Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Best choice for rock and snow travel, durable, breathes well
Cons: Wider fit, not the best lace locking system
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
— Ryan Huetter