The Scarpa Phantom Tech is our Editors' Choice award-winning mountaineering boot. It's impressively light yet still protects climbers' feet from water in all of its forms. You'd have to step in a puddle deeper than 10 inches to get wet feet in this boot. It's also quite warm, which is impressive given the weight. When it comes to climbing, this boot is a well-rounded performer on steep ice, tricky mixed climbing, and rock without crampons.It isn't cheap, and the laces have a bit of a learning curve. Those weaknesses notwithstanding, this boot is an excellent choice for mountaineers. Those looking for something lighter, we'd recommend our Best Buy award-winning La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX.
Scarpa Phantom Tech Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Warm, light, very water resistant
Cons: Non-intuitive lace-lock, pricey
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Scarpa has been making "Phantom" boots for a number of years now, and when it comes to mountaineering and alpine climbing on peaks and routes less than 6000 meters, this is the best one yet. It's very light, practically waterproof, and climbs well. Read on to find out why it won our Editors' Choice Award.
Checking in at 1 pound 15 ounces (875g), the Phantom Tech is the third lightest in our review. The only boots that are lighter are out two lightweight single boots, the Asolo GV and the La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX. Our testers aren't totally sure how this is possible, but it does seem like the outsole on this boot is a bit thinner than on other models.
The most comparable boot in the test, the La Sportiva G5 weighs just a touch more; if you're trying to decide between these two don't let weight be a factor. The Phantom Tech is five ounces lighter than the Arc'teryx Acrux AR which is much warmer but equally water resistant and doesn't climb as well.
Remember that our tester pair is a size 43, and often manufacturers' websites list the weight of a pair of 42 or 42.5. The weight is also listed for one boot, 1/2 of a pair.
Super-gaiter boots are usually warmer than single boots due to an added layer and the small amount of airspace between the inner boot and the outer gaiter. Our testers found that to be the case for these models. The Phantom Tech is insulated with Primaloft, which is a tremendous synthetic insulator. As mentioned above, the outsole of the boot seems a bit thinner than some other boots. This makes more room for a thicker midsole, which is a warmer (and probably lighter) choice.
We think this boot isn't as warm as the Acrux, which makes sense since it's a double boot. It offers climbers much more warmth than the other boots in the review. It's comparable with the G5 in this metric, so if trying to choose between the two, water resistance and fit are better factors.
This boot is incredibly water resistant and provides a fantastic level of protection from snow, ice, and liquid water. The only thing that keeps it from being truly "waterproof" is that fact that water could come in over the top of the boot; this is a flaw shared by every mountaineering boot. Still, with the Phantom Tech you would have to be standing in at least 10 inches of water for that to happen. If water did come in over the top of the boot, or if the zipper failed, the tongue is gusseted, and the top of that gusset is about seven inches off the ground, which provides a reasonable secondary "water line".
The gaiter fabric is Outdry, a waterproof breathable material like Gore-Tex. It and YKK zipper form an impermeable layer of protection on the outside of the boot. The gaiter zipper is one of the main weak points on the G5 gaiter; it lets water in immediately. The top of the Phantom Tech gaiter hugs our calves (even the skinny calves of our lead tester) assertively. We felt confident during extended post-holing sessions with this boot.
We enjoyed climbing steep ice, mixed routes, and bare rock with this boot. The Phantom Tech is a good all-around climbing boot. The sole is quite rigid and not particularly rockered. When the high cut inner part of the boot was laced tight, we found good support that helped prevent burning calves. These attributes give it a performance on steep ice that's just behind the La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX.
This boot isn't our top performer on mixed routes and for drytooling (that's the Asolo GV) but it does well. The rigid sole is just what we want, and the only-slight rocker is a benefit. The lace lock does an excellent job keeping tension in the forefoot, which lets us take further advantage of the inherent give in the ankle area of this boot.
The attribute that helps the Phantom Guide on steep ice and mixed climbing is a bit of a hindrance on bare rock without crampons. For that application, we prefer a less-than-rigid sole with a bit more rocker. The good range of motion in the ankle area was helpful, however.
Again, the same attributes that boost climbing performance on ice, mixed, and drytooling pitches are liabilities for hiking. Our testers liked a sole that wasn't fully rigid and has some rocker for less clunky hiking. The Phantom Guide does have a bit more give in the ankle area than some of the competition, which helps. Also, the overall light weight of the boot counteract the ski boot qualities it brings out in our gait. No mountaineering boot is great at hiking, but the Trango Tower Extreme is the best hiker in our review.
The lacing on the Phantom Tech was just above average. We liked the overall simplicity of the system: traditional laces and a zipper. However, instead of the lace locks being a hook on either side, it's a plastic doohickey that the laces run through. This thing is not intuitive, and our testers weren't totally sure how to get the best tension in the forefoot of the boot - until one of us found a video online that showed how to do it. Tension is applied by grabbing the laces as they come out the top of the lock and pulling, which is difficult to do with gloves on.
Once that tension is locked in, however, it stays secure. Pulling the blue webbing tab on the same bit of plastic quickly loosens the lace. The Nepal Cube and Trango Tower Extreme have simple, traditional, lacing systems that we like. The G5 has a fairly high tech setup that's quite fast.
This boot is excellent for technical ice and mixed climbing, especially in conditions that could be cold and wet, and seemed to fit low-volume feet better than the G5. We wonder if the thinner outsole can't handle as many trail, talus, or scree hiking miles as other boots in the review, but that's probably not what users of this boot are going to be doing.
At $825, these are the most expensive boot in our review. While we didn't have the boots long enough to truly test durability, the outsole has thinner rubber than other models, and we've heard tales of the zipper teeth disengaging. If these aren't serious issues, we think that this boot is a reasonable, though not fantastic, value. That is, as long as it fits your foot.
The Scarpa Phantom Tech is the best of the super gaiter boots on the market today. It's warm and highly weather resistant, two things climbers expect from boots of this type. However, it's also quite light and agile on mixed routes, two qualities we don't always find in these boots. If this boot fits your foot, we think it's your best choice for mountaineering, ice, and alpine climbing, which is why we gave it the Editors' Choice Award.
— Ian McEleney