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Hanwag, a German brand with a long history in the outdoor gear market, is known for producing sturdy hiking boots. While not as prominent in the UK, Hanwag’s offerings, particularly the Banks GTX model, have garnered attention for their quality and design. This review focuses on the Banks GTX 2 boots, a new interpretation of a Hanwag classic.
Brand Legacy and Quality Standards
Founded in the early 1900s, Hanwag has established itself in the hiking boot industry with a focus on durability and craftsmanship. The brand, initiated by Hans Wagner and later joined by his brother Lorenz Wagner (founder of Lowa boots), has a reputation for using high-quality materials and adhering to strict production standards.
The Banks GTX boots are a reflection of Hanwag’s commitment to quality. Made with certified nubuck leather and equipped with robust metal lace hooks, these boots are designed for longevity. However, the brand’s presence in the UK market is limited compared to other well-known outdoor gear brands, leading to less visibility among UK consumers.
Hanwag’s approach to manufacturing combines traditional craftsmanship with modern environmental standards. The use of eco-friendly leather and sustainable practices is a significant aspect of their production process. This commitment to sustainability is a key part of the company’s ethos, though it’s worth noting that such practices may also contribute to the higher price point of their products.
Specifications of the Hanwag Banks GTX
The Hanwag Banks GTX is a full nubuck leather boot, designed for the rigours of outdoor hiking. Here’s a closer look at its specifications:
- Upper Material: The boot is crafted from high-quality nubuck leather, suede, and synthetic materials. This combination provides a balance of durability and flexibility, essential for varied hiking conditions.
- Gore-Tex Membrane: A critical feature for any hiking boot, the Gore-Tex lining ensures waterproofing while maintaining breathability. This is crucial for keeping feet dry in wet conditions without compromising on comfort over longer treks.
- Sole Unit: The Banks GTX features a Vibram Endurance Pro outer sole, known for its robustness and grip on a variety of surfaces. Whether traversing wet, muddy paths or rocky terrains, the sole offers reliable traction.
- Cushioning: A thicker polyurethane foam wedge is integrated into the sole for enhanced shock absorbency and comfort. This makes the boot suitable for smoother roll-offs, particularly useful in flatter regions or on longer hikes.
One of the unique aspects of the Banks GTX is the Hanwag StraightFit-Extra last, designed to provide additional room in the front sides, catering to wider feet. This design choice is significant, as it offers extra space around the big toe and side of the forefoot, enhancing overall comfort.
The boots feature softer cushioning compared to many competitors, which contributes to a better roll-off during hiking. This softer cushioning is great on demanding hikes, especially in lower mountain ranges or on easier hut-to-hut trails, where consistent comfort and foot support are crucial.
The Hanwag Banks GTX boots boast a blend of technical features and sustainable construction. They are geared towards hikers who need reliable, comfortable footwear for a wide range of terrain, from the foothills of the Alps to the smoother trails of the UK’s countryside.
Performance and Comfort
Having tested the Hanwag Banks GTX boots in a variety of landscapes, from the Peak District to the Scottish Highlands, I can offer firsthand insights into their performance and comfort. The testing grounds included a mix of compacted gravel, wet moorland, and sharp, jagged rocks — a good representation of typical UK hiking terrain.
- Comfort and Fit: The boots felt surprisingly light, both in hand and when worn. The Hanwag StraightFit-Extra last, providing additional room at the front, was particularly noticeable. This design offered more space around the big toe and side of the forefoot, a feature that those with wider feet will appreciate. The softer cushioning of the boots contributed to a comfortable experience, even over longer distances.
- Grip and Stability: The Vibram Endurance Pro outer sole performed admirably across all types of terrain. On wet, muddy trails, the boots provided excellent traction, preventing slips and slides. Similarly, on rocky paths, the grip was reliable, instilling confidence with each step. This performance is crucial for hikers who encounter a mix of conditions and need a boot that can handle a wide range of surfaces.
