Gear Review: Oboz Scapegoat Mid Boots
Oboz Scapegoat Mid
$145, 2 lbs. 2 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 8-14
Like all categories of outdoor gear, footwear has grown increasingly specialized, with models designed to fill just about every imaginable user niche—except perhaps one. While there are plenty of options in non-waterproof, low-cut hiking and scrambling shoes built to maximize breathability, when you move up the continuum of mid-cut boots into models with the support for backpacking, most have some kind of waterproof-breathable membrane. With the Scapegoat Mid, Oboz is treading into somewhat unexplored terrain by offering a non-waterproof, lightweight boot designed for multi-day hikes. Because I like the concept behind this approach, I took the Scapegoat Mid on a three-day, entirely off-trail backpacking trip in the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park to see how they perform.
One of my companions on that trip was testing out the Oboz women’s model that most closely mirrors the Scapegoat Mid—except, interestingly, that it is waterproof-breathable: the Phoenix Mid BDry ($150, 1 lb. 15 oz., sizes 6-11). I was in Death Valley to backpack, dayhike, and test gear with folks from Big Agnes, Osprey Packs, and Oboz Footwear. (I’m also posting reviews of gear from those brands that we tested in Death Valley.) I carried up to about 30 pounds while backpacking off-trail up and down Surprise Canyon to the mining ghost town of Panamint City, and a much lighter pack dayhiking from our campsite. Terrain ranged from a narrow canyon where we had to navigate our way up and down smooth, water-scoured slabs, to scree, loose desert turf, and scrambling a craggy ridge, and the Scapegoat Mid and Phoenix Mid BDry handled it all ably.
Readers of The Big Outside have written to me in the past asking whether I knew of a boot with the support for backpacking, but that’s not waterproof, because they want maximum breathability. (Non-waterproof boots breathe better than any boot with a waterproof-breathable membrane.) It makes sense, especially for anyone whose feet sweat a lot and/or who typically backpacks in relatively dry conditions. The Scapegoat Mid kept my feet comfortable while I carried up to 30 pounds on my back, thanks to a compression-molded EVA midsole with a forefoot protection plate and a partial nylon shank, plus polyurethane in the heel for cushioning and greater durability than EVA. But the boot, which comes up to just above the anklebones, also has moderate torsional rigidity—meaning it doesn’t easily twist side to side—and the forefoot flex of a lightweight hiking shoe, allowing for a natural, fast stride.
The more unique half of the Scapegoat’s story is the lack of a membrane. Sporting mesh uppers, the boots are very breathable: Even hiking on afternoons in the 70s Fahrenheit under a hot desert sun, my socks got barely damp with sweat. That breathability means the boots also dry faster than waterproof models: After accidentally dunking both boots in creek crossings, they dried within an hour while I wore them hiking. Synthetic leather overlays on the uppers anchor the lacing system, helping the boot conform to the shape of your foot and protecting the mesh from damage.
The fit is medium volume, whereas previous Oboz models I’ve worn have been for higher-volume feet; I think the Scapegoat marks an improvement in fit for Oboz. The elasticized collar hugs my ankles and kept stones and debris out through many hours of off-trail hiking. The toe, heel, and sides are reinforced with rubber for durability. The proprietary outsole’s deep lugs and sharply defined, in-cut heel delivered good traction in loose scree and mud. They also did fine on smooth rock, wet and dry, though that’s not their strength.
Bonus: These boots come with Oboz’s BFit Deluxe footbed inserts, a value of $30 to $50 that definitely improves comfort, especially on longer days and in rougher terrain.
Given the Scapegoat’s lightweight materials, I expect its durability to compare with many lightweight, low-cut hiking shoes that have partly mesh uppers and an EVA midsole (as opposed to more-durable PU in the midsole)—that is, roughly 400 to 500 trail miles, depending on how hard you use them and where (drier environments take less of a toll on boots).
Final analysis: I’d recommend the Scapegoat Mid for dayhiking and lightweight backpacking with up to 25 to 30 pounds on your back, especially in relatively dry weather, or for anyone who wants highly breathable boots. The comparable low-cut models from Oboz are the men’s Scapegoat Low ($130) and women’s Pika Low ($120).
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my Gear Reviews at The Big Outside.
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