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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Scarpa Kailash GTX > Test Report by Tom Callahan

SCARPA KAILASH BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY TOM CALLAHAN - July 3 to Nov. 11, 2008
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 11, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Tom Callahan
EMAIL: tcallahanbgt AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Seattle, Washington, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

For the past 20 years I have lived off and on in Washington State, backpacking in the Cascade Mountains. I get out regularly on day hikes and multi-day trips and usually try to include a good off trail scramble. During the winter I get out snowshoeing at every opportunity. I also enjoy glacier climbing, summiting prominent peaks like Mt. Rainier (14K ft/4K m) and Mt. Baker (10K ft/3K m). My pack weight will range from 15 - 50 lbs (7 - 23 kg) depending on the season and the length and type of trip.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: SCARPA
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.scarpa.com/
MSRP: N/A
Listed Weight: 630g (1 lb 6.2 oz) for size 42
Measured Weight: 3 lb 0.4 oz (1,360 g)
Size: 44.5

SCARPA Kailash Boots
SCARPA Kailash Boots

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The boots arrived in a standard SCARPA boot box. The boots' appearance is true to the picture of the product on the SCARPA web site. Although some pieces of the boots' suede is slightly darker than pictured, and another slightly lighter this is very minor. The coloring and styling make for a good looking boot.

There were 3 hang tags with the product; a SCARPA tag that describes the leather used in their product line and the proper care for the leather. The other 2 tags were Gore-Tex product tags.

The boot upper is constructed of a combination of nylon mesh and suede, predominantly the latter. These panels curve and overlap to provide flexibility across the front of the boot. Additional panels provide support through the ankle and particularly in the heel which is quite stiff. The interior lining of the boot is a very soft. There is ample padding throughout the boots, with extra padding around the top of the boot. This should make for a comfortable fit. The tongue is also well very padded and gusseted nearly the entire length. The boot has a Gore-Tex liner that is built in to the boot, between the boot exterior and interior padded liner.

The stitching and cut of materials are of very good quality. There are no loose threads and all seams are nicely finished. The lacing system consists of nylon web and metal hook eyelets. The boot laces up initially with an initial center web eyelet, 4 metal loop eyelets, a pair of web eyelets, and then 2 pair of metal hook eyelets.

The sole of the boot is constructed of Vibram Hi-Trail Lite. The tread is deep and the lugs are angled to provide traction. The lugs are well spaced which will hopefully keep them from clogging up with mud. Judging by pressing a fingernail into the The Vibram Hi-Trail Lite rubber sole, it seems a little softer relative to other Vibram soled boots I have owned. I'm hoping this will provide enhanced traction on rough, slippery rocks.

TRYING IT OUT

I wear a thin liner sock and a medium weight sock when hiking and typically take a 10 1/2 or 11 in US sizes, depending on the boot. I tried on the boots with my hiking socks and these size 44.5 boots fit very well.

My heel fit well in the heel cup, the boot was snug across the top of my foot, the toe box provided enough room to move my toes a bit and my toes did not press against the end of the boot. The boots flexed well across the toes and the sole has medium stiffness. The boot is quite stiff through the ankle, providing very good lateral support. The ample cushioning of the boot felt very good and should provided added comfort when hiking, especially with a heavy load. The weight of the boots feels average for mid-weight hiking boot that is so solidly constructed. There does seem to be a disparity with the SCARPA web site listing this boot with a significantly lower weight than what I measured (see Product Information & Specifications section). Lacing of the boots is easy. The laces slide easily through both the nylon and metal eyelets. The laces also fit well in the metal hook eyelets.


INITIAL REPORT SUMMARY - July 3, 2008

The SCARPA Kailash boots I received are what I expected. The boots are of solid construction. The boot design, plus the interior padding provides a very comfortable fit. The sole has a tread that should readily handle mud and rocks. The Gore-Tex liner should keep my feet dry during stream crossing and rainy weather. These will be my primary backpacking boot for the coming season and am looking forward to testing them on a variety of terrain and conditions on trails in the Pacific Northwest.

Initial likes: Good fit, solid construction, Gore-Tex liner
I will be watching during testing: how breathable is the boot in warm weather, how well does the tread hold up over time, is the boot truly waterproof.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and SCARPA for the opportunity to test these boots.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I used the SCARPA Kailash boots on 4 day hikes and 3 overnight backpacking trips during this portion of the testing period. All these trips were in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.

