Just arrived is the new for winter 2011 updated Scarpa SL Activ boot, a totally revamped take on the brand's classic 3-4 season SL M3 leather boot, which is reckoned to give improved fit, comfort and performance compared to the previous version.
You'll notice the obvious visual differences straight away – the SL Active has a full, protective rubber rand where the old version didn't and there are light grey areas of cushioning visible in both heel and forefoot areas of the sole.
Activ Fit Technology
But the really significant changes are to the construction of the boot and can't be seen from the outside. It's all about Scarpa's Activ Fit technology which is also used with new Ranger II Active and Delta Active walking boot models.
Specifically, the new boot uses the new, snugger BD last – that's the internal shape of the boot basically – it has 'auto fit foam inserts' in the heel area to help keep your heel firmly in place combat lifting and improve stability.
There's a new Biometric sole with dual-density PU and a mid-sole reinforced with a moulded Thermoplastic shank to give graded stiffness underfoot and finally the footbed – aka the Visco Flex Activ Fit insole – uses memory foam for a supportive, moulded fit.
There's more too. Excellent high-wicking Cocona fabric is used for the lining, there's still no Gore-Tex or similar waterproof liner, just good old, top quality, full grain Sherpa leather uppers. Then there's the lace system is a new 'Mini Speed Lace' one with a locking ankle hook. And finally, as you'd expect, underneath, there's a chunky Vibram outsole unit.
It's a big list of changes to a highly successful boot, but the initial feel when you slip your foot into it for the first time, is significantly better than the M3 version. It's closer, snugger and has an instantly comfortable fit for us.
It's by no means a light boot, ours weigh in at 1840g for a pair of size 43s, about the same as their predecessors, but the neater fit makes them feel instantly less clumpy, but still reliably solid.
We're not massive fans of 3-4 season boots for non-winter use here, stiff soles make more sense when you're kicking into snow or wearing crampons, rather than on hot summer mountain days, but that's personal preference and some people will choose to use them all year round.
For pure winter use, the SL Activ feels more than stiff enough for sustained C1 crampon wear and the rand should aid durability particularly if you find yourself regularly kicking into snow slopes, something that rapidly trashes leather uppers, particularly in the toe area.
Women? Ah, at the moment the SL Activ is a men's only option, we think, with the women's SL M3 model carried over for this winter. We'd be surprised though if there isn't a women's SL Active somewhere in the Italian boot brand's pipeline.
More once we've used 'em outside the gnarly environs of the OM kitchen... Price is £220 and you can find more info at www.scarpa.co.uk.