Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested the Dragontail MNT GTX during early summer conditions in the Sierra Nevada on overnight trips into the backcountry to climb peaks. Long approaches with heavy packs mean that comfort is going to be important in a hiking shoe, so much so that many mountaineers will choose to hike in trail runners while carrying their boots. The Dragontail effectively eliminates the need to carry two pairs of footwear in summer conditions, as it hikes quite comfortably with its semi-rockered sole and low-cut hiking shoe style while remaining stiff enough to ascend difficult terrain with confidence.
This shoe does benefit from a short break-in period and gets more comfortable after about 20 miles of hiking. It has a traditional lacing system that also utilizes a wrap-around heel lace that allows for a snug fit for those with low-volume heels. Its sole is incredibly thick and durable and gives the best protection from sharp and pointed rocks on and off the trail.
The Dragontail MNT GTX hiking shoes may have once been considered a lightweight hiking shoe, but with so many excellent options in synthetic materials and low-weight inserts available, hiking shoes that weigh in over 2.5 pounds are becoming a thing of the past. At 2.78 pounds for a pair in a size 11 US, this hiking shoe is objectively heavy.
Don't let weight alone detract you from reading further, however, as the Dragontail MNT GTX does fit a specialized niche as a low-cut, stiff approach shoe for aggressive mountain travel. The weight penalty is worth paying when you have to traverse miles of uneven talus and descend snow and scree to complete your objective - the other shoes in this category will have a hard time performing as well. It also acts like two pairs of shoes, especially if you are considering bringing a tight pair of rock climbing shoes for the short section of steep rock, you may be able to leave those behind thanks to the top-tier performance of these shoes in this scenario.
This Garmont model offers excellent support as a result of its heavy-duty outsole with a PU insert to gain more stability and rigidity. We do not hesitate to take these on extended trips where lots of rough and uneven ground must be traveled. With an ankle collar height of 2.5 inches, this shoe allows for a wide range of motion.
The forefoot width is only 3.75 inches, notably narrower than many other shoes in this review, though this narrow width also allows it to fit into cracks when scrambling up technical terrain more easily. We do not feel that the narrow width makes this shoe more susceptible to rolling ankles, on the contrary, we feel this shoe is quite stable.
Traction is another arena in which the Dragontail MNT GTX excels. The thick lugs on the outsole allow this shoe to kick through mud and snow with ease, and smear on rock thanks to the sticky Vibram rubber compound. With the stiff sole, we even feel like a pair of light aluminum crampons can be paired with this shoe for added security on short sections of firm snow, as often encountered on early season hiking trips.
Our main test was hiking into the Southern Palisades in the Sierra Nevada to climb Middle Palisade, a 14er with a rough and tumble approach over trail, scree, talus, and snow, culminating in a 1,500-foot climb up 3rd class rock ledges. Being able to use the same piece of footwear for the approach and for the climb is a huge benefit, both in weight and space savings. We found this shoe to tackle 4th class scrambling with ease and even climbed low 5th class rock climbing pitches while wearing these shoes. This is the kind of objective that the Dragontail MNT GTX is designed for, and we recommend it to those seeking extra security for their mountain adventures.
While it succeeds at performing very well off-trail and in steep and technical terrain, the Dragontail is not a hiking shoe for all hikers, nor all hiking conditions. It is a niche product that excels in the terrain it is designed for but is overbuilt for the type of hiking that the average hiking population does on a regular basis.
Hiking shoes that are lighter, have a wider forefoot, and dry out faster will be an overall more versatile product than this shoe.
With a full leather outer and a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, the Dragontail MNT GTX does a good job at repelling water. The waterproof membrane functions as it is designed to, though the leather outer needs to be treated with some type of aftermarket waterproofing agent to be effective. A wet leather outer will prohibit the Gore-Tex membrane from working, and we ended up with very wet shoes without treating it with a product such as Sno-Seal. These shoes take a very long time to dry out once wet, so treating them early and often is recommended.
One benefit of using traditional materials such as thick, full-grain leather is that the outer material is highly resistant to abrasion. We feel that the Dragontail MNT GTX will last a long time with proper care, such as treating the leather regularly, seam sealing the stitching, and even taking the shoes into a reputable cobbler to for a resole once it is worn out. Hardly any hiking shoes these days will last as long as this pair from Garmont.
We believe that several years of use should be the minimum expectation if well cared for, and if the upper remains in good shape while the sole begins to wear smooth, then this type of shoe is a great contender for a resole by a cobbler.
This attentively crafted mountain shoe is made from quality materials and will last a long time if properly cared for, so while it is expensive, it is a very good value.
Light is not always right, and so if you are looking for a summertime alpine scrambling shoe that will not fall apart at the seams like other flimsy hiking or approach shoes, then look at the Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX. This shoe performs like a boot, so if you are too accustomed to the stable platform that a full shank hiking boot offers, then this shoe could be a good transition into the world of lower weight and more comfortable hiking shoes.
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