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Hands-on Gear Review
Columbia North Plains II Review
Cons: Poor stability, low flood level, lacks durability
Bottom line: This very lightweight model is best applied to day hiking with only a light pack, or none.
The Columbia North Plains II Mid is the lightest and least expensive pair of boots included in this review. In fact, its weight, mesh and leather upper, and tight fit makes this product feel part trail runner, part hiker. The North Plains II is at home on groomed trails with few obstacles and a very light pack, especially for those who prefer just a little extra ankle support and water resistance. That said, this boot is not an all-rounder, and clearly showed its limits when tested on more rigorous trails and with heavier packs.
Some lightweight competitors, Keen and Vasque, in this review offer superior performance and versatility. For $35 more, you could walk away with the sturdier and very comfortable Best Buy award winner, the Keen Targhee II Mid. Or, if you like the trail running shoe feeling, the Vasque Inhaler II GTX provides better traction, ankle protection, and great breathability, while maintaining a very low weight.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Columbia North Plains II Mid is very lightweight and tight fitting, similar to trail runners or hiking shoes. This pair is the lowest-priced model in our review, costing $100, and it scored the lowest overall across our metrics, too. That said, the North Plains II are a solid choice for shorter distances while carrying little or no weight.
The chart below shows how the North Plains II (shown in blue) stacked up to the rest of the competition.
The details related to performance during testing are provided in the sections below, divided into individual metrics.
If you close your eyes as you put on the North Plains II, you might think you're putting on a pair of tennis shoes. Out of the box, these shoes are comfortable in a classic tennis shoe way. The inner membrane closely hugs your foot, and the cushioning in the footbed feels great. This makes them fine on well-groomed paths.
When the trails got rocky, though, we could feel nearly every rock underfoot. This model is only one of two boots in this review that doesn't feature a shank integrated into the midsole. The laces feed through eyelet holes, with no hooks in the upper eyelets, which doesn't accommodate adjustments as easily as the upper eyelet hook system found on both the Targhee II, Inhaler II, and most other models in this review. On the bright side, this pair from Columbia scored very well in breathability.
Measuring 4.5 inches from footbed to the highest ankle point, the Columbia tied for the lowest collar height with the Asolo Jumla GV. Lacking any type of shank, this boot doesn't provide significant torsional rigidity, which reduces its stability, especially when carrying any weight. Although the forefoot width falls in the middle of the group, this pair scored last in this metric. The Inhaler II scored twice as high as the North Plains II in stability.
We were pleasantly surprised that the Omni-Grip outsole of this boot gripped very well on wet rocks when stream-hopping, as well as in the mud. Unfortunately, it performed at or below average in all the other traction tests on moderate to steep dry rock, scrambling, and especially scree.
This is the lightest of all twelve pairs of boots in our review. Tight fitting, no shank, synthetic mesh, and webbing eyelets all lead to a shoe that simply weighs less. Hitting 2.04 lbs. on our scale for the pair, it easily takes home the highest score in this category.
The Columbia North Plains II received the lowest score in this metric of all boots in our review. Measuring from the bottom of the outsole to the top of the waterproof membrane, it landed at a mere 4.125 inches. When we completely soaked these boots, they also took over 12 hours to dry out, finishing at some point in the middle of the night. Saving grace — they remained waterproof after our three month testing period, which we appreciated!
Besides some scuffs on the leather upper, we didn't experience any problems in terms of durability with this boot. However, the upper consists of 15 individual pieces of leather, sewn onto synthetic mesh with single-seam stitches, which we find to be way too many seams to last a considerable amount of time. Sticking to paved or dirt paths should increase this boot's lifespan, as well as applying an aftermarket seam sealer along each exposed seam.
These boots from Columbia are best used for walking and hiking on easy dirt paths without much change in elevation, such as many city walks and park trails. We especially recommend them in these environments if you want a step up in stability and waterproofness from the majority of trail running or hiking shoes. We don't recommend carrying packs weighing ten pounds or more over significant distances with this pair.
Despite its low scores in most of our metrics, these boots do have a sweet spot. For walkers and hikers sticking to flat, easy terrain, the North Plains II are a very affordable and suitable pair of hikers. They are the most inexpensive boots in this review, costing only $100 MSRP. However, if you're looking for a pair that can tackle various, more rugged terrain and keep your feet happy while doing it, we suggest any other model in this review.
The Columbia North Plains II Mid Waterproof boots are certainly lightweight and inexpensive, but we found their lack of versatility to be limiting. While they are comfortable and sufficient for easy day hikes, they don't stand up to the other boots on moderate trails, much less difficult ones. However, if light hikers are all you need, these will give you better water resistance and ankle support than trail runners, and won't break the bank, either.
— Ross Robinson
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