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Gear Review: Asolo TPS 520

The Long Term Test
Gear Review: Asolo TPS 520
Written by: Bryan Wolf

My Experience with the TPS is not a short story. This story started almost 7 years ago when I bought my first pair for my very first backpacking trip. If you can buy one thing that immediately makes you feel like a rugged outdoorsman, it’s boots. Heavy on the leather, Gore Tex, mud stomping, ass kicking boots. I think the Asolos gave me mountain swagger. I wasn’t even sure at the time what Gore Tex was, and it didn’t matter, since my buddy Joe was an eagle scout and he knew everything in the outdoor world! Joe picked out all of the gear for my first trip and I forked out the cash. The boots were not cheap then and they are not cheap now, but their value remains consistent.

That first backpacking trip took me on a 2,175 mile journey through the Appalachian Mountains. Not having worn the boots before, we decided to purchase two pairs before the trail, and at the half way point we swapped them out to avoid any trail malfunctions. So, after 6 months of damage each pair had seen about 1,100 miles of hard trail abuse. Like I said though, it’s a long story. The boots were not retired from there, they had only just begun. Through Red River Gorge, constant AT revisits, and Alaska back country, these same 2 pairs of TPS boots remain the same solid, rock kickers that they were 7 years ago. With no sole separation and only a slight gap in the front toe, the boots stay dry and warm still to this day. The tread wear is adding up, especially after 1500 plus miles each so they are due for a visit to Dave the Cobbler, but I would gladly pay a few bucks to revitalize them.

More or Less?
Are you old fashioned or ultra-light?

“TPS” stands for Triple Power Structure; that is the 3 shock absorbing dual density points on the boots midsole at the points of usual wear. If you notice the picture above, the TPS system follows the foot starting with the strike point on the outer heel, it then improves stability supporting the inner heel and ends with a third shock absorber in the front of the foot for pushing off. A “PU Dual Density” sole, is called dual density because it combines a tough outer compound with a softer and more shock absorbing inner compound. The outsole on the TPS is a durable Vibram sole.

The 520 model is the Gore Tex model, versus the 535 non Gore. Gore is a waterproof bootie easily seen on the inside of a boot. The leather has a high weather resistance already so it can be overkill in some models. The Gore can also add insulation but does not breathe quite as well as an eVent fabric or a non-waterproof model. It’s not like you’re pushing perspiration through that thick of leather anyway.

There is no way around it, these boots are heavy. The leather upper is thicker than the sole on some of my Vibram Five Fingers. The boots come in just short of 4 pounds, and a wise man once told me 1 lb on your foot is like 5 lbs on your back. So it is easy to see the perks of going with some Salomon trail runners and bouncing around all nimbly bimbly like a cat. After all, things have changed, carrying 50-60 big lbs on your back was the norm not long ago. Today, further and faster is more of the game and 20-30 pound packs are more the norm. It is not about right or wrong, just about picking your path.

If The Boot Fits…
Finding the right boot for the job

The TPS fit me, and it fit me quick despite its rigid body. I did a few days of urban trekking before the trail to “break them in” and that was it. When we got our second pair we took them straight to the trail with no break in period. Maybe my feet were just rock solid by that point, toughened by the trail? Not everyone will be as lucky, and not everyone will agree. Ask yourself if the boots fit you, and do they fit your trip?

It is easy to say that the TPS is the “BEST BOOT EVER” but that seems a bit generalized considering we all have different needs. What I can tell you is that I enjoy wearing them, they feel great and they make me feel invincible. Not rock, nor rain will stop me in those boots. While I watch other hikers cycle through 10 or 11 pairs of trail shoes, I always feel great knowing the dollar value of my boots far superseded theirs. So what’s right for you?

This is coming from a guy that wears minimalist to backpack, and often. You can however rest assured that when we pack up for Alaska again, or on most of my winter hikes where the remote conditions require dependability over bragging rights of being lightweight, the Asolo TPS 520 GTX will be my pick. Sometimes there is no room for error; deep into Lake Clark Wilderness is not the place to duct tape a boot together (I won’t name names). To get sized for your boots and get a full run down on other boot features stop by Roads Rivers and Trails in Milford, OH.