Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Stiff and supportive, durable leather and metal lace loops, great for ice climbing
Cons: Uncomfortable tongue bites top of foot, stock laces won't stay tied very well
Best Uses: Ice climbing, mountaineering in cold weather in the lower 48, alpine climbing where the temps stay above 0.
Walk the streets of Chamonix, France and you will see more pairs of La Sportiva Nepals than high heeled fur boots. That's because the local guides and climbers value this boot for its long reputation as a reliable boot in the mountains not because of any shortage of fur boots. The Nepal EVO GTX is constructed of burly leather and is lined with waterproof Gore-Tex. This is a rigid boot that will acccept step-in crampons. The leather upper is more supportive than most, ideally suited for larger climbers or climbing with a pack. The Nepal EVO is our Best Buy Award winner due it's long term durability and solid performance as an all around mountaineering boot.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Nepal is heavy for a single boot, but possibly worth the weight if you need the added stiffness or are looking to wear the same boot for the next ten seasons. These are also ideal for larger-framed climbers since the weight also adds stability. If you are looking for the ultimate in lightweight mountaineering boot and still need protection and ice climbing ability, we recommend the La Sportiva Batura 2.0.
Rock Climbing Ability
The added stiffness from the leather makes this a good boot for edging, but it is not as flexible as many other boots. Ankle mobility in this boot is at a minimum both fore-aft and lateral-medial, so turning your foot to the side to climb wide cracks is probably a no-go. The rigid sole means minimal sensitivity for feeling out rock foot holds when out of crampons. If you plan on climbing a lot of dry rock, you'd be better off with a more flexible boot or switching to rock shoes for your lead block.
Ice Climbing Ability
This boot climbs pure ice as well or better than any boot. If your plan is to swing, kick, kick up anything from WI2-5 this boot will allow you to bash in, square up, and stand on your front-points forever. The only boot tested with more support when standing on front-points was a much heavier double boot, the La Sportiva Spantik. If you plan on climbing steep ice with a heavy pack, or fall into the clydesdale category, then you will appreciate the support of the full leather outer of the Nepal, though the support of the leather has a penalty in weight and mobility. If you are looking to climb harder mixed which requires more creative footwork, then you will be better served by a more flexible boot like the La Sportiva Trango Prime or the Trango Extreme.
The Nepal has a fully rigid sole and deep heel and toe welts which allow for using any fully automatic step-in crampon on the market. We found crampon fit to be near perfect due to the combination of sole thickness, sole rocker, and front welt width. This boot has been around a long time and will continue to be a major player in the market. We are guessing that it is one of the boots that crampon designers look to when considering a boot to fit to.
This is the category in which the Nepal falls behind other single boots. The heavy leather uppers limit fore-aft ankle mobility, making you feel a bit sluggish. The major problem, however, is a bite point on the top of the foot described by several testers. The Nepals come with a removable second tongue which slides inside of the boot to pad against the outer folding style tongue. We found that this tongue didn't cut it when trying to pad the top of foot at the bend from the laces' bite. One tester found that the boot was actually more comfortable without the added tongue, however he could not get the boot to cinch tight enough with it removed.
The industry standard Vibram sole does its job over dirt and rocks. We really like the impact brake feature found on the front portion of the heel, especially when walking downhill on loose terrain. This feature is a slight scoop to the front portion of the heel which grabs edges, scree, and firm snow to prevent you from sliding forward when hiking downhill.
The Nepal is warm for a single boot, but actually is heavier than the much warmer super-gaiter boot, the La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX. As part of our test we often wore two different boots in order to compare them as directly as possible. We often got some funny looks but the results were undeniable. During one test outing at an ice crag in Colorado at about 10 degrees F, this boot was worn agains the Salewa Pro Gaiter. By the end of the day both boots were completely dry but the Pro Gaiter foot was still much warmer.
Single boots will always trail double or super-gaiter boots in terms of warmth simply because of volume of insulation surrounding your foot. The Nepal, however, does have a possible advantage in warmth over other single boots due to it's roomy fit in the toe and forefoot. Toe wiggle room is often as much a factor in boot warmth as is the materials it is made from. This advantage is especially true if you have wide feet. The Nepal EVO is based on the long standing Nepal last, which we found to fit wider than La Sportiva's Trango last.
A Gore-Tex lining provides a waterproof barrier. A full height one-piece folded tongue keeps you protected if you punch through the creek bed and go in deep. The Idro-Perwanger leather is also silicone impregnated. When new, the bead up of water on the leather is obvious. Because this boot is primarily leather, it will soak up waterproof treatments like Nikwax better than fabric boots. Once you get the goo smeared all over the leather, go over it with a hairdryer and watch the leather soak it up. This can enhance the boots' waterproofness for years to come.
The Nepal is the most durable boot in this review. The 3.2mm silicone impregnated Idro-Perwanger Roughout Leather is burly, and should last season after season. The bomber leather does require some break in time, however. If you need a boot to perform right out of the box, consider the Batura 2.0 GTX or Salewa Pro Gaiter, which are both lighter and warmer boots.
The lacing loops are nearly all metal and are riveted to the leather. One set of the lace loops are constructed from webbing which one user found to be a point of failure. The stitching that surrounds the one fabric lace loop suggests that the loop constricts across the top of the boot. The fabric lace loop is actually fixed to the outer. We wish that Sportiva had continued with the theme of durability and used a metal loop of some sort.
Buy the Nepal EVO GTX if long term durability is your number one concern. It is the most durable boot in the review. You will get more days in the mountains out of this boot than any single fabric boot.
Though the Nepal EVO is the most expensive single boot we reviewed, we gave it our Best Buy Award because of the longevity of investment. The Nepal retails for $100 more than the Trango Prime. For this extra $100 you get a lot more boot however. Not just a fully waterproof Gore-Tex lining, but added durability and stiffness of leather, and reliability of metal lace loops. The Nepal is worth the extra $100 if you want the longest lasting boot you can find. For this reason we think that the Nepal is the ideal boot for guide services or school outdoor clubs looking to have a fleet of boots.
Previous version of this boot by La Sportiva included the Nepal Top and the Nepal Extreme. The Nepal EVO GTX is the latest, greatest version of a long lineage of burly mountain boots. The Batura 2.0 GTX uses the Nepal last but is a very different boot in warmth and stiffness.
La Sportiva also makes this boot in a Women's version, the La Sportiva Nepal Evo - Women's. The women's version is slightly narrower, so guys with narrow feet might want to try the light green women's version which is made from the same materials.
— Luke Lydiard
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Most recent review: August 24, 2013
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