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Thread: Boot and crampon selection help

  1. #1
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    Boot and crampon selection help

    New member here. I have been a 3 season hiker and this year plan to get into winter climbing. I am looking for a pair of boots to use for climbs such as Huntington and Tuckermans Ravine type of routes over the winter and hopefully also be suitable for climbs like Rainier in the summer. I see so many options between plastic, synthetic, leather, double plastic... Does anyone have any recommendations? I do plan on taking an introductory course this year and would like to meet up with others that do this type of climbing. Thanks!

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    Take the course, they will most likely be able to point you to a rental option.

    FYI if you have wide feet finding plastic boots that will fit is a PITA. The unfortunate reality is that all a boot seller can do is sell you larger size boot which then introduces issues that your toes are too far back from the front of the boot.

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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Key question: are you planning to do overnight backpacks as part of these routes? For example Presi-traverse backpack or Pemi-loop backpack? Or do you expect to sleep someplace warm each night?
    Sure. Why not.

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    I intend to do some overnight trips. I wear a size 12. My feet are a little wide but nothing crazy. I wear normal size 12s. I know I can rent them in a course but figured since I know I will be using them why not just buy them.

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    Would something like these be good to get me into the sport? https://www.rei.com/product/866158/l...RoCeWoQAvD_BwE

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    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    There's a decision tree here. I think that is what HikerBrian is getting at. Many folks prefer a double boot, with a removable inner, if you are doing overnights in winter. The inner boot can be worn in the tent, or at least brought into the sleeping bag with you at night so it stays warm and flexible.

    OTOH, if you are doing only day trips, a single boot may be simpler / cheaper.

    Leather vs. plastic, the tradeoff is warmth and protection vs. dexterity. For technical stuff, leather is great for the dexterity. For just straight hiking in ultra cold conditions, plastic is tougher (like a ski boot).

    So a lot depends on EXACTLY what you want to do, and in EXACTLY what conditions. A lot also depends on your personal warmth level, and how warm your feet stay in bad conditions, which varies dramatically from person to person across a wide spectrum.

    Best bet, as mentioned above is to take the course, spend some time, and rent before making an investment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Millbilly View Post
    Would something like these be good to get me into the sport? https://www.rei.com/product/866158/l...RoCeWoQAvD_BwE
    I got into the sport with boots that were worse than those. Did plenty of routes in Huntington's and climbed Rainier. I always wished I could have afforded warmer boots, but I never got frostbite. If I were to get a new pair, they would probably be Scarpa Mont Blancs. My crampons are Petzyl Vasaks and they climb ice just fine.

    You might enjoy reading this: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/954d1...583dc47f98.pdf
    Last edited by jfb; 11-18-2017 at 08:41 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Ive got two sets of boots. Theyre both single leather boots, but one pair is soft and light and about a size too big. Theyre really comfy for hiking and I can go crazy with extra socks on cold days. Theyll hold strap on crampons, but when i'm planning to climb vertical ice I put on my other pair, which are stiffer and a much closer fit.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    As someone who apparently has misshapen clubs for feet and has struggled to find comfortable boots for any season I would recommend going to a store with a wide selection of brands and boot types (like the EMS in North Conway) and make a sales clerk there hate you by trying on tons of different boots. You'll get a lot of brand recommenations from people that might well be worthless if they're not a good fit for your feet. Once you have several brands that are a good fit than dial in the features and make a choice that meets your needs.

    I recently purchased my first double boot and went with the inexpensive Scarpa Inverno. Price was one of the major reasons but also it is known for having a wider toe box (I have somewhat wide feet) and I find the toe box to be pretty comfortable. A lot of the double boot manufacturers are known for having pretty narrow toe boxes. I was warned they were quite heavy but they don't seem all that bad to me. They're about 200g heavier than the Keen boots I am currently using. We'll see how that translates over many miles but my initial impressions are that they are quite comfortable. The fit of crampons on them versus the strap on types most use for day hikes is also very nice. They feel like they are part of the boot. You mentioned ravines so I am assuming you're a climber as well and this might also be a selling point in selecting a boot.
    Last edited by DayTrip; 11-19-2017 at 10:33 AM. Reason: Grammar
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  10. #10
    Senior Member SherpaWill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    As someone who apparently has misshapen clubs for feet and has struggled to find comfortable boots for any season I would recommend going to a store with a wide selection of brands and boot types (like the EMS in North Conway) and make a sales clerk there hate you by trying on tons of different boots. You'll get a lot of brand recommenations from people that might well be worthless if they're not a good fit for your feet. Once you have several brands that are a good fit than dial in the features and make a choice that meets your needs.

