Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, waterproof, supportive, comfortable, no break-in period.
Cons: Less breathable
Best Uses: Light backpacking, day hiking, cooler weather hiking
Manufacturer: The North Face
The North Face Hedgehog Guide is the more current version of the North Face Hedgehog which has been discontinued.
The Hedgehog Guide is basically the same shoe that the Hedgehog was but in several different colors and it's a little bit lighter, which is nice. The original Hedgehog weighed 1.59 lbs. and the Hedgehog Guide weighs in at 1.11 lbs. They are both made with a synthetic mesh upper and a dual-density, molded Eva Cradle Guide midsole platform with a Vibram sole.
Normally this would be a first look review, but because the two versions of this product are so similar and have changed so little, we still consider it a hands on review. So please read on and see what we thought about the North Face Hedgehog and the North Face Hedgehog Guide as well.
It was a category standout from the first minute we laced up the shoe, and wins our Editor's Choice for the hiking shoe category. Unlike traditional backpacking boots and shoes, the Hedgehog felt comfortable and fitted instantly, instead requiring hundreds of miles to be broken in. We loved the aggressive and snug fit that didn't snag on rocks or roots while hiking on technical or tight trails. Despite having great features such as a Gore-Tex XCR lining and a full Vibram sole that frequently weigh shoes down, the Guide's lightweight design was a favorite with our testers, keeping our feet happy and energetic through long treks.
The North Face Hedgehog hit this category right in the middle in terms of burliness. If you are looking for the shoe with the strongest backbone, check out the Salomon Peak Exit or the La Sportiva ECO. On the other end of the spectrum, check out the Keen Ambler for the ultimate casual comfort machine.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Credit: North Face
The Guide won the Best-in-Class for weight, coming in at a very low 1.11 lbs per pair. While we have already discussed in our Buying Advice the huge benefits of having a lightweight shoe for long distances, the Hedgehog Guide is also a great shoe for rock hopping and technical approaches due to its precise sole mixed with a lightweight design. While the shoe comes in as the lightest tested, its build quality doesn't suffer or take shortcuts like some other shoes have done. Usually, a lightweight shoe consists of lots of mesh panels (like the Merrell Moab Ventilator) and thinner, less supportive soles. The Hedgehog managed to stick to its roots and be an all-around solid shoe and still be a featherweight.
When you first lace up the Hedgehog Guide, it may not seem like a plushy shoe that you generally relate to comfort. But don't let that stop you. Throw on your plushy tennis shoes and go for a ten-mile hike with a pack. You'll think differently about instantaneous comfort versus comfort that continues to deliver.
The Hedgehog Guide falls into that second category. While it may not caress your foot in squishy foam and mesh like the Merrell Moab Ventilator, the design was much more comfortable after long hours or distances. The supportive sole and footbed matched up perfectly with our testers' feet, and the close fit throughout the shoe helped us avoid nasty slip-ups on rocks, roots, and other trail creatures.
The Guide also boasts top-notch support and despite its lightweight build, still holds it together with heavier pack weights. The ankle cut, while lower than shoes like the Salomon Exit Peak, was still substantial enough to prevent rolling our ankles across minefields of death-cookie rocks disguised as leaves along the Appalachian Trail.
The Hedgehog Guide ended up being our go-to shoe for fast and light backpacking. It hardly weighs more than a trail running shoe, yet provides features like a full Gore-Tex membrane and excellent support, both along the sole and through the upper.
Traction for the Hedgehog was sufficient, but wasn't a suction cup to any terrain like that offered by the Patagonia Drifter or the Salomon Exit Peak. It performed very well in loose mud and dirt found in the Southeast, but started to slip a bit on smooth hard rocks in the Northeast and the stubborn snow patches still on trails in the Sierra.
While versatility is a tough category to measure, we tried to think of situations a hiking shoe shouldn't be in. The Hedgehog Guide did all right blending in as a casual shoe, but definitely matched up with the flannel-toting lumberjack look better than with the suave businessman look of the La Sportiva ECO or the Keen Ambler, which both had a more concealed appearance.
The shoe did better being stretched to heavier pack weights of lugging gear up mountains than most of the competition, but still was out-matched by La Sportiva's stiff sole. Chores (manly ones) around the house like chopping wood, shoveling the driveway, or digging holes for plants or mountain bike jumps were all a pleasure with the Hedgehog Guide. Also, running around between rocks like a toddler on a playground was also no challenge for the shoe. Overall, the Guide manages to reach outside of its boundaries reasonably well, but it won't be a one-shoe "quiver."
The water resistance is spectacular, both in terms of fabric wetting and membrane protection. Many shoes will wet out, making them substantially heavier as they load with water, but will still be dry on the inside. The Hedgehog resisted fabric wetting like a champion. Still, after soaking the fabric, the membrane kicked in and provided the rest of the protection.
The Hedgehog is a great choice for practically any outdoor activity, wet or dry, in moderate climates. Heavier pack loads were handled just fine (3-5 days, lightweight style), but we feel like the show would start to fall short in the 30-pound pack range for an average sized male. If you are looking for a shoe to tackle pack loads at 30 pounds or above, take a look at our Hiking Boot review. The shoe does run a bit warm, so if you are doing desert hiking in hot areas, the Merrell Moab Ventilator would be a better option.
At $130, the North Face Hedgehog Guide is not the least expensive shoe in the category, nor the most expensive. With the bomber build quality and no reported issues of durability, we feel like it is a very valuable purchase despite its price.
Unless you are hiking in incredibly hot environments, or have heavier pack loads requiring a full hiking boot, we think the North Face Hedgehog Guide is a great pick. With the support to handle most situations, the comfort to keep you going day after day, and only tipping the scale to 1.11 lbs, there's very little that the Hedgehog can't tackle.
The Hedgehog also comes in a higher cut, also waterproof version.
Check out the women's version of this shoe, the Hedgehog Guide GTX - Women's.
— Tommy Pennick
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Most recent review: March 19, 2014
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