Image of the September 2016 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more articles from the
September 2016 Issue
Home / Articles / Gear Guides

How to buy 4-season boots

Lowa Cevedale

A four season tramping or alpine boot needs to perform in a range of challenging conditions while still remaining comfortable. Fit is the most critical aspect in achieving this, but there are several other features to consider.

Warmth
This is dictated by the upper and insulation of the boot. A fully waterproof membrane (along with high quality gaiters and socks) is critical in dealing with prolonged periods in snow.

Uppers
Some boots have one-piece leather uppers but there are also multi-panel synthetic/leather options which work just as well. Consider the thickness of the upper – it should be at least 2mm but ideally closer to 3mm.

Fit
Cold and constricted toes can lead to frostnip so ensure decent wiggle room, while still ensuring a snug heel. Be aware of any pressure points when trying the boot on as these will not go away with use.

Stiffness
The shank is commonly made from nylon, fibreglass or Kevlar. Little or no flex over both the length and width of the boot means it is more stable in rugged terrain, reducing the risk of injury and performing better while climbing. Conversely, the stiffer the sole the less comfortable the boot will be on flat terrain.

Crampon compatibility
A good quality winter boot allows for a heel-clip/toe-strap crampon. If the boot flexes lengthways or sideways, a flexible crampon with straps front and back should be used. Technical boots sometimes have a welt at the front for crampons with front and back clips.

Rand
A full rand, at least 2cm high, running around the base of the upper helps protect the boot from scree and moraine.

Durability
A number of factors contribute to the lifespan of the boot, and these should be considered when deciding between a cheaper or more expensive option. Often there are less obvious but still important costs, such as sole type and quality of the upper. For example, look at the sole; is it moulded or glued? A glued sole, that can often be replaced, tends to be higher quality. Also, a seemingly stiff boot in the store may soften quickly if a poor quality shank has been used.

Now you know what to look, it’s time to choose a boot.

BUY3

Lowa Weisshorn GTX $999
Use Alpine Upper Split leather, Cordura, microfibre Construction Gore-Tex with Duratherm lining, removable tongue, I-Lock lace lock, ball bearing lace system, Flex Fit ankle, high wall full rand, insulated aluminium coated with fleece insole, PU midsole, 6-8mm full length nylon shank with I-Core carbon weave reinforcing, automatic crampon compatible Outsole Vibram Dolent Weight 1950g. 

BUY3

Lowa Cevedale GTX $799  
Use Alpine Upper Split leather, Cordura Construction Gore-Tex lining, I-Lock lace lock, ball bearing lace system, Flex Fit ankle, Lowa Flex and lace-to-toe instep flex, heel and toe rand, viscoelastic Balance Insole, PU midsole, 5.5mm full length nylon shank, semi-automatic crampon compatible Outsole Vibram Dolent Weight 1600g.

BUY3

Fitwell Sirius Winter $595
Use  Winter mountaineering Upper Suede leather with Kevlar effect reinforcement Construction eVent lining, PrimaLoft insulation, full protective rand, removable microfibre footbed with antibacterial fabric, lace-locking eyelets, perforated PE insole, nylon and glass fibre shank, dual density EVA midsole Outsole Vibram Teton, fully automatic crampon compatible Weight 1880g.

BUY3

Salewa Raven 2 GTX $599 
Use Alpine Upper Microfiber, 1.6mm suede Construction 360-degree rubber rand, WrapThread Combi sole, Gore-Tex lining, 3F heel hold system, anatomical cuff, nylon and fibreglass insole, customisable footbed, crampon compatible Outsole Vibram WTC Weight 1500g (m); 1260g (w).

BUY3

Scarpa Ortles GTX $699
Use Classical mountaineering, hard trekking Upper 3mm water-resistant suede leather Construction Gore-Tex Performance Comfort lining, rigid TPU insert, heel support system, autofit padded collar, suitable for automatic crampons. Outsole Vibram Total Traction Weight 1860g (m).

BUY3

Asolo Aconcagua GV $590
Use Alpine trekking Upper 2.2-2.4mm water-resistant Perwanger leather Construction GoreTex Performance lining, Asoflex Ascent board lasted, injected moulded insole, micro pulley-lacing, fully automatic crampon compatible. Outsole Vibram Vertige Weight 1980g.