I ordered my first pair of Altberg Defender MOD Browns in late 2015 intending to replace my Scarpa SL Activs. My Scarpa SL Activs experienced a lot of varying action and I brought two pairs in total. It was through extended use that I came to really enjoy leather boots without a membrane. I found them to be more comfortable and indeed waterproof than previous Gore-Tex offerings I had worn. On the other hand the price of £240 (at time of print) for the Scarpas was less desirable. I was going through a pair of these every year and after a while decided it was not worth it.
The Altberg Defender MOD Brown offered some very attractive features that seemed to mirror what I loved so much about the Scarpas. In addition I could find them for a fraction of the cost. Read our full review on the Altberg Defender MOD Brown.
In total I’ve gone through three pairs of Defenders. They last me roughly 8 months to a year before replacement is required. Altberg have made some minor variations but the model I picked up time and again was the one with three ankle eyelets.
The boot comes in width fittings, fantastic! This allows you be more precise with your sizing. Altberg also provides detailed fit instructions and guidelines on their website. Having a boot not only match your foot length but width is critical to proper comfort.
I ordered a wide fitting and found the fit to be roomy at the toe box and forefoot which was pleasant. At the heel things are snugger. There is room in the boot which allows for slight heel slippage but with two socks worn this goes away. These boots should in fact be worn with thick socks and ideally two pairs that take up that extra space in the boot.
I wore mine with a thin liner sock and an extra thick merino wool mountaineering sock. The two together really padded the foot well inside the boot and delivered a dreamy fit with a secure heel.
I quickly decided to disengage the lace from one of the eyelets just past the lock. I found that with the lace in place it put too much pressure on the front of my ankle. With the lace taken out from this eyelet it solved the problem completely. Having plenty of eyelets allows for customising your fit even further.
Boot Climate (Breathability & Moisture Management)
The term breathability has been completely highjacked by outdoor brands, so now everything is breathable! The Defender Brown does not have a waterproof breathable membrane. The microclimate produced therefore is excellent and for three season use I would say ideal. Furthermore the temperature regulation and moisture management are both excellent in these boots. This is due to the upper material and liner selection.
The Defender has an Afibio upper made of leathers between 2.2-2.4mm. The leathers are saturated with silicon for added water resistance and come from European hides. Altberg has used one piece of continuous leather to form most of the foot area. A great feature as it really keeps the water out. Further protection comes from the wrap around rubber rand which again seals more of the leather away from water ingress. The tongue is made of a separate piece of leather and I think it’s pig skin.
The sole features a Vibram Tsavo sole which features a shock absorbing midsole. The pattern is designed for classic multi terrain. This is one of the more basic soles and it lacks certain features found on more advanced units, such as self cleaning lugs.
The boots are Cambrelle lined which is a branded material made of nylon. I found the Defender to be most comfortable when being worn so I guess this lining really works. It claims to be wicking and durable and it would seem this does work out in the field.
As previously mentioned the microclimate in the boots is fantastic. Your feet are kept from overheating and therefore sweating too much. The quality leather featured on these boots keeps the water out all day long from my experience. One should always clean and reproof boots regularly to maintain the leather.
I found the grip pattern a little disappointing on wet rock and wet long grass moreover it wears quickly. It must be noted that the Altberg Defender MOD Brown is not a rated boot. Unlike the Scarpa SL Activ referenced in the opening paragraph the Defender is not crampon rated.
Read Ed’s trip report from New Zealand ft the Scarpa SL’s. HERE
Altberg Footwear HERE