SCARPA KAILASH GTX
TEST SERIES BY GREG MCDONALD
November 11, 2008
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gdm320 AT yahoo DOT com
Boynton Beach, Florida
6' 0" (1.83 m)
225 lb (102.00 kg)
I have been camping for 15 years, 11 of them have been spent hiking in the backcountry. My hikes are almost exclusively in Florida and generally range between one and three nights. My all-time favorite hike was a 10 day expedition in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I consider myself a lightweight but comfortably equipped hiker, with a pack averaging between 25 and 30 lb (11 and 14 kg).
Product Information & Specifications
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.SCARPA.com
MSRP: Not Available
Listed Weight (Each, Size EU 42): 22.22 oz (630 g)
Tested Size: EU 45 (US 10 1/2)
Measured Weight (Pair): 48.75 oz (1382 g)
Tested Color: Pepper/Stone
Sole: Vibram Hi-Trail Lite
Made in Romania
Initial Thoughts & Observations
The SCARPA Kailash GTX boots are a part of SCARPA's "Backpacking Series" of boots. SCARPA categorizes the Kailash as a midweight boot that is "ideal for hiking, rugged day hikes, and regular abuse" and goes on to say they are designed for "maximum comfort."
The boots themselves arrived in perfect condition in the standard SCARPA box, pictured at right with the boots themselves. Right out of the box I felt they looked pretty sharp, and there were no surprises in their appearance thanks to a thorough study of the SCARPA website and an article in Backpacker Magazine. On the right boot, a small hanging booklet was attached with a plastic loop through one of the eyelets for the shoelace. This booklet includes information concerning care instructions, accessories, maintenance, and general advice on boot care. Also in the box was an insert from Gore-Tex outlining who to contact if I am not satisfied with the the breathability or waterproofing of the Gore-Tex.
After snapping some initial photos of the boots, I started going over them a little more thoroughly. Having only picked them up, I was very happy with the expectation that I had as to their weight. The height of the boots is about what I expected, from the bottom of the sole to the highest point on the cuff is about 7 in (18 cm). The back of the boot and toe area have an identical, harder, and more rigid material built on, giving these areas a sturdy feel. I am also pleased with the shape and solid feel of the lugs on the Vibram sole, which is firmly adhered to the upper. From my preliminary pulling and prodding, the lugs appear to be tough but flexible with no obvious weak points on the corners of the individual lugs.
Closer inspection yielded some more observations. The shoelaces are round, and possibly a bit short overall for my liking. The lacing is a combination one webbed eyelet at the base of the laces, eight closed d-ring style eyelets (4 on each side) running up the boot parallel to the tongue and 4 hook eyelets (2 on each side) perpendicular to the cuff to tighten the ankle up. Figure IR-1 (at right) is an approximate, though not identical, representation of the SCARPA lacing system. The partially suede faced tongue is attached about 1 in (2.5 cm) below the top of the cuff, down to about the lowest point on the cuff at the scree collar.
The last thing I found during my nit picking were the slightly suspect inserts. I am a bit leery of the inserts as they are pretty firm and on the thin side. This is something I will have to pay close attention to during the testing period.
Trying Them On For Size
My first thought after putting the Kailashes on was how well they hug my feet without being too tight. I wear hiking socks with liners on my treks, so that is the same setup that I started with and am likely to continue to use for the entire test series. The boots tighten up nicely with the hook eyelets on the ankle, but I quickly learned that I must be careful to get the top of the tongue tucked in properly so it does not bind up and not to get overzealous tightening the ankle area with the hook eyelets. The laces are pretty easy to adjust while I have the boots on either to tighten or loosen the boot a bit and seem to stay tied well.
So far I would estimate that I've put approximately 5 mi (8 km) on the boots. I'm happy to report that the Kailashes felt excellent from the first fitting and are not requiring nearly the break-in period that I have come to expect from a pair of hiking boots. That being said, I have found that I do still need to allow for a break-in because of the toe box. I have slightly wide feet and SCARPA does not make boots in wider sizes, so I am having to allow time to get my feet used to the slightly narrower toe box and the boots time to stretch and work in. Even with only a week worth of break in walking around the lake by my home and wearing them around the house and at the office, I would have no questions about heading out for a trek with these boots.
One concern that I had about using a mid-level hiking boot in the 100 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) heat is how my feet would respond, whether they would sweat like mad and overheat. In my break-in walks I've taken outside I am impressed with how dry my feet stay and most importantly I have not experienced any notable or uncomfortable heating in my feet. That being said, I will be closely monitoring this aspect of the Kailashes throughout the testing period.
