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Debunking the myth
Best waterproof mountaineering boots - June 2018
Ask a friend or an outdoor expert about tips for shopping backpacking boots and without fail, you will get advice to get waterproof hiking boots. It makes sense to get a waterproof pair because the weather conditions outside couldn’t be easily predicted. It is very likely that hikers will tackle dew-soaked grass, unbridged creek crossings, melting snow, puddles, and other things that can get the feet wet. But do waterproof mountaineering boots keep the water out for a dry hike?
Expecting waterproof footwear to keep the water out for as long as the shoe is wearable is impossible. There are two culprits why the feet will get wet despite wearing waterproof footwear: design, and flaws in the material.
First up, no shoe or boot is perfectly sealed. Water can drip or pour, penetrating the shoe from any opening. If hikers and mountaineers get caught up in the rain or ford a creek, the water will run down past the opening of the shoes and soak the feet. Some shoes may come with gaiters but these are not enough to keep the water out.
Seams also pose a problem. Water can seep through cracks, leaving the wearer with wet feet. While sealants are applied to these overlapping points, these can also deteriorate in time.
The other reason why waterproof shoes do not meet the user’s expectations is the imperfect waterproof material used. Straight out of the box, waterproof mountaineering boots could come with polyurethane coating. This coating keeps water out and keeps the feet dry from outside moisture sources. Eventually, by using the boots several times, the waterproof lining will also break down and deteriorate.
Waterproof mountaineering boots 101
With more and more people stepping out of their homes, companies producing outdoor products also produce different gears to cater to their needs. Mountaineering boots are not to be confused with hiking boots, hiking shoes, or hiking sandals. Waterproof mountaineering boots are used for mountain climbing and are designed specifically for tackling the harsh terrain.
Mountaineering boots are made of leather, plastic, and other modern synthetic materials. Compared with other outdoor footwear options, these boots are taller, stiffer, and have insulation. These features help the wearer get the needed support when moving through steep terrain. The stiffness is achieved through the use of a full steel shank.
Mountaineering boots are also known for being crampon compatible. Crampons are traction devices that are attached to the footwear to improve the hiker’s mobility on snow and ice. These help secure the traveller when crossing glaciers, moving through snowfields and ice fields, and while ascending snow slopes.
The insulation is also very important as this keeps wearers warm. Mountain climbers face extreme weather conditions often leading to frostbites. The insulation helps a lot in preventing weather-related injuries from bothering the climber.
Because of the extreme conditions that climbers meet along the way, extra protection is demanded from their footwear. For this reason, reliable waterproof mountaineering boots are made available on the outdoor market. This mountaineering gear is coated or lined with waterproof layers to keep water from penetrating and soaking the feet.
The science behind waterproof mountaineering boots
Outdoor enthusiasts know too well that their footwear takes a beating. People and their gears are exposed to all elements when they are outside so meeting mud, rain, puddles, snow, and other elements is not a surprise. Because a wet and soggy footwear spoils all the fun of an outdoor adventure, the minds behind footwear manufacturing tried to address the problem by introducing waterproof footwear.
You have probably heard about eVent, GoreTex, Polartec NeoShell, and other fabrics that claim to have waterproof properties. These are usually used as lining of waterproof mountaineering boots. Shoe manufacturers promise that their footwear lined with these materials can keep boots dry throughout the trip.
In the old days, people used different concoctions using tree sap and other materials smeared over their footwear to protect it from water seepage. Today, the industry welcomes different competing brands and products to provide water-repellent, water-resistant, or waterproof footwear better. Through the years, different materials and technologies have been implored to create waterproof mountaineering boots, shoes, and sandals.
The most common waterproofing materials in waterproof mountaineering boots are polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and Polyurethane. The materials are constructed such that the fabric bears billions of holes per square centimetre. This acts as a filter that inhibits water penetration while allowing water vapour through.
