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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Scarpa Kailash GTX > Test Report by Tom Callahan
SCARPA KAILASH BOOTS
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.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then it was back to bare dirt trail to camp at 5,800 ft (1,750 m).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Scarpa Kailash GTX > Test Report by Tom Callahan