Garmont Dragontail MNT
Rich Lawes, December 3, 2011
Garmont’s Dragontail MNT is part of their ‘Mountain’ range of footwear and as such is aimed at mountaineers, climbers and boulderers to use as an approach shoe to the crag. With an outer constructed of 1.8mm suede like many mountaineering boots, and a tough rand going around the toe box and heel, the Dragontail MNT is quite a substantial shoe when compared to the average ‘trail’ shoe. Also the outer Vibram Mulsaz sole tread unit is shared by many popular, climbing focused boots such as the popular La Sportiva Trango S Evo, giving a good blend of walking traction and climbing/scrambling grip.
I absolutely loved these shoes right from the off. I have quite slim feet and a high arch and these fitted me perfectly. If you have wide feet I would look elsewhere or certainly get them fitted for you by a good outdoor shop. They are purposefully snug in order to work better on steep ground and the rock-shoe aping lacing that goes almost to front of the shoe really helps these to stay on when you’re monkeying around. I’m a big fan of the climbing orientated ‘trail’ shoe genre, as when I’m instructing indoor and outdoor climbing and scrambling with adventure aberdeen it is a non-starter to wear proper rock shoes as you need to be able to walk, climb and work on and off the ground.
This type of shoe is much stiffer than the average trail shoe and this enables you to edge on small pieces of rock and not squirm off the hold or make your feet ache. Climbing orientated trail shoes in my opinion fall into two camps: those with outrageously sticky rubber, very little tread and a soft midsole like the Scarpa Zen or the 5.10 Guide Tennie; and those with a mountaineering, lugged tread and stiff midsole like the Garmont Dragontail MNT. Both are a compromise and I’ve owned both types to know the pitfalls of each. My last pair of shoes were a 5.10 pair and I did miss on the odd occasion the sticky rubber that can be so useful especially on the licenous and sea-spray covered rocks that account for most of the climbing venues we use. However, this was more than offset by the much better performance of the Garmont Dragontails just about everywhere else. They are brilliant low grade climbing shoes and very reassuring walking down grassy slopes to access cliffs etc. They have a slight rocker to the sole to make walking on flat and hard ground easier and this useful profiling (which you find on a lot of mountaineering boots) is a godsend – without this they would be a bit clumpy to walk long distances in.
These shoes are as close to the perfect ‘outdoor instructors’ shoe as I’ve found and I would definitely go out and buy another pair when these ones are done. They have worn brilliantly, they’re robust, the rand takes the brunt of the abuse you throw at them and the various features all work very well.
To achieve perfection for me the rubber rand should be made continuous around the shoe as it has a small gap on both sides near the instep, this affects the waterproofing at this point and it is a real pity it is missing. Mine have both worn at that point as it unprotected from sharp rocks when you’re climbing. Also Garmont offer this shoe with a Gore-tex lining in some countries but not in the UK. Although the unlined shoes I’ve tested have held out most water with a nikwax proofing and are certainly in a different league to the fair weather only Scarpa and 5.10 offerings, I have on occasion got damp feet. This has meant that I’ve had to revert to ‘proper’ boots for the odd occasion at work where I’d have preferred to have worn a Gore-Tex lined Dragontail instead. Climates don’t come much wetter than the UK and I think a lot of climbers/mountaineers and instructors in this country would pay the extra cost and accept the weight and breathability compromise to have drier feet year round. However, in drier and warmer conditions these unlined shoes would be better.
In summary an excellent, well-made pair of shoes that I’ll be happy to keep wearing for as long as they last. Thoroughly recommended by me and further endorsed by my kids who think that these brightly coloured offerings are ‘way cool’. There aren’t many better or comparable shoes out there and at £90 they are a bargain compared to many supposed trail shoes that are like trainers when compared to these sturdy leather mini-mountaineering shoes.