I unzipped the tent in the dark and stepped outside. Overnight, a winter storm had turned Colorado’s pastoral fall into the Ice Planet Hoth of Star Wars fame. In the black of the pre-dawn morning, a fog of swirling ice crystals blinded the light of my headlamp, limiting my view to a few yards. With 4 days of hunting in front of me, I laced up a pair of Zamberlan Sawtooth GTX boots and headed into the blizzard.
Over the fall of 2023, I put the Sawtooth GTX through some of the toughest mountain hunting scenarios that I’ve experienced. I slogged through sloppy, wet mud for miles, trudged through 18-inch snow drifts, and scaled impossibly thick, icy deadfall in pursuit of elk. And through it all, these boots proved better than anything I’ve used for cold, wet hunting in big mountain terrain.
In short: The Zamberlan Sawtooth GTX is a premium ($525), high, insulated hunting boot meant for extremely difficult terrain and conditions. A laundry list of top-end ingredients like Hydrobloc Nubuck leather, Vibram outsoles, and GORE-TEX Insulated Comfort membranes, coupled with Italian manufacturing, make this boot my go-to for steep, slick, sketchy, and cold conditions.
- Height 11"
- Weight 2.08 lbs. per boot (size 42)
- Insulation GORE-TEX Insulation Comfort Membrane
- Upper material Hydrobloc Nubuck leather
- Seemingly impervious to water, yet very breathable
- Comfortable out of the box
- Astounding traction
- Warm, yet comfortable for hard exertion
- Very expensive
- Roomy last may not fit narrower feet
Zamberlan Sawtooth GTX Review
I won’t mince words in this review. The Zamberlan Sawtooth GTX is expensive — $525 is a heck of an investment for a pair of boots.
But I’ll share with you the conversation I had with my buddies while huddling around a titanium camp stove in a wintery camp. Two of them had relatively affordable boots, in the $200 range. Their feet were soaked within the first hours of the hunt. Another buddy had similarly pricey boots from renowned maker Crispi.
He and I had dry, comfortable feet. And indeed, during that 3-day outing through deep mud, wet snow, and widely variable temps, I never even changed my socks! Meanwhile, my friends struggled to keep their feet dry. They pulled out their insoles, hung boots over the stove, and did whatever they could to stay comfortable.
My point is that, while there certainly are good budget boots out there, if you’re in a mountain hunting scenario, boots are not the place to skimp. If you can afford these, and they fit your foot properly, you will be really happy you did.
So, what makes the Zamberlan Sawtooth GTX reviewed here so good? You can read about the top-tier ingredients on the brand’s website. But I’ll boil down the results of some aggressive use. For transparency, I wore these with gaiters most of the time, as I do most hunting boots outside of early season.
First, the boots are incredibly water-resistant. Even though I slogged many miles in really wet conditions, the inside of the boots stayed dry. I know boots often get soaked from the inside. Amazingly, even with some miles where I was sweating while pushing up big hills, the inside of the boots stayed relatively dry. Chalk it up to the GORE-TEX membrane and water-resistant Nubuck leather, I guess. The proof was I had dry feet and never had frozen boots in the morning.
Next, the traction — thanks to Vibram’s “Startrek II” outsoles, was second to none. I used these in some sketchy situations, like clambering over big piles of deadfall in a zone affected by serious beetle kill. It was genuinely scary and dangerous to scale 6-foot piles of snow-covered down timber. But in a couple of hours of horrible beetle kill crossings, I never slipped. Color me impressed.
A third big element for me is the insulation. To be clear, these are not super-warm boots. But they have the right amount of insulation to keep feet warm for short sits — for me, that means a couple of hours at temps around 10 degrees. Warmth is highly subjective and depends on factors like your personal tolerance to cold, what socks you wear, and even your pants and gaiters.
But to me, these were warm enough for the kind of cold most people can plan for while hunting late seasons in the Colorado mountains. That means lows below zero, and highs approaching the 60s during midday hikes. That means the boot needs to be very versatile.
Zamberlan Sawtooth GTX Review: An Intro to the Brand
In my 12 years as a GearJunkie editor, I have tested a lot of boots. But this was my first exposure to the Zamberlan brand. The manufacturing and attention to detail in these boots rival better-known competitors like Crispi and Kenetrek in the hunting space, or Sportiva and SCARPA in the general outdoor space.
Zamberlan has been around since 1929, so I’m a bit late to the party. But better late than never. The brand is now in the hands of the third generation of the Zamberlan family, Marco and Maria. And it seems to be pushing the limits of what modern boots can be.
Zamberlan Sawtooth GTX RR WL Fit
The Sawtooth GTX has been around for a few years. The model I tested, specifically designated the Sawtooth GTX RR WL, is a roomier version of the boot that launched in Sept. 2023.
According to the brand, it’s pretty much identical to the non-WL (wide-last) version. But the new model is slightly roomier to accommodate a thicker sock used by many during colder hunts.
In testing the WL version, I found it very comfortable and fit well with normal hiking socks or warmer, thicker socks. It seemed true to size in the 9.5 men’s (44 EU) that I tested.
As this is a pricey boot, I’d recommend trying these on, or at least ordering from a reputable dealer with a good exchange and return policy, before buying.
Who Should Buy the Zamberlan Sawtooth GTX?
To get to brass tacks, should you buy these boots?
First, a note on fit. The Sawtooth GTX has a fairly roomy, wide fit. For some with narrower feet, that means cranking them down too tightly to maintain stability. So if you have a particularly narrow foot, you may want to look elsewhere.
But if not, and you hunt mountains or other rough terrain in winter weather, you should begin considering this investment. But I wouldn’t take it lightly — these are expensive boots.
Do you expect to use them for more than one season? Looking at the build, the Sawtooth GTX should last for several years of hard hunting. That means if you’re a serious user, you’ll get a lot of value out of these very rugged boots.
Do you hunt genuinely hard terrain, in wet, cold conditions? If yes, that’s a notch in the “buy ’em” category. But if your hunting skews toward earlier seasons, these will likely be more insulated, taller, and heavier than you need.
Do you hunt in really cold conditions? Like all day, below zero, deer stand sits? If so, these boots will not be warm enough.
For stand hunting, you don’t need this much boot. A good pair of warm Muck Boots or Baffins will save you a lot of money and be much warmer.
But if you’re a big mountain hunter who hikes a lot of miles in cold weather, and who regularly spends a lot of nights in spike camps or even wall tents, this is a heck of an option.
This boot will easily transition to general winter hiking or snowshoe use, so for those who spend a lot of time outdoors, being active, in winter weather, the Sawtooth GTX should be an investment in comfort that will last for years to come.