Hands-on Gear Review

La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $550 List | $550.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, stiff, integrated gaiter
Cons:  Awkward to lace up, fragile eyelets
Bottom line:  The lightweight technical boot performs well in summer and winter.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   La Sportiva

Our Verdict

The La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube is one of our favorite lightweight models. For such a lightweight boot, it's very stiff, making it a tester favorite on steep, mixed terrain. Our testers really like the protection afforded by the integrated gaiter which helps keep the boot drier and warmer. The ankle flexibility of this boot makes proper French technique easy but demands fitness and good technique on sustained WI4. This boot to be warm enough on average winter days or colder days with steady movement. The plastic lace hooks on the upper part of the boot are quite fragile, as our testers broke them on multiple pairs. If this boot is right for you, that could be a flaw worth overlooking.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ian McEleney

Last Updated:
Friday
May 18, 2018

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The La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube GTX is our favorite lightweight boot to climb in, and our testers reached for it again and again on challenging alpine and mixed climbs. We like the integrated gaiter for keeping snow out and our feet dry, in spite of the fact that it makes lacing the boots up a little awkward. We wish every mountaineering boot had some sort of gaiter or gaiter-like feature.

Performance Comparison


The Ice Cube's facility with on moderate rock came in handy on this descent. Mount Fay  Alberta  Canada.
The Ice Cube's facility with on moderate rock came in handy on this descent. Mount Fay, Alberta, Canada.

Weight


If the US Army study is correct, and one pound of weight on your feet is equivalent to five pounds in your pack, boots are the most useful place to cut weight. This is the second lightest boot in our test, weighing in at 1 lb 9.6 oz (727g) in a size 42. This is just 0.6oz (20g) heavier than the Scarpa Rebel Pro. Climbers comparing these two boots should focus on fit and features.

Rock Climbing Ability


We enjoyed rock climbing in the Ice Cube. The sole isn't too thick and has a nice rounded profile that matches the upper part of the toe of the boot. This makes it a bit easier to quickly put your toe in the right spot with this boot (compared to the Rebel Pro). This boot has good ankle articulation for the type of odd footwork that's a part of rock climbing in alpine boots.

The front welt of the boot lines up neatly with the toe of the boot  which it easier to see and predict where the boot will sit on small edges.
The front welt of the boot lines up neatly with the toe of the boot, which it easier to see and predict where the boot will sit on small edges.

Ice Climbing Ability


Any lightweight boot is going to trade ankle support for ounces, so it's unrealistic to expect a boot like the Ice Cube to be the front pointing machine that the Nepal Cube is. That being said, with good technique, we found these boots could keep up on steeper ice. This is in no small part because they're both less rockered and more rigid underfoot than their predecessor, the Trango Extreme Evo Light (aka the silver boots). They feel as stiff as the Scarpa Phantom Tech or La Sportiva G5, and we think this boot climbs ice better than the Scarpa Rebel Pro.

The standard Grivel G12 front bail (top)  BD Stinger (bottom left)  and Petzl Lynx (bottom right). The Lynx has the best fit of these 3. The optonal smaller Grivel toe bail should be used with this boot/crampon combo.
The standard Grivel G12 front bail (top), BD Stinger (bottom left), and Petzl Lynx (bottom right). The Lynx has the best fit of these 3. The optonal smaller Grivel toe bail should be used with this boot/crampon combo.

The small rounded toe profile can be a bit tricky to fit certain crampon toe bails. Our testers noticed that the toe bail on the Grivel G12, for example, needed to be replaced with something a bit smaller for the best fit. Many crampon manufacturers make a smaller toe bail for just this purpose. Petzl Lynx and Black Diamond Stinger toe bails fit well out of the box.

The narrow toe of the Ice Cube is gets pushed too far forward with this semi-auto crampon binding.
The narrow toe of the Ice Cube is gets pushed too far forward with this semi-auto crampon binding.

Hiking Ability


Hiking in the Ice Cube is a reasonably pleasant experience. Our testers suspect this is mostly because of the flexible ankle and low weight of the boot. The rigid sole has little rocker, and while this is great for climbing and crampon compatibility, it doesn't help on long approaches and descents. There's padding on the inside of the tongue, held in place with velcro, that can be removed or re-positioned to improve the fit.

Warmth


The Trango Ice Cube is a surprisingly warm boot for its weight. Some of that, no doubt, is because of the integrated gaiter, but beyond that, we're not sure. We think this boot is warmer than the Scarpa Rebel Pro. While it's certainly not as warm as a traditional single boot, our feet were generally happy in this boot on all but the coldest days.

For some climbers, warmth is the most important characteristic of a mountain boot. Those climbers should only expect to use this boot in the spring, summer, and fall. Those who suffer from chronically cold feet, have poor circulation, or find themselves standing around a lot should consider a warmer boot for most winter forays. For the rest of us, good self-care should allow these boots to be worn into the single digits (Fahrenheit).

It should be noted that this boot seems to fit a bit narrow, even for La Sportiva. Boots that are too tight can compromise movement and circulation. If you've got a wide foot or if La Sportiva footwear has always been a bit snug in the past, be sure to try these on before purchasing. If buying online, make sure the retailer has a good return policy.

Waterproofness


The Ice Cube is built with a Gore-Tex liner, and much of the upper is rubber or flexible plastic. Our testers didn't notice any issues with water or wet snow coming on board. One of our favorite features of this boot, the built-in gaiter, really came in to play here. The built-in gaiter meant we didn't have to worry about getting any snow inside the boot regardless of how deep we were wallowing. We wish every mountaineering boot had some sort of gaiter or gaiter-like feature. The gaiter is not really tall or otherwise roomy enough to tuck pants into.

The Ice Cube in an ice cold stream. We stood here for over a minute. No water came in.
The Ice Cube in an ice cold stream. We stood here for over a minute. No water came in.

Durability


Durability was our big concern with the Ice Cube. Our testers broke the lace hooks on two consecutive pairs. We spoke to other climbers who broke the lace hooks. It's easy to find reports online of climbers breaking the lace hooks. It seems that it is the hooks on the upper part of the boot which are the most vulnerable. All reports and our own experience indicate that La Sportiva has been replacing these boots under warranty. Nevertheless, it's something to consider if this boot is on your radar.

Best Applications


We think this is a great year-round alpine climbing and mountaineering boot. It shines in warm to moderately cold weather; we would be reluctant to take it out on an overnight in the winter or to take it as our only boot on a Canadian Rockies ice climbing trip. That being said, one of our testers wore it as his boot for a late summer ascent of the North Face of Mount Edith Cavell in Alberta and found it to perform well on the glacier travel, steep 5.7, and mellow ice of the route.

The Ice Cube is excellent for summer alpine couloir climbing.
The Ice Cube is excellent for summer alpine couloir climbing.

Value


The widespread durability issues with the lace hooks on this boot lead us to believe that it might not be a great value. If it wasn't for that issue, we do think they would be a good value, because of their otherwise great performance.

Conclusion


We really like the La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube. It's light and climbs rock, ice, and mixed terrain well. The surprising warmth of the boot, in addition to the integrated gaiter, makes this one of the more versatile lightweight boots on the market. If it sounds like this is the feature set you need for your climbing, you might be willing to overlook the possible fragility of the lace hooks.

In action on the North Face of Mount Edith Cavell  Alberta  Canada.
In action on the North Face of Mount Edith Cavell, Alberta, Canada.
Ian McEleney

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