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La Sportiva Spantik Review
Cons: Cuff bites after miles and miles of skiing, Heaviest boot in the review (so not a good all-around boot)
The Spantik is the boot of choice for cold weather mountaineering in the world's serious mountain ranges, such as Aconcogua and Denali. It is an insulated double boot designed for cold weather mountaineering on peaks above 6000 meters. In the category of insulated double boot, the Spantik is the flagship and has become the most commonly used around the world.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Predictably, the Spantik is the heaviest boot in the review, but also the only double boot we reviewed. This is one of the lightest most technical double boots available. The midsole is made from carbon fiber which keeps it lighter. For warmth to weight ratio, we find the Spantik to be on par with the amazingly warm and light La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX.
Rock Climbing Ability
These clunkers are probably not the footwear to send your project in the Red River Gorge. We have seen people following hard, dry rock climbs in the Alaskan Ruth Gorge with the Spantik, while the leader wore climbing shoes with socks. In this case, the follower had to be more creative with their footwork but their feet were a whole lot warmer than the leader's. Overall these boots climb rock surprisingly well for beefy double boot.
Ice Climbing Ability
With a fully rigid sole with the perfect amount of rocker, the Spantik is designed to be used with fully automatic step-in crampons. The Spantik is also the most supportive boot we reviewed. Since it is a double boot, it has two sets of laces that can be cranked tight, providing enough support to stand on front-points, even while wearing a pack, forever. When kicking into pure ice, we found the extra weight of the Spantik to be an advantage in sinking your front points. We never experienced heel lift while wearing the Spantik. Our overall ice climbing conclusion: awesome.
Obviously, a double boot will never be as nimble as a summer mountaineering boot like The North Face Verto S4K or the La Sportiva Trango S Evo - Men's. The Spantik, however, is leaps and bounds better for walking than any double plastic boot. This is due to the hinge at the front of the ankle cuff which allows for some forward motion.
Cold weather climbs in snowy places like the Alaska Range often involve skiing to your objective on some sort of lightweight touring setup. We used our Spantiks on a foam core ski with a pair of Silvretta 500 bindings. The Silvretta binding uses a wire toe bail similar to the toe bail on a step-in crampon to anchor the front of the boot. The Spantik is a great boot for this type of set up when you need to make it miles across a relatively flat glacier. If the terrain steepens, the Spantik is not a replacement for a real ski boot. We found that the Spantik has a decent amount of medial/lateral support but it lacks the fore/aft support of a real ski boot. With a heavy pack on, we found ourselves working hard to stay out of the backseat because of the fore/aft movement. This lack of support, however, does make touring more comfortable and efficient, which is when you would likely need to use them in a ski application.
One of the only flaws we found with the Spantik also comes in this category. After many miles of glacier skinning, we found that the upper portion of the outer cuff began to painfully dig into the top of the foot. We feel this is a minor issue because compared to the alternatives, the Spantik far out-performs anything in its class on the approach.
When considering warmth for a double boot to be used in very cold climates, it is important to consider toe wiggle room. If your boots fit too tight and don't allow your toes to wiggle, your feet will be cold. After surveying many winter mountaineers, we found that the consensus is to size your Spantiks a half size larger than other Sportiva mountain boots that you may own. While this may sacrifice a small amount of performance, it equates to extra warmth in places where you need it most.
Usually, when climbing in colder environments, for which this boot is intended, moisture from the inside is more of a threat than from the outside.The outer of this boot is waterproof just in case. The advantage of double boots is that the inner boot comes out and can be dried with body heat in your sleeping bag at night.
The Spantiks laces are a potential fail point for some people. Our test pair has seen many days of use, and the lacing worked without a problem. The lacing design allows you to rig up a do-it-yourself lace should you slice through one with a crampon. (You will need to take your gloves off to do this.) It's not a bad idea to have an extra lace or two with you if you are getting dropped off by ski plane for a month someplace cold and steep.
These boots are designed for multi-day trips in cold climates. Alaska, the Andes, anywhere you need to ski in your mountaineering boots, and hard technical climbing in ice and snow.
After a recent trip the Alaska range's Ruth Gorge, we decided that the Spantik was the one piece of gear that was absolutely perfect for the trip. We wouldn't change it in any way or consider any other boot for next time. Alaska. Spantik. Done.
The Spantik is the most expensive boot in the review by far. How much are your toes worth? Assuming you have the regular quantity, this boot retails for $75 per toe. We think that this is a deal.
— Luke Lydiard
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