Rating: 5 / 5
About twelve years ago as part of my journey to lighten my backpacking load I went from my second pair of Galibier Mountaineering boots (really heavy) to a pair of relatively lightweight Merrell leather boots that weigh about 2 lbs each. I've been putting off the move from boots to a light weight trail shoe for a couple of years now, but my Merrell boots are falling apart. Since I had REI's 20% off coupon and a couple of gift cards I figured the REI sale this year was a good time.
A friend had recommended the Asolo FSN 95 GTX boot. I tried them on and as much as I liked how they felt I could tell they were just too narrow for me. Not really wanting to go all the way to a low top I tried on a couple more high top shoes, but they either didn't feel good or rubbed my ankles in such a way I knew they wouldn't work. The Merrell Chameleon Wrap XCR, although a bit lighter than I had planned on buying, felt great right out of the box. I put about 50 miles
on the shoes on hikes in local parks carrying a 25 lb pack with no hot spots or any problems. I did a two day backpack at Pt. Reyes and decided I probably needed a foam insole for longer trips. I've held off writing a review until I did a real Sierra trip to see how they would fare on rocky trails. This last weekend I went into The Emmigrant Wilderness in the Sierras for a 20 mile overnight. For a low top lightweight trail shoe the Chameleons performed very well. No
blisters or even a hot spot. With thin foam insoles I had no problem stepping on sharp rocks, and the vibram soles made for solid footing. I crossed a lot of snowfields and walked a lot of trails with a lot of water on them and my feet stayed nice and dry. The shoes weigh about 1 lb 4 oz each, and the lacing system allows some variation in how tight you lace the toe vs. the instep. The only caveat I have is that these are low top shoes with no ankle support: rock hopping and traversing snow fields full of sun cups is inviting a turned ankle. Some of the posts on the REI site say that after a lot of use the soles tend to delaminate, but I've seen no indication of problems after almost 100 miles under a pack. I don't have a lot of experience with light trial shoes, but these were a pleasant surprise for me.