Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A few thoughts on the Scarpa Phantom Guide Boots

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I mentioned about a month ago that I now have Scarpa Phantom Guide boots in my possession to test out.  After a month of testing, I now have a couple comments to share.  I plan to write a much longer, more comprehensive review of them in a few more weeks after I get a few thousand more feet of climbing done in them. 

I have currently done about 1,500 feet of ice climbing, about 200 feet of rock climbing (without crampons) and about 15 miles of hiking in them.  That is not a ton, which is why I want to climb and hike in them more before totally reviewing them. 

So far, here are a few thoughts:

The Phantom Guides have a softer shank than I was expecting.  This makes hiking nice but I was afraid that it may cause problems with the fit of my crampons.  So far I haven't had any problems with crampon fit due to the little bit of give in the shank, but the narrowness of the front welt means that only my dartwins fit well.  My Grivel G14 bars are too wide, but I haven't tried the bars from the G20 or G22.  Black Diamond bars are a better fit, but still not as solid as the Petzl bars.  Once my darts are on the boot and snug, there is absolutely no give in the shank.  I think that it is a very good design; a little give for the hike, no give for the climb.

Phantom Guide seems to fit well with the Petzl bars on my Dartwins.

Another thing that I am extremely impressed with is the fit in the heel.  These boots really lock my heels down.  500 feet of steep ice gets my calves burning in my other boots, but these boots lock my heels down so well, I haven't noticed any calf burning at all.

I did about six 150' laps without the slightest bit of calf burning.  That same amount would have meant burning calves in my other boots.  Climbing WI4+ ice in these boots really felt effortless.

I generally wear a size 45-46 in most boots.  These boots are a 46 and, though they seem to be the right length, they are a higher volume boot than I was expecting.  There are a couple advantages and disadvantages to the extra volume.  (My foot is not extremely narrow, nor is it very wide, but it is a little bit lower volume than the average foot)

First of all, I notice my forefoot sliding around laterally a bit in these boots while I hike, especially on the downhill.  This isn't usually too much of a problem, but my feet did get a little sore after traversing a steep slope for about 45 minutes.  My heels don't slip one bit while hiking or climbing.

Second, these boots don't seem to be as warm as my single leather boots (Salomon Super Mtn 9).  I was expecting them to be warmer, but I think the additional volume means there is more room for my feet to keep warm, which isn't as efficient.

For the advantages, the higher volume boot does allow me to wear a combination of thicker socks which helps with the warmth factor and the lateral sliding (though it doesn't solve the problem).

Finally, the higher volume is slightly more comfortable than the narrower fit of my Salomons for general trail hiking.  The Salomons seem to hold my foot in place better on traverses, but the majority of the hiking I have done in them has been on trails while hiking to a climb.

These boots feel significantly lighter than my Salomons and feel much more sensitive, especially while rock climbing.  I am much more confident edging on rock in these. 

I love the built-in gaiters.  I normally hike with semi-loose boots to the climb, and then tighten my boots just before I get on the ice.  This also means that I usually have to untie my pant-gaiters to tighten my boots.  With these boots I don't have to use my pants as gaiters (though I still occasionally may) so it's easier and faster to adjust the tightness of my boots.

Another advantage to the gaiters is that they keep the boots very dry.  These boots are insulated with Primaloft and they use OutDry technology for the waterproof gaiter.  This, in my experience, makes for a waterproof, extremely quick-drying boot.  My leather boots dry quite slowly (think a day at room temperature) and these boots dry in an hour or two at room temperature, depending how much I sweat in them.

Super-gaiter outer with Tizip waterproof zip

Again, my experience with these boots is still somewhat limited, but I plan to climb in them quite a bit in a couple weeks and I hope to have a much more conclusive opinion after that trip.

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