My day hikes were on mostly maintained trails which consisted of packed dirt with significant sections of rocks and roots. On two of these trips I included several hundred feet of Class 3 rock scrambling. Temperatures during my day hikes ranged from 50 to 75 F (10 to 24 C). Daily elevation gain was around 3,000 ft (900 m) with one trip being 3,900 ft (1,200 m). These trips were under sunny to partly cloudy skies and I did not encounter any rain during the testing. My day pack weight varied from 10 to 20 lbs (5 to 9 kg). I wore these boots for 6 hours per day on average.

The backpacking trips were also on maintained trails, similar to the day hikes. Although one trip had lots of running water in the trail and plenty of muddy, boggy sections. On one trip I did an off trail route up a lingering snow field which required crampons. Upon getting off the snow field I was able to continue on to a nice rock summit scramble. On my backpacking trips temperatures ranged from 45 to 80 F (7 to 27 C). Elevation gain was 2,500 to 3,500 ft (760 to 1,100 m) and I camped at 5,000 ft (1,500 m) or greater. My pack weight was around 45 lbs (20 kg) on these trips. Daily wearing of the boots ranged from 8 to 12 hours per day. Like my day hikes, these trips were under sunny to partly cloudy skies and I didn't get rained on. That will likely not be the case during Long Term Testing as summer slips away in the Pacific Northwest.

On the trail
On the trail (I'm the one on the left)





PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

These boots have performed well and met my expectations during testing. I'll describe my experience with the boots in terms of Fit, Comfort and Performance.

Fit - As noted in my Initial Report, these boots fit me well. I have always hiked with a 2 sock system, a liner and a medium weight sock. This has just been more out of a habit, it has just always been comfortable. Early on in the testing I started to develop a hot spot and then a small blister on my left heel. I switched out the insoles, replacing the ones that came with the boots for my Superfeet. The SCARPA insoles are a thin foam pad, very typical of what usually comes as the stock insoles with boots. I use my Superfeet in all my hiking boots so this was not a departure from how I typically use a hiking boot. The Superfeet did improve the fit, I no longer got the hot spot on my left heel. The boots did feel a bit snug with the Superfeet insoles which was not surprising since they have significantly more volume than foam pad insoles. This prompted me to break with my 2 sock system habit and I tried them out hiking with just the liner sock. It was great. My foot was no longer so snug, yet it was still held securely in place. My foot did not slip or shift and I did not have any problems with hot spots or blisters. Later on in the testing I decided to give the boots a try using just the medium weight sock. The fit was a little more snug as would be expected, but it was not so snug that the boots were uncomfortable. I did notice my feet started to feel quite a bit warmer with the thicker sock relative to the outings when I was using just the liner sock, more about that in the next section.

Comfort - Beyond getting the boots to fit properly as noted above, I felt these boots provided a good degree of comfort. I did note that when I was using a 2 sock system, or when I used only the medium weight sock, my feet would begin to get very warm. This was especially noticeable whenever temperatures exceeded 70 F (21 C). I found that my feet remained much cooler and more comfortable when wearing just the liner sock. This all stands to reason. I think a large contributing factor to this difference is the construction of the boot uppers which are nearly all suede. Suede just does not breathe as well as mesh. I have used other boots that had much more in the way of mesh panels in the upper, using the 2 sock system, and had little problem with my feet overheating, even on the warmer days.

The Kailash boots absorbed shock very well. I observed this particularly when backpacking, during those times when I was carrying a full pack and had to cross rocky talus and boulder fields. My feet would not get sore on this hard terrain and remained as comfortable as they had been when on the dirt portion of the trail.

Regarding the weight of the boot, it is about average for this style and so I found I was not any more tired than usual after a long day on the trail.

Rock Scrambling
Rock Scrambling



Performance - These boots performed superbly across a range of terrain. I had good footing on basic dirt trails. On trails with lots of rocks and roots, the boots gripped well, providing sure footing. Additionally, the ankle support was outstanding. I can recall many instances when my foot came down at an off angle due to the terrain and the boot held my foot and ankle securely, keeping me from slipping or falling and better yet preventing any injury. In addition to rough trails, I have really been pleased with the Kailash as a scrambling boot. The Vibram soles grip rock very well for secure footing. I have been able to confidently use small toe holds and smear on slabby sections. As noted in my Initial Report, the Vibram used in these boots seems a bit softer than other Vibram soled boots I have used and I think this helps grip the rock so securely.

During my outing when I used crampons to negotiate a snow field the boots did great. My semi-rigid strap on crampons fit well and securely on the Kailash boots. The boots were stiff enough to properly kick steps when I needed to. The boots also worked well when I needed to do a little front pointing.

As noted in the previous section, I did not encounter any rain during the testing period. This is great from a hiking and camping standpoint, but not so great for testing purposes. When I did encounter wet and muddy trail conditions these boots got plenty wet and kept my feet dry.

