Danner Mountain 600 Boot: Nearly 85 Years in the Making

August 12, 2016

by Peter Reese
Danner Mountain 600 Boot:  Nearly 85 Years in the Making

At Active Junky, we’ve been tapping our toes when it comes to Danner.  While their Mountain Light series propels long-distance hikers toward semi-ridiculous objectives, there’s been a gap in the line for the other 80% of hikers.  And an unmet need for a boot that covers 90% or more of the active outdoor life.  With the recent launch of the Mountain 600 came the time to put inpatient feet into a lighter, readily-available production model.

Starting over – sort of

Danner claims the sub-$200 Mountain 600 was inspired by their legendary hiking boots.  Testers ignored that statement as other less-capable footwear brands have boasted the same, either by ruggedizing urban styles or stripping down beefy trail models.  Out-of-the-box and on-the-trail is more the Active Junky way to reach conclusions, an approach that put the boot into both tame and tortured situations in Colorado.

Danner Mountain 600 Hiking Boots $171.86 - $187.96 From the outside, it appeared Danner’s internal project brief centered on affordable access to all-conditions hiking.  No matter, as the team embarked on challenges ranging from paved trails to talus scrambles with lighter loads all the way to fully-loaded mountain trekking. In these scenarios, the Mountain 600 was taken straight from the box and worn with factory-supplied insoles, standard laces and a reliance on the waterproofing system embedded in the product.

And so?

Three insights emerged during and following mountain-centered testing, along with casual wear to and from the trailhead in addition to apres-outing settings.

The boot prevails in all common trail conditions – and beyond.

Testers carried a standard line-up of five characteristics into the project: Performance, Weight, Fit, Versatility, and Durability. Subjecting the Danner Mountain 600 to the gamut of surfaces, trail elevation profiles, and moisture levels allowed the Active Junky team to fairly evaluate the boot.

With a superior out-of-the-box fit, the boot stepped into testing without the need for the break-in period most commonly associated with backcountry models.  As such, the 600’s innovative SPE midsole went to work to create a stabile platform, with the Vibram Fuga outsole capitalizing on the boot’s structural integrity to overcome obstacles with consistent traction.

The same held true with the the waterproofing system, one of the most consistently-reliable testers have tried in the past 24 months.  Shallow streams to snow-melt torrents and spring snowfields, the Mountain 600 was far more aquatic than expected in a streamlined boot weighing in at only 37oz.  While most recreational hikers will rarely punch through crust, the ability to stay dry in rain, slush and snow adds year-round value to the product: all five characteristics were evident, with Fit as the standout factor.

Mountain 600 challenges casual hikers to take on greater challenges.

While not built for through hikers, this Danner boot’s design provokes a “let’s go there” attitude that heavier, less capable models commonly stifle.  Testers found themselves popping off the trail (responsibly, of course) to explore streambeds, old mining structures and early-blooming alpine flowers.  

Even scrambling to refill water bottles from surging snowmelt creeks was easier, keeping hydration levels high along with creating photo opportunities beyond the forest shadows.  Stay-tied lacing and a narrow profile allowed team members to avoid snagging on plants and catching the boot (or abrading the leather) in narrow, rocky openings.

Recognizing the boot wasn’t constructed for full-on loading, the 30lb capacity (tester rating) was enough to remain prepared for bad weather, potential delays on the trail – and bring serious camera gear when needed.  Light-and-fast hikers could extend the long-weekend capability of the Mountain 600 by getting obsessive about their kit’s size and weight.

The boot’s style is either a) a bonus or b) the starting point.

Red accents on top of a suede leather upper are striking and, for Active Junky’s testers, were more of a cautionary element at the start of evaluation.  While in harmony with the debossed Danner logo on the 4.5” upper, their integrity and durability ended up adding to the Mountain 600’s performance.

For recreational hikers who have been disappointed with clunky lo and mid styles built on running shoe platforms, or chunky boots feigning mountain credibility, the boot is a refreshing chance to restart.  Exemplary comfort will potentially lead to longer wearing in increasingly-challenging conditions.

As such, the singular visual presentation is a positive as it encourages potential wearers to revisit their foot-borne lives.  Without granting Danner too great a role in the outdoor community, this book could well inspire at least some urban and suburban denizens to begin making more tracks at their nearby parks.

Verdict:  80% of hikers will benefit in 90% of common conditions by wearing the under-$200 Danner Mountain 600.  The other 20% can simply go longer with the collection that foretold the 600, Danner’s Mountain Light Series. 


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