The Acrux AR boot from Arc’teryx is a study in modern aesthetic, design and construction. The blacked-out look, with just a flash of red over the toe and for the zipper pull, screams modern industrial. The construction is through-and-through Arc’teryx, with superb attention to detail and incredibly fine workmanship — there’s not a single loose thread, rough cut or misaligned panel. Everything has been looked at, examined and thought out. It’s an incredible foray into mountaineering boots from the innovative West Coast company.
Arc’teryx describe the Acrux AR as a double boot with the volume of a single boot, and comparing it to Scarpa’s Phantom Tech and Phantom 6000, their achievement is immediately apparent: the Acrux falls somewhat in the middle, though much closer to the Tech in size. It actually looks about the same outside volume as the Phantom Guide, which is slightly larger than the new Phantom Tech. Lining up the boots side by side, the Guide is actually a bit bigger than the Acrux. Crazy to think, then, that the Acrux is a double boot designed for altitudes up to around 5000m, while the Guide is a single boot that maxes out at around 3500-4000m.
The shell and liner are both full Gore-Tex for maximal weather protection. The shell sports fully laminated construction and there’s not a single seam to be seen on the outside, with every element laminated and glued into place. There’s a large patch on the inside that feels absolutely puncture-resistant, and the rest of the gaiter feels equally tough. The waterproof Tizip runs straight up the center of the boot but unlike other boots with this design the zipper feels much more supple and flexible, which should eliminate any of the issues that had cropped up on the other boots. There’s a neat little stretch drawcord at the top of the gaiter — I’ve never seen this on another gaitered boot, but I love it! It makes so much sense.
The inner bootie is, as mentioned, full Gore-Tex so can readily be used as a camp shoe. However, the sole has absolutely no tread which will make these basically unusable on snow, though it feels quite solid and should work fine on rough ground. The bootie’s outer is a perforated, stretchy foam that provides a lot of insulation and conforms around your feet for a customized, moulded-to-your-feet feel.
Fit is similar to other Arc’teryx footwear — that is to say, narrower than Scarpa and about the same width as Sportiva. Surprisingly, and I think the double boot design has much to do with it, these actually fit my overly wide feet really well. There is a slight pressure point on the outside of my left foot, but the right foot is perfectly comfortable. I’m curious to see how they feel once they’re broken in and with a few days’ worth of use in them.
Walking comfort is exceptional, and I would compare these to a stiff-soled hiker rather than a mountaineering boot. There is a little bit of rocker, but the boot feels completely stiff when edging so I’m not sure how it works so well when walking on hard ground? The inner bootie envelops your feet and feels like a thick, very well cushioned sock, and works with the outer shell to prevent any heel lift and minimize rubbing. It’s unlike any other boot I’ve tried, and feels somewhat like a double boot in terms of cushioning and overall comfort, but also similar to a single boot in how well it locks down the heel and how small and precise it feels. However Arc’teryx made this happen, it works and the Acrux AR is one of the most comfortable boots to walk around in that I’ve tried.
The sole was custom-designed for Arc’teryx by Vibram, and utilizes the proven Mont compound (as seen on most other Vibram-soled mountain boots). It should stick well to rock, shed snow well and last for years. The tread pattern is unique to the Acrux AR, and looks like it will grip well both up and down. Tread depth is somewhere between the old Phantom Guide and the new Phantom Tech — we’ll see how it all works when I get these into the mountains.
The Acrux AR is also light for a double boot, weighing in at 976 grams for the left and 972 grams for the right (in a size 43 ⅓.) The liner in both boots comes in at 202 grams, and the shells differ by only 4 grams. That’s a pretty amazing achievement for such complex construction!
The lacing system inside is pretty standard: laces over the foot and instep, and a velcro strap above the ankle. It works as expected, and the velcro strap is one of the nicest and best designed I’ve seen. The laces lock down your foot but don’t exert any uncomfortable pressure, and the velcro strap presses in on the stiffened tongue for a very secure feel. There are reinforcement patches on the inside, positioned by the velcro strap to prevent abrasion.
At $800 Canadian, the Acrux AR is a bargain in mountain boots right now (I know, I can’t believe I’m writing this!). Though it is a double boot, it’s positioned somewhere between gaitered single boots and more typical double boots in terms of warmth, which should make it ideal for year-round use at altitudes between 2000 and 4000m, and possibly up to 5000m. Add in the low weight, rugged sole and tough construction and I won’t be surprised to see a lot of these on ice climbs around the Canadian Rockies next winter. Stay tuned for a proper review once I’ve had some time to abuse these.