I am also very pleased with the additional reinforcement on the back of the boot to protect the achilles and peronal tendons on the hindfoot. There is an identical material on the toe that forms a sort of toe rand. Both these areas are considerably more rigid than the rest of the boot, protecting some of the more vulnerable parts of the foot. I did some basic kick testing on these areas to test their impact resistance, and thus far I am very pleased with how they protect these vital areas. (See Fig. IR-2)
The fit of the SCARPA Kailash boots is excellent. The boots rise to a very comfortable height on my ankle, providing what seems to be ample support against rolling. However, there is still ample flexibility to allow free movement when necessary and the scree collar allows for excellent range of up and down toe motion. The footbed is very comfortable, and the padding in and around the collar is excellent so as long as I do not overtighten the laces, the heel and ankle area is quite cozy. As I mentioned briefly earlier, my only concern with the fit is the toe box thanks to my wider feet, which I will be monitoring very closely for blisters and chaffing.
Over the next four months, it is my intention to subject the SCARPA Kailash GTX hiking boots to a rigorous and thorough series of testing scenarios to answer my remaining questions about them. I will be further investigating their long-term comfort and durability as well as their on-the-trail performance.
Thus far, I have been very impressed with the construction and initial comfort of the boots (including their hot-weather performance), as well as the additional toe and hindfoot protection. Based on my initial inspection and experiences with the Kailashes, I will now also be keeping a close eye on both the initially suspect inserts and the space of the toe box.
This concludes my initial report on the SCARPA Kailash GTX hiking boots. I invite you to check back in two months for my Field Report, where I will be further exploring the ins and outs of these very promising boots.
Field Conditions and Locations
The past two months in South Florida have been beyond hot and extremely wet. We have been seeing temperatures ranging between approximately 80 F (27 C) in the evening through 92 F (33 C) in the afternoons (the "feels like" temperatures in the daytime was routinely in the high 90s F (37+ C) up to the low 100s F (39+ C)) and daily relative humidity has ranged between approximately 60% and 90%. The boots have seen some action in very wet weather, in fact the Kailashes were even worn through the recent Hurricane Fay that rolled through my area both during the storm and during the cleanup.
|SCARPA Kailash GTX boots in action.|
The SCARPA Kailash boots have seen action in several different locations to date including Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the rim trail of Lake Okeechobee, and the Ocala National Forest. I would estimate to date that I have put about 55 mi (90 km) on the boots on the various trails and around town. Additionally, I have worn the boots for about 3 days working on my fiancÚ's parent's lake property. The SCARPA has not been subjected to high pack weight loads as of yet, the highest pack weight has tipped the scales at about 25 lb (11.3 kg) while my daypack weight have been around 5-8 lb (2-4 kg).
These are far and beyond the most outstanding pair of boots I have ever had the privilege to wear into the backcountry. They are supremely comfortable and are seemingly bombproof.
The most impressive thing about the Kailashes to me is hands down the weatherproofing. To date, the boots have proved to be impervious to the elements. The boots literally shed the water, when they get wet (even when submerged) water beads up on the surface and runs right off rather than soaking the water up. The image on the right is a detailed image of the boots immediately after about 5 minutes standing in water about 6 in (15 cm) deep. Notice how the water is beading up and running straight off the boots and the lack of dark spots on the shoe's surface that would indicate they were soaking up water. This is the same experience that I have had walking through driving rains in these boots.
The only time that I have ever had any problem with wetness inside the boots is when I have been sloshing through water so deep that it pours over or in a driving rain with nothing covering my ankles. This is the same design flaw that all shoes and boots share, since after all there has to be a hole for my foot to go in. I solved this "problem" in my usual manner, either by wearing pants or gaiters that secure over the opening.
When trying to decide the best thing about the boots, the comfort gave the weatherproofing a real run for its money. I've worn high boots, mids, lows, and trail runners on various hikes over the years and I have never been more comfortable after an 18 mile day than I am when I'm wearing my Kailashes. From the very beginning, as I touched on in my IR, I have been very happy with the fit and comfort of the boots. They required very little break in before they were ready for heavy loads and long hauls. In fact, I only had to wear them casually for about a week before they were formed to my feet and seemed ready to go. I have never had a pair of boots (or any type of shoes for that matter) that were so comfortable right out of the box. Frankly, I was astonished by it. Again going back to my IR, after the initial week I had no concerns about the toe box rubbing at all as it was broken in and my feet had adjusted. Even the suspicions I had about the inserts have turned out to be unfounded, as they are still supportive and comfortable on my footbed. To date, I have not had to deal with a single blister and have noticed no sore spots whatsoever after the initial week of break-in.
I also like how easy it is to adjust the fit of the boots. I have discovered that there are essentially three steps to getting the right fit for my feet on the Kailashes. First, I adjust the tension on the laces over the top of my feet to make sure that the boots are hugging but not squeezing my feet. Second, I ensure that I get the tongue tucked in properly so it does not bind up against my ankle and squeeze or chafe. Last, I adjust the tension on the hooks on the ankle to make sure that I have enough support in that area, but are not so tight that it causes discomfort as I move about. These steps let me fine tune the fit of the boots, which is important since I have wider feet but these boots are not manufactured in wide sizes (it is worth mentioning they do not make these boots in narrow sizes either).
