It was around the time when my second pair of Salomon mid length boots fell apart after about a year of use that I decided that my next pair of boots would not do that. And that they must be goretex lined (read any of our adventure stories to find out why). I had a few brands and models in my mind, firstly Lowa Zephyrs, but I even considered Salomon 4D’s, even though I swore I am done with Salomon’s.
But then I read GearMonkey75’s review of the AKU Trekking Pilgrim GTX boots and I thought to myself, damn, those boots look good! And the review gave them good marks, so I was almost sold. After I got to hold a pair of similar AKU’s as the pilgrims at the TAD Dogpatch Warehouse a few years back I was sold. I actually almost bought that pair from there, but I stayed my mind and placed an order for Pilgrims at Trekkitt in the UK.
Actually a year back, Trekkitt was the only place you could get a pair of Pilgrims. Now writing this I realise you can get one version of Pilgrims from Finland too from Varuste.net! But now onwards to the review itself!
AKU is a quite well known Italian shoe manufacturer. Like all good and honest manufacturers, so has AKU started from a small shop and grown over the years to be a major staple in the industry. They have factories in Italy and Romania, and they have a wide variety of shoes ranging from sports shoes to serious mountaineering boots.
They are striving to be a modern, transparent company, with 85% of all manufacturing done in Europe and they guarantee a 100% traceability for all the components used in their footwear. Technology is a big thing for them. They develop and use a wide variety of well tested materials and manufacturing procedures. But their head lies with love for manufacturing and true craftsmanship, not forgetting traditional materials and designs either.
The Pilgrim MK2 GTX
The Pilgrims are a pair of mountaineering influenced boots, at least by judging the looks of their other mountaineering boots, but with a slightly lighter build and toned-down looks.
And if I am not completely mistaken, the Pilgrim is a model that was designed and made first solely for Trekkitt! Trekkitt’s website tells that the model is based on the discontinued AKU Navy Seal boots. Trekkitt is based in Hereford, the home of UK’s own world renown SAS, and so it is no wonder they tell that these boots have been used and proven capable by the special forces on operations around the world.
In technical terms the Pilgrim MK2 boots are a 6″ ankle boot (with a higher model available too), with suede leather reinforced upper part and lace eyelets. The main the body of the boot is made of panels of 2,0mm thick AIR 8000® fabric with a micro dot net glued Gore-Tex lining. The fabric is highly breathable and the gluing method used whith the lining is said to enhance breathability and the structural integrity of the membrane. High tech stuff indeed!
The boots have a Internal Midsole System. This means there is a 3D shaped insole for maximum comfort and foot fatigue prevention. The insole is sandwiched between layers of strategically positioned high density EVA material that protects the feet from heavy loads from above and though terrain features from below.
The MK2 Pilgrims have a Vibram outsole that is dyed brown to better fit the British MTP camo. The industry wide known qualities and capability of the Vibram soles are paired with a carbon rubber bycast upper sole the boots enclose feet in protection from hard terrain, but also promise to give the wearer a stable and aggressive grip to almost any surface. One boot weighs about 600 grams, so they are not the lightest, but not the heaviest boots either.
Most of this information is paraphrased from the Trekkitt website, that you can read through yourself here, as the AKU website has little facts or info about the boots. This is partly explained by the fact that the Pilgrim MK2 is already an older version of the model, and this is due to the fact that is explained in the next chapter.
Boot for the Forces
The popularity of the Pilgrim boots in the British Armed Forces is in many ways apparent. The fact that the model was made for Trekkitt already highlights this, not to mention the colour ways that were available for the Pilgrim. There were the all-around black, of course, the sandy colour of the DS version meant for true desert environments, but the MTP colour AND the even more apparent MOD Brown, the colour that I have, was painting a quite clear picture.
So I was not surprised to see news earlier this year that the British army has made the Pilgrims their new combat boot for high liability situations. This means it is meant for the though work of the front lines all around the world. The new version of the boot that is manufactured for the Brits is called the Pilgrim GTX Combat FG and it has some differences to the MK2. For instance the Pilgrim Combats are only offered in MoD Brown and Black now, and the upper sole features full grain leather rather than suede.
But in essence the boots are still the same however, and now free for everyone to purchase from AKU dealers too! So even if this review is about the earlier version of the boots, all the information is still quite viable when considering the newer version.
