Scarpa boots reviews

Backpackers on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2021

By Michael Lanza

The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The Wonderland Trail. The Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park. The Ruby Crest Trail. Yellowstone. The Wind River Range. The North Cascades. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear you see reviewed at The Big Outside. I treat gear roughly in places that are hard on outdoor gear and apparel so that I can give you brutally honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you make the best gear choices for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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Gear Review: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Backpacking Boots

backcountry.com Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX boots.

Backpacking Boots
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
$269, 2 lbs. 7 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 37-48/US 5-14, women’s Euro 37-42, US 6-10
backcountry.com

What are your expectations of your boots? That’s a good question to consider when shopping for a new pair. On a 39-mile backpacking trip in mid-September in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, I put Scarpa’s Zodiac Plus GTX through the gamut of mountain terrain and conditions. We hiked consecutive, 13-mile days on trails ranging from packed dirt to rock and mud—the kind of backpacking for which I might normally wear a lightweight, low-cut shoe for comfort and breathability. But we also traversed a five-mile stretch off-trail over snow, steep and loose scree, talus, and a 12,000-foot pass, including some dicey third-class scrambling. We walked through shallow streams, puddles, boggy ground, wet vegetation overhanging the path, thunderstorms and heavy rain. By all measures, the Zodiac Plus GTX passed every test. Here’s why.

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Gear Review: Scarpa Epic Lite Shoes

Scarpa Epic Lite shoes.
Scarpa Epic Lite shoes.

Hiking/Approach Shoes
Scarpa Epic Lite
$135, 1 lb. 14 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 39-47/US 6-13, women’s Euro 36-42/US 5-10
moosejaw.com

The hardest footpath to the top of the highest peak east of the Mississippi, North Carolina’s 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, runs you through a gauntlet of character-building trail conditions lurking in those rough Appalachian Mountains. Hiking the Black Mountain Crest Trail entails climbing a cumulative 3,500 vertical feet over 12 miles on an earthen rollercoaster that traverses 13 summits above 6,000 feet, over ground littered with wet, slick leaves, while hopping the occasional small pond of mud and carefully treading over slippery roots and granite slabs. I could hardly have thought up a better place to try out Scarpa’s new Epic Lites. And I’ve worn very few models of shoes over the years that handle all kinds of terrain as nimbly as these.

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Gear Review: Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX Mountaineering Boots

Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX
Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX mountaineering boots.

Mountaineering Boots
Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX
$480, 4 lbs. 1 oz. (mondo 25/men’s US 6.5/Euro 39)
Sizes: men’s US 6-13/Euro 39-46, women’s US 6-12/Euro 37-43
backcountry.com

For my 15-year-old son’s first technical mountain climb, a four-day, April ascent of the Mountaineers Route on California’s Mount Whitney—where we’d face conditions ranging from hot alpine sun to frigid winds, and be walking in snow with crampons for nearly the entire four days—I wanted to put him in a pair of all-around mountaineering boots that would feel comfortable for miles of hiking, handle the “technical” terrain of a moderately steep snow gully, hold a crampon reliably, and keep his feet warm. I decided on a proven performer that would serve virtually any climbing adventures on glaciers, snow, or ice: the Mont Blanc GTX.

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Near high base camp below Mount Whitney's East Face.

Review: Gear For Climbing Mount Whitney

By Michael Lanza

For our spring ascent of the Mountaineers Route on California’s 14,505-foot Mount Whitney—highest peak in the Lower 48—my 15-year-old son (in lead photo, above, approaching our high camp below Whitney’s East Face) and I used technical gear that you would use on many classic snow and glacier routes up peaks from Cascade Range volcanoes like Shasta, Hood, and Rainier to Mount Olympus, the Tetons, and the Alps. Here are my from-the-mountain observations about the gear that got us up and down Whitney, including backpacks, a mountaineering tent and boots, climbing hardware, super warm sleeping systems, and technical apparel.

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