking base and a wool outer layer that will insulate even when damp. In warmer weather, go with moisture wicking and quick drying synthetics (although the merino would probably still do great in the summer too).
That’s not a big list of cons, because there aren’t a lot of pain points with this footwear. I’m really happy with these boots; I’m still sporting them regularly, and I gladly recommend them. That being said, if you’re wanting a perfect pair of technical hiking boots, or the very best winter boot, these aren’t what you’re looking for. Of course, most of us don’t necessarily need the very best hiking boot, and you won’t be able to find a new pair with a price tag as comfortable as the Monty’s $99.
I know I sound like a broken record, but I just want to be clear; these boots won’t be the best hiking boots you see on the market. They are, however, the best boot I’ve ever had that can do a good job out on the trail, bumming around town, or hitting the bars for the night. I’d go so far as to say that between the quality, comfort, and affordability, this may be the best entry-level boot I’ve worn. If you’re new to hiking, looking for a boot that can perform well on the trail but also in town, and don’t want to break the bank, the Ridgemont Outfitters Monty Hi boots are a good investment. They’d also make a great pair of boots for traveling since they work so well in so many environments; I hope to put that to the test in the future!
Incidentally, the Monty Hi boots are perhaps the product that looks the most like a traditional hiking boot from Ridgemont Outfitters, especially in the Brown/Orange color scheme that I selected. The Monty Hi comes in four different color schemes, and the company also offers a Monty Lo; it’s a similar boot, but without the high-top ankle support, and in five different color schemes. They also make other lines of boots for men and women with a more urban aesthetic, and more of a skater shoe appearance to them. I can’t speak to the comfort, fit, or ruggedness of those items, but if the quality and comfort of the Monty Hi is any indication, I believe the other offerings would likely be solid shoes.
I’d say that I stand by my recommendation, but I really can’t simply because I’m still standing in these boots. And only for a minute before I hit the trail again. They’re good boots, so if you’re in the market for a new pair, please consider checking them out.