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Mountaineering & Expeditions

Mountaineering Equipment: How To Choose Mountaineering Boots

Mountaineering boots are one of the most important pieces of mountaineering equipment you will choose. Here is how to pick the right ones...

Mountaineering boots are one of the most crucial elements to think about when packing your mountaineering equipment bag. Photo: iStock

Mountaineering boots are probably the most important piece of mountaineering equipment you can buy. These will be the foundation of your experience on the mountain. If you don’t have the right fitting boots, it could a lot of pain and problems.

Mountaineering boots differ from hiking boots.”Stiff soles which can accommodate crampons and provide traction on tricky terrain are the foundation of your boots,” says mountaineering equipment expert Snow + Rock.

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“Climbing over vertical rock, scree, snow and ice demands an aggressive tread with deep lugs and solid, sharp edges which can cut stabilising steps into soft surfaces underfoot. These won’t be as flexible or as comfortable as your regular walking boots, but they will enable you to make ascents and descents with confidence.”

It’s always best to try mountaineering boots on in person before you buy them. Like mountaineering jackets and mountaineering gloves, different brands will suit different feet.

There are three types of three primary types of boots: single boots, double boots and super gaiter boots.

SINGLE MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS

Single boots like the La Sportiva Trango Prime are lightweight and warm. Photo: La Sportiva

Single mountaineering boots don’t separate in anyway – there is no inner or outer lining that comes apart from the boot. For most people, single boots are warm and stiff enough for all seasons. You would wear these boots to climb most peaks in Europe.

DOUBLE MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS

Double boots like the La Sportiva Spantik have an inner and outer layer, which means they are warmer than single boots. Photo: La Sportiva

Double mountaineering boots have separate synthetic inner and hard plastic outer boots. They are heavier and generally used in very cold climates because they are warmer and more waterproof, thanks to the plastic outer layer, but they can cause your feet to sweat.

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This is where the inner layer comes in handy. If you are camping on your mountaineering trip, double boots are effective because you can dry them out overnight.

Double boots are often very stiff therefore good for tightly attaching crampons to without reducing blood circulation to your feet.

SUPER GAITER MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS

Super gaiter style boots like the Scarpa Phantom Guide are a good combination of single and double boots. Photo: Scarpa

Super gaiter mountaineering boots are a hybrid of single and double boots. You can’t remove the inner boot but it is covered in a non-removable outer boot, often including a knee-high gaiter, which provides extra warmth and weatherproofing. They are better than single boots in colder or wetter climates and lighter than double boots.

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HOW STIFF SHOULD MY BOOTS BE?

Rigidity of your boots depends on the type of terrain you will be tackling. Photo: iStock

It totally depends on the terrain you will be climbing. You won’t need super rigid boots if you are hiking along a glacier, but you wouldn’t want a soft summer hiking boot to climb Mont Blanc.

Mountaineering boots are often rated as B1, B2 or B3. B1 boots are three season boots, B2 boots are winter boots and B3 boots are fully rigid climbing boots.

The most flexible boots should be used for trekking through snow and ice on relatively flat routes. They won’t work well on technical climbs.

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Medium flex boots are good for less challenging snow and ice routes. Make sure the sole is firm and there is support above the ankle if you will be using these boots to climb rock and low angle ice.

Rigid boots are great for technical ice climbing routes. They take some getting used to but they are very useful when you entire body weight is resting on the front two points.

Make sure you try boots on with socks that you will be wearing on your expedition. They will feel snug when you first try them on, but the inner liner will pad down with time.

WHAT ABOUT CRAMPONS?

You will need crampons on your boots to tackle snow and ice. Photo: iStock

Crampons are essential for winter mountaineering. You need to make sure you test your crampons on your boots before you buy them.

Some crampons won’t fit certain boots – it just depends on shape and make – so definitely worth bringing them along when you buy your new mountaineering boots.

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Make sure they have anti-balling plates to stop snow and ice clogging them up. Avoid very lightweight ski touring crampons as they won’t last very long.

How do you work out which crampons will suit your mountaineering boots? Read our crampon compatibility diagram below from Snow + Rock.

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