The North Face has always made impressive trail running style shoes and mids, but for 2012 the North American giant has introduced a range of full-on mountaineering and mountain-walking boots developed in Europe and including the Verbera Lightpacker GTX.
It’s a suede and fabric-uppered boot – there’s also a full leather version available – which TNF says is aimed at ‘medium-load backpacking’. We’d say that it’s a light but solid feeling mountain walking boot with reasonable forefoot flex but a lot of lateral sole stiffness, with state of the art construction.
Ideal if you like a stiffer feel underfoot – hence the backpacking designation we guess – but without wanting a heavy, traditional boot.
One of the big advantages of being a company the size of TNF is being able to invest in state of the art technology and the Verbera Lightpacker pretty much has it all. There’s a full, protective rand, for example, but it’s made from Smartlite PU rather than rubber which saves a claimed 50% over a rubber equivalent.
The uppers use a lightweight Panatex ballistic textile, there’s a Polypropylene lasting board to give stiffness underfoot and an interesting mix of EVA – lighter, springier runnings shoe tuype cushioning – in the heel area and more durable PU elsewhere. And that heel unit is designed with a substantial external counter for stability.
Even the removable footbed is top spec with built-in EVA heel pad and a decent arch support too.
Last but not least, TNF tells us that a lot of development has gone into developing the last for their boots – essentially the internal fit – and they say it has a forefoot similar to Scarpa, but with a heel fit like La Sportiva. Interesting.
First thing that strikes you is that while the boot looks chunky and a little heavy in an alpine mountain boot sort of way, it’s actually deceptively light. Not ultra light, but certainly lighter than most boots of comparable stiffness and spec.
Next, though it’s always hard to ‘test’ fit, for us with our typically British, medium broad foot with medium narrow heel, the fit is just ridiculously good. We’d say sublime, but that sounds a bit gushy. There’s enough internal padding for instant comfort, but not so much that the boot feels imprecise. The heel is snug, with no lift and the forefoot ‘just right’ in a three bears sort of way.
Obviously, as with all boots, everyone varies, but we suspect the new TNF last is going to make quite a lot of people happy.
Underfoot the boot does a nice job of feeling stable, stiffish and chunky in a traditional mountain boot sort of way – great if you’re the sort of person who likes laterally stiff soles on rocky ground – but without the traditional heavy and clompy feel.
Yes, they’d make a good backpacking boot, but excellent stability is a plus point even without a loaded pack and we also reckon they’d work well on ledgey/edgy scrambling terrain.
Underfoot there’s enough forefoot flex for decent walking comfort and dependable all-round grip from the chunky Vibram Masai sole unit with its take no prisoner, chunky lugs. Cushioning is a sort of firm medium on harder ground. Certainly not like a running shoe, but definitely reasonable.
Wow! We’re really impressed. The Verbera Lightpacker has a proper, top quality, well-made feel to it and an excellent balance between stiffness and support and lightness. And while fit is very personal, for us, the combination of the carefully developed lasting, just enough internal padding and the decent spec footbed makes for exellent precision and comfort.
We reckon it should happily match up with a flexible trekking crampon too for non-technical winter walking and also makes a decent enough scrambling boot thanks to the lateral stiffness.
If you like your mountain walking boots on the stiffer side with a chunky, durable feel, but without excess weight, check out the TNF Verbera Lightpacker GTX or its Backpacker leather equivalent, we reckon it could be just what you’re looking for.