Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

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Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby headwerkn » Wed 22 Jan, 2020 1:18 pm

Ever get really, genuinely excited about a gear purchase, only to be utterly devastated that it turned out to be a really questionable investment? Yeah, this is the story about that sorta thing...

Half way through last year both my lovely lady and I were in the market for new hiking boots. Her latest pair of Merrells were disintegrating much faster than their predecessors, and my old pair Gortex Scarpas were well past retirement age. We were now regularly doing more off track bushwalking and with winter snow to soon deal with, we both wanted something dependably waterproof and stout - and were happy to pay for something good.

I was eyeing off Salomon Quests at my local shop, when my mate who works there asked if I'd heard of the German brand Lowa - which I hadn't. He duly rattled off the key selling points - German manufacture, full Gortex, quality leather upper with minimal stitching seams to fail, neato lacing system with roller bearings in the guides, Vibram sole that could be replaced, heat sealed rand, actual Wide fitting option for people who don't have ballerina feet etc. etc.... cynical me asks sardonically "and yeah, how much?" and was right to be cynical, because yes, $570-ish was rather more than the $350-$450 I originally had in mind.

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Lowa Camino GTX WXL

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Lowa Mauria GTX Wide (Womens)

But after 30 seconds of having the Camino GTX WXL to hand, it was starting to make sense. The lacing system made a tonne of sense, the leather felt good, the protective rand should make for a long serviceable life, as would being able to resole every few years. Trying them on revealed instant comfort not normally associated with leather walking boots - I'm still scarred both emotionally and physically from my original full leather Scarpas from 2004.

I left the store thinking "great, more money" but realising that, given the amount we hike these days (literally 3 weekends in 4, on average) paying a little more for a boot that should last 5-10 years rather than the 2-3 that could be expected from the usual suspects would actually be a better investment in the long term. Online reviews were promising... Lowa have a long standing following in the US hunting community, guys walking miles off track carrying hunks of deer on their backs. That bode well. 

Anyway, long story not quite short, a few days later we both pulled the plug and dropped over a grand on a pair of Camino GTX WXLs for myself, and a pair of Mauria GTX Wides (basically the women's equivalent of the Camino) for my girl. Suffice to say we were keen as mustard to put them to the test that coming weekend.

The boot's first test was a wet and, higher up, rather snowy Mt Rufus (if memory serves correct). The track was wet and muddy, with plenty of snow left from the big dump we had that caught everyone out on the OLT a couple of week's prior. Without snow shoes for the soft stuff, we struggled up onto the ridgeline before questionable looking weather made us turn back. But our feet were dry - excellent! Grip wasn't anything to write home about; I didn't expect miracles on icy snow, but in the mud the boots squirmed more than I'd expected. But with a good dozen or more kays on our feet by the end of the day, our feet were surprisingly un-fatigued.

That's the good news. The bad news was that after only one ~6hr outing, the rand around the front of my boots was coming away already - in a not-unsubstantial manner! All along the top edge the rubber had lifted away 2-5mm already, trapping in dirt and generally looking decidedly ratty for barely worn-in boots.

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My original pair of Camino GTX WXLs after their first weekend out. Hmmm...

"Oh well, obviously they slipped through QC." thinks me, knowing full well that even quality makers have off-days. The issue was raised with the retailer and, sure enough, replacement was ordered a few days later. As they didn't have another pair of Caminos in my size in stock, and I had a return attempt to Mt Rufus scheduled that weekend, we struck a deal to 'upgrade' me to the Tibet GTX Wides for much less than the near $100 price difference between the two. 

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Lowa Tibet GTX Wide

The Tibets are a "more serious" boot than the Caminos... stiffer, taller in the ankle, fewer seams, more spartan in design and, most tellingly, a full wrap-around rubber rand than the Camino's front-and-back capping. In truth I preferred the Camino's better balance of protection versus sole flex - particularly noticeable when you're climbing on scree - the Tibet's were less yielding and didn't have the same immediate comfort. But oh well, at least they'll last a long time.

