There are two approaches for water management in lightweight trail shoes: make them drain water and dry fast, or make them waterproof. The Danner Agitator 420 XCR fits in the second category, with a Gore-Tex XCR membrane as the name implies. Danner is a boot company, so their trail shoe is really a low cut boot. It has their Mountain Chassis System which makes them supportive and stable.
The Danner Agitator 420 XCR (manufacturer photo). Although it weighs a little more than really lightweight trail shoes, it has a stiffer midsole and aggressive rubber outsole that provide excellent support and stability.
So, what’s the weight penalty to get more supportive waterproof trail shoes? Compared to the Timberland Delerion Pro or Salomon Tech Amphibian, for example, the Agitator 420 XCR weights about 8-9 ounces more per pair (all in size 9). Not bad for a really tough, supportive trail shoe, but that depends on your perspective.
A really hard-core trail runner, adventure racer, or SuperUltraLight backpacker would disagree. They want their shoes as light as possible, and want them to drain water and dry fast. But I wanted shoes that are really versatile - equally at home hiking in wet snow and slop, long trail hiking, and off-trail hiking. I did all three with the Danner Agitators, and they did quite well, for the most part.
The Danner Agitator 420 XCR after about two months of use. I removed my gaiters for this photo. The Danner Agitator is a heavy duty trail shoe that is built like a boot.
I used the Agitator 420 in snow and slop when they first arrived. Worn with a pair of tight gaiters over the tops, they kept my feet dry while walking in the wet stuff. Their rigidity also made them a good choice for lightweight snowshoeing.
I also wore the Agitators on two sections of the Continental Divide Trail, totaling 135 miles in mostly dry (and sometimes hot) weather. In my size (11.5 wide), the Agitators had plenty room for thick socks, and provided superb comfort day after day. I never had a foot problem wearing these shoes. The only notable fit issue (for me) was the heel cups are a little loose, such that my heels rose a bit. That problem was easily overcome by simply lacing them tighter.
Off-trail, I was a bit hesitant to wear low cut shoes for crossing slide rock slopes, descending steep mountain sides, and walking steep sidehills, but the Agitators handled all with aplomb. It was simply a matter of keeping them laced tight to maintain support and stability, and wearing gaiters over them to keep snow and debris out. They have an aggressive tread that provided great traction while descending steep slopes on wet vegetation and rock hopping across streams. They also have a tough wrap-around toe bumper and protective rand to minimize abrasion to the uppers.
After several months of use, the Agitators met their match on a 5-day mountain backpacking trip in almost continuous rain. They wetted through and stayed wet inside for most of the trip. I kept the inside membrane clean, so apparently the continuously wet situation was too much for them and they wetted through. On shorter exposures to water, even quick stepping across a stream, the Agitators generally stayed dry.
One concern I had about the Agitator is the numerous side seams being vulnerable to thread wear and seams blowing out. I gave them a lot of hard use and managed to blow out one small seam. When the shoes were new I sealed the seams on one shoe with McNett Seam Grip to compare its benefits with the other shoe that was not seam sealed. The seam that came apart was on the non seam sealed shoe. It would definitely help to seal the numerous seams on these shoes to ensure their longevity. Overall, the Danner Agitator 420 XCR is well-constructed of durable materials and should last longer than most lightweight trail shoes.
The Danner Mountain Chassis System consists of a stiffer midsole and aggressive rubber outsole, so it doesn’t bend very much in my flex test (left). When the shoes were new, I seam sealed the one on the left with McNett Seam Grip and did not seam seal the one on the right. After four months of hard use, one seam on the non seam sealed shoe was coming apart (right photo). The Agitator has a lot of side seams that are vulnerable to abrasion, so seam sealing is highly recommended.
Specifications and Features
- Manufacturer: Danner (http://danner.com/)
- Year/Model: 2006 Agitator 420 XCR
- Style: Low-cut waterproof light hiking boot
- Materials: Upper is 1.8-2.0 mm waterproof nubuc leather and AR nylon mesh, lining is nylon
- Waterproof Membrane: Gore-Tex XCR
- Midsole: Dual density EVA
- Outsole: Danner Mountain Chassis
- Sizes Available: Men's 7-14D; 9-13EE; half sizes to 12 (size 11.5 EE tested)
- Weight: Measured weight men’s size 11.5 EE 44.5 oz (1.26 kg), manufacturer specification 32 oz (0.91 kg) size 9
- MSRP: $115