Another waterproofing membrane used in outdoor gear is continuous hydrophilic coating. The fabric works by moving vapour away by a process called molecular wicking. This works by absorbing the water molecules to the surface of the hydrophilic material and passing it along to the next molecule. The downside of this membrane is it only works best in cold conditions.
Lastly, relatively new materials like bicomponent microporous and hydrophilic laminates are also starting to gain popularity. These materials grant greater durability.
Why use waterproof mountaineering boots
There are many non-waterproof and waterproof outdoor footwear offered by shoe manufacturers. At first glance, if they are set beside each other, it would be hard to tell which one has a waterproof lining and which one doesn’t. For hikers who are in search of a reliable boot, the dilemma of choosing between non-waterproof and waterproof mountaineering boots always arises. If in doubt, you can consider different reasons why and when to pick waterproof models:
- Get waterproof mountaineering boots if you want protection against the elements. Wet and cold feet, and soggy footwear will never make the trip fun. Hikers and climbers who want to avoid these scenarios can wear footwear with more coverage to combat the elements.
- Tackling ankle-deep streams is easier. Once mountaineers are out, they should expect to wade through ankle deep streams. The keyword here is shallow since water can penetrate the shoe from the opening. If the bodies of water around are only ankle deep then wearing waterproof mountaineering boots will mean no hiker will be awkwardly hopping around. With the waterproof membrane, wearers can plow through these water bodies without much fear that their feet will get wet.
- Most waterproof technologies employed by shoe manufacturers also advances breathable technology. Can waterproof mountaineering boots be breathable as well? It seems impossible until one actually wears them. Breathability in waterproof footwear let water vapour escape while still preventing water from penetrating the shoe.
- Waterproof mountaineering boots are for every weather condition. Hikers and mountain climbers consider so many things when they purchase their gears and their boots are no exception. However, since hikers want to enjoy a good investment, they might as well get waterproof mountaineering footwear that they can use for a longer period and regardless of the weather condition.
Best uses of waterproof mountaineering boots
Waterproof mountaineering boots are among the most versatile outdoor gears available. The stiff, tall, and insulated structure makes it the ideal footwear for mountain climbing. However, this is not the only use for waterproof outdoor footwear. Thanks to its features, the footwear can also be used for a variety of activities including:
- Ice climbing – As waterproof mountaineering boots are mostly crampon compatible, they are ideal footwear for tackling icy terrains. There is a certain thrill to climbing ice which invites many adventure-seekers. Aside from crampon compatibility, waterproof mountaineering boots also provide the hikers from snow and water which could cause frostbites.
- Mixed climbing – As this activity combines ice climbing and rock climbing, it would be ideal to get waterproof mountaineering boots which are used for either activity. In mixed climbing, the most important consideration is crampon compatibility, a feature that mountaineering boots are known for.
- Crevasse traverse – A lot of mountain and ice climbers feel excited about crevasse traversing. This activity involves traversing the deep cracks or fractures of an ice sheet or glacier. The thrill is double but mountaineers also have to be extra careful as ice is slippery and the crevasse can be very deep. Having reliable waterproof mountaineering boots make it safer for them to move along these cracks.
Waterproof mountaineering boots are also used by individuals for different purposes. It should come as a no surprise if snow-plough drivers, mountain rangers, cable car operators, and rescuers, wear them around. Aside from keeping the feet warm, these boots also keep water and snow out.
Qualities to consider when choosing waterproof mountaineering boots
Waterproof mountaineering boots are crucial in securing a wonderful trip. Since outdoor adventures are not easy, the kind of footwear a person wears matters. Boots are known for protecting the feet from the elements. If you are looking forward to a productive climb, get the right footwear.
The first thing to consider is the style. Although some people may think that style is no longer important, it does play a great role in the overall feel of the waterproof mountaineering boots. When choosing the style of the footwear, consider its purpose and the other activities you plan to use it for.
The fit is king when it comes to footwear. Climbers should especially consider the fit because this is crucial in tackling dangerous boulders, glaciers, and other surfaces. Make sure that the boots are not too tight so that toes won’t bang against the front. Also make sure that there is enough room for the blood to flow and for the toes to move.