Another thing I have been impressed with is the versatility of the Kailashes, under varying loads and trail conditions. I have found the traction provided by boots to be excellent on typical purpose built trails, dirt, mud, grass, asphalt, and even sand. Wet or dry, these boots don't seem to care at all. I have had but very limited experience scrambling over rock with the boots so far in the testing period. However, I have done a small bit of it as well as two days of climbing in the gym with them. The lugs on the boots seem to do a reasonable job of gripping both the surface of the rock and hanging up on any small ridges in the rock to provide traction. It is comforting to know that I don't need to be concerned about changing out my footwear based on conditions, I'd much rather be able to have one pair to do it all and the SCARPA Kailashes have fit this bill perfectly. The only time I've ever had any stability issues is walking up the stairs in my apartment complex on the slick floors when they are wet, but I refuse to fault the boots for performance on an unnatural material that I would never normally see in the great outdoors.
Long Term Strategy
As I said, I have never been as happy with a pair of boots as I am right now with the SCARPA Kailash GTX boots. So far they have been impervious to the elements and supremely comfortable unlike any other boot I have ever worn. I am very excited to continue this test and I have plenty more to look for. Over the final few months of the testing period I will be paying very close attention to the boots' long term durability, comfort, and continuing performance. As the weather in Florida stands ready to change for a cooling and drying trend into the fall months, I look forward to a new set of circumstances under which I will continue to put SCARPA to the test.
Long Term Conditions and Locations
Over the past 2 months I have added an additional 65 trail miles (105 km) in Florida in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the rim trail of Lake Okeechobee, and in Ocala National Forest. In addition to the trail use, I have worn the boots on probably a half dozen occasions when working outdoors. Temperatures have ranged between 40 and 90 Fahrenheit (4 and 32 Celsius), relative humidity has been between about 40% and 90%, and I have encountered rain in various intensities and durations.
Performance and Conclusions
The past 4 months have made it crystal clear to me what makes these boots award-winners, and to make a long story short, I couldn't ask for much more than I've gotten out of these boots.
I say that for a few reasons. First of all, the weatherproofing has been superb. This was my first-ever pair of Gore-Tex boots and I can't see myself going back. It is true that my feet do sweat a little bit more, but the boots still breathe extremely well. The additional waterproofing is entirely worth the trade off in my opinion as my digits have remained completely dry from "outside" moisture.
Second, these boots are comfortable. I can now say that over the course of the Florida summer and over 120 mi (190 km) on the trail that my feet have never been as happy as they are in the Kailashes. The boots fit my foot snugly yet comfortably, the footbed and insert are dense but still forgiving, and the laces are a breeze to adjust to fine tune the fit depending on the load I am carrying or the trail conditions I am facing.
My latest trip to Ocala took me through the Juniper Wilderness. There are large signs right at the trail entrances into the area that lay out, in no uncertain terms, that this is a WILDERNESS area and the trails are not maintained to the same level as those outside the Wilderness. What we found on the trails within was a big mess -- spots where clear-burning had torn through the forest, dense scrub, downed trees scattered across the trail ranging in width from my wrist to a beach ball, and long stretches of muck. The Kailashes performed admirably in three respects. First, the "mid" cut height of the boot prevented me from rolling my ankles over at least a dozen times. Just as importantly, the boots dug in and gripped exceptionally on all the surfaces I encountered. The additional reinforcements on the toe and on the hind foot also proved their worth. I couldn't be more pleased with the performance I got out of these boots that day.
Lastly, the durability of the boots has been sensational. To date I have only noticed a couple of loose threads come from either of the boots. I have been able to simply trim these stray threads off with a knife and that has been the end of it. The stitching across both of the boots is still in excellent shape and the upper is still completely secured to the sole with no apparent weak spots. The laces are still in great shape as well and have not frayed nor stretched. When the boots have gotten dirty I simply wipe them off with a damp or wet cloth and they're ready to impress again.
I do have two small points that I'll call "room for improvement" on the Kailashes. The first is simple, and that is to make the laces just a little bit longer. I've found that when I want to leave the boots a bit looser I tend to just barely have enough lace left for my knots. The other thing would be to offer the Kailash in wide sizes. I had to go up about half a size from normal because of my wider foot. I want to make it clear that I never had fit problems with my "up a bit" size solution, but a wide size would probably have given me the best possible fit.
The Last Word
No product is perfect, but the SCARPA Kailash GTX boots are pretty darn close. To me there is nothing more important than my own two feet while I'm gallivanting around the backcountry. They are rugged, comfortable, and have offered me unwavering protection from the elements. To sum it all up, they have exceeded my expectations and I have been thrilled with them. SCARPA has set the bar high, and the Kailash boots and I will certainly see many more trail miles together.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
This concludes my Long Term Report and, therefore, my test series on the SCARPA Kailash GTX hiking boots. I would like to once again thank BackpackGearTest.org and SCARPA for the opportunity I was given to participate in this test.
Never Stop Exploring,
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