- Durability and Waterproofing: The nubuck leather and Gore-Tex membrane combination effectively kept the feet dry, even when crossing through puddles and wet areas. The robust construction of the boots suggests that they are built to last, although longer-term use would be needed to fully assess their durability.
- Breathability: Despite their waterproof nature, the boots didn’t compromise on breathability. Even after several hours of hiking, my feet remain relatively dry and comfortable, a testament to the effectiveness of the Gore-Tex lining.
- Overall Experience: Throughout the many hikes, the boots provided a balanced mix of support and flexibility. The shock absorbency and smoother roll-off were noticeable, especially on flatter regions and during descents. The lightness of the boots, combined with their supportive structure, make for an enjoyable hiking experience.
The Hanwag Banks GTX boots delivered a solid performance across different terrains, offering comfort, stability, and reliability. Their design caters well to the needs of a typical UK hiker, balancing the demands of varied landscapes with the necessity for all-day comfort.
Versatility for Different Hiking Scenarios
The Hanwag Banks GTX boots are designed to be versatile, catering to a range of hiking scenarios. Here’s how they fare in different hiking contexts:
- Demanding Hikes and Lower Mountain Ranges: For challenging hikes, especially in lower mountain ranges, the Banks GTX boots offer the necessary support and durability. The robust construction and reliable traction make them suitable for uneven and rugged terrains.
- Easier Hut-to-Hut Trails and Foothills of the Alps: These boots are also well-suited for less demanding hikes, such as easier hut-to-hut trails or walks in the foothills of the Alps. The softer cushioning and smoother roll-off provide comfort on longer treks, while the lightweight design doesn’t weigh the hiker down.
- General Hillwalking and Flatter Regions: In the UK, where hillwalking often involves a mix of terrains, from grassy paths to rocky ascents, the Banks GTX boots perform consistently well. Their shock absorbency and grip make them a good choice for day hikes and longer walking routes.
- Wet and Muddy Conditions: The Gore-Tex lining ensures waterproofing in wet conditions, making the boots a reliable option for hikes in the UK’s often unpredictable weather. They keep feet dry without sacrificing breathability.
- Comparison with Other Hanwag Models: It’s worth noting that while the Banks GTX is versatile, Hanwag offers other models for more specific needs. For example, the Banks Low is better suited for easy trekking tours and those needing a larger forefoot area. For serious mountaineering, other specialized Hanwag boots would be more appropriate.
Overall, the Hanwag Banks GTX boots are a strong contender for hikers looking for a single pair of boots that can handle a variety of scenarios. They strike a balance between performance, comfort, and versatility, making them a suitable option for most hikers, particularly in the diverse landscapes of the UK.
The Bottom Line
The Hanwag Banks GTX boots are a high-performing, versatile option for hikers. They excel in a variety of conditions, from the lower mountain ranges to smoother trails, and are particularly well-suited for the diverse UK terrain. The boots’ construction, featuring a Gore-Tex membrane, robust cast metal lace hooks, and a reinforced PU foam wedge, provides a blend of comfort, support, and durability.
Their suitability for a wide range of terrain, including demanding hikes and easier hut-to-hut trails, makes them a strong choice for many hikers. The additional room in the front sides caters to wider feet, ensuring comfort for a broader range of users. The environmental focus, evident in the use of certified nubuck leather and eco-friendly manufacturing practices, aligns with the growing demand for sustainable outdoor gear.
While they may not be the ideal choice for extreme mountaineering or specialised scenarios, the Banks GTX boots are an excellent option for the average hill walker. Their ability to handle everything from wet, muddy conditions to rocky ascents, coupled with their sustainable production, makes them a valuable addition to any hiker’s gear collection.
They are a testament to Hanwag’s century-long legacy in high-quality boot making, offering a blend of traditional craftsmanship and modern environmental consciousness.
Our Top Pick
Hanwag Banks GTX
For those seeking a reliable, versatile pair of hiking boots that excel in various terrains while aligning with eco-friendly standards, the Hanwag Banks GTX boots are an excellent choice.
Their combination of durability, comfort, and commitment to sustainability makes them a worthwhile investment for any serious hiker.