Wrong. The exact same issue occurred again, first walk out. With each successive hike, more of the rand edge lifted off the leather, and more rand broke off altogether, leaving the leather underneath exposed, which quickly scarred. 

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My Tibet GTX Wides after 3 months and 269km, looking decidedly trashed...

It was about this time I became aware my delamination issue wasn't isolated. Unbeknownst, one of my running buddies had bought the Caminos a couple of weeks' prior and within a handful of trips his boots looked utterly trashed from the rand falling to bits. A couple of members from different bushwalking clubs were experiencing similar issues. It's also been mentioned in this thread on bushwalk.com - http://bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=29192

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A fellow walking club member's Caminos. He mentioned this was the third trip he'd taken them on.

Anyway, the retailer was soon advised that the same issue was happening and rather than try again with yet another pair of Lowas, I just wanted my money back and I'd (probably) get the darn Salomons like I'd originally planned. They duly put in another warranty claim - only for it to be rejected. Righto - give me the guy's phone/email, I'll sort this out myself. 

Said bloke from the distributor (Beattie Matheson in New Zealand) seemed a tad annoyed I'd got hold of his email, and proceeded to give a lengthy 'explanation' as to how the disintegrating rand constituted "normal wear and tear". He also lectured me that using Nikawax rather than their own brand Active Creme would have made the issue worse, despite the fact that I'd been using their stuff  for the first couple of months, by which time the damage was well and truly evident, and have always maintained the boots fastidiously to prevent spreading root rot/seeds around the state (and of course looking after my freaking expensive investment).

Anyway, a rebuttal email resulted in no response nor any refund. I've also contacted Lowa direct in Germany and received much the same response - very disappointing. By way of comparison, over the same period of time HydraPak replaced 3 Salomon SpeedFlasks (the original black wide cap tops crack after 6 months of use, they've since changed them to a different, light grey plastic) without any hassle whatsoever. At least some companies still understand customer service and the obligation to back up their products, especially when you charge a premium.

But here's the confusing, frustrating thing - my partner's women's specific Mauria GTX's haven't had the same issues. Yes, there's some small wear and chipping along the top edge of the rand, and the leather definitely has still marred more than ideally (due to being split leather) but after 500km-odd her boots look more or less the way you'd expect them too after that kind of use. Which begs the question: assuming all three boot styles are made with the same materials and production techniques, why are the mens boots losing their rands so quickly while the womens boots don't?

My partner's father offered some insight. Why does his opinion matter? Well, he worked for Blundstone for some 30 years, including as MD for 10, knows more about selecting leather and thermomoulding polyurethane than any rational human being should and actually is credited for the patent for shock absorbing TPU/PU soles that, curiously enough, Lowa use. So yeah, I listened carefully and took notes.

His appraisal:

* The rand idea was poorly executed. He reckoned gluing would have been more durable than heat moulding - despite what I'd previously been told - but ultimately it was too thin and too delicate to provide any long term protection.

* The harder rubber toe cap was way too small to offer any decent protection, particularly given the rand issue.

* Both the men's Camino and Tibet soles lacked rocker/toe lift compared to the Mauria, which is why the men's boots seem to be coping much more wear on the top of toe box than my partner's. This also confirmed a suspicion I had that the rand on the women's boots came up further on the actual toe box itself, pointed further backwards rather than having its edge point more or less straight up as on the men's boots, making it more prone to catching on rocks/scrub etc. as you walk. This also explains why the Tibets are only good for about 20km of walking before they fatigue the bejesus out of the soles of my feet.

* The vertical seam on the Mauria uppers was much preferable in term of flex and durability than the horizontal seam on the Tibets, and actually required a larger, more expensive piece of quality leather, despite the Maurias being a (slightly) cheaper boot.

* Speaking of leather, he said the leather was decent enough quality, not great (he's already picked all the spots in the grain where they'll fail first) but in his opinion split leather simply isn't a great option for a long lasting set of boots. That's no great surprise, trading improved immediate comfort over long term durability.