    I recently purchased my first double boot and went with the inexpensive Scarpa Inverno. Price was one of the major reasons but also it is known for having a wider toe box (I have somewhat wide feet) and I find the toe box to be pretty comfortable. A lot of the double boot manufacturers are known for having pretty narrow toe boxes. I was warned they were quite heavy but they don't seem all that bad to me. They're about 200g heavier than the Keen boots I am currently using. We'll see how that translates over many miles but my initial impressions are that they are quite comfortable. The fit of crampons on them versus the strap on types most use for day hikes is also very nice. They feel like they are part of the boot. You mentioned ravines so I am assuming you're a climber as well and this might also be a selling point in selecting a boot.
    I bought a pair of Scarpa Invernos in 1992 and wore them ice climbing and on overnights and day hikes up until last year. Great boots that held up very well. The plastic around one of the eyelets eventually dry rotted and broke, but they served me well for 24 years. I've moved on to a pair of TNF Verto S6K which I like so far.

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    "FYI if you have wide feet finding plastic boots that will fit is a PITA"

    I found the older Koflach liners to be narrow thru the toebox. However, many other liners fit into the shell. And the new Degre's come with a thermos fit liner.

  12. #12
    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Soooooooo......welcome to the land of compromises.

    There is no perfect option that will be ideal for everything you want to do. But you can get something that will work in all scenarios.

    If you're going to be doing overnights, I really recommend you get some kind of double boot. They're just warmer. The removable liner of course is also a bonus since you can take that into your sleeping bag, but the extra warmth is pretty important too. You do a lot of standing around as the temperature plummets when camping in the winter. That's when everyone gets cold feet.

    Also, the routes you're talking about doing are in the grey area between hiking and climbing. I strongly recommend you get something with a very stiff sole. This will give you greater stability in semi-technical terrain, and you can use step-in crampons, which are both faster to put on and more secure. Speed and security are both important when you're in challenging terrain in challenging conditions.

    With that, I'd recommend a plastic double boot if you can find them (Koflach Degre or Scarpa Inverno), Scarpa Phantom 6000, or one of the La Sportiva technical marvels (Spantik or Baruntse).

    If you opt to go with a single boot, there are many more options, but be aware that none of them are as warm as the double boot options. Also, for overnights you'll need to either take steps to prevent moisture from getting into the liner (i.e. use a vapor barrier liner), or take the boots into your sleeping bag at night, or accept the fact that your feet are going to be truly freezing when you first put your boots on in the morning (which may be either an inconvenience or a serious problem, depending on the circumstances). Scarpa, La Sportiva (Nepal Cube GTX is a perennial favorite), and Lowa (the Mountain Expert GTXs you linked are well-regarded) all make great boots. This style of boot seems to be the go-to for the serious ice climbers I know, though plenty of people climb in double boots too. Rainier in the summer is a little tricky, since you'll have a long, easy approach followed by some steep snow climbing. It's not usually that cold (relative to NH winter conditions), so a single boot works ok. But plenty of people do that climb (and similar climbs like Shasta, Adams, Hood, etc) in double boots too.

    Be aware that conditions, rather than the actual climbing, are often the biggest challenge when climbing in the Presidentials in the winter. Depends on the given day and the given route.

    Now the real hard part: figuring out how to try a few of these on...
    Sure. Why not.

  13. #13
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    Now the real hard part: figuring out how to try a few of these on...
    The EMS in North Conway has the best selection of Winter boots I have seen in a store (a chain store at least - I've never been to IME or similar specialty stores). They had 8-10 models of double boots/super gaiter boots last Winter when I was there from Scarpa and La Sportiva as well as many single boot models. If I were to want to try out a lot of option I would start there. Not sure if the inventory situation is the same this year with all the struggles of the parent company but they had way more in store to choose from versus REI or any of the EMS locations out my way ever have.
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    Thank you for all the replies. I am going to sign up for a 2 or 3 day mountaineering course and rent boots initially. Maybe I can try on different boots each day. Now for recommendations for schools?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Raven's Avatar
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    I was lucky and picked up a pair of Koflach Arctis Expe double boots in IME moons ago in the basement with all the used gear. Although "used," these had never actually been used to any extent. They may have been worn on one trip. So check there once you have a sense for what you may want.

    On trips I am considering wearing double plastic boots, I really find myself pretty reluctant.....Okay....I suppose......if I have too.....They're heavy and stiff in addition to the pros of being warm and versatile (removable liners). I wear them if I feel I need them, because they're warm, but I'm not usually happy about it. No hiking boot feels better to take off than a double plastic one IMO.

    ...and, have you seen the price tag on some of those double boots? Ouch. I sold a truck last year for less than the cost of a new pair of some of those.
    Last edited by Raven; 11-21-2017 at 07:36 PM.
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