Scarpa Tech Ascent GTX
$239, 2 lb. 7 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 36-46.5, 47, 48, women’s 36-43
Some boots are not all they’re cut out to be; others deliver even more than you expect. The Tech Ascent GTX falls into that second category. Billed as an approach-backpacking boot that’s supportive enough for carrying a full pack, yet nimble for climbing, these midweight, suede mid-cuts are an outstanding boot for backpacking with up to 45 pounds, as I discovered on a five-day, 40-mile family backpacking trip in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Two design features deserve most of the credit for this boot’s versatility. The dual-density polyurethane midsole provides substantial shock absorption, but still retains sensitivity for scrambling or easy five-class climbing. (Still, it’s much closer to boot-quality stiffness than rock-shoe softness, so don’t expect to dash up moderate to hard rock routes in them.) The midsole’s support is bolstered by a full-length insole board called C-Flex and a nylon shank under the heel and arch area. And the sticky Vibram Vertical Approach rubber on the outsole gripped securely when I scrambled off-trail up and down granite slabs above our campsite at Little Frazier Lake in the Eagle Cap, aided by a smooth “climbing” zone under the toes and instep. Meanwhile, deep, widely spaced lugs under the rest of the forefoot and the heel bite into dirt, scree, steep gravelly trail, and mud.
Even beyond those standout features, though, the Tech Ascent shines for a fit that cradles the heel, suede uppers that wrap close around the foot, and asymmetrical lacing to the toe that translates to a closer fit and enhanced control when climbing. The Gore-Tex membrane kept my feet dry through a 90-minute downpour and breathed reasonably well, remaining comfortable even on hot days as long as several hours and 12 miles. Plus, construction is impeccable, from the reinforced rubber toe rand to the way the padded tongue doesn’t slip at all to either side. You get a lot of performance for a boot that’s under two-and-a-half pounds. Fit is best for medium- to high-volume feet.
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NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.