From Fiordland to Tongariro National Park no environment was left unexplored during our trial of 3-4 season tramping boots
Meet the reviewers
- Beth Masser
- Pat Barrett
- Shaun Barnett
- Richard Davies
- Paul King
Lowa Lady Gavia GTX $679
Lowa say these boots are designed for the serious female tramper venturing into alpine conditions. I would say if you only buy one pair of boots this year, ladies, you should consider these.
I used them on a three day Fiordland tramp in winter with variable underfoot conditions, competed numerous day trips along Southland’s south coast which varied from slippery rock pools to formed tracks and took them snowshoeing and snowcaving in Arthur’s Pass national Park.
The boots have a full shank and are nice and stiff, but still comfortable thanks to Lowa’s Flex Fit ankle articulation. I still managed to get blisters on my first decent use of the boots – one of the downsides to a stiffer boot. But on the up side, the full shank and tidy fit meant they edged well and provided good stability even with a heavy pack. I used flexible crampons with them which worked fine and they worked a treat in snow shoes.
The nubuck leather upper and Gore-Tex lining make these boots waterproof in all but full immersion. The double stitching and protective rubber rand promise a long living piece of footwear and they showed little sign of abrasion during my testing.
Even in the snow my feet stayed warm in them all day, so they didn’t cause circulation problems and are well lined.
The only sticking point with these boots is the price – they are certainly towards the top end of the scale. However the product you’re getting make them a good investment.
– Beth Masser
La Sportiva Vajolet $599.95
The first time I purchased a pair of La Sportiva boots I was really impressed by their robust construction, unfortunately my feet were not and try as I might I could never come home from a trip without wrecked feet. So it was with a little trepidation that I first donned these boots for an overnight trip with a very heavy pack.
I needn’t have worried – these have been well crafted in fine Italian leather and fitted smoothly onto my feet and cushioned my tramp every step of the way, so much so that I was reluctant to take them off at the hut and keen to get them on again next day.
They proved to be just a tiny bit roomy for my feet so I found myself wearing either a very thick pair of socks or two of average thickness. Once laced up, though, I was ready to go anywhere.
The Vibram sole pattern gives amazing traction in all terrain and I never missed a step, even on icy tracks where I tried them out during day climbs at Mt Peel, Lewis Pass and Mt Herbert. I was unable to find suitable conditions for cramponing, but they look to be well suited for this with a high rubber rand providing good abrasion resistance.
The boots are robust and will take a fair bit of punishment but for all that they are not dead weights at the end of your leg. At just 850g each you can swing a fair pace and be confident they will bite into the terrain.
Pricing, compared to other boots in this category is good, though the softer leather finish means they might not have the durability of the more expensive models.
La Sportiva describe the Vajolet as suitable for demanding tramping with heavy loads, while giving maximum comfort for persistent use in any type of terrain. I can only agree with this assessment – they are a superb piece of equipment.
– Pat Barrett
Garmont Pinnacle GTX $699
The Pinnacle is a serious high country boot. Big weights, snow and ice, crampons: push it hard on and off the trail or above the snowline; it handles everything you throw at it.
The 2.8mm leather and high rand offer exceptional protection against rocks and cold. Ankle support, with its soft and not-too-flexible cuff, is high and supportive.
It’s easy to winch plenty of controlled tension into the laces – especially good when you’re in crampons. But with only a few uses, the laces started to go furry. How they’ll look after a few outings will be interesting.
Speaking of crampons, these boots love them – there’s plenty of very stiff boot to strap them to, which provides a solid platform to work off, even when you’re right up on the front points.
There is excellent crampon security at the heel thanks to PU heel inserts which held the bindings securely.
The Gore-Tex lining and Vibram outsole provide faithful performance in all conditions.
Despite the heavy (930g each!) construction, the Pinnacle is surprisingly comfortable, but for one problem. The last suited the shape of my foot nicely, but my toes were crushed into the toe box of my usual size, even in thin socks. It’s not uncommon for boots suited to high altitude to be close fitting, but go up a full size (or more depending on the volume of your foot) to get the fit that’s right for you.
Overall, the comfort and performance of the Pinnacle is great, and in the right size, it’s a winner.
– Paul King
Salewa Bison Trek $559
The Bison Trek is the first Salewa product I have tried and I’ve got to say I’m impressed.
The boots are lightweight (700g per boot), yet tough with an oiled suede outer, rubber rand around the bottom of the whole boot and a Gore-Tex liner. A Vibram sole caps them off.
Salewa has thought a lot about all aspects of the boot, from the lacing system through to the design of the inner and midsole; and while I won’t repeat all the technical mumbo-jumbo, suffice to say from the first trip they were extremely comfortable.
Slogging up a well-formed track the boots gave me no problems and because they are so light I hardly felt them on my feet.. Once we hit the scrub and bush bashing, followed by a route down a steep and slippery little stream in the Tararuas, they rose to the occasion and the aggressive Vibram sole gripped the dirt.
This boot is well suited to the keen tramper: light enough to be comfortable slogging along a well-formed track or up a wide gravel river, but tough enough to provide confidence on steep ground above the bushline or off track. While the boot would be suitable for winter tramping with an ice axe, I wouldn’t recommend it for prolonged or strenuous cramponing because of the aggressive sole and strong edges which you can kick straight into hard snow.
With a very heavy pack in the toughest parts of the country I suspect they may be a little light. Even so, I would recommend these boots for multiday trips where cramponing is only needed for short periods.
– Richard Davies
Scarpa Nepal Pro GTX $599
These are extremely well made, comfortable and durable boots. I have broad feet, and often have difficulty sourcing wide boots, but these fitted beautifully.
The Vibram Hi-Trail tread served me well on the variety of surfaces I encountered, including bush tracks, untracked tops, ice, snow and riverbed. The Gore-Tex lining and nubuck leather upper kept my feet warm and dry on two three-day snowy winter tramps: one at Tongariro National Park and the other in the Ruahine Range. In fact, the fabric interior is the best quality I’ve ever seen in a boot.
While I haven’t yet worn the boots on enough trips to comment on the durability of the outer fabric, they seem to be wearing very well so far and the high rand offers additional protection.
Two weaker points about the boots are an inadequate innersole, which is thin and does not provide much cushioning; and small lace lugholes which deform after hard use and make re-lacing the boots difficult. Another criticism is the nature of the Vibram heel top. This is a softer Vibram than I’m used to and the heel’s top edge was not sufficiently rigid or defined enough to take my semi clip-on crampons – they kept sliding off the heel and only too late did I realise the boots only suit full strap-on crampons. My fault really – Scarpa does not claim they are ideal for all crampons, so I should have checked their suitability first.
With full strap-on crampons, the boots are rigid enough to handle front-pointing, but also flexible enough in the toe to make walking on flatter terrain comfortable.
Overall the boots are ideal for bush and above the bushline tramping and for multiday trips. I suspect they will last well and, although expensive, represent value for money in the long term.
– Shaun Barnett