Zephyr GTX from LOWA–Light, breathable and robust

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Spoiler alert:  This will not be an objective review.

I have dual American and German citizenship, so my impartiality regarding LOWA, may be skewed. 

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Of course, there are a few other well-known German brands such as BMW or Siemens, but LOWA (pronounced Low-va) isn’t (yet) a household name in America. However, you don’t have to be as famous as Mercedes Benz to make world class products.

Founded in 1923 by Lorenz Wagner in the Bavarian town of Jetzendorf (just north of Munich, where my family is from) the company began quite modestly, selling traditional mountain boots to local farmers and hunters. In the 1970s, LOWA began to focus more intensely on producing hiking and trekking boots, capitalizing on the growing popularity of outdoor recreation.

Lorenz Wagner, the son of the shoemaker Johann Wagner, estab­lished the LOWA company in 1923 in placid Jetzendorf, a town north of Munich. The company’s name comes from the first two letters of the owner’s given name and surname, LOrenz WAgner. 

Fast forward to the present day and the company has established itself as a prominent player in the outdoor footwear market not only in Germany but also internationally. Nowadays, the company is the market leader in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, producing close to three million pairs of shoes a year.

LOWA’s boots became synonymous with durability, comfort, and performance, attracting outdoor enthusiasts and professionals alike. Its boots have accompanied adventurers on challenging expeditions to some of the world’s highest peaks and most rugged landscapes. I’m certainly not an internationally known adventurer but LOWA boots have accompanied me to Fiji, French Polynesia, Portugal, Italy, France and Spain, where I hiked in the Pyrenees.

Not only does LOWA provide craftsmanship and innovation, but they are stylish and comfortable. Given their European origin (most are manufactured in Slovakia) they are more expensive than the products from elsewhere. As the dictim goes, you get what you pay for.

And what exactly do you get?

Breaking in my boots in at the local Thai Restaurant. The finishing on the upper–split leather and fabric, is flawless. They work great on the trail but you can wear them anywhere.

Durability & Customer Care

LOWA’s quality is first rate. I’ve had about 5 pair of Lowa products over the years. They have all been extremely sturdy.  

There was one disappointment. One of my LOWA boots had a sole issue. The midsole started separating from the outsole. Yikes. Mind you it was stored in my closet for a year while I was overseas. I contacted their customer service folks who sent me a UPS sticker with no questions asked. I boxed the boots and sent them to the East Coast. The repair guy (his name was Caleb) re-soled the boot and sent it back to me good as new.

They stand behind their products.

GTX (GORE-TEX)

In case you were wondering, the “GTX” on this boot (as in other Lowa models) represents Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex uses a 100% waterproof membrane that is also breathable. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it works. The breathability factor is particularly important in hotter, tropical or subtropical climates such as Hawaii.

LOWA has been at this for over 100 years. They have developed the technology that translates into durability and comfort.

Here on the leeward side of Oahu we don’t get as much rain as the windward side but it does get wet and muddy. (It usually rains every evening). My property has a creek bed that is full during a rain and I’ll have to cross it on occasion so having that waterproof component comes in very handy. And of course when I’m hiking I’ll inevitably put my foot in the deepest puddle on the trail.

Gore-Tex takes the worry out of these scenarious.

Comfortable Fit—Balancing flex and rigidity:

The LOWA Zephyr GTX Mid is a flat-out, comfortable boot.

Whether you wear your boots on daily basis (as I do) or on a weekend hike you need to be comfortable and confident. (Again, this is a good reason to pay a bit more).

Keep in mind that designing boots is a kind of balancing act. You’re going to need a good amount of flex but still retain enough rigidity to withstand the rigors of a serious hike over challenging terrain. With flex Lowa says the feet can roll more easily if a hiking boot is easy to bend. In a pragmatic sense, this saves energy when climbing hills and offers real comfort in the process. (Note that this pair is a “Mid” model–some where in between low and full size).

My backyard test bed has all kinds of terrain–razor sharp lava rock, slippery clay-like mud, gravel and thick jungle growth so dense sometimes you can’t even see where your feet are going to be planted.

Road testing this boot

Another well worn phrase to describe this part of the story—it’s where the rubber meets the road. To conduct a “real” review entails wearing this boot day in and day out.

That’s precisely what I did.

I live on the lip of a valley—Palolo Valley. It’s quite steep and rocky but I’ve hacjked out a trail on several acres of hillside just downslope of my home. I work this land on a daily basis. I’m literally climbing up and down the hill to tend to my bee hives, whacking underbrush, chasing wild pigs off the property, inspecting irrigation lines or simply taking a break from my computer and do a little forest bathing.

In addition to apiaries, I tend to a variety of trees along the slope – lime, avocado, banana, mango, ulu (breadfruit), longan, moringa, star apple, starfruit and other items.

There’s lots to do and there’s every imaginable type of terrain—razor sharp lava rock, slippery clay-like mud, gravel and thick jungle growth so dense sometimes you can’t even see where your feet are going to be planted. The ground can be soaked or dry as desert.

So whether I’m chasing pigs off my property (which unfortunately I have to do occasionally) or I’m out on the The Mau’umae Trail, about a 10-minute walk from my home, these boots are on my feet.

In short it’s a perfect test bed.

It’s been wet but the soles on the Zepher GTX are incredibly “grippy” on my home terrain.

The upshot: The soles on the Zepher GTX were incredibly “grippy” on my home terrain. LOWA features a lugged outsole which is perfect for my little piece of paradise. They are also very lightweight and as alluded to above, very comfortable.

The finishing on the upper–split leather and fabric, is flawless. The European sense of craftsmanship is apparent. There is a marked difference between products manufactured in LOWA’s “alte Schule” (old school) manner vs. what comes out from mass production lines in other parts of the world.

It’s been said a few times but the German’s are incredibly thorough in their design and manufacturing processes. Call it OCD but take it from me, an over-engineered, durable boot is exactly what you want.

Price for the Zephyr GTX Mid is $235 at REI.

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