“My feet is my only carriage, so I got to push on through.” – Bob Marley
It’s often said the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Those of us who spend time in the backcountry intrinsically know this to be true. We exert ourselves in the sun, wind, and rain, and endure physical discomfort and occasional suffering to see beautiful parts of nature that others are unwilling or unable to venture. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate at all and we just suffer and build reps as a Type-II fun artist while humming our favorite songs to take our minds away from the misery. I call this the price of admission. And by paying this price and assuming occasional risks, we are occasionally rewarded with the indescribable. Going to some mountain summits can be like visiting another planet, and it’s exceptionally difficult to put a human vocabulary to the size and scale of some big, steep, majestically glaciated mountains. All words just fail to describe the experience.
My partner in crime, Kate, and I recently spent 10 days in the Pacific Northwest hiking in the Northern Cascades National Park and climbing Mount Rainier (14,410 feet). For these activities, we needed an array of footwear ranging from trail runners to mid-weight hiking boots to heavy-duty mountaineering boots. It’s important to use the right tools for the right activities, and footwear is no different. Some shoes are made to go light and fast. Others excel at moving up and down over rock. And others must be super rigid to accept crampons (big sharp metal spikes) to kick step after step after endless step in steep snow and ice and prevent you from falling straight off the mountain.
I’ve always been a fan of Scarpa and LaSportiva hiking and climbing boots and shoes, but recently I heard a lot of hype about Salomon’s hiking boots, so my editor sent out a pair of their X Ultra 3 Mid Gore-Tex and Quest 4D 3 Gore-Tex boots for me to demo before and during our trip. Salomon specifically designed the Quest 4D 3 GTX boots for carrying heavy packs over rugged terrain for long distances, so I was excited to try them out in the big hills. Among top-performing hiking boots, I found the Quest 4D 3 GTX delivers a tremendous amount of performance and value at a premium $230 price point. Here’s what you need to know before you lace them up for your next backcountry adventure.
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX boots arrived in a standard no-frills recycled cardboard box with minimal packaging. The top of the box was emblazoned with their corporate motto: ‘Time to play.’ I appreciated the understated delivery, lack of plastics, and recycled products. It’s worth noting that Salomon has been part of Bluesign since 2013 — an apparel and gear industry effort committed to sustainable textile production and eliminating harmful substances from the beginning of the manufacturing process. It also signed the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action in 2018 and has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. I dig this. I dig this a lot.
How we tested the Salomon Quest 4D 3 Gore-Tex boots
I did most of my training for this trip in the lighter-weight Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX boots and only wore the Quest 4d 3 GTX boots a few times on local hikes before we flew out to Seattle. Once we landed, I spent the next 10 days either wearing these boots on mid-distance hikes below and above the treeline in the Mount Baker area (check out Heliotrope Ridge and the Heather Maple Pass Loop) and during training and our approach hike to Camp Muir on Mount Rainier. I tested them on dirt, rock, snow, and ice carrying 25- to 45-pound loads over rugged terrain and evaluated them based on the following criteria:
- Fit, comfort, and support
- Water resistance
Fit, comfort, and support. From the moment I laced up the Quest 4D 3 GTXs, I realized out-of-the-box comfort. The boots fit true to size and my heels felt locked into place atop the cushioned insoles while leaving my toes enough room to move around. The Quest 4D uses the same SensiFit™ system as the X Ultras that cradles the foot from the midsole to the lacing system. Salomon also built in an OrthoLite Sockliner to reduce potential points of friction (and blisters) by minimizing internal stitching and seams. My feet felt snug and secure and encountered no pinches or constrictions. I immediately noticed the height of the boot’s collar — they’re tall. The collars of my US size 13 boots stood nine inches from the floor and are taller than any hiking boot I’ve worn. As I tightened the laces, I could feel the ankle support kicking in. The boots’ lacing system uses a combination of eyelets and lace locks to minimize slippage and allow you to dial in a custom fit. The third eyelet also serves as an Active Support wing — synthetic straps that wrap around the foot to ensure snugness. I also noticed that the tongue of the boot was gusseted to the sixth eyelet which is great for keeping rocks and dirt out while keeping the tongue of the boot riding on the centerline. Salomon’s OrthoLite insoles seemed fine, but I wear custom orthotics so I removed the factory insoles and replaced them with my own. Below the insoles, Salomon designed the Quest 4D 3 GTX with an EnergyCell EVA foam midsole to attenuate shock, and a protective mudguard of synthetic materials around the base of the boot to protect the lateral and medial sides of the foot. I was immediately impressed by the comfort of the boot’s design and my feet felt super protected. Over nine days in the Cascade Mountains, Salomon delivered out-of-the-box comfort as the boots required no break-in whatsoever. These are the first pair of boots I’ve owned where I’ve worn them day after day over long distances with no blisters. Despite the rocky terrain, I never rolled an ankle and frequently felt the boots’ stability structure kicking in. Note: I wore mid-weight Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion socks for this evaluation.