* He was surprised they were actually German made. Now, granted, he's been out of the game for some 10 years and probably hasn't quite seen the general depreciation of manufactured goods quality since as everyone tries to compete with Far East pricing, but he spent a lot of time in Germany learning the trade and has very high respect for their manufacturing. He thought they were good, just not as good as they should have been. 

Anyway, take of all this what you will. Suffice to say I've been mighty disappointed; I had admittedly high expectations of the Lowa boots, but have felt these were well on par with the price they cost, and really the boots haven't been subjected to anything beyond what a keen bushwalker would and could do in Tasmania. The lack of customer support has left a very sour note too. As always, buyer beware folks...

Cheers, Ben.

PS - Would be very interested to hear from other Lowa owners - male or female - with their experiences.
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby crollsurf » Wed 22 Jan, 2020 3:53 pm

That is appauling. I started wondering why the leather was so badly trashed and noticed they are Nubuck leather. That's probably a fail right there.
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby wildwanderer » Wed 22 Jan, 2020 5:13 pm

I never understand manufacturers or distributors acting like that. In these days of social media and forums, the sales lost from this type responce must far outweigh the cost of refunding a set of boots. Especially when its a reasonably high end special interest item where potential buyers are likely members of forums/social media that feature that special interest!
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby headwerkn » Wed 22 Jan, 2020 7:14 pm

crollsurf wrote:That is appauling. I started wondering why the leather was so badly trashed and noticed they are Nubuck leather. That's probably a fail right there.


Quite likely - it's a trade off between durability and comfort, and probably why Lowas are known for their immediately comfortable and "worn in" feel. That said, I got over 10 years out of a pair of nubuck Scarpas before they started causing me issues, and the only thing that properly marred its leather was a brush with a chainsaw. I've noticed more than a few people noting how soft the Lowa leather is.
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby wayno » Sun 26 Jan, 2020 3:41 pm

you could try making a complaint to the NZ commerce commission about the distributor not honouring the warranty, that its not fair wear and tear at all.
anyone in NZ at least is covered by that law, not sure how it relates when its being sold outside of NZ
here you can get a refund if the product "Isn't fit for purpose"
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby Joynz » Sun 26 Jan, 2020 4:11 pm

In Australia you have a legal right to an automatic warranty for the expected life of a product purchased here. Contact your state’s version of consumer.vic.

However, since the boots haven’t failed as such (I assume they are still able to be worn and are waterproof), the legislation might not apply.
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby msrlo » Sun 26 Jan, 2020 8:26 pm

looking at the abrasions on those boots I'm not really sure what boot you think will last.
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby Huntsman247 » Sun 26 Jan, 2020 9:24 pm

I'm in the same boat. This is after 3 trips. I've gotten the rand and leather repaired a few times already with. The leather is too soft and rand delaminates when the leather wets out.
Super comfy for me but I've also replaced the insole. I have washed and cleaned my boots with lowa products only.
Been meaning to try to get something done with lowa but just haven't had the time. Happy to jump on the band wagon if you're going to try to get some recompense with Lowa. Not impressive for the price. My friend had lowas that lasted 15yrs but don't think I'll get much more than 2 yrs if that. Not a lot of value for 600 bucks worth of boot.ImageImage
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby Huntsman247 » Sun 26 Jan, 2020 9:26 pm

msrlo wrote:looking at the abrasions on those boots I'm not really sure what boot you think will last.
They damage super easy ey, probably just sticks from an offtrack walk. Lol
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby Niftynomad » Sun 16 Feb, 2020 2:46 am

Hello All

Sounds like you received poor service, especially from a Kiwi agent, whose bush conditions matches ours. Perhaps he has had a mountain of returns there and cant cope with it any longer? You could research that to confirm, as the brand is normally well fabricated and recognised.

The only thing I have to offer is that once you find a pair of boots that fit well, and can see after 200km of Tassie conditions that they are wearing well, buy another 4 pairs. Same goes with clothes. Gear, not so much as tech changes so much...

