A virtually faultless three-season hiking boot. Aku has definitely hit the sweet spot between comfort, weight and protection with the Trekker Lite III GTX. It’s crafted from quality components – from its Gore-Tex waterproofing and Aku’s patented Air 8000 breathable membrane to the grippy Vibram Curcuma outsole – yet it somehow still manages to be more than the sum of its parts. For big hiking days in the high places, there are few boots that can rival this.
Excellent Gore-Tex waterproofing
Breathable Air 8000 tech
Robust and durable
Good level of ankle support
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It’s telling that when you currently load up Aku’s brand spanking new UK website, front and centre is the excellent Trekker Lite III GTX. It’s a hiking boot that’s been garnering a formidable reputation, pleasing casual hikers and seasoned mountain goats alike with its comfort, protection, ankle support and relatively lightweight build.
I was lucky enough to visit Aku’s Montebelluna factory in the spring of 2023 to learn about the manufacturing processes and the brand’s approach to sustainability. The experience of seeing how hiking boots are made first hand gave me a real appreciation of the craft involved. I’ve tested my fair share of 3-season hiking boots in my time – as well as other offerings from Aku – and I rate the Trekker Lite III GTX as the best yet. Let’s get into why...
Aku Trekker Lite III GTX: first impressions
Out of the box, the Trekker Lite IIIs aren’t overly flashy. They don’t pander towards sneaker-like aesthetics, nor do they share their appearance with traditional Italian leather boots, such as seen on the stylish Zamberlan Cornell GTX. What we have here is a modern, functional hiking boot that thoroughly looks the part, with its meaty Vibram sole, Gore-Tex label and rand of suede wrapped around a breathable fabric upper.
First wear reveals that they’re nicely cushioned, particularly around the ankle on the tongue. The upper lace hooks allowed me to achieve a locked in fit that felt secure but not restrictive. They’re not as soft feeling as Aku’s popular Slope boots, but there’s a sense of robustness and protection here, as well as an appropriate amount of comfort. These are, after all, mountain shoes, not footwear you’d wear with a robe at a spa. There’s a little wiggle room in what is a narrow toe box; if you have wider feet, the Trekker Lite IIIs are also available in a wide fit.
RRP: $249.95 (US) / £200 (UK)
Gender: Men’s and women’s versions available
Weight (per boot): 570g / 20 oz
Materials: Suede and welded PU full upper; Gore-Tex membrane; double-intensity die-cut EVA midsole; Vibram Curcuma outsole
Colors: Gray/Red, Black/Green, Dark Gray/Orange, Anthracite/Mustard
Compatibility: Hiking all year round up until the point where you’d want to be attaching crampons
The upper features breathable fabric combined with hard-wearing suede. The suede rand isn’t quite as protective as the rubber rand seen in heavier duty hiking boots and mountaineering boots, but it still provides plenty of protection against trail elements, all while not weighing the wearer down. There are also the usual reinforcements at the toes and heel.
A gusseted tongue stops debris getting into the boot’s inner sanctum and, along with the ankle region, is the most cushioned part of the boot. The lacing system allows for a precise fit, with a combination of durable D-rings further down and speed hooks further up.
A proprietary technology that sets Aku’s footwear apart is their Air 8000 system. When layers of the upper, including the Gore-Tex membrane, are glued together during manufacturing, the process usually inhibits the overall breathability of the boot. With Air 8000, a lattice is created, allowing moisture to escape more easily. Gore-Tex laboratory tests have shown that this technology increases breathability by up to 11.5 times more than on normal fabrics.
The midsole features a double density die cut EVA, while the lasting board is of medium stiffness. Aku’s last features opposite inclination from the forefoot to the heel, to work with the biomechanics of a trekker’s stride. This creates an anatomical fit that offers comfort and stability on technical terrain, while ensuring weight is evenly distributed with each and every step.
The outsole makes use of Vibram’s Curcuma lug pattern, designed for “approach and sport hiking”, and the Megagrip rubber compound so often seen in technical mountain footwear, such as in Aku’s Rocket DFS GTX. The rubber is sticky on rock, while the spaced lugs ensure a firm hold on softer ground. The toe and heel regions feature flatter sections for increased surface area when engaging in more technical climbing techniques like edging and smearing.
AKU Trekker Lite III GTX: in the field
The Trekker Lite IIIs have been put through it all during the test period, from Lake District wild camping expeditions in challenging conditions to horseshoe mountain hikes in Snowdonia with rocky scrambles thrown in.
I’ve also been wearing the Trekker Lite IIIs while carrying my daughter around the hills in the marvellous Osprey Poco Plus. This all-singing all-dancing child carrier weighs a fair bit when fully loaded with child and provisions, probably in the region of 35-40lb (16-18kg). I weigh 159lb (72kg), so based on the 20% rule of thumb as to how much a backpack should weigh, I was definitely quite a bit over.
So, it’s fair to say that I’ve needed a wholly supportive pair of hiking boots for these outings and the Trekker Lite IIIs have formed a formidable partnership with my Leki Makalu FX Carbon Poles, enabling me to get around efficiently while loaded like a mule.
Usually in the warmer months, unless I’m carrying heavy loads such as these, I prefer hiking shoes to boots, or even trail running shoes if I’m speed hiking. Even some of the finest hiking boots can feel a little clunky and I often feel quite restricted by them. Not the case with the Trekker Lite IIIs, which somehow feel sturdy and protective while still being light and agile on the trails. This, for me, is where Aku has pulled the coniglio out of the capello.
Comfortable throughout, I had none of the complaints I’d often have with boots of this size. The padding is just right for long days romping up rhyolite and hours spent pounding trails. Fit wise, the locked-in nature of the Trekker Lite IIIs meant I never experienced any slippage during long descents.
The ultimate test of the Trekker Lite III’s waterproof credentials came on a particularly rainy wild camping expedition. Everything got soaked: my waterproof jacket gave up the ghost, my mid layers were sodden, my rain pants leaked through to my hiking pants beneath. So, imagine my surprise when, having battled to set up my tent in the deluge, I removed my boots to find my hiking socks were bone dry.
This made me think: it’s on difficult expeditions like these that you really find out which items in your gear arsenal you can trust. I realised that the Trekker Lite III GTXs feel just as invincible as my best winter hiking boots, allowing me to march through sodden bogs and puddles without concern. I crossed several streams that were in spate on my walk up to my wild campsite, often placing my feet on semi-submerged rocks. The fact that my socks remained dry through all of this is testament to the build quality of these excellent boots.
Wet trails are also a great testing ground for a hiking boot’s grip and the Vibram Curcuma with Megagrip provided traction throughout. Even on scrambling terrain, the Trekker Lite IIIs are no slouch. A close look at the lug pattern reveals approach shoe style flatter sections at the toes and heel. This increases how much of the sole’s surface comes into contact with rocky slabs when edging or smearing. While they’re obviously not as adept as dedicated approach shoes like Aku’s Rock DFS GTX, they are more than a match for easier scrambling terrain.
So, it's really difficult to find fault with the Trekker Lite IIIs. They're not crampon compatible, but nor are they meant to be as three-season boots. I'd probably still opt for something a little lighter when not carrying a heavy load but for more serious expeditions, they'll be my go-to every time.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com