Weight. For a full-sized backpacking boot, I was amazed at how light the Quest 4D 3 GTX boots were. I tossed them on my kitchen food scale and my US size 13 boots weighed in at an impressive 1,424 grams (3 pounds two and ⅛ ounces). While they are at the heavier end of hiking boots, I don’t recall coming across a boot that provides as much stability as the Quest 4D 3 GTX, and that structure adds some weight. For the stability they provide while carrying heavy loads over long distances on rough terrain, I feel the additional weight is well worth it.
Traction. The gold standard for me has always been a Vibram sole, as I’ve always had good luck with their traction and durability. The Quest 4Ds use Salomon’s Contagrip TD soles which provided great traction on mixed terrain. The deep lug design and aggressive pattern kept my feet in place on both dirt and rock, especially on the downhills — wet or dry. I had no problems crossing wet rocks and felt secure during some burly mountain stream crossings. I could feel the high-performance EVA foam softening each landing, especially carrying a pack downhill on steep rock, scree, and snow. My knees loved that. The ADV-C 4D chassis kept my ankles from rolling and gave great stability and heel support while carrying a heavy pack.
Water resistance. To test the boots’ water resistance, I wore them during stream crossings and in slushy mid-afternoon snow. The Gore-Tex liner and 6.5-inch flood height (measured from the ground to the top of the waterproof lining near the collar) kept my feet dry all day. While others in the climbing party were tip-toeing from rock to rock when crossing streams, I was able to confidently splash on through.
Versatility. The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTXs are a specialist’s boot made specifically for carrying heavy loads over rough, mixed terrain for many many miles. They handled horizontal and rolling travel exceptionally, but I didn’t get to test them on any terrain more vertical than 3rd Class scrambling. Unlike the LaSportive Trango or Scarpa Zodiac, they don’t appear to be specifically designed for rocky alpine approaches, but they offer far better support and all-day comfort. They are not rigid enough for steep ice and snow climbing with crampons. Considering they are a Gore-Tex boot, I’d feel secure wearing them in wet and cold conditions with a heavier sock as well.
Durability. I noticed no unreasonable wear during the test period. Additionally, the reinforced rubber toe boxes did a great job of protecting my toes from stubbing from the seemingly never-ending loose rock I encountered.
Value. The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX boots cost about forty bucks less than my current hiking boots, and I consider them a high-quality, high-value purchase. At a sub $230 price point, you get a hell of a great boot. For heavy-duty long-distance backpacking, this is the best boot I’ve encountered so far.
What we like about the Salomon Quest 4D 3 Gore-Tex boots
This boot is exceptional and I give it my unequivocal endorsement. The boot exceeded every expectation across all evaluation criteria. I’ve never encountered a boot with greater out-of-the-box comfort, stability, and support while hauling heavy loads up and down big hills. The interior design and sock combination eliminated any blisters, which is a first for me. For its size, the Quest 4Ds feel remarkably light and they’re super comfortable. The traction, especially when crossing wet mountain stream rocks, was exceptional. The soles didn’t clog with mud, and I really appreciated the Gore-Tex lining and high flood line. I also greatly appreciated the clippable loops above the heels which allowed me to affix these hiking boots to the outside of my backpack with lightweight carabiners when we transitioned to mountaineering boots. This feature was money on the mountain. Salomon did a commendable job designing and producing the Quest 4D — a hiking boot that is tough to beat.
What we don’t like about the Salomon Quest 4D 3 Gore-Tex boots
Damn, I thought long and hard about this and can’t think of anything I’d want to improve. Salomon really knocked it out of the park with the Quest 4D. I haven’t checked out every one of its competitors yet for 2021, but my sense is that this boot is now the industry leader.
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is a hell yea, especially for backpackers hauling heavy loads over mixed terrain for miles and miles and folks who want rock-solid ankle support. When you got Sherpa loads, this boot nears perfection.
FAQs about the Salomon Quest 4D 3 Gore-Tex boots
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Quest 4D 3 Gore-Tex boots cost?
A. MSRP is $230.
Q. Joe, what colors do the Quest 4D 3 Gore-Tex come in?
A. Damn, I love the names manufacturers give to their product colors. The Quest 4D comes in Olive Night, Peat, and Safari; Magnet, Black, and Quarry; and Kelp, Wren, and Bleached Sand.
Q. Does Salomon warranty their boots?
A. Yep. All products come with a two-year quality warranty.
Q. I’ve got some big ass feet. What’s the largest size Salomon offers?
A. Looks like if you are a US size 14 or smaller, you’re in luck!
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
Joe Plenzler is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1995 to 2015. He is a backcountry expert, long-distance backpacker, rock climber, kayaker, cyclist, wannabe mountaineer, and the world’s OK-est guitar player. He is currently section-hiking the Appalachian Trail with his partner, Kate Germano. He supports his outdoor addiction by working as a human communication consultant, teaching at the College of Southern Maryland, and helping start-up companies with their public relations and marketing efforts
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