I had 5 (or 6?!) pairs of Zamberlan Trail Lite, tough, cheapish, non gore tex, single piece of cow, and a stiff sole. A little hard underfoot for compacted well trodden dry trails, but the sole would last as long as the upper even with top quality care routine, inside and out. 2 seasons of SWTas!!
They stopped making them in 2016 apx.? The Scarpa equivalent was a Trek or Trek Lite.

Since then I've had more Zambos, Mammut, and more Scarpa.

Nothing comes close to the longevity of that model, and I now would not expect to be able to resole many models at all. Its just not the way anything is built now - more glue, stitch lines, and 3 types of foam and rubber glued together does not make for considerable durability.

My only other suggestions for Tassie/Chile/NZ are;

Zambo Civettas - old boot and heavy but lots floating around unused on Gumtree. SAS boot of choice (back then) indestructible.
Boreal- Zansker or Atlas. Atlas I had for 4 years and resoled once.
Meindls have a great wrap, but blow the budget.
Anything with less stitch lines (or none) and thicker leather, at least you can count on the upper not failing 4 days in to a 10 day walk.

Good Luck with what comes next, and remember to put Seam Grip on susceptible areas from day 1.
Ugly, but effective, and might have save your Lowe's (although they shouldnt have needed it.)

Un abrazo fraterno

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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby slparker » Sun 16 Feb, 2020 9:14 am

Not that I am particularly interested in walking in boots again, but my big beef with boots these days (synthetic or leather) is the amount of foam padding and lining that just retains water and delays drying.

There is something to be said for the one piece minimal stitching boot that is actually harder to manufacture than the multi panel design.
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Re: Lowa Camino GTX, Mauria GTX and Tibet GTX hiking boots

Postby headwerkn » Wed 19 Feb, 2020 3:52 pm

An update for anyone interested... just got off the phone with the NZ rep... basically went nowhere with an 'agree to disagree' but no offer of refund. So that is that. Very disappointing.

Joynz wrote:In Australia you have a legal right to an automatic warranty for the expected life of a product purchased here.... However, since the boots haven’t failed as such (I assume they are still able to be worn and are waterproof), the legislation might not apply.


I would imagine this is the case. The boots haven't failed as such, they're just wearing far more quickly than expected... the assumption being they'll fail in the future far sooner than expected, but I don't know that'd play out with the ACCC et. al. Most sensible manufacturers would have just given a refund at this point to make you go away ;-)

Huntsman247 wrote:
msrlo wrote:looking at the abrasions on those boots I'm not really sure what boot you think will last.
They damage super easy ey, probably just sticks from an offtrack walk. Lol


Pretty much! The Lowa rep reckons I've abused the boots above and beyond but I can't actually see how. We bushwalk regularly but nothing really beyond the usual tracked and untracked conditions you find in Tassie. I would imagine if you did 5 solid weeks walking through sharp shale and rock you'd reasonably expect accelerated wear. Pushing through a bit of Tasmanian alpine scrub really shouldn't present an issue to any boot worth its salt.

Huntsman247 wrote:I'm in the same boat. This is after 3 trips. I've gotten the rand and leather repaired a few times already with. The leather is too soft and rand delaminates when the leather wets out.
Super comfy for me but I've also replaced the insole. I have washed and cleaned my boots with lowa products only.
Been meaning to try to get something done with lowa but just haven't had the time. Happy to jump on the band wagon if you're going to try to get some recompense with Lowa. Not impressive for the price. My friend had lowas that lasted 15yrs but don't think I'll get much more than 2 yrs if that. Not a lot of value for 600 bucks worth of boot.ImageImage


Sounds all too familiar. Unfortunately I think any kind of refund or even admittance of fault from Lowa or the distributor is unlikely now - they know about this thread and seem unphased - but by all means PM me if you'd like to discuss further.

As a comparative aside, I bought myself a pair of La Sportiva Stream GTX boots just prior to a trip to New Zealand last week. These are a very lightweight, less supportive and more flexible boot, the polar opposite of the Tibet. Yet after scaling both Single Cone and Ben Lomond, as well as playing on a glacier further north, they look virtually unmarked/unworn. Will be interesting to track wear between the two over the coming months.

Cheers, Ben.
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