The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight boots provided an average amount of comfort given their stripped-down appearance as a minimalist hiking boot meant for long-distance thru-hikes. While not as plush as other models, the Fastfoam midsole does deflect some of the impacts on a rough trail. The molded toe cap also helps to ensure that stubbed toes on rock and roots don't hurt as much.
We like the lacing system, as it allows us to get a snug secure fit from down near the toe box all the way up to the ankle, and the soft material that wraps the ankle is comfortable even when laced tight.
Using an ESS midfoot shank, the Ultra Fastpack IV is one of the stiffest models in this 2 pound or under category. This extra rigidity doesn't make them hike like a mountain boot - they still flex as easily as a hiking shoe - but they give a lot more confidence when edging, walking on sidehills or through uneven terrain. This gives them an advantage when carrying more pack weight or hiking in off-trail situations.
With a fairly narrow footbed, we feel that with the laces secured, we have better support wearing these boots than with other similar lightweight hikers, especially around the upper ankle.
The North Face uses a Vibram rubber compound on the sole of the Ultra Fastpack IV called Megagrip. This compound has become quite popular in many hiking boots and shoes thanks to its grippiness in most conditions, and its good durability. Soft enough to smear on rocks and gain traction, it is durable enough to get good purchase in loose conditions like scree and sand.
We put the Ultra Fastpack IV Mid boots on our scale and verified their weight at 2.06 pounds per pair in a size 11 US. This makes them the third lightest boots in our review. We think that the slight weight increase over some of the lightest boots in our review is worth it, as these have a lot of stability that the others lack.
The Futurelight material that is being used by The North Face is a new waterproof/breathable fabric that is a proprietary development and is featured in their entire product line. We did feel that there was a slight change in breathability when comparing these boots to ones that use a more traditional Gore-tex branded waterproof membrane, especially when testing them in warmer weather.
To test the waterproofness of the Ultra Fastpack IVs, we sloshed through creeks and stood in water puddles for 5 minutes. We did not experience any leakage issues and emerged with dry socks (but cold feet!)
As with all lightweight materials that are dependent on synthetic fabrics to decrease their weight, there is a durability cost. The Ultra Fastpack IV Mid has a large number of welded or glued seams that are going to be likely failure points down the trail. The mesh used on the upper is exposed to abrasion from rocks and so care should be taken around sharp rock terrain.
Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight boots are an ok value. They provide good, but not great, performance in our review metrics.
The The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight is a reasonable offering in the lightweight hiking boot category, and it does well in light-duty applications. We like this boot for day hikes in uneven terrain, for trail walking in wet weather, and for overnight hikes with lighter pack weight.
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