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Plastic or Leather Mountaineering Boots?

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Plastic or Leather Mountaineering Boots?

Postby twitchjackson » Wed Oct 03, 2007 7:10 pm

What is more advantageous for Colorado climbing, plastic or leather mountaineering boots? I plan to do 14ers and other hikes without any vertical ice climbs. Does one work better for wet snow in the spring or dry and cold in the winter?

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Postby tress » Wed Oct 03, 2007 7:19 pm

just a quick thought,

the classic leather boot usually has high uppers to support and protect ankles in rough terrain, vibram soles for traction on slippery vegetation, mud, snow, fairly stiff shank, minimal seams, gusset tongue,
requires waterproofing on a regular basis

plastic; excellent for climbing steep ice, good fit w/ crampons

Leather/Fabric boots: reduce weight, fast drying time, but also have less stability on difficult terrain, waterproof??, durability???

so i guess it depends on the climbing you intend to do the most.

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Postby Scott P » Wed Oct 03, 2007 7:26 pm

In my opinion plastics are a pain in the butt unless you are doing ice. Unless you are doing ice, go with leathers/fabrics. I use Sorels or Bugaboos because I like the comfort, but they aren't the best boot in the world for crampons, though they do take them.

For vertical ice routes, plastics are the way to go, but if you're just doing peaks like Elbert, Quandary, Massive, etc, I would skip them.
I'm slow and fat. Unfortunately, those are my good qualities.

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Postby cushman » Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:15 pm

ezsuperkev wrote:not quite sure what you mean by leather boots. very few mountaineering boot manufacturers are using leather anymore.

Huh?

La Sportiva - 5 leather models
Scarpa - 4 leather models
Millet - 4 leather models

More than half of these accept step-ins.

Scott P wrote:For vertical ice routes, plastics are the way to go

Why is that? I barely saw anyone using plastics in Ouray or RMNP last season and I felt they were less precise than leathers when I've tried them. The plastics to me seem sloppy and clumsy - leather or synthetic mountaineering boots feel more precise to me and give me a better fit. I feel like I have a better connection to my crampons or the rock when I'm wearing them. I have the Sportiva Nepals and I love 'em. I actually think that for most CO mountaineering pursuits they might be a bit overkill.
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Postby jfox » Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:41 pm

I personally believe, that U.S. Americans in Colorado, should only need leather boots for anything that they will encounter here such that like as in plastic boots are overkill. For our children's future...like as in. :wink:

I use the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX's myself for winter mountaineering, and steep ice. I myself would never wear plastics...yuck! :x Too bulky, and stiff and they look like they would be murder to hike long distances in. I think you'd be best off getting a full-grain leather boot with plenty of insulation. The La Sports are plenty warm and comfy and completely waterproof (tress). Try on several pair before buying. I was wanting something else, but the Nepal's fit the best, were the most comfy and my feet have been happy in them so far.

CG_old

Postby CG_old » Wed Oct 03, 2007 9:25 pm

I like a good snakeskin boot. Hard to find a step-in compatible version though ;-)

Image

Seriously though, 99% of the time I wear leather boots in the winter in Colorado.

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Postby cushman » Wed Oct 03, 2007 9:39 pm

jfox wrote:I was wanting something else, but the Nepal's fit the best, were the most comfy and my feet have been happy in them so far.

Like as in winter and The Mountaineering...

Good point though, what fits the best should be the first priority. I didn't want the Nepals at first, either. I tried on Millets, Kaylands, and other LaSportiva boots and the Nepals just fit me the best (which is weird, because I have a wider front foot and their climbing shoes didn't fit as well).
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Postby jfox » Wed Oct 03, 2007 9:49 pm

cushman wrote:Good point though, what fits the best should be the first priority. I didn't want the Nepals at first, either.


Yeah, I was trying to steer clear of the Nepals because of the price, but man they were nice! Some other stuff I tried on (can't remember names) felt like they were crushing my feet or they were just too stiff. Lesson to be learned: Don't skimp when it comes to footwear for alpine/winter climbing...if you do you'll most likely be sorry.

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Postby coloradokevin » Wed Oct 03, 2007 10:33 pm

Personally, I find that plastics still have a role, but it is more limited than it used to be.

For extreme cold (ie: genearlly more so than CO; think big mountains or brutal climates) plastics rule.

For extended overnight trips I think plastics have an advantage... Leathers seem to stay wet longer, and the lack of a removeable liner in most models prevents taking the insulation into your sleeping bag with you... Thus, you wake up to frozen/stiff boots that are harder to put on, and likely a bit wet when they thaw.

