Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gear Review: La Sportiva Extreme Evo Lt. GTX

As I was running down the Barr Trail after hiking up The Incline to break these in two things were clear:

1. I was running in mountain boots.
2. I love these boots.

To be fair I have been climbing in a pair of Nuptses for the past eight or so years so anything was an improvement. If you aren't familiar with these boots they're synthetic double boots that are meant for high altitude and winter climbing. When I bought them I had high hopes that I haven't completely gotten around to yet but after walking around in the hot Colorado sun in June I decided I needed another pair of boots. The Nuptses are great boots but they're pretty much overkill for anything in the lower 48 states.

So back to the Evos, these boots are a vast improvement over any other boot I've had on my feet from other single boots to double plastics these things climb great and are a dream for approaches. I will note that they are a bit on the cool side and some people have told me the toe box is too narrow for them. Boots are so personal so it's always best to try them on first before laying down the cash.

Evos on the left.
Technical Details:
La Sportiva calls it the "silver bullet" for ice, mixed, and cold weather alpine. I'd say being great for two out of three ain't bad and the third depends on how cold and your desired level of comfort.

Weight: 30.51 oz., less than 2 pounds!
Lining Gore-Tex® Insulated Comfort Footwear
Upper: Water-repellant Cordura® with Idro-treatment/ Flex Tec 2/ Water-repellant Lorica® with Antiacqua™ external coating/ Double Vibram® rubber rands
Insole: 9mm insulating Ibi-Thermo
Midsole: 6-7mm HP3
Sole: Vibram® Lavaredo (Sticky Supertrek Rubber)
MSRP: $420.00
Where to Get It: La Sportiva doesn't do sales direct through their site so you'll have to buy them online or better at a local retailer like Wilderness Exchange in Denver, which also sells gear online.

First Impressions:
So I was super excited about these because they are a really lightweight boot that accepts automatic crampons. I've been clunking around in double boots for ages and was really excited to see what it was going to feel like to not have five pounds hanging off my legs. So after walking around the house for a couple days I called up a friend to see if he wanted to run up The Incline, our local training hike to fully test them out and break them in. As I said above, when we got to the top I ran down. I ran in mountain boots. As stupid as that sounds they were actually pretty comfortable. Something to keep in mind is that I don't have difficult feet. No bunions, bone spurs, or any of the many annoyances that often cause people great trouble finding boots. These fit me right out of the box and were good to go.

The next test was to see how they actually climb. I've been doing a lot of skiing recently so I haven't gotten to test them too much til a couple weeks ago during a linkup of Dreamweaver and Martha's Couloir in RMNP. This is a little over 6 grand worth of elevation gained and lost with a little over nine miles of hiking. Kind of a big day. I figured if I could do that then these boots were pretty solid. I had intended to also climb The Flying Dutchman which would of added in another couple grand of ascent and descent but it was late in the day and I'm out of shape for alpine climbing.

Aside from getting lost because I was looking down at the snowshoers tracks instead of paying attention to where I was going the boots did great. Greater ankle flexibility allowed for more flat footing on the snow which kept my calfs from burning out early on and the lighter weight allowed me to take my time and not feel like I had cement shoes trying to pull me off the ice.

Comfort & Fit:
These are super comfy. Even after running in them and climbing for thousands of feet I still had something left to give. They are stiff though like any other mountaineering boot. I did notice on the walk down that my toes and ankles were starting to get sore. I think this has more to do with doing a lot of climbing than it does with the boots themselves. I don't find myself walking ten miles in anything and feeling like daisies.

One thing I will say is that these boots run a little cold. If you're planning a lot of winter climbing I'd say consider having a backup plan if your toes get cold at least until you get to know how cold your feet will get in these. Slogging up Mt. Lincoln one day in brutal winds and below zero temps I was wishing I had my other boots. If I would of stopped for any significant amount of time I would of had to turn around or lose my toes because I was doing all I could just to keep the blood flowing. So I would call these light four season boots and they are call Evo Light. I don't think the designers intended them for brutal, sub zero, high altitude conditions so be careful subjecting yourself to that. Spring climbing and nicer winter conditions, which are pretty common in CO they are great.

