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Scarpa Vapor V Review

This medium-stiff shoe is great for the all-day tradster if it's not sized too tightly
Scarpa Vapor V
Photo: Scarpa
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Price:  $175 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Supportive, excellent performance in thin cracks
Cons:  Not as sensitive as softer shoes, buckles can cause pain in wider cracks
Manufacturer:   Scarpa
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 2, 2021
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 29
  • Edging - 20% 8
  • Cracks - 20% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Steep Terrain - 20% 7
  • Sensitivity - 20% 7

Our Verdict

The Scarpa Vapor V is a workhorse. Size these shoes tight, and they edge well enough to excel at bouldering and sport climbing. Size them bigger, and it's game for all-day multi-pitch action with plenty of stiffness and support for the long haul. We know one person that owns this shoe in three sizes: tight for hard climbing, bigger for multi-pitch free climbing, and roomy for El Cap in a day missions. The Bi-tension rand creates a feel and performance similar to the classic La Sportiva Katana Lace, but with a slightly more narrow fit, particularly in the heel cup.

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Scarpa Vapor V
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Scarpa Vapor V
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
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$185.00 at Backcountry
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Pros Supportive, excellent performance in thin cracksVersatile, stiff, durable, comfortableExtremely precise toe, extra heel sensitivity, comfortable for an aggressive shoeComfortable design, respectable edging, low-profile toe, excellent priceAffordable, flat midsole is comfortable all day, well-balanced performance across many areas
Cons Not as sensitive as softer shoes, buckles can cause pain in wider cracksExpensive, limited sensitivityPricey, tall toe box, too narrow for some feetMediocre precision, subpar on the steeps, somewhat insensitiveInsensitive, imprecise fit, ineffective design for steep terrain
Bottom Line This medium-stiff shoe is great for the all-day tradster if it's not sized too tightlyThis stiff shoe is an all-day crack climbing workhorse that also performs well on edges and slabsAn ultra-high-end shoe that could put you on the podium of your climbing competitionDecent overall climbing performance at an affordable price make these a sold choiceAn entry-level shoe ideal for beginners that comes at an awesomely low price
Rating Categories Scarpa Vapor V La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Edging (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Cracks (20%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Steep Terrain (20%)
7.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
Sensitivity (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Scarpa Vapor V La Sportiva Katana... La Sportiva Solutio... La Sportiva Finale La Sportiva Tarantu...
Style Velcro Lace Velcro Lace Lace
Upper Suede/Microsuede Leather/Lorica Leather / microfiber Leather / microfiber Leather/Synthetic
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Lining Unlined Pacific (forefoot and back) Pacific, lycra Unlined None
Rubber Type Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Edge Vibram XS Grip2 Vibram XS Edge FriXion RS
Rubber Thickness (millimeters) 4 mm 4 mm 4 mm 5 mm 5 mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

In the most recent version, the Scarpa Vapor V has lost some of the rubber on top of the toe, making it an even lower profile for thin cracks. It also lost the "alligator spines" that used to stick out on the heel, a feature we feel harmed the sensitivity while heel hooking. The new heel is also a little narrower than previous iterations. This shoe isn't a real stand-out for sensitivity or edging, and it's on the wider side in the toe box, so it's not as at home for pockets. Our testers found that the Vapor V is truly at home in thin cracks, where its low volume toe allows it to gain purchase, even in half-inch width (purple camalot) finger cracks.

Performance Comparison


The latest version of the classic Vapor V is finely tuned for edging...
The latest version of the classic Vapor V is finely tuned for edging and climbing thin cracks.
Photo: Matt Bento

Edging


Compared to the top-scoring edging shoes, the Vapor V feels a little deficient. Our testers had to press hard in this stiff shoe to feel the edges and trust that they wouldn't pop off. After logging some mileage, we became more used to edging in these shoes, but they still didn't offer the same level of security as we felt on dime edges in our absolute favorite models.

Though not as sensitive as the Sportiva Kataki, these shoes provide...
Though not as sensitive as the Sportiva Kataki, these shoes provide a great edging platform, even adequate for the Buttermilks.
Photo: Matt Bento

Crack Climbing


For crack climbing, the shoes you choose can easily make the difference between whipping and clipping the chains, especially when the faces outside the cracks are smooth and devoid of holds, like on desert sandstone or difficult granite cracks. Our lead tester spent a spring at Indian Creek, where the Vapor V was his go-to shoe for thin cracks. These shoes can wiggle into finger cracks like no other, taking the weight off your arms enough to move between finger locks or shove in a cam. The dual velcro straps didn't cause us any pain in cracks hand-sized and wider, but constant foot torquing can damage the buckles. When sized correctly, these shoes can keep you charging up granite splitters for days in relative comfort.

Steep Terrain


Wide and comfortable, the Vapor V is not our top choice for weaseling into tiny limestone pockets. A pointier shoe can certainly fit into pockets better, and a more sensitive shoe could let you know you've got good purchase. After many pitches, they soften up and can be mashed into pockets easier, but they still don't hold up to the competition. For heel hooks, we were pleased with the lower volume heel in the latest version because it provided clear sensitivity benefits.

These shoes have a wider fit and are comfy for are day trad...
These shoes have a wider fit and are comfy for are day trad adventures, but pointier shoes like the Tarifa are more appropriate for toe-ing into pockets.
Photo: Matt Bento

Sensitivity


Out of the box, these shoes feel clunky. They are relatively stiff and supportive, and this makes it harder to feel micro edges and divots on a slab. After a break-in period, they become more sensitive, and they're great for longer outings where you'll be happy to have some respite for your tired feet and calves. For single pitch techy face climbing, a more sensitive shoe will probably make you feel more secure and less likely to overgrip.

These shoes are ready for miles of holdless slab climbing once you...
These shoes are ready for miles of holdless slab climbing once you break them in.
Photo: Matt Bento

Comfort


The Vapor V scores well in the comfort metric and were a favorite for all-day climbing among our wider footed testers. The tongue has some padding to keep your dogs from barking in wider hand cracks, but not so much that they instantly turn into a sweaty, disgusting mess. The heel fits snugly without being too tight against the Achilles, and if you do need to give your feet a break at belays, the dual Velcro straps allow for quick and easy on and off. Without the distraction of pain, you can pull and jam your hardest. No excuses!

Pull em' on and leave em' on. If sized properly, the Vapors are...
Pull em' on and leave em' on. If sized properly, the Vapors are great for all day multi-pitch action.
Photo: Matt Bento

Value


If the shoe fits properly, you're more likely to wear it pitch after pitch, increasing its value every day. Although the Vapor V is priced near the upper end of the spectrum, it's a versatile shoe that can handle most climbing styles after a break-in period, and it also resoles well (at least once in our experience).

Slabby dabby doo...not everyone is crazy about slabs, but our slab...
Slabby dabby doo...not everyone is crazy about slabs, but our slab happy testers are more than psyched to stroll up these holdless wonders all day in the Vapors.
Photo: Matt Bento

Conclusion


The Vapor V is another quality take on the two dual Velcro climbing shoe, improving upon the features of several other classic models. If you're having trouble on thin finger cracks, these shoes might be the extra something you need to make it to the chains.

Matt Bento