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The Under Armour UA HOVR Dawn WP Boots are a lightweight, waterproof backcountry hunting boot with outstanding cushion.
To get us a closer look, Under Armour sent Man Makes Fire two review units, one pair that I’ve been testing as well as a pair for another Man Makes Fire gear tester and fellow Idaho elk hunter. After putting several miles into these boots this spring while hiking and shooting bows, this is what we learned:
UA HOVR Dawn WP Boots Review
First of all, let’s get this out of the way right now: I did not expect to like these boots. In fact, I was pretty sure they’d end up mowing the lawn or that they would become the boot I wore to hunting camp before I put on my real elk hunting boots.
This spring, what I was mostly interested in was the Under Armour Kilchis Fishing Shoes — which are excellent, btw — but the UA media relations guy I was talking to thought it was important to get the HOVR Dawn Boots to Man Makes Fire for an in-person test run.
I’m glad he did. As of right now, admittedly just a couple of months into testing the HOVR Dawn Boots, I’m already a big fan. They are surprisingly great boots. Let me tell you why.
Ultralight with Awesome Cushion
For starters, the most obvious feature of the UA HOVR Dawn Boots is the sole. You can see a thick layer of Under Armour’s proprietary ‘HOVR’ foam, as well as a more rigid exterior heel cup in the photo above. The rubbery sole has a bit of wrap around the heel and sides — and it’s made with relatively small treads.
The whole sole is mostly flat, too — you don’t have a raised heel that’s built into the sole. On the inside, though, there is still a bit of heel-to-toe drop — the offset is 9mm.
What’s really interesting is that Under Armour took its HOVR cushioning from its best running and athletic shoes and ported it to a backcountry hunting boot.
Did it work?
It did! The UA HOVR DAWN Boots deliver a super cushy ride. They’re flat out comfortable. I was immediately impressed, but I still harbored some doubts.
How would they handle rocky terrain?
How would they handle steep sidehills?
Would they still feel great after a few miles?
Functional Traction and Support
I wasn’t expecting much from the little traction nubs on the sole, but I was wrong there, too. The full-length sole delivered good footing on loose, gravely scree and crumbling dirt. When dropping straight down steep slopes, I didn’t have a heel ledge to bite into terrain, but the surface area of the sole did it’s job well.
As for ankle and foot support, this is where it gets interesting: Under Armour has somehow created a lightweight boot with a lot of flexibility while also making it supportive. And this flexibility seems to come from all angles.
For instance, the sole doesn’t have a steel shank — or any shank. This means that the sole is more flexible than rugged heavy-duty boots that bite through soil. What the UA HOVR Dawn sole seems to do is ride over a lot of terrain and grip it through surface area.
Because the upper is flexible, this seems to let your foot ride over rocks and debris with a bit of flex. You would think this would be bad, but the lacing system easily locks my foot down and holds my heel in place. I get no heel slip, and even on uneven terrain, my foot feels as if it’s always on the footbed. It does not seem to want to slide off to the side at all.
So the boot is somehow flexible but also holds its form. The ankle height is about 6 inches, so it’s tall enough to give you some ankle protection.
The fit is spot on. More specifically, they fit very slightly large, which means it fits like I expect most hiking and hunting boots to fit. I expect hiking and hunting boots to leave you enough room for a thick pair of socks or even two pairs of socks, such as a thin liner sock paired with a midweight wool sock. Note: I most frequently wear Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks for those days I’m covering long miles.
Under Armour offers these boots in ‘Unisex’ sizing, which means UA doesn’t make a specific version for women. I can’t say if the fit translates, but no matter where you end up buying the boot, it’s still the same unisex boot. For instance Bass Pro Shops lists the boots in its men’s footwear section but not in its women’s section. The Under Armour men’s footwear site listing, however, also lists the women’s size equivalents.
I have a love-hate relationship with the laces. Here’s why: They do a fantastic job of holding my foot inside the boot on the footbed, comfortably, over several miles without needing any readjustments . . . but they’re annoying to lace up.
There is too much friction in the laces and eyelets to simply grab the top of the laces and pull. You have to start in the middle and tighten, working your way up the boot until you can tie your laces.
This is a minor quibble, but I mention it because, by the time I’m putting on my boots, I’m excited and ready to get going. Needing to take a few extra seconds lacing my boots isn’t a big deal, but it’s a speed bump that I notice every time, making the laces both a pro and a con.
Fast & Light
Once the UA HOVR Dawn Boots are on my feet, I feel good to go. I’m not sure if the HOVR technology actually returns any energy to my stride, but it does provide excellent cushion. The HOVR Dawn ride is just great.
With the UA HOVR Dawn, Under Armour has created an outstanding lightweight, backcountry boot that rides like a running shoe.
What about the weight? How light is it?
The size 14 UA HOVR Dawn WP Boots weigh in at just 20.9 oz per boot. To contrast that with my leather Zamberlan 996 VIOZ GTX hunting boots, the weight savings is a significant benefit. The Zamberlan boots weigh in at 33.2 oz each.