So that’s it for the hard facts, now lets get down to business! First of all I have to say, that I thought that I would never find another pair of boots that would be as comfortable out of the box as the Salomon 3D’s. And I wish I could say that I was proven wrong, but man, those Salomon’s sure are comfy as hell, albeit they are fragile as hell too. But do not worry, the Pilgrims are a really close second to the 3D’s!
The boots felt really good on my feet straight and this is no doubt due to the IMS system and the amazing insoles. This is one thing I really like about the Pilgrims, I buy a pair of high-end boots and I do not immediately have to buy a new pair of insoles to get comfy. The insoles have lasted over a year of hard use now and they have not failed me once yet.
What is more, I have not had a single blister with the Pilgrims. Not a single one. And I have put some hard kilometres behind me with these! Almost straight after buying these I went for a long hike with my family in northern Finland. Four days of various terrain, rocks and mud, and constant rain. Not a single blister. I cannot remember being even slightly discomforted by the boots on that trip. That is pretty damn good I would say.
One thing I liked about the Pilgrims is the look of them. Or the fact that they do not look like much. They are essentially, very much, a quite plain pair of boots. And there is the beauty of them. Some boots look though, they have cool little details and such. Not the Pilgrims. They are straight forward boots. No bells and whistles, just a bit of leather, textured fabric, stiff looking rubber and thats it. Ready to get the job done. And they do get the job done.
I love the MoD Brown colour way too. It is as the British military culture, stiff upper lip, no hassle, squared away. The MTP colour was a nice looking combo of dark brown and sandy tan, but the solid MoD brown goes really well with the Finnish forest floor, as well as it fits great with a pair of jeans too! The Pilgrims are not exactly something you would wear to the town, but in winter months, when the slosh and wet snow is all about, these boots have seen me through a few trips to the pub and the stores. Low profile enough for most environments, both looks and performance-wise.
The boots are not heavy, but they are not light either. The weight tells about the quality of the construction of the Pilgrims, that they are not made in a hurry or with shoddy craftsmanship. While this might not be a true empiric measure of quality, it is something that does convince a mundane boot wearer like me at least. The weight does mean that they are not a breeze to run in, the ankle enclosing structure affects that a bit too. But the Pilgrims are not horrible to run in either, and the weight is not so bad as to make your feet tired even after a long walk. They might get tired for whole other reasons though, do not get me wrong!
The Pilgrims were a great asset during the winter months last year. At first the wet and rain might have been a bit much for a lot of boots, but the Pilgrims tackled the water easily. Then came the freezing cold and high snows, which too did not pose any kind of a challenge for the AKU boots. The Pilgrim GTX’s were made with temperate wet climates in mind, but turns out they are quite capable winter boots too. With right kind of socks and layering you can get on a long way.
Then again the Gore-Tex membrane is a bit hot for the summer. My feet tend to sweat quite a bit and boots that do not breathe well tend to be very uncomfortable for me after a while. The Pilgrims do breathe exceptionally well, while at the same time they keep the moisture out too. But during high intensity activities my feet got a bit sweaty in the Pilgrims too.
I have used them for a two-day long mildim game, a true infantryman simulator of patrolling in dense forests in the heat of the summer and with the summer rains pouring down almost constantly. Even thought the Pilgrims were a terrific boots for the job in every way, the 6″ high enough to keep my ankle from rolling and the whole construction was like a body armour for my feet, the humidity of the air and the Gore-Tex left my feet the tiniest bit moist after long day of doing “soldierish” stuff.
But not once has the water got in from above through the fabric, even if I have submerged the boot. Which might have happened to me a couple of times. But the waterproofness of the Pilgrims has convinced me time and again. And I am sure it will be so for a long time to come too.
The Pilgrims have convinced me totally. They are a GREAT pair of boots. So much in fact that when the time comes to give up my current pair (which is not going to come any time soon, no matter how many kilometres I walk in these, these will last a long while. They are built like a tank!) I will consider getting a pair of the new Combats. Even though I do not like the new all black vibram outer sole.
It is no wonder the British army has adapted this boot to their use and that their elite forces have been using these for years now for the toughest missions. Like the SAS operators themselves, these boots will get the job done.
Even the name “Pilgrim” suggests so. It is not (only) a reference to the people making a long pilgrimage to a holy place by foot, it is a reference to a verse of a poem by James Elroy Flecker, that has been engraved to a memorial stone of the Special Air Service in Hereford, and due to which the operators are sometimes called “the Pilgrims”:
“We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further”
Likes / Dislikes
Rugged and low profile look
Well… I had a brief issue with the laces coming undone by themselves when new, but now that is gone too… so…
I received this product via my own funds. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.