Cleaning - These boots have come back from a number of trips covered with dirt and mud. I've simply let them fully dry out and then used a nylon brush to knock the dirt off with very good results. The boots have not returned to "like new" conditions with this simple brush down. For that I would probably need to use water and an appropriate soap. This will be something I'll try during the long term testing.

FIELD REPORT SUMMARY - Sep. 8, 2008

Overall I have been very pleased with the Kailash boots. After some adjustments (using Superfeet insoles and different sock combinations) these are a great fitting pair of boots. On varied terrain they are comfortable and provide excellent support. This is true whether the boots are being used on a day hike or while backpacking with a full load. These boots are also very versatile. The Kailash boots provided very sure footing on rock scrambles and also worked well with my crampons on icy snow.

Pros: good fit, support, traction

Cons: breathability

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this Field Report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information.

Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and SCARPA for the opportunity to test the Kailash boots.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During this phase of testing I used the SCARPA Kailash boots on 3 day hikes and 3 overnight trips in the Cascade Mountains. The day hikes were on maintained trails that consisted of bare dirt and some rocky terrain. Elevation gain was around 3,000 ft (900 m). My day pack weight averaged 15 lbs (7 kg). Temperatures ranged from 65 to 40 F (18 to 4 C) on these day hikes. Two of the trips were under sunny skies and the third day hike was quite soggy with intermittent rain throughout the day.

For my overnight trips, elevation gain to camp was 3,000 to 3,500 ft (900 to 1,100 m), camping at around 5,000 ft (1,500 m). I covered a wide mix of terrain and encountered a range of weather conditions on these trips.

The first overnight during this phase of testing was a backpacking trip combined with a glacier climb. This was to Eldorado Peak, renowned for its snow covered, knife edge summit topping out at 8,868 ft (2,703 m). This trip involved 1,500 ft (450 m) of steep climber's path through forested terrain to start. From there the trail became a boulder field which continued on for the next 2,000 ft (600 m) of elevation gain.

Ascending the boulder field trail
Ascending the boulder field trail


Then it was back to bare dirt trail to camp at 5,800 ft (1,750 m).

All smiles, last of the boulders
All smiles, last of the boulders


The next day involved negotiating more granite slab terrain, eventually gaining the Eldorado snowfield. Then on to Eldorado Glacier, roping up and donning crampons for the 2,000 ft (600 m) climb to the summit. I had sunny weather for this trip and temperatures ranged from 50 to 25 F (10 to -4 C). Pack weight to camp was around 50 lbs (23 kg) and my summit pack was around 20 lbs (9 kg).

The second trip started out on maintained trail, transitioned to rocky terrain which led to camp at a high lake. From camp the next day I went on a scramble to a nearby peak, negotiating rocky terrain with some snow cover. Elevation gain from camp was around 1,500 ft (450 m). This trip was under sunny skies, with temperatures reaching nearly 70 F (21 C) during the day, but dipping down to below freezing at night.

My last overnight trip was to a lovely alpine lake. For this trip I was on a maintained trail that was a combination bare dirt and wet snow. I encountered precipitation in the form of rain and wet snow on this trip and temperatures were around 50 F (10 C) during the day and down to 30 F (-1 C) at night. Pack weight for this trip was around 45 lbs (20 kg).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Kailash boots continued to perform well whether I was on a maintained trail or if on a rocky off trail scramble. I continued to use a one sock system and the boots were comfortable, no hot spots or blisters, on either day trips with a light pack or on the overnight trips carrying a heavier load.

The trip to Eldorado was one in which I was particularly pleased to have been using the Kailash boots. Normally I would have worn my mountaineering boots on a trip involving a glacier climb. But the nature of the route was such that it was steep forested trail followed by even steeper boulder field for most of the first day. So with only a relatively smaller portion of the climb actually on glacier, plus my satisfaction with using crampons on the Kailash boots from Field Testing I decided to wear the boots for the entire trip. The boots provided very sure footing while negotiating the boulder field. It was tough going with a full pack but it was made easier wearing the lighter weight Kailash boots rather than my heavier mountaineering boots.

On the snowfield, pointing to summit
On the snowfield, pointing to summit


The next day when it came time to ascend the glacier, my strap-on crampons attached easily to the Kailash boots as they had before. I then had secure and sure footing along the glacier route and on up the knife edge summit. Sure footing was an absolute must when ascending that final summit ridge because the slope falls away, straight down over 1,000 ft (300 m) on either side. I was really impressed with the performance of the Kailash boots on this trip. They were perfect for the forested and rocky trail, and then worked well with crampons on the glacier. I was pleased to have pushed them to function as a mountaineering boot under the right conditions.

