The SCARPA Kailash Trek GTX is Scarpa’s latest crack at making a hiking boot that’s both durable and lightweight. Our Editor Tim has been strapped in for a few months hiking on all kinds of terrain – here’s how they went!
Hiking boots are just about the most important bit of gear you can invest in before hitting the trail. But as with anything this crucial, the amount of options out there is pretty mind-bending. You’re looking to balance grip, stability, support, cushioning, durability, and maybe even style, into the perfect product. You need the perfect shoe.
I was going to make a joke about choosing a brand whose name literally means “shoe” in Italian, but I ended up finding this fun fact: SCARPA stands for Società Calzaturiera Asolana Riunita Pedemontana Anonima, which translates to Associated Shoe Manufacturing Company of the Asolo Mountain Area.
It still does mean shoe in Italian (and they’re made there too so you can still make shit jokes about your Italian leather boots) but I thought that fun fact was worth sharing.
Back to the boots. I took the Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX boots on day hikes, multi-day treks featuring mountains and dunes, through soft snow, steep mountain climbs and across slippery rock platforms. To sum them up, they were bloody excellent. Here’s why.
Comfort & Fit
Wearing boots in before a big hike is normally a satisfying experience rich with obvious comfort gains. With the Kailash Trek GTXs however, I was pretty well done in 10 minutes. The 1.8mm thick calf leather that makes up the majority of the boot was supple (and aggressively non-vegan) from the get-go, the inbuilt flex point meant the boot bent where it was supposed to and the sole allowed my toes to flex naturally. It did get a bit easier to tighten the boots up after a bit of wear, which was useful for my particularly narrow feet (the Kailash Trek GTXs use Scarpa’s wide-fitting BX last).
Speaking of tightness, the lacing system on these boots is excellent. The flexible eyelets go down very close to the toes and the tongue allows heaps of room for expansion if your foot has a high bridge. My foot always felt secure with just enough give to keep movement and circulation natural. There’s enough room in the toe box that your toes never bunch up and even on steep descents I couldn’t touch the end (for reference: I was using the same size boot as my regular shoe size).
The best feature, by far, were the lace hooks. The lowest of the 3 hooks had a pinch point which securely grabs the lace, allowing you to easily keep the lower part of the laces loose and the ankle tight, or vice versa. With my narrow feet, not losing tightness around the front of the foot is super important and this feature meant that I never had to re-tighten my laces.
After a few months of sand, mud, snow and gravel my Scarpas are still looking pretty good. There’s a dusting of dirt on the grey leather but importantly, no visible damage.
What’s really impressive is the rubber on both the sole and the toe rand. I know that I’ve punted rocks like an Aussie Rules champ on heat, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the front of the boot. The rand is pretty big for this kind of boot (and bigger than on previous models) and paired with a firm TPU toe cap it feels positively bombproof. The Vibram sole isn’t particularly thick, but with only a suggestion of wear after many days of hiking, I expect the compound to have a decent innings.
The Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX nails all the basics you’d expect it to. Stability and ankle support abound. But true performance is about the multi-day treks and it’s much harder to nail. Here’s how Scarpa have tackled the problems most hikers experience.
Waterproof claims in shoes can be contentious. Luckily, if you see that little Gore-Tex tab you’re probably in luck. I dunked the Kailash Trek GTXs in rivers and walked in pouring rain with rain pants on and felt nary a drop. Well, until a rogue wave filled the boots with water whilst I was walking along the foreshore. Lesson learned.
I didn’t walk in any particularly hot conditions, but I reckon the combo of Gore-tex and relatively thin leather will be a winner in the Aussie summer.
Probably the techiest part of the shoe, the midsole is the bit between the inner sole (that your foot stands on) and the rubber that hits the ground. Scarpa are touting their Low Density Polyurethane midsole, which gives the boot rigidity whilst still coming in at a relatively low 625g. There’s also an EVA foam insert for shock absorption in the heel.
Don’t expect them to feel like Nikes. The boots feel firm underfoot. That’s great if that’s what you’re after (like me) but if you have softer tastes a softer inner-sole or another boot might be the go.
I don’t think I slipped over once in these bad boys. I tripped over a bunch because I’m a clumsy bastard but even on slippery-rock platforms the Vibram sole was super sticky. Pretty impressive considering how little wear they showed after multiple days on the trail.
The grip pattern isn’t groundbreaking – it’s unobtrusive and functional, but I liked the hard edges for digging into unstable surfaces, and the large flat, almost approach shoe inspired toe section for rock scrambling.
The Kailash’s look pretty vanilla. Maybe that’s a good thing? I’d say that they almost look low-key enough to get away with in more formal situations, but my girlfriend would disagree and she’d probably be right. They’re pretty hikey but the look isn’t going out of fashion – which is good, ‘cause they’re probably going to last a while.
Ah, there had to be a con didn’t there? As you can expect with a hiking boot that’s been killing it up until now, the Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX will stomp a sizeable hole in your bank account.
That being said, the boots have shown every indication of being incredibly durable, a trait that Scarpa is well-known for. If you divide that $400 by the amount of years use you’ll probably get out of them, it’s probably worth the 4 cheaper pairs you’d have bought in their place.
The Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX attempts to blend the comfort and manoeuvrability of a modern lightweight hiker with the durability and support of a more traditional leather boot – and it bloody well nails it. Get your boots fitted in-store (it’s not worth getting wrong) and you’ll be set for the long run.
Tim was provided with the Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX boots for review purposes and got to keep them afterwards. The views are entirely his own.
Turn Up Your Hiking Game