Fitwise these work well for me. Like I said though I don't have difficult feet. I've heard and read many complaints about the narrow toe box being uncomfortable. If your toe area is wide these may not fit you very well. These also feel like low top tennis shoes compared to my bigger boots. I've tried on several pairs of single boots and this is pretty common so if you're used to climbing in plastic boots or some other double boot it will feel strange at first.

Pros: Very lightweight and comfortable for those with easy to size feet.
Cons: Lightweight can mean cold. Some have complained of narrow toe box problems.
Score: Thumbs up! For a lightweight boot they're still reasonably warm.

Traction & Stability:
These are made for a variety of terrain and they do great. On wind packed snow they had plenty of traction to where I never slipped too much. Because of their lightweight I felt much more agile on scree and boulderfields but that lightweight can be a drawback when kicking steps both up and down hill. It sucks to lift that heavy boot up but I really had to kick pretty hard on some hardpacked snow coming down from Mt. Lady Washington. Of course I could of just put my crampons on but I was feeling lazy and there weren't really any consequences should I of fallen.

Stability is good as well. I find myself tightening and loosening the laces depending on what I'm doing. For climbing and upward movement I crank the laces tight to hold my ankle more stable and for general hiking or downhill movement I loosen the top hooks to get more ankle movement. This is a big contrast from my previous boots where I felt like my leg would break anytime I didn't go where the boots wanted me to.

Pros: Ankle stability feels very adjustable, lightweight and grippy. Great for flatfooting as well as steeper ice.
Cons: Can get tiresome to kick steps without much weight behind it. Not as stiff for ice climbing.
Score:Thumbs Up! This is a good boot for the quiver that doesn't feel like cement shoes. It's a good balance in stiffness for ice and mountaineering.

Breathability & Water Resistance:
I haven't had any issues with water penetrating through the upper directly. Despite walking on some wet slushy snow late in the day. When I first took the boots out to Hessie Chimney I did quickly realize that I needed to buy gaiters. Where the cuff on my old boots was very big and held my pant legs in place that was not the case with the Evo Light. Postholing through powder for three hours left my feet soaked and frozen so you need to have a system for keeping snow from coming in the top of the boot.

Breathability wise these have worked great for the warmer weather I've been climbing in. While my feet have been plenty warm I didn't feel like they were sweltering and adjusting the socks I've been wearing has been helpful in maintaining comfort. So far my feet have been perfectly dry when I've been smart about keeping snow out of the boots.

Pros: Waterproof and breathable. Work well for spring and summer alpine.
Cons: Like most boots it would be nice if they had a system for integrating the pants and boots so snow can't get in around the ankles.
Score: Thumbs Up! If LaSportiva would integrate their apparel with their boots I could see that being pretty sweet.

Short Term Durability:
So far I've been satisfied with these boots. Mountain boots are built to last and these are no exception. While anything that is marketed as lightweight is generally going to trade some durability for weight I have seen nothing to suggest that I won't get many years of use out of these boots.
Pros: They seem to take a beating and keep on running.
Cons: None that I've noticed as of yet.
Score: Two Thumbs Up! These boot seem pretty bomber.

Long Term Durability:
Check back at a later date to see how long these boots lasted.

I really like these boots. They've seen a fair amount of ice and snow over the past couple of months and I'm pretty excited to see how they work out for next ice season. It seems like these are a pretty good all around boot but they don't really specialize in anything.

I don't think there is a way to have an all around boot that can cover the ground between extremely sticky climbing shoe and comfortable high altitude winter warmth. I think these boots handle a range of tasks from easy climbing and hiking to ice and snow climbing pretty well.

Pros: Handle ice and snow well. Lightweight but seemingly durable. Very comfortable and stable thru adjusting the laces.
Cons: It'd be great if these integrated with pants better for a nice waterproof cuff.

Overall Score:
Thumbs Up! This is a very comfortable, high performing boot. If they could defy physics to make it a do-everything boot then it wouldn't have a competitor. Since that's not possible they could at least make it integrate better with pants for better waterproofness at the cuff.


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  2. La Sportiva Extreme Evo Lt. GTX is quality hiking boats. It is a useful for big mountain hiking.