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Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion

Has Timberland found a niche the lightweight market?

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by Brad Groves | 2012-10-02 00:00:00-06

When I first heard that I’d be testing a Timberland boot, I couldn’t help it: First image that came to mind, the leather boat shoes I used to wear. Second thought, rap. Third thought, the bright custard-y work boots. “Timberland” did not equal “ultralight backpacking” at any part of my mind. But I enjoy experimentation and surprises, and waited, somewhat bemused, for the arrival of my sample Cadions.

The Timberland Cadion, as I soon discovered, could do the trick for ultralighters. This isn’t a boot to dismiss based on brand familiarity.

Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion - 1
This view seems to insinuate the soul of a trail runner into a light boot.

When I pulled the Cadions out of the box I immediately noticed the aesthetic and the light weight of the mid-top. The aesthetic brings to mind the swoopiness and busy-ness, with consideration for stream-lining, of a trail runner. Its upper fabric is reminiscent of a stout laminated fabric that you might find on a heavier rain jacket; for some reason it reminds me of a mid-weight dry bag. The boot appears to be well-constructed. There is a significant rand surrounding the boot, with a rubbery diamond matrix wrapping from the heel to over the instep. The hardware is all stout metal, and the upper hooks have a lot of depth… a lotta hookage, as it were. The Cadion’s tongue is gusseted up to the second hook, some extra height helping the Goretex liner keep your foot dry.

Next thing even a casual eye would probably notice: the relative narrowness and low volume of the boot. It is not a bulky or cavernous boot. Rotating the boot in hand reveals a relatively deeply-lugged Vibram sole.

Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion - 2
Notice the diamond pattern-not just a cosmetic detail, but somewhat structural-in both the sole and side of the Cadion.

In my work as a buyer, pack-fitter, and boot-fitter, I found that people (primarily men) frequently think they need a huge, super-wide boot… but, in reality, they do not need such a boot. On one hand, you want some room to prevent blisters. On the other hand, too much room makes a boot sloppy (and blistery, and less sure-footed). I throw these thoughts into the ring here because I’ve found that so many people think they have monster feet when, in reality, they measure a very average “D” width. That said, my feet are a very average “D” width. And, although my biggest problem fitting shoes is excessive width and volume, I found the Cadion to be a relatively low-volume, narrow fit.

The Cadions let me know if I mistakenly wear a pair of my thicker socks. If you use aftermarket inserts, you’ll have to use lower-volume ones. While these boots are probably ideal for those with distinctly narrower feet (the fit reminds me a bit of La Sportiva, perhaps a hair more snug?), I found them perfectly serviceable for my average feet.

Timberland did a nice job balancing the amount of support with some trail-feel. It’s been years since I’ve worn Salomon XA Pros, but I remember wearing that shoe on the trail and thinking that it had a great amount of support underfoot, and a slightly unusual amount of feel under my big toe. I get the same kind of feeling with the Cadion. (This is just an impression, folks… If you research the midsoles and combined support or flex of each piece of footwear, and find that, actually, the Cadion has 124 pounds of resistance at 60 degrees flex, compared to an old XA Pro of 119 pounds at 54 degrees flex-and yes, I’m completely making up bogus “testing” specs for things that aren’t really tested-if you find, somehow, that the two are not all that similar… that’s okay! I’m just trying to relay my initial impression of the feel.) I spent a stupid amount of trail miles contemplating whether the amount of feel under the ball of my foot was too much, or just right… and finally realized that I didn’t seem to be having any problems, so all was probably good.

I don’t know how I could have possibly been so… stupidly absent-minded, but there were several occasions when I grimly pulled on the Cadions for a day hiking in the rain, forgetting that the Cadion is a Goretex boot! After splashing through several deeper puddles in a row I remember being surprised at how perfectly dry my feet were. Ha! The flip side: some days my feet were warmer than I cared for, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t find the Cadion to be as hot as other Goretex footwear I’ve worn. Maybe there was just less foam and stuff in the boot, maybe it’s just mental, maybe Timberland worked some kinda magic, but they seemed a bit cooler than your average GTX boot.

Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion - 3
Lookin’ down upon the Cadion gives you some idea of the hook/eyelet system, and lends some impression of the slenderness of fit.

