UKC

Scarpa Charmoz OD B2 Boots Review

First launched in 2006, Scarpa's Charmoz has been a popular model for a decade. Until now, any changes to the boot were mainly cosmetic. For this winter however it has had a major upgrade, with a new last, a rebuilt upper, a different sole and - most notably - an all-new waterproof lining. Pretty much the only things that haven't changed are the name, and the boot's remit. Essentially the new Charmoz OD remains a solid mountain all-rounder, designed for a broad range of terrain from summer scrambles and challenging treks, through alpine voie normales to winter mountaineering. I've not worn many boots that are this comfortable on long winter hillwalking days, yet still confidence inspiring on snowy ridges and low grade gullies. In a nutshell (and taking these ratings with a pinch of salt), the all-new Charmoz performs like a B2 but feels like a B1 to wear. Can I say anything bad about it? Probably not, but allow me to elaborate on the good stuff.

Perfect for winter hillwalking and low grade mountaineering days, 148 kb
Perfect for winter hillwalking and low grade mountaineering days
© Dan Bailey

Weight

In my experience it's not unusual for a pair of size 47 B1 or B2 boots to tip the scales at over 2kg. I make the Charmoz OD 1824g for the pair, which seems very respectable given the performance and comfort on offer. They certainly don't feel heavy on the feet.

Scarpa quote these as 1440g per pair (size 42); by way of comparison the current slightly burlier Manta Pro GTX is listed as 1640g.

Fit

  • Let's start with an essential caveat: Since you won't walk far or climb well if you're crippled, any boot is only as good as its fit. This is of course particular to each wearer. At the risk of stating the obvious then, how well it fits you personally is the one concern that overrides anything else you'll read in this – or any – boot review. Nothing I say will beat trying them on for yourself.

"These are probably the most comfortable, least clumpy four season boots I've worn"

Good stiff-ish sole and plenty of tread for walking in snow minus crampons, 126 kb
Good stiff-ish sole and plenty of tread for walking in snow minus crampons
© Dan Bailey

The new Charmoz OD is built on Scarpa's NAG last. Developed in collaboration with Ueli Steck, it is, they reckon, their "most precise, technical mountain fit ever" and has a "strong emphasis on focusing the climbing power over the toe/front of the boot". Reading that, you might wonder if the boot risks being technical overkill for its all-rounder niche, impressive on the steep stuff perhaps, but less so for that long hobble to the route. I certainly had visions of a foot-cramping tight fit and the sort of radical asymmetric toe box that has never done my broad feet any favours. I needn't have feared. Yes, there's a degree of bias towards the big toe, and it does indeed feel nifty and technical when you start tottering around on little rock edges; however, despite my afforementioned broad feet (often a poor match for technical boots, especially Italian ones in my experience) I haven't found the fit in any way cramping at the front.

If there's enough width for me then there probably will be for a majority of wearers; ditto depth and overall volume. I've not found it too tight, but neither is the fit too baggy. With memory foam inside and lacing that runs right down to the toes, it's easy to get a good close foot-hugging fit, and the Charmoz OD should suit a good range of foot shapes, as Scarpa themselves suggest.

Lacing is smooth and effective, with a locking eyelet below the cuff so that you can easily get different tension over the foot and at the ankle. If you're walking for miles on easy ground, slacken things off a bit; if you want maximum precision when climbing, pull it tight at the toe.

Front pointing up grade I neve..., 107 kb
Front pointing up grade I neve...
© Dave Saunders

About to try them on some super-easy mixed climbing, 118 kb
About to try them on some super-easy mixed climbing
© Dave Saunders

On long walk-ins and all day winter hill rounds a mountain boot typically feels clumpy and cumbersome - that's traditionally the tradeoff for front pointing rigidity. But when wearing the Charmoz OD there's a relative spring in my step. For walking on non-technical ground these are probably the most comfortable, least clumpy four season boots I've worn. Yet Scarpa have achieved this without compromising front pointing or edging performance.

