Sunday, 28 February 2016

Scarpa R-Evo GTX Hillwalking Boot - Long Term Review

A 3-season boot is one of the "go to" items in a hillwalker's kit; one pair of boots which can potentially take the walker from valley paths onto the high mountains in everything except full winter conditions and  cope with scrambling too when required.

I've had lots of pairs of boots designed as "3season", ranging from early forays with heavy single-piece leather boots and almost rigid soles to much lighter boots which really weren't up to what I was expecting them to do.  Gradually, over a period of 30 odd years I've come to know what kind of boot suits my feet and the type of walking I do, which involves long days on sometimes pathless terrain ranging from bare rock, boulders and scree through rough heather moorland to boggy, grassy ground and stream crossings (very often all in the same day!).  I expect a good 3 season boot to cope with all that, to be supportive if I'm carrying a backpacking load, to be comfortable through a long day and waterproof (within reason - some days would need waders to keep out the water), to be durable - and to do all this without me noticing I'm wearing them.  It's a tough set of criteria.

For winter (4 season, crampon compatible) boots I much prefer leather boots without breathable linings; in my view a well-made single leather boot with minimal stitching shouldn't need such a lining.  However, leather boots designed for 3 season mountain use are usually of thinner construction and utilise breathable liners.

Scarpa are one of the manufacturers who make boots which I know should fit me well.  Being designed in the UK they are suited to Scottish conditions, and without exception the Scarpa boots I've owned previously have been well designed and used high quality materials.

Scarpa's R-Evo GTX  is marketed as a 3 season trekking and hiking boot with some innovative features including "Sock Fit Technology".  This last bit did make me slightly wary; my preference is very much "simple is best".  I've owned a pair of R-Evo's for 18 months during which time they've covered a good amount of variable terrain and been generally bashed about on the hill.

The grey and orange colour scheme is initially quite bright and won't be to everyone's taste, but I found it quite smart.  The first thing I noticed when trying the boots was that they fitted as expected and were instantly comfortable from the box.  The "Sock Fit Technology" links the tongue, collar and ankle with a variable fit thanks to a section of Scholler fabric (the black parts of the boot) and a well thought-out lacing arrangement.  The effect is ever so subtle, but the foot is held withing the boot without having to crank the lacing - I mainly notice this on steep descents when it seems to help reduce the tendency of the foot to move forwards to the toe of the boot.

The  R-Evos are very comfortable and for me have just the right blend of support without feeling rigid or restricted.  The supplied footbed was replaced straight away with a Superfeet Green Insole, as I do with all my boots.  At 1320 grams for a pair of UK size 8 (Euro 42), these aren't lightweight, but the weight is very reasonable for a mountain boot and they've not felt heavy or "clumpy" at all.

The 1.8mm water resistant suede upper is backed with a Gore-tex waterproof and breathable lining.  This can sometimes be a little sweaty in hot weather but has proved very waterproof - the only wet feet I've had have been when crossing running water which was deeper than the height of the boot.  The upper moulds to the shape of the foot after a reasonable amount of wear

After 18 months regular use, durability has been impressive.  The Fagus sole unit is a highlight of the boot in my opinion, it grips well, has a nice "rolling" profile when walking and good shock absorption.  The flex is just right in combining comfort on long days with sufficient support for use on rough ground and occasional scrambling. Crucially, the heel breast is prominent to give grip at the heel when descending slippy or gravelly ground.  There's obvious wear after 18 months use, but the sole is proving very resilient.  The rubber rand around the toe area is useful in protecting the toe area from bumps and scrapes on rocky terrain. 

The Shoeller fabric section has stood up to the use the boots have received; I'd initially thought it might wear quicker than the suede section but that hasn't been the case at all.  The effect of the "sock fit" is, as previously mentioned, very subtle but it is noticeable.  It's possible that the Shoeller fabric contributes to the boot being a little sweaty in hot weather - and truly this is the only slight criticism I have of the R-Evo's.  It's not a major issue and I find other Goretex lined boots I've owned to be similarly warm.

The Scarpa R-Evo's aren't cheap, retailing in the UK at around £180, but the quality of design and construction coupled with the durability and comfort makes them well worth the outlay in my opinion.  They have satisfied all the tough criteria of a true 3-season hillwalking boot and have been outstandingly comfortable even on long days.

I can wholeheartedly recommend the Scarpa R-Evo's - if you're looking for a quality 3-season boot for use from glen to summit then these are well worth looking at.  I'm hoping that when I do wear this pair out that they're still in production so that I can replace them with another pair!

Conflict of interest statement:  I purchased my boots at retail price (less a club discount) from a national retailer and have no connection with Scarpa or the retailer apart from being a satisfied customer.