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Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Review

For rock scrambling, alpine approaches and moderate snow travel, this model is a lightweight mountain boot disguised as a hiking boot
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $269 List | Check Price at Amazon
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Pros:  Best choice for rock and snow travel, durable, breathes well
Cons:  Wider fit, not the best lace locking system
Manufacturer:   Scarpa
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 21, 2020
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 16
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Stability - 20% 9
  • Traction - 15% 10
  • Weight - 15% 6
  • Water Resistance - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is part of a new line up in Scarpa's catalog this year, including the Zodiac Tech GTX. The Zodiac Plus excels in mountain terrain where excellent traction and stability are essential to keep you safe and secure. Less than an actual mountain boot, this mid-weight hiking boot will handle trail miles with ease, whether on day hikes or extended distance backpacking trips. The Sierra High Route. The Haute Route. The Bailey Range Traverse. Mount Whitney's Mountaineer's Route. These iconic and popular treks involve lots of on-trail travel and off-trail boulder hopping, scree slogging, snow walking, and rock scrambling. These types of terrain are where the Zodiac Plus shines brighter than any other boot in our review. If you need the stability and traction of a mountain boot, with the weight of a mid-weight hiking shoe, then this model is for you.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Zodiac Plus GTX wins our Top Pick Award for those venturing off the trail into mountain terrain where they might find rock scrambling, moderate snow travel, or technical terrain where excellent traction and stability are required. We used these on ascents in the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada in a variety of conditions and were so impressed with their performance that we awarded the Zodiac Plus our Top Pick for Scrambling Award.

Performance Comparison


When hiking through 2nd-4th class terrain  the Zodiac kept impressing us with its performance
When hiking through 2nd-4th class terrain, the Zodiac kept impressing us with its performance

Comfort


The Zodiac Plus GTX boot is a practical boot that is designed to excel in off-trail and mountain travel. Able to be taken on long hikes entirely on trail, the Zodiac performs when taken into terrain where edging ability and stability are a priority over all-day hiking comfort.


We docked this model a few points, coming in behind incredibly comfortable models like our Editos Choice Award Winner, or the Top Pick for Comfort. This lower score was a result of its stiffness in general hiking terrain, leaving our feet rather sore at the end of a long day on the trail. We feel that you pay a reasonable price to get the performance where it counts.

Approaching the climbs at Washington Pass  the Zodiac is at home
Approaching the climbs at Washington Pass, the Zodiac is at home

The Zodiac Plus GTX has a trim, performance fit that likely will fit those with slightly wider feet better, especially if you are looking to fit on the snugger side, which is what we would recommend for a boot of this type. The ankle collar is built with soft foamy material that hugs the ankle tightly without biting in. The outer is made from 1.8mm thick suede Perwanger leather, which is more supple than the full-grain leather outer used on the models that most closely resemble classic backpacking boots, but it was difficult to draw the material tightly around the forefoot for those with narrower feet or those preferring a thinner sock system.

Stability


The Zodiac is a top performer when it comes to stability, and we award it high scores in this important metric.


While other slightly more comfortable models did do well in support and stability in rugged terrain, we preferred the narrow, technical fit of the Scarpa boot anytime we traveled on terrain exceeding 2nd class. The performance fit of the Zodiac allows for confident edging on rock or kicking steps in snow or firm dirt without letting the user feeling like the sole will roll.

The perfect terrain for the Scarpa to shine in
The perfect terrain for the Scarpa to shine in

This model has the highest torsional stability for its weight, a quality often only found in heavier mountaineering boots. Thus, the torsional stability is a result of using a polyurethane and 3D EVA midsole that provides a similar amount of stiffness as a shank design but without the weight. The only place we found the Zodiac Plus to falter was in extended travel through terrain requiring smearing, as the stiff sole felt clunky for slabby moves. For this type of terrain, we favored a boot that offered a bit more rocker shape to the sole as this will allow for more forefoot flex.

Traction


This boot is one of the best performers in the traction metric, and it expresses a strong preference towards being in steep mountain climbing situations. That doesn't make it less useful when taken out on less serious or demanding hikes, however. Even on the local trails, we find this boot to be exceptional in holding a secure grip in all conditions.


The Scarpa Zodiac Plus has more versatile usefulness in a variety of conditions that require high traction capabilities, so whether you need to get good footing in loose or dry conditions, mud, snow or high-angle rock you can be sure that you won't slip.

This mid-weight boot combines stability and above average traction.
This mid-weight boot combines stability and above average traction.

Scarpa uses the Vibram Drumlin rubber compound for this boot, which is sticky, but not as much as the slightly softer Vibram Mulaz compound. Scarpa does make a higher-end version of this boot called the Zodiac Tech GTX that uses the Mulaz sole. We used this Top Pick winner in firm snow and found it to be the most effective in kicking steps. We achieved the best fit when we paired this model with a strap-on crampon, a frequent need on early-season hikes when microspikes just don't cut it. Heavy lugs cut through mud, and we had no issues crossing streams on top of water-worn river rock.

Weight


Weighing in at 2.66 pounds in size 11 US, the Scarpa Zodiac is not the lightest in the review, a designation that easily went to the ultralight models more suitable for fastpacking, but the performance upgrade that you get is well worth the extra weight.


En route to climb the ridge on Thor Peak in the Scarpa GTX boots
En route to climb the ridge on Thor Peak in the Scarpa GTX boots

Water Resistance


On this boot, Scarpa has used a 1.8mm thick suede Perwanger full leather outer, along with a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort footwear lining.


Right out of the box, the boots shed water like a duck while walking through fast-moving snowmelt streams. The Gore-Tex lining performed effectively and allowed our feet to breathe well despite wearing medium thickness socks in above-average temperatures.

The high flood height and one piece suede leather outer kept the water from getting inside the boot.
The high flood height and one piece suede leather outer kept the water from getting inside the boot.

Users will note that without aftermarket treatment, however, that the suede leather will begin to wear and will wick water, rendering the Gore-Tex liner less useful.

Durability


The Zodiac Plus GTX is made with suede leather. With proper treatment, this award winner should last for years of use.


Lots of exposure to rough granite rock, getting jammed into cracks, and kicking steps into firm dirt will reduce longevity; but, like most tools, when used correctly, they will last a long time. High-quality Italian craftsmanship is evident in this boot, and we experienced no abnormal wear, lace breakage, or sole/rand delamination.

The one issue with durability is the soft suede. Jam these boots into enough cracks and you might see wear along the sides like this.
The one issue with durability is the soft suede. Jam these boots into enough cracks and you might see wear along the sides like this.

Value


The Zodiac Plus GTX is expensive. We feel that it is worth it to pay this premium price for the high performance and durability you will get in return. Costing a small mountain themselves, you will get long-term durability and high performance in terrain where you don't want to settle for anything less.

Conclusion


For those adventurous hikers going off the beaten path to scramble peaks or traverse ranges, our testing determined that the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX cannot be beaten for its combination of durability, stability, and traction that is often only otherwise found in a much heavier mountain boot. Capable as a day hiker or a multi-day backpacking boot, the utility of these boots in harsh environments cannot be emphasized enough.

This is a really comfortable boot for walking with moderate loads on trails as well as on scrambles.
This is a really comfortable boot for walking with moderate loads on trails as well as on scrambles.


Ryan Huetter