Offering a bit of stretchy give and a generous depth of padding, which extends right down over the ankle bones, Scarpa's 'Autofit Collar' gives plenty of cushioned support, holding the foot still inside the boot and - I've found - effectively eliminating heel lift. A good range of movement is still permitted however, which when you're climbing of course means better footwork. Likewise on rough ground the ankle is protected very effectively from sprains, yet its natural flex doesn't feel too restricted. A deep cutout at the rear prevents rubbing at the achilles, and helps keep things free and flexible at the cuff.

Lastly, but importantly, the new Charmoz OD comes in both women's and men's fits.

Upper

No animals were harmed in the making of these boots - the uppers are a mix of 'Microtech' synthetic leather and 'L-Tech', a kevlar-based fabric. While real leather tends to wet out over prolonged use, I've found this synthetic waterproof / breathable combo doesn't seem to absorb water in quite the same way even after long days in wet snow and unfrozen Scottish bogs.

Durable synthetic uppers, 179 kb
Durable synthetic uppers
© Dan Bailey

For the modest weight of the boot the uppers are very tough and durable too, and other than the usual creases that you'd expect to see at the flex points I've yet to make a mark on them. A high rubber rand right around the foot adds extra scuff protection, something you'll welcome if you spend a lot of time on scree or scrambling terrain.

The most significant change in the new Charmoz is actually the least visible - the waterproof/breathable lining has changed from Gore-Tex to OutDry. A traditional waterproof lining is effectively a sock with taped seams, sandwiched between layers of boot. Over time such a lining may fail though movement between layers or the ingress of grit, while even when the lining is working as intended water may pass through the outer and then pool in the gap between it and the waterproof layer, making the boot heavy. OutDry claims to have solved these issues by heat bonding their waterproof/breathable barrier directly onto the inside surface of the outer fabric. There are no seams or gaps, they say, and hence no way for water to get in. The result is apparently lighter than a traditional booty-style membrane, and more long-lasting. This short ad explains the process:

Having worn the Charmoz OD fairly extensively over autumn and early winter I have no grounds to doubt the claims as yet; they are fully waterproof. So far breathability seems at least as good as equivalent Gore-Tex-lined boots, too, though I would have to stress that I've only been out in winter conditions to date; a sterner test of their breathability would be scrambling and trekking in warmer summer weather, uses for which the Charmoz OD is said to be well suited. In fairness, too, any problems I've ever had with Gore-Tex-lined boots have only come to light after prolonged use. I've simply not had sufficient time yet to assess the longevity of OutDry. It looks like I'll have to report back on the new Charmoz OD in summer 2017.

Back to winter for a moment - and for a boot this light, insulation seems pretty good. Though I've not subjected them to truly bitter weather - it's not been that sort of season so far - I've yet to suffer cold feet on any of several days spent in below-freezing temperatures above the snow line. You would not want to climb a winter Alp in them, but winter Munros are no problem.

Sole

As an all-rounder designed for both walking and climbing, the sole of the Charmoz OD does have a degree of flex. This is not a fully rigid B3 boot, and it simply doesn't have enough support for front pointing on steeper ground. As you'd expect from a winter mountaineering boot, however, there's enough stiffness in the sole for use with crampons. With a welt at the heel but not at the toe, the Charmoz OD are compatible with semi step-in crampons, models with a heel clip and a plastic front cradle. Given my size 47 feet I tend to notice more flex in mountain boots than people with smaller feet - that's just basic leverage. Nevertheless the Charmoz ODs feel secure and supportive underfoot when front pointing up moderately angled neve or ice, while their dextrousness is an advantage on easy mixed ground. In my - albeit limited - experience to date they've proven ideal on both grade I snow gullies and rocky winter mountaineering terrain. They would clearly be in their element on classic grade II winter ridge traverses such as Aonach Eagach; I'd probably go as far as Tower Ridge even. However if you want a boot for front pointing up ice at around grade III or above, this is not it.