The Cadion also feels noticeably light, for a mid-top. I’ve worn heavier shoes, to be sure. It’s not a boot that will weigh your feet down after a day on the trail. With its sleeker fit, it’s also not a boot that will be jutting out to grab roots, rocks, and trail debris as you pass through. This stream-lined profile, combined with a closer fit, vaguely remind me of a rock-climbing shoe, but without the discomfort.

If you tend to think “waffle-stomper” when you hear the word “boot,” even though that boot is arguably half-way to a shoe, these will change your mind. It doesn’t have the clunkiness. It doesn’t have the weight. And it doesn’t have the “I have a 2 x 4 strapped to my foot” kind of feel. Shock absorption and walking comfort are excellent, without those qualities jumping out and calling attention to themselves.

The upper hook eyelets have the best, grabbiest hold I’ve noticed. The eyelets themselves are quite deep, with a recessed pocket of sorts furthest in. I never had the boots come untied. Conversely, sometimes I found it a bit more difficult to unlace the Cadion than I expected. In the end, I felt that having a boot that didn’t come untied was worth having to futz a wee bit more when taking them off.

Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion - 4
WOWZA! These hooks are GRABBY. Check out the slight detail difference between the upper hooks and the hook at the instep.

The sole durability issue I had was, er, the sole. Both the right and left boot experienced some delamination of the sole from the midsole under the ball of my foot. It was just that lug on both boots. It did give me the opportunity to see the integration of the webbed midsole integrated under the outsole. The outsole and midsole otherwise have shown no sign of premature degradation.

Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion - 5
At the conclusion of testing, this little delam was the only issue I had with the Cadion.

When it gets right down to it, I would, indeed, consider this a mid-high (or mid-low, if you prefer) boot for ultralight or lightweight backpacking. It is not a boot that I would recommend buying online. Instead, I would recommend trying on the Cadion at a brick-and-mortar store. Although the fit could be considered roughly parallel to a broadly generalized “La Sportiva” kind of fit, it would be in your best interest to try this one on. Although relatively low volume and relatively narrow, as compared to a vast market of wide and voluminous footwear, I think this will do well for a number of backpackers.

Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion - 6
Annnnnd a side view, just for fun.

The Timberland Cadion feels good after a day of logging some miles, gives a decent amount of support without announcing itself, and keeps me plenty dry splashing through early-season puddles. I was pleasantly surprised by how well Timberland approached this segment of the market, and they’ve reminded me to keep an open mind to purveyors I wouldn’t normally consider as “ultralight.” I wouldn’t describe the Cadion as my “end-all” boot, but I’ll gladly wear it on the trail.

Manufacturer Timberland
Model Cadion
Size Tested US Mens 9 (EU 42)
Measured Weight 17.5 oz per boot, 35 oz per pair

The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge and is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to the manufacturer to review this product under the terms of this agreement.


"Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion," by Brad Groves. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2012-10-02 00:00:00-06.


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Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion on 10/02/2012 21:09:22 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion

Peter Albinger

Locale: Toronto Ontario Canada
Boot weight and durability on 10/02/2012 21:25:26 MDT Print View

You are one generous reviewer. The soles of the boots are delaminating and you don't slam the makers for the quality of their product.

Unstated is how much the boots weigh and what the competition is offering that compares to this product.

BTW Thanks for adding info on the weight of the boots.

Edited by true_north on 10/08/2012 16:14:18 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion on 10/02/2012 21:39:50 MDT Print View

So is this a unisex offering? Or is this a review of a mens boot?

Bad sole. How many miles did you have on these before the problem?

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion on 10/03/2012 06:30:19 MDT Print View

Good writing. But, I think I would have been a little harsher on the sole delamination. I have used Timberland hikers for years, trail runners just do not work for me. I never had a delamination issue. Also the hooks mentioned for the lacings appear to be cast. To me this is a big no-no. I have had shoes with cast lace keepers in the past, invariably, one will get broken. At least with sheet metal (brass is best due to the non-corosive nature) they simply bend.

As Ken asked, how many miles on the shoe?

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
very nice review on 10/03/2012 10:28:55 MDT Print View

nice work on the review. BPL's end of things is working fine !
if i turned out finished work the fell apart, however nominally, in casual service, my company would consider it to be a FAIL.
if this thing was a pre-production unit, or a Beta .. then well, ok .. sure, not a problem.
but as a product-for-sale to exhibit this under such short usage = not acceptable.
my Meindl's don't fail with such foolishness. even my notoriously poorly constructed Keen's don't fall apart like that.
sole failure is something we see in 11 dollar walmart shoes.
it's like reviewing a fake i-phone .. let us move on from timberland.


