Dave takes the redesigned and lighter Scarpa SL Active for some mountain adventures.
The Scarpa SL Active have always been a popular boot amongst mountain adventurers. The lightweight feel belies the solid construction and durable material choices mean that for the lightweight and cost conscious adventurer the SL Active has always been the smart choice. The SL stands for Super Leggero (super light).
2019 has seen some tweaks and updates that mean the now 9th generation of the boot is better than ever. The ability to be resoled means that, with care, the boots should be a great investment. Resoling can be arranged via Scarpa UK or a specialist repair shop should also be able to get hold of the sole unit and repair them for you.
They also have a premium feel and look which comes from the Made in Italy tag so it’s good that Scarpa are still championing European premium manufacturing in a globalised world. It’s worth noting that Italy remains a global leader in outdoor footwear (and other fashion footwear for that matter) and many companies send their premium boot and shoe manufacturing to Italy.
The main material body of the boot is Scarpa’s Sherpa 2.8mm leather which is the most durable leather Scarpa use. The SL Active doesn’t have a waterproof lining and that means you will have to care for them with a suitable wax. This does, however, mean that they are a little more breathable in warmer conditions and in test that has proved the case. They are factory impregnated with HS 12 and I’ve covered some pretty wet and boggy ground and so far, my feet have been dry and warm. Scarpa recommend that you use their HS12 cream to reproof them and this is available from many boot retailers or online.
The lack of a winter here in the UK this year has meant that I have had to test them in three season activities. The SL Active have proved quite breathable even on some of the warmer days we’ve been enjoying this winter. The durable nature of the leather has meant that long days on rocky terrain have been a breeze and the advantage of a sturdy boot in the winter months is that they are more comfortable over a long day out.
The inner of the SL Active is made up of two parts. The front part of the inner is made with 37.5 which is a patented technology that is designed to keep your temperature at a constant 37.5 Degrees C and is used by many major sports companies and the US Army for a variety of materials and garments. To be honest my feet run so hot that it was difficult to feel if these worked and all I can say is that when I got back to the car after a rugged 20km hike on a winter day my feet were hot but not overly sweaty. The heel is lined with a one piece, supple leather lining. This feels very luxurious and give the SL Active a really premium feel. The leather does have a purpose however, the seamless construction means that heel blisters should be less of a problem.
On the first outing I did develop a hotspot on my heel, but it didn’t develop into a blister and I put it down to breaking them in as they have been fine since. I really like the leather heel section and it has developed into a really comfortable hiking experience. The comfort levels are further improved by a nice Nubuck leather ankle padding and this was a godsend on my achilles which often play up towards the end of a long day.
The sole unit is made up of using a new Vibram Biometric which is a combination of a stiff plastic shank which offers the stiffness to take a walking crampon and gives the boot a B1 rating; a lightweight PU midsole and a Vibram outsole. The whole unit is anatomically designed to offer good support and traction over rough terrain. I have used the SL Active specifically for rough ground and mountaineering activities and have found them great in all circumstances. There is a climbing zone at the toe which means they can be suitable for technical scrambling as the tread on the rest of the sole is aggressive on steep and muddy terrain. Plenty of rear foot cushioning takes the sting out of the heel strike and the whole sole is finished with a full rand for wet ground and wide cracks.
The Scarpa SL Active takes a C1 crampon well and even though the winter hasn’t been the best I have found some snow on occasion and the boots have offered a secure traverse of snow patches and gullies. I don’t think I would use the boots for anything more technical than Scottish Grade 2 but on that type of terrain they should be fine. It’s the type of winter boot that you might wear on a day out traversing a long ridge line and an easy Grade 1 Gully. So, think an ascent of the Fiacaill Ridge and a snowy descent via the Goat Track, or a hike into the Ben to ascend No. 4 Gully and continue along Carn Mor Dearg ridge, or Helvellyn Striding Edge with the infamous Swirell Edge descent, or Central Trinity and return via Crib Goch – you get the picture.
Finally, the SL Active has a great, improved lacing system and the newer semi- round laces have been great. Much better than round laces and less bulky than traditional flat ones. MY secret has always been to tie the laces first with a reef knot (make sure it is one of these) and then finish it off with normal bow. That way if your laces come undone when climbing at least the boot will stay tight.
The Scarpa SL Active is a great lightweight boot (my pair weighed 820g per boot (1640g per pair) for a size UK8 the Scarpa website states 820g) for a leather boot. They have been super comfortable and have performed in all the mountain situations I’ve put them through. I have struggled with them on warmer days that didn’t surprise me as my feet run very hot. They have been super comfortable and for a lightweight freak I’ve enjoyed wearing them through the winter. They would be ideal for long Scottish days where you can encounter all the types of terrain that wearing a solid pair of boots is a godsend – long rocky ridges with scree and snow. A great set of updates that should secure the place of the SL Active in the Scarpa Hall of Fame.
The Scarpa SL Active comes in sizes Eur 41 – 50 and a standard colour of Bordeaux (a dark red/brown). There will be a women’s specific fit coming out later in the year so watch out for that. You can like the Scarpa UK Facebook page for more news or check in with us.
SRP: £260 and available direct from Scarpa UK and specialist outdoor retailers.