Taranaki's Pouakai Ranges

Brasher Hillmaster II GTX Review, Tested To Destruction

Brasher Hillmaster II GTX walking boots review: I’m willing to bet that a few of Cyclefar’s readers like walking. After all, to enjoy cycling is to enjoy life and there are many ways to experience the world. I have seen a fair bit of the great outdoors standing in these Brasher Hillmaster II GTX walking boots and now as I prepare to leave New Zealand (three weeks to go!) I’m also preparing to leave my beloved boots behind. I hope I don’t spoil the surprise by saying that these boots have never ever let me down in the estimated 500+ miles traveled in them.

I bought the Brasher Hillmaster walking boots on a recommendation from my dad who’s a keen walker and, whilst penniless at university, he kindly subsidised the price for me, telling me his philosophy ‘buy once buy right’. More specifically ‘buy leather’. Leather boots have the distinct advantage of being easy to clean, easier to care for and more water resistant than synthetic shoes in my opinion.

The leather is a fully waterproof layer before you even hit the Gore-Tex membrane underneath, and with so few seams, washing and waxing them is a simple and satisfying task. Leather boots tend to bounce back time and time again with a tin of wax and ten minutes of your best massaging.

The Notable Adventures Of The Brasher Hillmaster GTX II Walking Boots!

Here’s an overview of some of the situations, climates and terrain they have trodden over the last 5 years.

Coast to Coast England

The first big adventure and possibly the highest mileage single walk was the Coast to Coast (C2C) in England. Technically intended for cyclists it’s also a great walk that takes you from one side of the country to the other, it crosses the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors national parks. I had been at Uni for two years and so I used this trip as a great way to spend some time with my sister Nicola when I returned home for the summer holidays.

My Sister Nikki On The C2C
My sister Nicola taking a break on the C2C.

Several Snowdonia Walks
When I was a part of De Montfort University Climbing Club (Strangely not one of the three universities I attended to complete my degree) Snowdonia National Park was one of our regular haunts.

The De Montfort climbing gang.
The De Montfort Climbing Gang

Mt. Taranaki
The volcano Mt. Taranaki is the dominant feature of the West coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s the monolithic structure that watches over the people of New Plymouth where I currently live. It wedges us against the coast, dictates our weather and, when climbed, eats our shoes. Mt. Taranaki has huge fields of pumice rocks that you sink into as you walk, its sharp edges tear and cut whatever you’re walking in. My Brasher Hillmaster boots never looked quite the same after this trip, but they were still everything a walking boot should be, waterproof, comfortable and supportive.

Mt. Taranaki Summit
Mt. Taranaki summit with our friends from Leeds.

Many Hikes Into The Pouakai Ranges
My favourite local walk here in New Plymouth is the hike up into the Pouakai ranges. They sit besides Mt. Taranaki, and though comparatively small, are far more interesting, sheltered and varied. They also offer the best view of Mt. Taranaki which is impossible to do when you’re standing on it! I’ve taken the Brashers into the damp and cool Pouakai ranges many times.

Taranaki's Pouakai Ranges
Deep inside Taranaki’s Pouakai Ranges.

How Did The Brasher Hillmaster Boots Fare?

Climate
Out of all the environments that I’ve tested the Brasher Hillmaster GTX II walking boots they coped best in the cold and wet conditions. With a thick pair of socks my feet never got cold and the boots never leaked. One particular walk with the climbing club saw us traverse miles of bog land, a few times I sunk really deep but thanks to wearing gaiters over the tops of my boots water didn’t slip over the top and though the boots were submerged for hours at a time in peat, moss water and mud the boots performed brilliantly and my feet stayed dry.

The Brasher Hillmasters struggle the most in hot weather. They’re heavy and protective boots and though breathable in normal conditions you’ll certainly end up with hot sweaty feet in very warm weather.

I would say that the Brasher Hillmaster II GTX are British boots for typically British weather.

Terrain
With moderately aggressive tread (when they were new) the Brasher Hillmasters are perfect for compacted rocky ground, crags, creeks, etc. They are flexible shoes which makes light and fast movement possible but they are not suitable for crampons, i.e. I would call them B0 shoes (rather than B1 or B2 compliant – see link for explanation). The Brasher Hillmasters are first and foremost walking boots and not crampon compliant climbing boots.

I was always surprised how well they coped with the snow, though it does tend to destroy the wax coating and they always need a new coat afterwards. I suspect the crystalline ice acts as an abrasive and scrapes the coating away.

Due to the Brasher Hillmasters flexibility they are perfectly good for walking long distances on roads, a point I was pleased about when walking the coast to coast.

Comfort
If I were to describe my feet I would say they were fairly wide and chunky. I usually wear UK size 9/US 10/EU 43, I have a neutral gait and don’t use any arch supports or sole modifications. For you runners out there I’m a long time forefoot runner.