Under Armour uses a proprietary waterproof breathable membrane in the UA HOVR Dawn WP Boots. This membrane is a material that is similar to GORE-TEX, but it’s not GORE-TEX. Some manufacturers use their own waterproof breathable membranes and some license materials from other manufacturers.
From what I can tell so far, the HOVR Dawn is waterproof and it is breathable, but it wasn’t as breathable as I tend to expect out of GORE-TEX. I’m a bit surprised that Under Armour didn’t use GORE-TEX because the company already uses GORE-TEX in other products, including the UA CH1 GTX Hunting Boots. I’m guessing Under Armour chose to use its own materials in the HOVR Dawn to help keep costs down (because GORE-TEX is expensive).
I did notice one customer review on the UA website that said the boots were not waterproof and he ended up with wet socks after walking through heavy dew. He may have had a faulty pair — I haven’t had those problems. I do know that some guys will think their boots are leaking after walking through wet grass and brush. If their lower pant legs get wet, over a couple of hours that moisture can transfer to their socks where it will wick down to their feet. Add in sweaty hot feet in a humid environment, and boom, it seems like your boots are leaking. (Pro Tip: Some hunters wear gaiters to help prevent this.)
I plan to put many more miles into these boots and I’ll report back if they prematurely lose their waterproofing along the way.
Because I had such a good first impression experience with these boots, I wanted to get a first-look review out the door to help guys who are considering the UA HOVR DAWN WP Boots. I’ll update this review after hunting season this year.
Here’s what I know now: There is no exposed stitching on the sides of the boots. The synthetic material has TPU overlays that appear to be welded to the primary material, giving it extra toughness in wear spots. Sticks won’t be poking at threads as you step through brush.
The grippy rubber sole probably won’t last as long as a hard Vibram-type sole, but after a dozen miles, it’s not showing any wear. I think the softer rubber and cushy sole is the tradeoff you’ll be making by going with a lightweight, comfortable hunting boot. If fast and light is important to you, sole wear could be a potential drawback down the trail — but most competitive fast and light boots also feature grippy rubber soles that will wear more quickly.
Note the utter lack of exposed stitching (should improve long-term durability in rough terrain).
Heels are stable and cushy — no internal heel slip!
Good Enough for Idaho Elk Hunting?
The trouble with elk hunting is that elk can thrive in a variety of terrain. Some is relatively open and relatively easy to walk through. Where I hunt, however, the terrain is brutal. I get a mix of deadfall, heavy brush, steep country, slick wet slopes, mud, and rock. You sometimes get into places where you can’t see where you’re putting your feet down and you need a strong, protective boot to get through it.
My Idaho elk hunting boot of choice is the excellent Zamberlan 996 VIOZ GTX, which have a rugged leather upper and a relatively stiff and rugged sole. When I’m carrying heavy loads, a.k.a. an elk quarter and gear, I want to wear these boots.
Consequently, the most notable drawback to the UA HOVR Dawn Boots is that they might not be rigid enough to withstand very heavy backpack loads over extreme terrain.
However, I am planning on taking the UA HOVR Dawn WP Boots to elk camp this year as an option based on the day and terrain. We’ll see. I’m a cautious guy when it comes to elk hunting boots!
What I can also say right now is that I expect to wear the UA HOVR Dawn Boots deer and pheasant hunting where the terrain is a bit less rugged. That may or may not lead to confidence for more extreme use. Also, if I’m able to pack out a very heavy load with them while I’m fatigued . . . that will provide some additional long-term thoughts to share.
Heavy Pack Update:For large guys, I would not recommend these boots for heavy packs. Why? Under heavy weight, the soft and cushy soles compress so that you feel rocks and uneven ground too much under your foot. But this might not be the case for lighter guys. What do I mean? I weigh about 225 lbs. When I add a 40-pound pack, there is a total of 265 pounds of weight on the soles. It’s not terrible with 40 extra pounds, but if I doubled that with a load of elk? No way. The sole will compress too much for me to go very far. However, if, for example, you weigh 160 pounds and you carried an 80-pound pack, you’d have about 240 pounds for the soles to handle. That could be doable for you, and if you carried a more sensible pack, it could be comfortable. Obviously the size of the shoe comes into play, too, for the pounds-per-square-inch, but for me, the HOVR Dawn will be for scouting and lighter-load hunting only. In case you’re wondering, I’m still a fan. The UA HOVR Dawn remains an awesome lightweight hunting boot.
In case you’re looking for a colder weather lightweight boot, Under Armour also makes an insulated version with 400 grams of Primaloft insulation. The naming strategy still includes the WP for ‘waterproof’ but adds ‘400G’ to the name: UA HOVR Dawn WP 400G Boots.
The Under Armour UA HOVR Dawn Boots are a modern lightweight backcountry hunting boot. I don’t believe they’re as tough as full-leather boots with protective rubber rands and shanks, but they are surprisingly agile-yet-supportive. Because they are so light, they have the potential to reduce fatigue. For day hunts, scouting trips, and long miles over reasonable ground, they’re downright awesome so far. Very highly recommended.