Size is another consideration. Most people complain that their boots are too tight that their toes bump into the boots. Consider getting a sensible fit taking into account that the feet swell at altitude and that leather will shrink over time when exposed to water. Waterproof mountaineering boots are a sensible choice because it protects the boot from the water.
Also think about getting a single or double boot that can combat the cold temperatures at high altitude. While most single boots already have excellent insulation these days, also consider the activities of your trips. Campers can choose double boots instead of single boots since they dry out sooner than thicker single mountain boots.
Rigid and waterproof mountaineering boots are best for ice and flat-footing mountaineering terrain. If you are more into scrambling-related activities, go for a more flexible boot. Always think of your objectives so it will be easier to find a pair that will suit your goals.
Are you going to climb at high altitude? Are you going out on a cold day? If you want to avoid injuries like frostbites during your climb, make sure that you will get enough insulation. Choose your waterproof mountaineering boots accordingly.
Finally, crampon compatibility of waterproof mountaineering boots should be considered. Hikers need to make sure that the boots they will choose are compatible with the crampons they own. It will be more fruitful to heed the advice of the retailer regarding the crampons that suit the boots than to gamble on one’s safety.
Waterproof mountaineering boots questions answered
Can you use waterproof mountaineering boots for hiking, too?
The built of waterproof mountaineering boots is stiff because it is made primarily for individuals who enjoy climbing and tackling rougher terrains. These boots are built to protect the wearer from the elements, harmful animals, and other things that can derail a mountaineer. Because of these characteristics, this are expected to be very robust and heavy. Hikers who will be exploring established trails may find these a little too heavy.
How can you keep waterproof mountaineering boots clean?
Making sure that your waterproof mountaineering boots are clean after a hike is important not only for hygienic reasons but also to extend the life of your footwear. After each hike, wash the boots with a sponge under lukewarm water. If you have leather boots, use a soft brush to clean it. Make sure not to prick the waterproof lining because it will deteriorate and serve as a passage for water to seep through. Let the waterproof mountaineering boots dry naturally and keep it tucked securely until your next outdoor adventure.
Are there specific brands that manufacture waterproof mountaineering boots?
The good thing about the outdoor market right now, there is an abundance of waterproof mountaineering boots that can cater to every hiker and climber. There are many brands that produce boots that can meet climbing and other mountaineering demands.
Are waterproof mountaineering boots expensive?
When it comes to tackling difficult terrain, waterproof mountaineering boots are the best option. Because these are packed with different features that make tackling different terrains easier, these cost a little more than other footwear options. Basic waterproof mountaineering boots cost almost $300 while the high-end versions could cost close to a thousand dollars.
What are tips for buying waterproof mountaineering boots online?
Online shopping has made things much easier for many people. Almost everything can be bought online and outdoor gears like waterproof mountaineering boots are no exception. The online option actually expands the choices when shopping as imported brands become more accessible. When shopping online, buyers should acquaint themselves with the sizes offered and their equivalent size in the local market. It also pays to consider the return policies of the store if sizing issues or defects arise.
Must waterproof mountaineering boots be broken in?
There is an ongoing debate whether footwear really needs to be broken in or not. But in the case of waterproof mountaineering boots, which are stiffly constructed, the user needs to purchase weeks ahead of the trip to be able to break them in. Breaking in is a time allocated to condition the footwear to avoid blisters and other injuries.
15 best waterproof mountaineering boots
- Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX
- Salewa Rapace GTX
- Mammut Magic Guide High GTX
- La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX
- La Sportiva Trango Tower GTX
- Asolo Elbrus GV
- La Sportiva Olympus Mons EVO
- Salewa Crow GTX
- La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX
- Scarpa Charmoz
- Mammut Kento High GTX
- Scarpa Inverno
- La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX
- Mammut Ayako High GTX
- Scarpa Zodiac Tech GTX
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