Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX Boots Review....
Hanwag is a footwear brand I have been aware of for a long time and yet, despite hearing excellent things about their quality and design, I have never used any of their products. I guess, with footwear in particular, it is easy to get in a habit of choosing brands where you have found their fit suits your foot shape and I know this suits my buying patterns. Of course, the downside to this is that we may all be missing out on some great alternatives and by broadening my horizons a bit I have certainly found some great new choices recently. So when I was asked to test a pair of Hanwag's Ferrata Combi, I was more than up for the challenge........
Who are Hanwag?
Hanwag have been making boots for over 90 years and for all that time their manufacturing base has been Vierkerchen. The company was founded by HANs WAGner who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by learning the shoemaking trade (his 2 brothers also became shoe makers). He gave the company his name and started producing independently in 1921. After a modest start he soon gained an enviable reputation and this tradition has continued until the present day.
Ferrata Combi GTX
I was, I have to admit, a little unsure what to expect with this boot. With Ferrata in the name it is easy to think this is for a fairly specific use (although the addition of the word Combi then suggests other possibilities) and Hanwag themselves describe this as an alpine via Ferrata boot with stiffened sole to allow for snowfield and glacier crossing. It seemed, despite a fair bit of via Ferrata experience, a bit of a mismatch for the kind of uses I generally put boots to.
I read more carefully and saw that these might make a great winter mountaineering and summer alpine boot too because the spec is very similar to the kind of features I'd look for in models for that purpose. The Combi has a Cordura and leather upper protected by a full rand. The sole is a Vibram unit with climbing zones and the boot is fully stiffened with what Hanwag describe as a 'climbing last'. There is also a Gore-Tex liner and the boots are semi-automatic crampon compatible. I soon reckoned these would cover a lot of bases and was more keen than ever to test them out.
I opened the box and was immediately struck by the appearance of the Ferrata Combi - these are certainly a great looking boot. Grey Cordura panels combined with light blue leather and a broad black PU rand in a very well styled package. This is further enhanced by a neat tape lacing eyelets, a reassuringly 'blocky' shape and subtle Hanwag branding on the tape pull loops. A great start.
Next, I picked the boot up and was in for another surprise. The Ferrata Combi weighs only 800 grass for a size 43 and they certainly feel very light. I researched similar spec boots in other brands and this certainly compares extremely well for a fully stiffened semi automatic crampon compatible boot.
Obviously, the next test was to try the boots on. I used a thin liner sock and midweight trekking sock and slid my feet in. They felt good straight away (even before lacing them up) with a precise and snug fit - thanks, I presume, to the Hanwag Climbing Last.
lacing the Hanwag's up increased the feeling of precision. The boots have a series of tape loops in the foot section (ideal to prevent snagging on Via Ferratas) then a useful click-clamp eyelet allows the lacing to be adjusted and secured before the ankle section is tightened with traditional loop and hook closures. All in all, the lacing system isn't unusual but still allows a very good fit to be achieved.
The ankle is supportive and yet soft fabrics allow a reasonable amount of movement. The tongue is mainly of Cordura construction but is reinforced with leather near the top and has the same soft padding as the ankle at the top to endure comfort. All in all, the fit felt snug, supportive and yet with sufficient flexibility for walking. The only thing left was to get them into action.
The week after the Ferrata Combi's arrived I had a couple of scrambling courses to deliver and I thought this could be a great first test. This was quite a leap of faith as I love my La Sportiva scrambling boots and using a brand new and untested boot on higher grade scrambles wouldn't normally be something I'd contemplate.
I tried them out for a few evening scrambles on Kinder and even gave them a blast at Stanage as well as walking around in them as much as I could. I loved them in action straight away. The sole is stiff but a rocker allows a natural walking action and there is just enough flex to make them very comfortable for walking. The sole is a typical grippy and well featured Vibram unit that performed as well as I would expect on all terrain types (from gritstone to peat bog and heather to slippery grass).
On steeper scrambling ground these boots excel. The sole is stiff enough to stand easily on small edges and the Vibram sole features a climbing zone that works brilliantly by providing great edging capability around the top and instep. My quick test trips convinced me the boots would happily cope with some Snowdonia Rhyolite scrambling.....and they certainly did.
Over a couple of courses the boots were used on everything up to grade 3 scrambles and they never skipped a beat. My feet were comfortable on the walk ins and I felt confident in their ability on the steep rhyolite. The snug fit and well thought out lacing system ensured there was no heel lift and descending was no problem either - the supportive fit kept my toes from discomfort on long walk outs. I really wouldn't hesitate to recommend these boots for scrambling.
Since then I have used these boots on other scrambling days and, in a failed attempt to get them into action on snow, on my recent Moroccan Jebel Toubkal trip. I say failed attempt, because Toubkal was completely stripped of snow this year. I did wear them for 6 trekking days and the summit - which did prove them to be very comfortable for walking and strong performers on all types of loose and rocky terrain. I was also surprised that, despite typical Moroccan high temperatures, they actually stayed very comfortable and my feet didn't overheat.
I also really noticed the light weight of the Combi's again. To find a boot so competent in a range of terrain at such a light weight is really impressive. The boots also stood up to all the rocky ground without showing undue signs of wear and tear. Hanwag have anticipated the kind of wear and tear a pair of via Ferrata boots go through and seem to have achieved a hard wearing boot that is also light. The other way this anticipation of wear shows itself is in the use of a cemented on sole unit to allow easy replacement.
To test how the Ferrata Combi would be in crampons I had to resort to fitting some semi automatic spikes and balancing around on some fallen logs in nearby woodland. What I found was they hold a crampon well and they feel very competent in action. As soon as I get some Scottish winter action later in the year I will add any relevant updates, but I have no reason to think they won't perform really well.
I can't overstate how much I have enjoyed using these boots. They have performed really well on a broad range of terrain and I have grown confident in their ability. I also believe that, despite their low weight, they have been well designed and superbly constructed to last well. They are also very attractive boots.
The biggest plus point is, however, that they are a superb fit. It is always important to check a boot suits your foot shape, but for my medium fit feet they are like slippers - albeit well supported and snug fiting slippers! They have proved to have genuine out of the box comfort and I've never looked back.
My only question is about the name. Calling a boot a name with a specific word like 'Ferrata' in would surely suggest this boot is designed for a very specific purpose and yet I think it is a great boot for a whole range of uses from scrambling to general purpose mountaineering. If will also, I am sure, make a great Scottish winter and Alpine mountaineering boot. I hope to one day also prove, as I'm sure it will, that it will make a great via Ferrata option.
As I mentioned at the start this is my first taste of Hanwag boots.......but I can't wait to try more.
Posted by Paul
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Did you have toe room in the Hanwag Ferrata Combi you reviewed? were your toes pinched together? I was thinking of purchasing but was worried about toe pinch.
Many thanks for getting in touch. I have found the Hanwags to have a pretty wide toe box and have had no problems at all with pinching but as always I would say it is best to ensure you have tried the boots on in a shop as everyone's feet are different. I hope that helps and I'm sure you would be very happy with the boots providing they fit your feet.