I can tell you that the Brasher Hillmasters are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned and I’m sure you’ll believe I’m not exaggerating. But, I can do better, I can almost prove to you that these shoes are the most comfortable shoes I’ve walked in because I can show you the even tread wear and minimal internal wear that you only ever get from well balanced shoes that exert minimum friction on your feet.

Look at how well the heels have held together, almost always the first part to deteriorate due to friction.

(Please not that in these photos my Brasher Hillmaster II GTXs are temporarily stained green at the base from walking in long cut grass yesterday and you may notice a large gash in the tread and down one side of the shoe. This was from a fight with a spade!)

Brasher Hillmaster II GTX Review
The low amount of fabric wear inside the boots, especially on the heel, are an indication of how little friction the Brasher Hillmasters exerted on my feet.

The tread on the Brasher Hillmaster boots wore evenly from one side to the other. There is slightly more wear on the outside of the shoe but this is normal and due to the natural mechanics of the human foot.

The arches of your feet should not be putting pressure on the ground, rather they should channel your weight to the ball of your foot as your stride forwards. The outermost edge of your foot is used as you roll forwards mid stride. That’s considered a normal, neutral gait and that’s what the tread wear on the Brashers show.

This means that over the hundreds of miles of wildly varying terrain the Brasher Hillmasters supported my feet in a healthy way right up to the last mile.

Brasher Hillmaster Tread Wear
Notice the near even tread wear with a slight emphasis on the outer edge of the shoes.

The Features I Like

There are several features that really make the Brasher Hillmaster GTX II boots great. They are things I perhaps didn’t recognise when I bought them but I’ve come to appreciate over time.

Integrated Tongue
The tongue of the Brasher Hillmasters is integrated into the body of the boot making a fully waterproof seal all the way up to your ankle, this is great when you misjudge the depth of a puddle and end up sinking deeper than you had expected.

Brasher Hillmaster Integrated Tongue
Brasher Hillmaster Integrated Tongue.

Reinforced Lace Hooks
Reinforced lace hooks or eyelets are a great feature because it allows you to thread your laces up to the top and then a back down to a stronger set. That set is positioned so that the tension, rather than being at the top of the shoe and cutting off the blood supply to your foot is pulling across you heel securing the boot to your foot.

As you can see from the photo I don’t always thread my laces that far down and rely on a standard lace hook. Even so, that lace hook, nor any other, shows any sign of wear.

Brasher Hillmaster Reinforced Eyelets
Brasher Hillmaster Reinforced Lace Hooks.

Handy Little Heel Tab
The Brasher Hillmaster II boots have a small leather tab on the heel that helps getting them on. Especially when your hands and feet are cold.

Brasher Hillmaster II GTX Review
The Brasher Hillmaster boots have a handy leather tab to help cold feet into warm boots.

How I Would Change The Brasher Hillmaster IIs

There is one feature that I would have loved to see on the Brasher Hillmaster IIs and that’s a rubber protective toe cap. When my legs get tired on a long walk and my feet begin to drag I occasionally, like anyone, kick a rock, stumble on a step and scuff the front of my boots. The leather on the toes of the boots took some early wear and it would have been nice to have a rubber bumper to protect them.

Brasher Hillmaster II GTX Review
It would have been nice to see rubber toe caps on the Brasher Hillmaster IIs

Brasher Hillmaster GTX II Review Conclusion

I have a habit of writing reviews of my favorite gear, it’s because when I find something I think is good I want to tell other people so they can benefit from it too. The Brasher Hillmaster II GTX is no exception, I chose to review these walking boots because I knew I would have the pleasure of writing a glowing review, it might be interesting and useful to Cyclefar readers and because reading bad reviews is always a little disappointing!

My final word on the matter is that when I go back the UK in three weeks time I will be buying another pair of Brasher boots for my 500+ miles of walking adventures.

If you found this Brasher Hillmaster II GTX review useful or interesting please consider leaving a comment or sharing it on your social network of choice.

5 thoughts on “Brasher Hillmaster II GTX Review, Tested To Destruction”

  1. I am about to order a new pair. My current ones are 20 ish years old. It is around £75 to have them re-soled, so a new pair is good value. Never had wet feet.

  2. I had a pair of the original suede Brashers, back in the 1980s, and Chris Brasher guaranteed that you would not get blisters with them even from new. They were the most comfortable and lightest boot I have ever used. I only hope that the Hillmaster II GTXs I have just ordered will be as good. If they are true to their pedigree, the answer will be YES.

  3. Just bough a pair today with my Christmas gift money, i owned a pair of Brasher boots and wrecked them on the Killimanjaro decent, so feel at home with them already, looking forward to ‘getting out there’.

  4. Looking to but new walking boots and this has helped to make my mind up. thanks, and good luck on your future trips and at uni…….

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