Ultra FastPack II vs. The Original FastPack Mid
According to the manufacturer, the updated model has a new midsole and outsole design, complete with updated materials, meshes, and a breathable Gore-Tex membrane. For a slight price increase of $5, the Fastpack II has been redesigned to provide more support while still saving weight, coming in at just under one pound per boot. The support seems to be coming in the form of a new OrthoLite footbed, an ESS Snake Plate forefoot protector, and a Cradle Guide midsole. As of November 2016, the original version we tested is still for sale on the manufacturer's website in limited sizes.
See the new version here, on the left, with the original on the right.
With the fit of a trail running shoe, and the lightest weight we tested, The North Face Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX received an above average comfort score. While it earned some of the lowest scores for stability and durability, we loved this shoe for what it's intended for: throwing down big miles while moving fast with minimal loads.
This is the lightest product we tested, more of a high top trail runner than a 'boot.'
Comfort is where the Fastpack Mid GTX really stands out. With its minimalist construction, it feels great from the first minute you put it on. The upper is the lightest and most conforming to the foot of any we tested and has minimal padding in just the right places around the ankle. After passing through four traditional lower eyelets, the laces pass through a pulley-like eye that allows quick tightening of the running shoe-esque forefoot. Two quick-lace hook eyelets on the ankle collar finish off the lacing system.
Ankle stability and foot support are not strong points of this boot. The minimalist ankle collar is super comfy (and obviously provides more ankle stability than a low-cut shoe) but does little compared to other boots to stabilize your ankle.
We found the Vibram sole on this model to deliver all-around good traction. In all four of our traction tests, the Ultra Fastpack was an average performer. A different heel design would give better muddy traction on the downhills, and possibly better loose gravel traction, but would inhibit the comfort for fast hiking.
Products with deeper lugs on the sole perform better in really muddy terrain, but the Fastpack handles muddy terrain ok, and will keep you dry.
Weighing in at just over one pound per size 12 boot, or 2.05 lbs for the pair, the Ultra Fastpack Mid is the lightest hiking boot we tested. With a very snug fit, and minimalist construction, there's just much less to this boot than all the others. For applications where light is right, the trade-offs for its class-leading weight are acceptable.
That's right... barely over a pound per foot for the size 12 Ultra Fastpack. Now that's light.
The Gore-Tex liner kept our feet completely dry when splashing through muddy spring meadows and during our "soak in the river" test. With a height of four inches (from the ground to where the gusseted tongue attaches to the upper), these have one of the lowest flood heights we tested (but much higher than a low-cut waterproof trail runner).
We were impressed with the synthetic upper's ability to bead and resist soaking up water. This will wear over time, but held up through our testing.
The super light weight of these boots comes with trade-offs, the most notable of which is a lack of durability. For use on smooth trails, these wear well, but rough terrain can chew them up quickly. The EVA midsole is exposed not only at high wear areas in the instep, but also on the bottom of the sole at the heel. An overlay protects portions of the mesh upper, but the seams at the forefoot flex area are prone to wear. We love how light this boot is, and reinforcing key areas on the upper will help it last longer for rough use.
The Ultra Fastpack Mid is a great boot for folks that love hiking in lightweight trail running shoes, but want more ankle protection and a little more burliness for pointy rocks underfoot. While it is a great choice for day hiking in gentle terrain, it really excels when ounces matter. Super long fastpacking days on mountain trails, and long ultralight backpacking trips are where it shines. The feather light weight on the scale is most beneficial when on your feet for many hours, or many days.
After three hours in a constant light rain, the upper was just beginning to soak up some water.
At $150, this is one of the lower priced products we reviewed. While there are many boots that provide more foot and ankle support, and have a broader range of uses, The North Face Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX does a great job for what it is designed for: fastpacking and ultralight backpacking performance at an eye-poppingly low weight.
The Ultra Fastpack Mid is the most unique hiking boot we've tested. More of a high top, minimalist trail runner, it is great boot for folks that move light and fast, but want more ankle protection than a low-cut shoe. This boot provides great protection and will keep your feet warm and dry, especially on spring and fall trail runs with a lot of mud and puddles.