Garmont Zenith Trail Shoe Review

Published on 05/15/2011

By Peter Reese

GOING WITH THE FLOW - ONLY FASTER: GARMONT AND GEIGERRIG TAKE CHARGE WITHOUT SACRIFICING FINESSE

As the final trail runner being reviewed in the four-shoe series, the GARMONT ZENITH LITE (MSRP $119.95, www.garmontusa.com) will end up at the front of the pack for some runners. Like the others reviewed, this model was part of testing across four states over 60 days. As with shoes from Scarpa, LaSportiva and tecnica, it diverged in its suitability for 1) challenging terrain, 2) mixed conditions, 3) uncertain footing and 4) cross-country travel. "THE DIPLOMAT" was the title attached to the ZENITH LITE by the ActiveJunky.com team. Built to capture mileage through mixed conditions including trails, fire roads and even pavement, this model is an easy choice for all-around runners.

Example: The LITE got thrown into a series of southern California runs covering hard-packed sand, tide-slicked stones and crumbling asphalt - all on the same course. Four days of mixing it up failed to find meaningful performance gaps in traction, stability and comfort. As the temperature toggled between 60 and 80+ degrees, the breathable upper stayed close without getting cool, clammy or sticky. Sole-wise, everything short of seaweed-slimed boulders was well within the LITE'S range.

Example: Washed-out river beds in Arizona seemed like a chance to humble the ZENITH LITE and the traditional road shoe look it sports. "THE DIPLOMAT" bounced through hot, arid and abrasive sessions without giving up a sense of quiet confidence. This, in contrast with some competitor's "I'm a rugged shoe, really" overdone -- and unearned -- graphics. In the same way, time on paved streets to reach the trail were easy miles as the LITE shifted gears to more civilized conditions.

Garmont's ZENITH TRAIL GTX (MSRP $134.95) steps in when wetter or more challenging situations beckon. Prepared with a Gore-Tex upper, this beefier model waves goodbye to tamer settings in favor of MMA-style scrambling. Load-bearing capacity means more and tougher miles are possible, recognizing Garmont's available mid-height models amp up the ankle protection.

The women's side gets taken seriously as well. Parallel models fall under the Amica line, and the Trail GTX (MSRP $134.95) was a favorite that worked for A.J.'s hard-to-fit tester. Like the other Garmont models under the microscope, this one carried easy entry, secure fit and all-conditions traction from one testing scenario to another.

Geigerrig Rig700 hydration packs blueRIG 700 (MSRP $110, ballistic nylon for $130, www.geigerrig.com) earned a "DIPLOMAT" rating with a caveat. Although the pack's body-hugging design and easy access added refinement, the ocean-to-ozone performance of the pressurized 70 ounce (2.0 liter) hydration engine changed the testers' minds about bags and bladders. Here, champagne-toasting diplomat meets grease-painted special ops warrior.

Under the passionate leadership of the Geiger family and their team, this newcomer to the industry is getting full-on attention as it builds a resume of expedition success. In the trail running and fast-packing world, the ability to pressurize delivery allows frequent, rapid drinking. Firing much-needed fluid into the mouth of a human or canine companion is clean and quick as well.

The in-line filter option for any Geigerrig system (MSRP $28) is the best bet from our experience as it equals 50 gallons of resupply along the way when teamed with the filter-ready drinking tube (MSRP $15). Dry capacity of 700 cu. in. (11.47 liters) means reaching into more remote areas is safer.

Faster, lighter and shorter runs fit the RIG 500 (MSRP $110-$125) with the same fluid capacity and a dry capacity trimmed back to 500 cu. in. On the other end of the scale, a 1,600 cu. in. model stands ready and features the line's quick-release hose couplings that make after-adventure cleaning some of the easiest we've seen in a long time.

Getting out and staying out are at the top of the list both for Garmont and Geigerrig. With the ZENITH and RIG product lines, the miles flow free and fast for all levels of trail runners.

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