Altama Boots
Hiking Gear - Hiking Clothes

 

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USGI Hot Weather (Jungle) Boots by Altama

Reviewed by: Joe Ames
Where to buy: Altama, US Cavalry, Brigade Quartermaster
Cost: $85

Civilian Model:

Great set of boots for summertime fun in the outdoors. They are very supportive and durable, yet light enough for extended hikes. Since they are made for wet weather, they drain water effectively through dual drain vents and dry quickly thanks to the ballistic nylon used for the uppers. Overall, I'd say they are comfortable enough to wear all day without compromising support and protection.

I've put quite a few hard miles on mine, and they are holding up well. The soles are not the great vulcanized rubber found on more expensive boots, including the USGI version of this boot, but it has provided good traction on mud, wet-leaves, and wet rocks while holding up pretty well under full load (60lbs + in a pack). Note: these do not have the spike plate found in the GI, so watch for the pungee sticks! 

Milspec model:

I have owned and love using the commercial jungle boot by Altama. They are terrific: good support, light weight, excellent traction, and they hold up well under heavy usage. However, I had difficulty donning them because the material forming the fixed tongue was too skimpy, and my high arches barely squeezed into them.

I called Altama to ask about my options. They recommended a pair of the government contract boots which are more generous than the commercials, which are built to "a price". In other words, to economize for those who can't afford the Real McCoy.

These GI boots are every bit as good and better than the commercials. The fit is excellent, the laces are much longer and easier to tie. There are REAL arch supports in the removable insoles. The soles are Goodyear rubber and stick like glue, though it seems they won't last as long as the Commercial's PVC construction.
On the other hand, these things, even with the anti-pungee-stick plate are wonderfully comfortable, even on Pennsylvania's notoriously rocky Appalachian Trail. (Anti-spike protection was developed to defeat a North Vietnamese weapon that killed soldiers who stepped on a semi-buried, sharpened, poisoned stick.)

I haven't put enough miles on these yet to give them the "tried and true" endorsement, but the early indications, and its heritage, bode well.

Addendum by Bill Ames:

Civilian Model:

I have used the civilian boots for an entire summer of hot, wet and very rocky hiking, and they have held up adequately. The thing I like the most is their ability to squeegee out water when you get your feet wet. I spent two days on the West Rim Trail fording run after run with no problems from wet feet and no blisters. 

With the right socks, like the Ultimax Wigam, your feet will be dry in a matter of minutes, even after fording a river. The only thing I don't like is that after an all day hike on the rocky ridges of Pennsylvania, your feet really take a pounding. 

Still, I'm a big guy (250lbs+) so my experience may not be typical. I feel that the light weight, price and dry feet factor make the civilian boots a good option when you might encounter water, and in my experience that's all the time.. 

The US Army has determined that adding 1 pound to your footgear is equivalent to adding 6 pounds on your pack. This is why the Altama's are so light. Knowing this, I could really feel the difference, since my other hiking boots are all quite a bit heavier. The Altama's are just a few ounces heavier than my New Balance running shoes, yet they still offer excellent support, particularly on long downhills. One complaint is that my toenails kept hitting the roof of the boot, and I eventually lost both of them over several long and painful downhills.  I'm buying a set of the milspec model, so I'll review them here later.

Milspec model:

Well, it's later, and I've spent a summer in the milspec Altama jungle boots.

Wow!

I thought I liked the civilian Altama jungle boots until I spent a year hiking in the mil-spec version. Everything positive I said about the civilian model is true, but there are several big improvements for your extra $40:

Durability

The civilian jungle boots I had broke down and wore out after a single summer of hiking. The soles have holes, the lining is flattened and torn, and the soles are separating from the uppers. Now I'm a very big hiker, and I'm certain that this is a worst case scenario, hiking over the numerous sandstone ridges of Rocksylvania. I was happy to get a good season out of the for only $70-80, but that was before I tried the milspec model.

The military version seems indefatigable. I've pummeled them with over 150 miles of wet, dry, rocky, snowy, icy trails and they are still going strong. I will probably get another whole year out of them and another 150 miles.

Spike protection

The milspec jungle boots have a steel protector in the soles designed to keep your foot from getting speared by a booby trap called a "pungie stick' used in Vietnam. As luck would have it, this gizmo also does wonders to protect your feet from getting pounded into mush by rocks of all sizes.

As I said above, I've put over 150 miles on these boots in one year and my feet NEVER got sore on hikes less than 10 miles. With every other boot I've tried, my feet would ache for hours after a hike of that distance. Essentially, the steel spreads out and distributes the force of the rocks. It's like you're standing on flat ground the whole time. The steel still allows your foot to flex, though, since it only covers the front 3/4 of the sole.

Extra room

The milspec Altamas have a lot more room in them while retaining the same fit. I guess this material is expensive, so they give you less in the civilian model.

The extra room makes it much easier to get the boots on and off, and the generous amount of space up front makes a big difference to your toenails. If you've ever kicked a bunch of rocks or had your toenails pull out from hitting the top of your boot, you'll appreciate this. I haven't lost a toenail in the last year that I've been using these, and I've not developed a single blister.

Real rubber

The vulcanized rubber soles of the milspec model grip everything they come across. While they're not much good on ice, they're no worse than anything else I've tried, short of instep crampons. When strapping crampons onto these boots, even ice is not a problem. The rubber is much better than other synthetic compounds I've used, and even on mossy, wet rocks, these boots offer good stability and grip. The rubber is tough, too, lasting a long, long time.

All in all, I can't see owning a better boot than the American Made Altama jungle boot. I hike in all four seasons in Pennsylvania, and they have given me absolutely no troubles. I wish all my gear was as reliable and trouble free as these boots have been. They may be designed for the jungle, but I haven't seen anything yet to compare to them on the hiking trails of Pennsylvania.

The folks at Altama will also help you get the right fit, so don't be afraid to call them up and order over the telephone. My pair fit perfectly on the first try and the folks were happy to answers all my questions.

Don't hesitate to invest in these boots for hiking--they work great.

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