Secure footing on the knife edge
Secure footing on the knife edge


While I enjoyed mostly sunny weather for Long Term Testing, I purposely went out in rainy conditions for a day hike. The rain was off and on all day, enough to fully soak the trail and requiring the wearing of rain gear from the moment I left the trailhead.

Soggy trail...
Soggy trail...


During the course of this day, within about 2 hours the boots were getting wet and my feet were beginning to feel damp. By 3 hours the boots were completely saturated and my feet were completely soaked. I could tell this was more than just my feet sweating. I was really surprised at this since the Kailash have a waterproof Gore-Tex lining.

Wet boots and wet feet
Wet boots and wet feet


I began to think maybe I had poked the boots with the tip of a trekking pole or a crampon point. There were not any signs of this on the boots outer covering, though. After returning from this trip and drying out the boots I wanted to test for leaks and find out how the water was getting inside the boot. I filled up a wash tub with 4 in (10 cm) of water and placed the boots in the water, holding them down with my hands inside the boots. Within about 15 minutes I could feel the water soaking through the outer suede and mesh of the front of the boot and being held back by the interior Gore-Tex liner. However as the water moved between these two layers and reached the heel, water immediately began to stream in at the base of the heel, where it meets the foot bed. This happened with both boots. There was not any sign of excessive wear much less any damage to this area. So I could only presume there was a problem with the water tight integrity of the Gore-Tex in this area, possibly a seam that was not fully sealed? There was no way to know for sure since the Gore-Tex is covered by the boots' interior liner material. So this did not seem like something I had done to the boot, and more like a warranty issue. I contacted SCARPA customer service, explained my field experience and what I observed in the wash tub test. There was no question something was not right with the integrity of the Gore-Tex liner. Without hesitation the representative ordered a new pair of boots and we made arrangements for shipping the old pair back.

The new pair arrived in a few weeks (they had to be back ordered since this boot is so popular). Right out of the box I gave these boots the wash tub test. They performed perfectly. The outer boot covering would become saturated but no water leaked in to the boot interior. I have made one overnight trip with these boots and encountered rain and wet snow. I am pleased to report my feet stayed dry throughout the trip in these conditions.

Regarding the breathability of these boots, since my trips during this phase of testing were done under cooler conditions, I didn't have any problems with my feet over heating or overly sweating.

A note on cleaning, with the wet and muddy terrain I encountered during testing of the first pair of Kailash boots, they had gotten quite dirty. Since I had to return them I wanted to get them as clean as I could. With the boots (and encrusted dirt) fully dry I found that using a brush with nylon bristles and applying light pressure would remove nearly all the dirt. In a few areas around the sole I had to dampen the brush to loosen the dirt. The boots did come reasonably clean, just showing reasonable wear and tear from testing.

LONG TERM REPORT SUMMARY - Nov. 11, 2008

Overall I have been extremely pleased with the SCARPA Kailash boots. They fit me well once I inserted my Superfeet insoles and went to a one sock system. The boots provided good support for my ankles when negotiating rocky and steep trails. These boots were also quite comfortable as far as their shock absorbing properties. My feet always remained comfortable, no matter what the terrain or how much gear I was carrying in my pack. The Vibram soles provided excellent grip, especially when scrambling over rocky terrain. I was also impressed with the versatility of these boots. Not only are they well suited for trails and some off trail scrambling, they can also be relied upon to function as mountaineering boots with crampons under the right conditions. I was disappointed the first pair of boots leaked so badly. But SCARPA customer service took care of the problem and I now have a pair of boots that do not leak.

Pros: very comfortable with excellent fit, versatile (good for trails, rocky scrambles and even some glacier climbing with crampons), waterproof

Cons: Limited breathability on hot days. A slight concern about construction and integrity of the Gore-Tex liner. I don't know if my experience was just an isolated case. I had no other problems or issues.

CONTINUED USE

I will continue to use the Kailash as my primary hiking boots. As I complete this test series we are now in what is considered the "shoulder season" here in the Pacific Northwest. This is when the rains have started and there will be occasional snow. As a result the trails become mostly a muddy, slushy mess and will remain so until the winter snows cover everything. I am glad to have Kailash boots that are waterproof and can see using these through most of the "shoulder season" until it is time to transition to winter boots. At that point I'll put away the Kailash boots and they get to rest up for winter. They are going to need it as I plan to put them through their paces again next season.

This concludes my Long Term Test report. My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and SCARPA for the opportunity to test the Kailash boots.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Scarpa gear
Read more gear reviews by Tom Callahan

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