Mountain boots are getting ever more high-tech and nothing proves this better than reading the spec sheet for the new-for-2016 Scarpa Phantom Tech: Super Fabric, Cordura, Aluminum, Carbon Fiber, FlexSeal. No wonder these things now cost almost a thousand dollars (in Canada, anyway!).
As I’ve been getting questions from all corners of the globe about these new boots, here’s the straight-out-of-the-box preview. I’ve yet to wear them on anything vertically-inclined so I cannot fully comment on their performance yet. But, stay tuned for a full report before next ice climbing season hits — there’s a lot of alpine out there to play in!
The first thing you notice is how much lighter these are than the Phantom Guide. My 43.5 Guide weigh in at 1040 grams per boot, while the Phantom Tech come in at 888 grams — that’s a 15% weight reduction on your feet! Scarpa claim the same warmth as the Guide, but based on in-house wear I think the Tech are a little warmer.
The biggest change concerns fit as the Tech are now on the new NAG last, which is slightly narrower than the Guide’s AG last. (All the new Scarpa boots are on the NAG last: Rebel Pro/Carbon/Ultra, Mont Blanc Pro.) Also, based on the ribbed-rubber over the instep, I surmise that they employ the same SockFit tech as the other new boots (though this is not mentioned anywhere in the literature, they do fit similar to other SockFit boots).
With that said, fit is excellent and my overly-wide feet feel just as comfortable in these as in my Guides. The boot feels like it wraps around your feet, and fit is slightly tighter around the ankle (in a good way, in that it feels more secure).
The gaiter is a bit higher than that in the Guide, and is tighter around the calf for a better seal. There’s also not as much room between the gaiter and the boot, so tucking in pants might be a bit harder with the Tech.
Walking comfort is exceptional, as with all the NAG-lasted boots. They feel much less clunky and boot-like than the Guide, which was already a boot I could comfortably walk for hours in. They do feel slightly stiffer than the Guide, too.
Construction is first-rate and every stitch appears perfect. I would happily place these on a shelf and stare at them for hours like a work of art, they really are that beautifully put together.
The whole inside section of the gaiter is made of Super Fabric, which is a ridiculously tough material comprised of small armour-like plates fixed to a backer fabric. I’ve tried making a hole in this stuff on a different pair of boots and it’s not really possible under normal use.
The rest of the outer is some kind of Cordura that also appears to be nearly indestructible, or at least much tougher than the Guide’s outer gaiter fabric.
Waterproofing is thanks to the Outdry membrane, same as on the Guide. A big change is the zipper which has been redesigned to eliminate any stress points and now wraps around the boot in what Scarpa are calling FlexSeal. It’s a bit odd to use at first but it also runs much more smoothly than the Guide’s T-Zip.
The insole is carbon fiber for low weight with maximum warmth, and the boot is insulated with Primaloft Micropile and a 3D mesh/aluminum layer. Like is said, this stuff is getting seriously high tech!
The sole uses dual-density rubber to save even more weight: the orange stuff is something called Morflex which is a blend of EVA and rubber that is said to be warmer and lighter than regular rubber. I’m concerned it won’t be as durable but time will tell. The outer zones of the sole are the typical sticky Vibram stuff found on nearly every boot out there.
Of note, the lugs are significantly shorter: the Guide measures in at 6.8mm as compared to the Tech’s 4.9mm. Granted, I’ve never worn out the lugs on a boot, but I do wonder what impact this will have on long-term durability.
The toe welt appears to be slightly wider and more rounded than the Guide which should make for a better crampon fit.
All in all, these are all significant upgrades for what is quite possibly the most popular ice climbing boot in the Canadian Rockies and I can’t wait to get them out onto some alpine snow and ice for a full report.