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion on 10/03/2012 10:43:14 MDT Print View

How many miles and were you backpacking or just day hiking?

leonard garrambone
(lgarrambone) - MLife
timberland cadion boot on 10/03/2012 12:02:57 MDT Print View

I have used this boot during a six month period for about 5 day hikes and two backpacking trips (a 4 day and 10 day). The boots do feel light, comfortable with very good traction.
There are two major issues-delamination of the sole on the rear of both and stitching coming apart in the toe area. The lacing system may hold the laces in tight but you must get the lace perfectly flat for it to lock in and delacing them is a real pain-you're going to need some patience.
Due to the quality issues I had to send them back.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion on 10/04/2012 18:38:54 MDT Print View

Hi, all-

Regarding the partial sole delam:

The Cadions I tested were pre-production prototypes.

Further, I've had or seen worse sole delams from other major manufacturers, but when I did, I took it to be an exception- Asolos, Vasques, Salomons, Keens... and more... all with sole delams. I find it... perhaps unreasonable, to totally slam and "write off" a product based on a sample size of one, particularly when the rest of my experience with that product was largely favorable.

I would guess that I had somewhere between 100-150 combined miles of backpacking, dayhiking, and snowshoeing.

I have no concerns about the durability of the lace hooks. These are light to ultralight mid-tops, not logging boots. Regardless, the lace hooks of the Cadions hold laces in place better than any of the hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, or work boots I've owned. I am less concerned about the durability of the hooks than a simple hole punched through the fabric.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Sailors, Rappers, & Ultralight Backpackers: A Walk with the Timberland Cadion on 10/04/2012 18:56:28 MDT Print View

Thanks, Brad!

timberland on 10/04/2012 19:32:17 MDT Print View

These must be darned good shoes.

I expect to hear plain english, positives and negatives in an unbiased review. No holds barred, no punches pulled, no leniency given.

Raymond Estrella
(rayestrella) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
pre-production prototypes on 10/05/2012 06:59:36 MDT Print View

Nice job on the write up Brad,

I have just one question though. Since when do we write about pre-production prototypes? Unless it has not changed during beta-testing what is available to the consumer will most likely be different, correct? They should send you a retail version to review.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: timberland on 10/05/2012 18:19:01 MDT Print View

Positives and negatives in an unbiased review? Delivered. I would consider a review biased if I only focused on one aspect of a product :-)

Ray, wasn't the first time for me. My understanding has been that such products are nearly in the production line, but might have a few tweaks left before a full roll-out. A pack I reviewed, for example, came with a pre-production foam backpanel. I did also receive the production foam panel before completing my review.

If the fact that my Cadions had a partial delam means, to an individual or group of readers, that the Cadions are junk, that's okay! I do strive for balanced, unbiased reviews... and a simple presentation of facts or experiences that allows people to draw their own conclusions. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way, or isn't called for! But bottom line, if the delam=pure junk to you, cool. The review helped you... don't get 'em ;) If you like more information to draw some of your own conclusions, I tried to deliver that, too.

Shoot, if nothing else, what fun is a one-sentence review? "These sucked." Er, okay... why? What wasn't good about them? Were they completely junk, or were there any redeeming qualities? Is that seriously all you're going to write? Isn't there something more? No other observations after using and testing a product? Ya know it's true :p

I'm glad to have readers who care so much about our sport and its products!

Stephen Rose
(roselaw) - MLife
Lace Hook Problems on 10/20/2012 20:16:14 MDT Print View

About three years ago I bought a pair of Timberland Cadions, which I used and loved for their lightness, support, comfort and dryness. However, after about a month's use one of the lace hooks on the upper inside of the left foot caught on a rock and broke. At that time they were plastic. Without the hook, the upper would not lace properly. I sent the boots back, and Timberland promptly replaced them. The same thing happened with the second pair. I accepted their suggestion that they replace the second pair with a pair of their Mt.Washington hiking boots which have served me well, though they are heavier than the Cadion. I was happy to see that the test pair had a completely different lace hook. However, while a cast hook seems like it would be substantially stronger than the plastic hooks were, I still wonder about durability.