Verdict from 4 experts and 100+ user reviews

8 reasons to buy

  • Numerous Merrell supporters heavily regarded the Wilderness as a reliably durable backpacking boot. A gear reviewer among them even went so far as to call it “Armageddon-proof.”
  • More than 50% of the reviewing populace greatly praised the boot for its fantastic level of comfort.
  • Many backpackers, which include a couple of professional gear reviewers, only had grateful remarks for the Wilderness’ excellent ankle support.
  • This boot, according to a decent number of owners, had top-notch overall quality.
  • A handful of reviews were written in favor of the boot’s true-to-size fit.
  • The Merrell Wilderness, according to a couple of users, can be worn not only for backpacking but also for casual purposes.
  • Thanks to the boot's ultra-smooth collar padding, an expert reviewer didn't get blisters or chafing around his ankle, and he couldn't be any more impressed.
  • The shoe’s ability to conform to the shape of the wearer’s foot earned the admiration of a respected footwear critic.

3 reasons not to buy

  • A number of testers, including a gear blogger, were underwhelmed with the boot’s waterproofing. According to them, their feet got drenched by simply traipsing through shallow waters.
  • It took a few owners several days to finally break in this Merrell footwear.
  • A couple of users weren’t at all delighted with the boot’s outsole. Apparently, this supposed durable underfoot component failed to meet their expectations by peeling off way too quickly.

Bottom line

American hiking boot brand Merrell has seen success in dozens of their footwear products over the years, and they have all the lights switched to green once again for its glory train with the Wilderness. This A-grade boot has fine qualities including its supportive ankle collar, monumental comfort and durability that arguably lasts a lifetime. That said, user complaints about its ineffective water protection slow its momentum. All in all, minus its alleged waterproofing issues, the Merrell Wilderness chugs along the tracks of high repute just fine.

Tip: see the best hiking boots.

Good to know

  • The Merrell Wilderness is a high-cut backpacking boot that is intended for years of use as it is made durable with the Norwegian welt construction type. Its old-school look is largely thanks to its full-grain, waterproof leather upper.
  • Shock absorption and cushioning are made possible by the boot’s microporous rubber midsole.  Strap-on crampons are compatible with the pair.
  • With regard to surface traction, the Wilderness is equipped with a Vibram outsole. Its zonal lugs provide grip over mixed terrain, especially on loose soil. 
  • The footwear’s sole unit (midsole and outsole combined) give the boot a rockered toe. This physical, forefoot feature aids wearers during toe-offs, and thus improves their overall mobility.

Merrell’s Wilderness is a men’s over-the-ankle hiking boot that runs fairly true to size. It is offered in D – standard width and comes in both whole and half sizes. Getting a personalized and snug fit is achieved with the boot’s classic lacing system.

Vibram’s Roccia outsole is the Wilderness’ response to tricky and slippery ground. Based on the Newflex compound (still by Vibram), this grippy layer goes beyond traction in that it also doubles down on comfort and contributes to the footgear’s cushioning and shock absorption

Protrusions, more commonly known as lugs, cover the majority of the outsole’s surface. They are strategically positioned to give backpackers steady footing over rugged terrain. These protrusions are absent from the arch zone to make way for the outsole’s heel brake—a feature that gives wearers a level of control during descents. To minimize the occurrence of hydroplaning, Vibram engineers built this outsole with ample channels (tread voids or lug gaps) through which water may disperse. 

Wilderness users got the boot’s sturdy yet cushy midsole to thank for getting a shock-protected backpacking experience. It is made of microporous rubber—a synthetic kind of elastomer that has strong resistance to heat, weathering, and degradation. The boot is also engineered with a part leather, part TPR (thermoplastic rubber) insole and a dual-density footbed for underfoot support and extra cushioning. 

The over-the-ankle Merrell Wilderness backpacking boot has a waterproof upper made chiefly of full-grain leather. It comes with no seams, even the usual gaps between the eyelet flaps and the (bellows) tongue are covered with a bridge material for a level of debris protection. The footwear’s interior is imbued with the Tesivel 3-bar knit lining. It provides a dry and comfortable in-shoe environment for the wearer by wicking away moisture from the inside out. 

Instead of regular eyelets or grommets, the Wilderness has a set of Italian metal hardware in the form of D-rings and speed hooks. They are riveted securely to the upper. Their noticeably beveled and buffed finish makes the synthetic laces move and adjust through them fairly easily. 

  • Light dirt on the Wilderness’s surface must be brushed away using a soft bristled brush. If extremely caked with dirt or mud, it must be washed with warm water and some mild soap.
  • This boot is resolable. Users can have the heavily worn sole unit replaced to extend the service life of the shoe.


How Merrell Wilderness ranks compared to all other shoes
Bottom 18% hiking boots
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Bottom 19% Merrell hiking boots
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Bottom 14% backpacking hiking boots
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The current trend of Merrell Wilderness.
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Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.