There are plenty of other synthetic/leather boots that may dry faster, but I still like being able to wear my liners to bed (or have them in my bag) when the mercury really drops.

But, with plastics you pay in weight and comfort.

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Postby Geof3 » Wed Oct 03, 2007 10:52 pm

I've had both, climbed in both. I've done some "high" altitude stuff, and climb ice all winter long. Unless you have a circulation issue, leather is the way to go. I used leather boots on Orizaba with NO issues. They were sportiva K3's (no longer made) the above post is incorrect RE leather boots and availability. There are plenty. Fit is CRITICAL and $$ should be secondary in the purchase. Plastic boots are clunky, don't have great feel and are generally heavier than their leather counter parts. This is unless you spend EXTRA $$ and do custom liners, then they can get pretty light. They can be a bi-otch to decend in on trail as well. I ONLY climb in leather boots, my personal favorite is the Sportiva Trango Ice, it feels like a tennis shoe. The Nepals, folks are talking about, are GREAT boots and I had both types, the early "regular" ones with less insulation and also the extremes. They are pretty heavy though, but they climb like a dream. If you do some research, a lot of the climbers on Denali these days are wearing leather. I think Kayland does a true leather double boot. (might be a different brand).

Anyway, in CO it is rarely cold enough to warrant a full double plastic boot IMO. The newer leather offerings are designed for extreme conditions. Add a gator and you are fine if things get really silly. Another thing to consider is a leather boot will get you through any season here. Plastics would get HOT on a late spring snow climb decent. (unless they are Randonee boots, then you'd be skiing!!)

To the comment about moisture. I have NEVER had my boots freeze due to sweat. Most leather boots are waterproofed pretty well. Even if not, and you are a profuse sweater, you can either use anti-perspirant on your feet, or wear a vapor barrier liner. Point is, moisture is pretty moot. Actually, most liners in plastics retain water VERY easily, but this can be controlled using the same measures.

Whatever you choose... GET THE ONES THAT FIT!! PERIOD... Good Luck!!
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Postby bartspedden » Sun Oct 07, 2007 9:02 am

I've got both plastic and leather. Which boot I where depends on what I'm doing. If I'm just doing a 14'er without snow on it I usually where a light approach shoe or trail running shoe. Last weekend my wife did Mt. Princeton in her Vasque trail runners and had NO problem even though we had cooler temps and high winds, while I wore a light weight pair of leathers from Scarpa. By the end of the hike I was wishing I'd a worn my running shoes.

However, once snow is on the ground things change somewhat, especially if you are camping. Since you're considering plastic boots I assume you're not looking at fast and light ascents (even though they make some darn nice leather boots for winter nowadays). Personally, I like the comfort of a leather boot for hiking, I just feel more agile, though I haven't tried some of the new plastics from Asolo. That being said, I always use a plastic double boot during winter camping trips because I like being able to keep the inner bootie on while sleeping. This allows me more comfort when putting on my boots in the morning. I don't like frozen leather boots in the morning, guess I'm just not hardcore anymore. Also, when you have to get up and answer the call of nature, double boots, for me, are more convient.

Durability-wise, my personal experience is that leather boots beat the snot out of plastic boots. I had a pair of full grain leather boots from Raichle that lasted through 14 years and 3 resoles. In the same time I've gone through 3 pairs of double plastic boots. I'm really hard on footwear, not sure why.

There is no boot for all considitions. Often times there's high winds above treeline during the snow covered months. Figure out if you have cold feet or not and begin to figure out which boots from each category (leather/plastic) are going to have the proper insulation for you. There are so many variations of high quality crampons nowadays that you're sure to find a good crampon for your new boot, so don't let that play into it. I would try to figure if you prefer strap-ons or clip-ins though because that will help limit your options.

If I'm not camping, and I believe that the wind is going to be at a minimum, I prefer my leathers. If I'm camping or the wind is high, I prefer my plastics. Note, my leathers are not well insulated like many of the newer models from the likes of scarpa, etc, so I'm not saying that leather is not warm. I'm just saying that if the weather is fine I prefer a lighter boot. When the weather is colder I prefer a boot with more insultation, and if you look at the specs between well insulated leather and plastic boots, both are heavy!

just my humble opinion

bart

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Postby krz2fer » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:36 pm

Chris Gerber wrote:I like a good snakeskin boot. Hard to find a step-in compatible version though ;-)

Image

Seriously though, 99% of the time I wear leather boots in the winter in Colorado.


I agree. I'm having a similar issue with my pair. Any crampon suggestions?

Image
Chris

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