Scarpa SL Activ – Our Review

When you think of 3 – 4 season leather boots, what do you think of? Big, cumbersome, heavy boots? Well not any more. The ‘new’ Scarpa SL Activ was released a couple of years ago (so not particularly new!) and is the latest version of one of the most iconic names is the industry. The SL has been around for many years now, and this latest model sets out to take on any rugged terrain you can throw at it.

I received a pair of SL Activ boots this time last year and I used them throughout the winter (they are just starting to emerge this year!) They have seen 3 or 4 trips to Dartmoor, and one up to Wales, as well as plenty of longer walks through the New Forest & over the Purbecks. When I first received them, I have to say I was initially a little worried about the weight of the boot – however, as soon as I slipped them on, I realised that this was not going to be an issue. The weight was actually only a little higher (100g more per boot) than my normal walking boots, but you cannot feel this once they are on your feet.

My second thought of these boots was how comfortable they were. This is where Scarpa have really changed things with this latest version. The SL has undergone treatment from their Activ Fit programme, which focuses on improvements to the last that they use on their boots. Scarpa have created an all new last, the BD last, which was specifically designed for their latest range of Activ Fit boots. Without going into too much detail, the heel cup has been narrowed, the toe box has been given a little more volume to allow for more cushioning and a new profile for maximum foot hold. All of these changes and improvements has resulted in a boot that is incredibly comfortable – that’s not incredibly comfortable for a 3 – 4 season leather boot, but incredibly comfortable full stop. Ankle padding, made from memory foam gives cushioning around the heel and ankle whilst providing decent levels of ankle flex. A luxurious memory foam insole adds even more comfort to the boot.

The Heel Tension System and the V-Flex System allow the boots to excel on very steep ground, keeping the foot secure and supported, whilst allowing a comfortable degree of ankle flex. Another addition to the latest model, is the speed lacing. Basically, the eyelets have a small pulley in them, so that when you pull the laces, the adjustment is improved to the whole of the foot. Other brands have used something similar to this in the past (Hanwag & Asolo to name a few), but I don’t think I have come across a boot that it works so well on before.

To keep in line with the previous SL, this new version does not have a Gore-Tex liner – now everyone is bound to have a different opinion on this, but when you construct a boot like the SL from such a high quality leather you’re pretty much going to stay dry. When parts of the New Forest flooded last year, I found myself carrying my miniature dachshund through a very wet section of the walk. For about 4 miles, we were wading through 7 – 10 inch high water, and in combination with my trusty Rab gaiters, I came out of the other side bone dry. On the subject of the uppers, the highest quality leathers have been used here. Ranging from between 2.7 and 2.9mm thick, this super tough and durable leather is some of the most supportive around. Combine this with a new rubber rand, you end up with a boot that can take almost everything you could throw at it.

Finally, I wanted to mention the sole unit. Developed with industry leaders, Vibram, the Biometric Sole Unit is perfect for wet and slippy conditions. Deep lugs create excellent traction, with specific areas of the sole designed to improve grip on descents and ascents. I have always found that I struggle for grip with a lot of my previous boots, but once you place a foot with a SL Actibiometric_sole_09v, you know it’s not going anywhere. Now this is actually a B1 rated boot, meaning that it is capable of taking C1 crampons for winter walking, glacier travel and non-technical mountaineering. I have used mine for winter walking in Wales, for which it was simply superb. The stiff sole unit allowed me to easily kick steps into the snow and ice, and kept my feet stable and secure on loose scree slopes.

The Verdict

The SL Activ is a classic reinvented. Scarpa have brought this boot bang up to date, and once again, it is probably the most iconic 3 – 4 season leather boot available. If you are looking for a winter boot, capable of everything from trekking to non-technical mountaineering, or if you are simply looking for the best, then this must be the boot for you.

+       photo 5 Super stable and supportive design.

+        New rubber rand protects leather from damage.

+        Some of the highest quality leather we have come across.

+        Supreme levels of comfort from the new BD last.

+        Durability – these are built to last.

–         No Gore-Tex liner – not a problem in my eyes, but others will find this hard to live without…

For me, it is the most comfortable boot I have ever owned – everything that I have thrown at it, it has taken within its stride – you name it, it can do it.

At Rough Gear, we understand feet, and that everyone is different, so we offer a free professional fitting and measurement service for every pair of footwear that we sell. Our customers range from dog walkers, those just starting out on their Duke of Edinburgh Award, experienced hill and mountain walkers, as well as hardened Himalayan mountaineers climbing the biggest mountains around the world – so we have pretty much seen it all!

Bunions, blisters, narrow, wide, flat footed – every foot is different, so come along to our shop in the Furlong Centre, Ringwood, in the heart of the New Forest for your next pair of boots or shoes.