Now that the times are changing, clothing and gear to facilitate a safe and comfortable outdoor moment also change.
Footwear is one very important part of the outdoor attire for working, climbing, hiking, etc. While there’s a variety of shoes that can be versatile and ideal for different sports activities, this does not necessarily qualify them into being proper footwear for those looking to challenge themselves.
Are you looking for quality made-in USA outdoor boots, something with a classic design? Then two brands worth considering are Danner and Merrell. We put two of their most popular models head to head for a detailed comparison: Danner Mountain Light vs. Merrell Wilderness. We’re going to explore their difference in quality, fit, and construction features. That way you can choose the best one for you.
Danner vs. Merrell: Overview
Starting with Merrell, the Wilderness hiking boot is the brand’s flagship model, which was introduced back in 1981. Today Merrell is recognized for offering this iconic boot, borrowing inspiration from its original heritage features and designs. The Merrell Wilderness is manufactured in Michigan.
Danner, on the other hand, is a brand known for handcrafted, tactical, outdoor, and lifestyle boots. Their Danner Mountain Light is one of their most popular offerings that still comes with the brand’s original 1979 specs. The company has recently released the Mountain Light II that boasts some of the light changes. The brand proudly manufactures its Mountain Light series in Portland, Oregon.
Danner vs. Merrell: Built Quality
When it comes to craftsmanship and overall quality, both boots are excellent. Contrary to other modern hiking boots typically made of cheaper materials, the Danner Mountain Light and Merrell Wilderness hiking boots are built to last.
Both boots are made with full-grain leather uppers that are associated with tough break-ins. One impressive thing about Danner is the resilient leather employed in the Mountain Light boot. It holds up well during performances. Merrell also utilizes thick and heavy leather in its uppers. These are meant to mold to your feet over time.
The main difference between the Danner Mountain Light and the Merrell Wilderness is the materials used in the lining of each model. Danner goes for a Gore-Tex lining that is water-resistant and breathable.
Merrell, on the other hand, comes with a Tesivel 3-bar knit lining that does a great job at wicking moisture, keeping your feet dry. However, it doesn’t stop water from getting into the boot. Thus far, if you’re looking for a waterproof outdoor boot, then the Merrell Wilderness might not be the best option.
Speaking of color and style, Danner offers a wide variety of suede and leather options with their famous Mountain Light series. Merrell, on the other hand, only offers three color options with their Wilderness boot, which is made in the USA. That is brown, black, and suede gray. So if you’re looking for more color selections than the basic, black and brown, then Danner has more to offer.
Danner vs. Merrell: Construction
This is another aspect where both brands take a different approach in the making of their boots. Merrell Wilderness comes with what’s called Norwegian welt. It is a welt construction where the leather upper is turned outward to sit on top of the sole. This gives an exposed stitch construction that looks rugged but with better waterproof capabilities compared to regular welted shoes.
Danner Mountain Light meanwhile features a stitch-down construction, which is slightly different from the Norwegian welted mentioned above. With stitch-down construction, a row of stitching runs through the upper and the outsole. Similar to the Wilderness Norwegian construction, the Mountain Light features visible stitching that gives it a robust, heavy-duty look.
One great thing about the construction of both the Danner Mountain Light and the Merrell Wilderness hiking boots is that they are all repairable. In fact, Danner offers a recrafting service for most of their models, making it possible to send the Mountain Light in for repair.
One downside with the Merrell Wilderness is that the brand does not embrace such a simple indoor repair program. But with the nature of its construction, you can always find an independent cobbler who can work with Norwegian welts for a resole when the time is right.
Danner vs. Merrell: Outsole
The outsole is another point of difference worth exploring. The Danner Mountain Light features a Vibram Kletterlift. It is actually a heritage outsole that is derived from a robust rubber. Some of its notable features include the Megagrip compound that provides a really great grip on both dry and wet surfaces.
The Merrell Wilderness, meanwhile, takes a slightly different approach as it’s designed with a Vibram Roccia outsole. This outsole offers excellent shock absorption and cushioning for added comfort. In fact, it’s the same boot found in Timberland classic work boots.
Danner vs. Merrell: Fit and Sizing
While Merrell Wilderness boots are reported to run true to size, those with wider or narrow feet might need to size up or down. The company keeps its sizing simple and only provides regular M width sizes.
Danner’s Mountain Light, on the other hand, is offered in two varieties. The Danner Mountain Light, which has been developed on a wider last (only available in EE sizes), and the Danner Mountain Light II (available in EE and regular size).
That said, Danner recommends that you go a half size down when ordering their EE sizes for a more comfortable fit. Generally, the boots tend to fit on the narrower size, meaning the EE sizing may not work as a standard wide boot.
The Bottom Line
Focusing on their respective pros, both Danner and Merrell are excellent brands with great products worth consideration. You might want to choose the Danner Mountain Light if you’re looking for a classic heritage outdoor boot with more waterproof capability. And of course, if you want the option of using Danner’s in-house repair service.
Their Core-Tex lining fills in where the Merrell Wilderness falls short in terms of waterproofing. Plus, it offers more leather and suede color options for the style-conscious.
On the bright side, Merrell Wilderness comes in handy if you value craftsmanship and want a surefooted outdoor boot that fits like a glove right after the initial break-in period. Moreover, Merrell’s attention to detail does not disappoint, and the fact that any cobbler can resole them is a big plus.