They may not offer enough warmth in the very coldest temperatures, but for the vast majority of outdoor winter activities these boots deliver a performance good as their looks.
Handmade in Italy
Soft yet tough Tuscan leather
Built to last
Not overly warm
Took time to wear in
Too nice to get muddy
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Zamberlan Cornell GTX: first impressions
Constructed with great craftsmanship from soft-yet-rugged premium leather, the Zamberlan Cornell GTX is as stylish as it is capable. This is a winter boot equally at home scaling a mountain on a cold and gray winter day, and dangling from a barstool afterward.
• List price: £190 (UK)
• Weight: 540g / 19oz
• Insulation: Gore-Tex Perfomance Comfort lining
• Colors: Black / Mustard
• Compatibility: Low level trails in cold and snowy conditions
Founded in Italy in 1929, Zamberlan is still run by the same family that set the company up nearly a century ago. As was the case then, its boots are handmade in Italy using traditional methods.
Available in black or mustard leather, with contrasting red or orange laces, the Zamberlan Cornell GTX has a distinctive Alpine style. It's not just for show, either; a Vibram sole provides grip across a range of conditions, and a Hydrobloc water-repellent treatment augments the already waterproof leather upper and Gore-Tex lining.
We didn’t find the boots super comfortable right out of the box, but over the course of a few hikes they gradually molded themselves to our feet. These are boots that will offer more and more comfort the longer you own them. Zamberlan boots can be resoled, either by the company itself or any good cobbler, so take care of the leather, and they can last decades.
Zamberlan Cornell GTX: on the trails
Is the Zamberlan Cornell GTX the most stylish boot you can wear in the mountains? It must certainly be up there. Handcrafted in Italy from supple-yet-bombproof Tuscan leather, it has an effortlessly classy Alpine style. It comes in brown, but I love the black version with contrasting red laces and soft white leather trim on the insides of the ankles and tongues. You can picture a Connery-era Bond sporting these while he evades villains in some exotic mountain location.
Mine came with me for a weekend in the Cairngorms. Their maiden voyage was a six-mile loop in the mountains above Kingussie. Unless you’re very fortunate these boots are unlikely to fit perfectly straight out of the box and I was glad I had worn them round the house for a couple of days. They still weren’t completely comfortable but had started to mold themselves to my feet and will soon be fully broken in.
Of course having the most stylish boots on the mountain means nothing if they don’t perform. Fortunately the Zamberlans stood up to everything the Scottish Highland trails threw at them. This included mud, deep puddles, loose gravel and wet rock. Grip levels are good although the lugs are only moderately aggressive so in very deep mud you do feel the soles squirming as they search for traction.
The leather has a water-repelling treatment and there’s a Gore-Tex lining as well. After an afternoon of walking in a downpour, sloshing through puddles and a couple of shallow streams, my socks remained bone dry. Breathability is good too. My hike involved a long, steep ascent, a few minutes on the chilly peak enjoying the view, and a long gradual descent. While I was adding and removing upper body layers my feet remained a pleasant temperature throughout.
Back at base I showered and changed into jeans and a shirt – then put my Zamberlans back on to head out to the restaurant for a well-deserved meal.
Jack McKeown is a Scottish journalist, hiker, skier, runner and beach volleyball player. Having walked many of Scotland’s long distance trails, last year saw him tackle his first ultramarathon. He lives in Dundee and in his spare time Jack and his golden retriever Bracken are often to be found exploring the mountains, forests, lochs and rivers of Highland Perthshire.
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