Soft, stretchy tongue and cuff with incut achilles, 212 kb
Soft, stretchy tongue and cuff with incut achilles
© UKC Gear

Deep tread and a pronounced ledge at the heel for grip, 190 kb
Deep tread and a pronounced ledge at the heel for grip
© UKC Gear

Remove the crampons and the Vibram sole has good, chunky, square-cut lugs for traction in soft snow, mud and general winter muck, and a pronounced ledge at the heel for grip when walking downhill. If you're kicking steps into hard snow the boot provides a solid, secure platform underfoot. For scrambling and even easy rock climbing on summer alpine days, meanwhile, there's plenty of rubber at the toe for maximum contact with the rock, and the edgeing performance is excellent.

Spongy PU inserts provide a good level of shock absorption at the heel and toe, which helps spare your feet a bit of a pounding over the course of a long day. Scottish mountaineering routes often involve a lot of distance and plenty of non-technical plodding to get to the interesting bit; the Charmoz is ideal for days like these.

Crampon compatibility

Good close fit with Grivel Air Tech crampons, 142 kb
Good close fit with Grivel Air Tech crampons
© Dan Bailey

While the B-C rating for boot-crampon compatibility is only a rough guide (and not an official industry standard) it does have some use. These B2-rated boots will take either a flexible strap-on walker's C1 crampon, or a stiffer, semi step-in C2 crampon aimed more at climbing. I tried them on the random variety of crampons in my gear cupboard. With a Grivel Air Tech there's an excellent secure fit, with plenty of front point showing beyond the toe; these are the ones I've been using while testing the Charmoz OD. An ancient fully strap-on Grivel G12 fits well. A nearly-as-old G14 with heel clip and plastic toe cradle fits very snugly too, though this is overkill for the boot's abilities. They've fared less well with a Petzl Sarken however (a version from a couple of years ago), where the width of the sole at the heel just proves too much for the rear lever of the crampon. In cross-section the sole is quite broad at the rear, so as ever with buying new boots it's advisible to try them in the shop with the crampons you intend to use.

Summary

In a sense this has been a difficult product to review, as I have struggled to find anything meaningful to fault. From UK winter hillwalking and low-end mountaineering to summer scrambling, high level trekking and classic Alpine summits, if you want one boot to do it all then I think you'll struggle to beat the new Charmoz OD. With cutting edge materials and design, and admirable build quality and performance, this B2 boot is really superb - and it's fairly priced, too. Well done Scarpa. Now, where did all the snow go...?

Taking the Scarpa Charmoz for a spin on Creise, 162 kb
Taking the Scarpa Charmoz for a spin on Creise
© Dan Bailey

Scarpa say:

The iconic Scarpa Charmoz is back for the AW16 season and has been heavily updated compared to its predecessor. The boot comes in both male and female versions and is just at home trekking in the high mountains as it is climbing up a Scottish gully in the winter. The biggest update is to the lining of the boot, which now uses OutDry Lamination to ensure the boot is fully waterproof.

OutDry's construction means that the boot stays lightweight before, during and after prolonged use. This is because OutDry is bonded directly to the outer, which leaves no seams or gaps and therefore no way for water to get in. This layer is also highly breathable to ensure feet stay cool and comfortable throughout the day.

The uppers are made from L-Tech and Microtech synthetic leather which is lightweight and tough, which ensures the boot can deal with the harshest of conditions. Built on the popular and modern NAG last the fit is supportive, very precise, and ideal for alpine climbing. The boot also makes use of memory foam and an Autofit Collar, and a new lacing system, meaning the boot is able to be comfortable and fit a variety of foot shapes and volumes.

The sole of the boot is the Vibram Pentax Precision II XT which features Activ Impact Technology. This highly sophisticated sole places cushioning and stability in the perfect zones underfoot. The boot is crampon rated to B2.

Scarpa Charmoz product shot, 71 kb

  • Price £249.99
  • Size Range: Mens: 40-48 Womens: 36-42
  • Weight: 1440g per pair size 42
  • Crampon Rating: B2
  • Last: NAG
  • Lining:Outdry®
  • Mid Sole: Pro-Fiber XT 20

For more info see scarpa.co.uk

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