The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX is a very breathable boot, good for ultralight backpacking, but not for very wet or high-alpine conditions.
Support & Stability
The Fastpack IIIs have some sole rotation and flexibility, offering some comfort for those that are used to a bit of flex, at the cost of those that want a rigidly supportive sole. This tester appreciated the flexibility. There are four rows of closed grommets and two rows of open grommets at the top of the ankle. The ankle height is about average for the boots we looked at here. The sole is a Vibram Mega Grip, with a low-profile, triangle-based layout that seems to do a good job of balancing grip, protection, and stability.
Quality & Construction
These boots are synthetic and have a tongue of average thickness. The tongue connects at the mid-ankle, which gives just enough room to get your foot in easily. The laces are a bit thin, but everything in this boot is built around getting the weight down as far as possible. The toe-cap is a lot smaller than other boots in this set, giving less protection than some will want when they stub their toe on a big rock. The closed grommets are threaded and the open grommets are riveted, all suggesting a solid construction.
These boots scored the highest in this category, thanks both to breathability that is the best in the test set, and a weight that is lighter than other boots that are less protective. These boots are most applicable to light-and-fast trail missions, or those on long hikes who need a bit more ankle support but don’t want to sacrifice weight for support. The toe box is nice and wide for splayed feet, and there is a thin, removable insole. There isn’t a clearer formula for comfort than lightweight plus flex plus breathability.
The North Face Ultra Fastpack III Mid GTX are 872 grams a pair, well below our average of 1117 grams, making them the lightest boot in the test group. It’s a good weight considering they perform the best on long thru-hikes where weight is key. They feel very light on the foot, considering how high the ankle comes.
This was the worst category for these North Face boots. They’re less protective on the top of the foot and the side because these boots prioritize breathability. These areas still have pretty good weatherproofness. The synthetic sides and ankle are thin but provide a pretty protective support. Some sole flexibility means comfort in the short term, but less durability and protection to the footbed in the long term.
Scott Morris guides backpacking expeditions and hiking trips for Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. He is a writer, traveler, and runner. Scott tests backpacking equipment.