November 30, 2008
I hate it when a new product comes on the market and there’s no information on the web other then cut and pasted web site fluff. So having been searching for info on the Spantik in the past I thought I’d pass on my thoughts.
La Sportiva have been making great alpine and technical winter boots for over a decade, with their Nepal Top and Trango boots setting the pace among UK climbers. The one area that La Sportiva didn’t have covered was ultra cold double boots, something rectified with their awesomely warm and high altitude friendly Olympus Mons (named after the 27km high Martian volcano). The Olympus Mons was based of the highly successful One Sport Everest, which had become the high mountain boot of the 90’s, guaranteeing frostbite free feet no matter what the temperature. One problem with the early Olympus Mons boots was the fact that they were lasted more for warmth then climbing functionability, meaning they didn’t work well on steep technical ice (they did however work well on mixed, and I’ve climbed up to Scottish VI/6 in mine). This was remedied in the next generation of Olympus mons boots, with improved lasting and stiffness, but nevertheless there was a gap between the Nepal Extreme and the Olympus Mons - enter the Spantik.
The Spantik is truly a state of the art winter boot, using the latest materials, construction and design and is one of the best technical cold weather boots on the market. First off the boot’s warm, very warm, due to it’s double closed cell foam construction. Unlike a trad plastic boot, which has a plastic shell and a foam inner, the Spantik has a foam outer and inner, giving almost double the insulation. The outer boot uses a laminate of tough synthetic materials, including some plastic and carbon fibre components. The most noticeable thing about the boot is it’s usability, as seen in it’s design, showing – like the Olympus Mons – that this boot was designed in partnership with real-world-users.
The outer boot features a single lace design, which locks down without the use of knots, wrapping around a plastic locking mechanism instead. This means that doing the boot up is very fast and easy, plus there’s not lace slippage in use. The only downside of this design is that you need to spend a while getting the hang of the system (both locking and unlocking it), and you need to carry some spare laces (these come with the boots) as they do snap (you can tie the broken lace together in the field but it won’t work as well).
The inner boot also features a ‘no knot’ lacing system, using a velcro tape that secures the lace in place, which works very well – again with no slip!.
I’ve been using the boots for about a month, using them in the Alps (Nov), ice climbing in the Adirondacks, and on two winter trips to the Rockies.
First off, these boots climb really well, feeling solid, precise, yet flexible enough so you don’t feel restricted when climbing technical ice. The boots combine well with all types of crampons (I used Petzl Dart and Petzl Sarkin). This is great in such a warm boot, as you’d expect that there would be some drop off in performance due to the amount of foam in the boot.
Like ice, the same applies to rock, with the sole being the right angle for secure edging, and the Vibram soles feels very grippy, both on edges, in cracks, or when jumping from boulder to boulder.
Due to the flexibility of the boots upper (flexibility that is achieved with some loss of front point performance), this feels like a Nepal to climb in, being precise and sensitive, again surprising for such a warm boot.
I used the boot for a big carry up to the Diamond on Longs Peak carrying about 50 kilos of gear (I was hoping to solo D7), which was about an 8 mile round trip. Even with such a big load I had no problems, either going up or down the trails, walking both on a track and breaking trail. This approach was made one day later with a lighter load for a solo ascent of Martha on Mount Lady Washington, again with no foot problems at all.
In all the places where I’ve used the boots the temperature has been very low, averaging about -15 °C, and have always had warm feet as long as I didn’t crank the laces down tight. On my trip up to Longs peak the temperature dropped down to below -20 °C, including strong winds, and again the boots kept my feet warm.
The Spantik design is very climber friendly, and one very good feature is the ability to comfortably use the outer boots on their own, something I did in the alps while digging out our hut (that’s another story), as the outer is warm and comfortable. This could be a real boon if you need to go out to dig out your tent, or go to the toilet at night. The lacing system works really well, and is an improvement over traditional lace systems. The inner and outer are also constructed from closed cell foam, which means that they will not absorb sweat or outside moisture, meaning their insulation won’t degrade.
What’s wrong with them?
The only gripe I have is that the laces don’t last as long as trad boots (due to the inconvenience of one snapping at the bottom of a climb), and that the pull tab on the inner boot is too small (easily rectified by tying a loop of 4mm perlon through the loop). The bellows material on the tongue also gets quite trashed in use, and this may need reinforcing with some gaffer tape. I’d also still use a power strap with the boot, both to increase ankle support, and get over problems caused by a broken lace.
The Spantik is the perfect expedition, winter alpine, and technical winter boot I’ve used, giving a very warm boot without all the usual compromises associated with warm feet.
Note: I have size 42 feet and size 44 boots which are also very broad.