Ask anyone who has spent some time in the service in the past 40 years and chances are they’ve had a pair Altama boots on their feet at one time or another. My first set of Jungle boots that I picked up back in 1988 at Ft. McClellan, Alabama were Altamas and I ended up putting many, many miles under those boots both in the service and in the woods hunting and camping. I still have them in fact, although they’re looking a little rough these days!
Suffice to say though, that Altama knows footwear and has been providing it to our troops since 1969. They’ve put boots on feet in the jungle, the desert and in the mountains through Vietnam, the invasions of Grenada and Panama, through the first Gulf War on to the current War on Terror in the Middle east and Afghanistan. One of the big lessons learned through those years was that it’s awfully nice to get your feet out of your boots after a long day whether it’s working on the tarmac of a flight line in Balad, or after a long foot patrol in Helmand Province. Enter the Panamoc.
Those same lessons that soldiers have learned in the field, backpackers and hikers know as well. When you spend a lot of time in boots, it’s nice to be able to take them off, let them air out, and slip into something lighter when you get back to camp. That holds just as true at a firebase on an Afghani mountaintop, or in a hunting camp in the Ozarks. The Panamoc was designed by Altama to appeal to our troops in the field but it has a lot to offer to civilians as well. For a second set of footwear to wear around camp, or even as a primary pair of hiking shoes for day trips, wear around the campsite, or to slip on at home for work around the house, the Panamoc has a lot to offer. The Panamoc is a slip on moccasin type shoe, but it’s built of top quality, modern materials, and designed for more than just lounging around the house. Woods Monkey received a pair of Mountain Panamocs for review and I’ve been working with the shoes for a couple of months now to get a good feel for how the feel in a variety of terrains and conditions.
The Mountain Panamoc is a slip on shoe made with a water resisting Nubuck Leather upper mated to an outer sole of high Abrasion, slip, oil and acid resistant, non marking rubber. The tread is what Altama calls their Sand Shark Lug. Sandwiched in between these is a shock absorbing lower density polyurethane middle sole. There’s also a removable inner sole and a breathable lining to the Panamocs. The foot opening has two elastic Gore openings that let the Nubuck upper stretch to allow you to slip you foot in. They also ensure that the Panamoc stays snug on your feet when you’re wearing them too. There are two nylon pull tabs, one on the heel and one on the tongue, to help you pull the shoe on your foot if needed. This particular Panamoc is a "Mountain Brown" color and has runner reinforced toe and heel caps. There are ten different versions available though in a variety of colors both with and without the reinforced heel and toe caps. Sizes range from men’s 6.5 through 13 in both regular and wide widths. Ladies, while the Altama site doesn’t list women’s sizes I did see some out there on the web in sizes 6 to 10 so you seem to be in luck as well! Upon initial inspection, the Panamoc presents it’self as a solid, well made shoe. The suede like Nubuck leather is attractive, sturdy and well stitched. Most parts of the shoe are double stitched. I like the reinforced toe and heel as these are parts of a hiking boot or shoe that tends to take a lot of abuse. The Sand Shark lug has a sinuous pattern to it that looked like it would do well in a variety of terrains, which I later found out to be true. Each shoe weighed in at 21.1 ounces on my postal scale, so you do pay for that sturdiness some with a little bit of weight.
I wore the Panamocs over about a 2 month period. They were worn around the house a good deal doing yard work, out to dinner and the store, and while mowing the grass. Naturally I also got them into the woods for a couple of trips and for a couple of day hikes. When I first went to slide the Panamocs on, I noted that they were a little tight for me feet. Now, I got a 10.5 Wide for my test shoes. That’s my normal size, but it depends on the shoe how well that works out. I have pretty wide feet. I’ll usually opt for an extra wide given the choice but I figured I’d give the regular wide width a shot since my old Altama Jungle Boots were standard wide width. While they were a big snug to pull on initially, once they were on my feet they were pretty comfortable. I found with time they did break in a bit and become easier to slide on and even more comfortable than they started out. That’s a pretty normal pattern for leather shoes and boots and the Altama followed true to form. I suspect that most folks who don’t have stupidly wide duck feet won’t even have to go through that break in pattern.
Now, with my platypus foot disclaimer out of the way, lets get to the shoe’s performance. Overall, I have to say I really like the concept of the Panamoc a lot. Having a shoe you can slip on quick is great both around the house and around camp. At home I found myself tossing them on any time I had to run outside to get the mail or newspaper, do some stuff around the house, or even when I was making a quick run to the store. Being able to just tug them on and go is great. Like slippers, but for the outdoors! At camp they come into their own even more as far as I’m concerned. The one thing I’ve really learned to cherish in a couple of decades of hiking, military service and police work, is being able to get out of the hot sweaty boots you’ve been wearing for hours on end and to be able to change socks and slip on fresh pair of shoes. I’ve tried all sorts of different things over the years for this but I think the Panamocs may be one of the better solutions I’ve seen.
If you’re at home, any old thing will do. Your slippers, flip flops, whatever. In the woods I’ve tried tennis shoes, low hiking shoes, Crocs, and sandals. Tennis shoes and low hikers are nice, but sometimes it’s a pain to have to worry about lacing them up when you want to just duck out of your tent for a minute. Like during those 3 AM calls of nature. The last thing you want is to have find your shoes., sit down and tie them and then stumble out of your tent. Especially in the dark, and especially if there may have been some adult beverages involved earlier in the night. Being able to just slip your shoes on and roll is a big bonus and major convenience. You can do that with Crocs and sandals, but with those you either don’t have a shoe that protects your feet from rocks, sticks, and undergrowth, or they don’t necessarily stay on your feet too well if you get involved in anything strenuous. The Panamoc seems to give you the best of both worlds: the full protection of a leather shoe, with the slip on convenience of Crocs or sandals.
Don’t think the Panamoc is just a slipper for the woods though. They’re comfortable enough, and tough enough, to be good all day shoes around camp or on the trail as well. While I wouldn’t wear them backpacking, I wouldn’t hesitate to wear them on day hikes or to use them as primary shoes around camp. The elastic Gore openings keep the shoe snugly and comfortable on your feet even when you’re navigating a trail and on up and downhill slopes. The Sand Shark lug worked really well on wet, muddy ground and looser soil. As good as most hiking boots I’ve used in fact. The reinforced toe and heel cap give you as much protection on rocky terrain as a conventional hiking boot as well. On a couple of trips, even though I brought my actual boots with me, I ended up just rolling with the Panamocs the whole trip. I’d slip them on in the mornings for my morning rituals and just end up leaving them on throughout the day. I’d actually forget that I didn’t have my boots on as the comfort and traction provided by the Panamoc was just fine for a field setting.
With a suggested retail price of $99 the Panamoc is going to run you a little more than a pair of Crocs, most sandals, or a basic moccasin. However, they’re also going to give you a much more versatile shoe that’s a good alternative to boots and hikers in some situations, and an excellent second pair of shoes for those days when you just need to get out of your boots after a long hard day. As usual, it looks like you can knock some off of that MSRP by shopping around a little, but be careful where you look. I also saw them running higher than you get them for direct from Altama too! If you’re looking for a good rugged shoe that you can just slip on, take a look at the Panamoc. Altama has taken 40 years of experience shoeing our troops and come out with a great solution for comfort on and off of the battlefield.