The Scarpa Phantom Ultra is one of the lightest technical climbing boots on the market - for someone like me thus the only real choice for a crampon compatible mountaineering boot for ice climbing. A living review.
I have used the Scarpa Phantom Ultra boots for seven full days of ice climbing and a couple of days of walking. This review thus should be considered as an initial review, which I will update during the next winter season when I have got more use with them.
The function of these boots is manyfold:
- keep your feet warm and dry in cold temperatures and wet conditions
- crampon compatible
- comfortable to walk in on long approaches
- rigid sole for climbing
So how does the Phantom Ultra do these things?
- Dry: Thanks to OutDry’s windproof and waterproof breathable membrane the boots stay dry in wet conditions, while letting your feet’s sweat escape. Don’t expect wonders, though: After a day of climbing the boot will be moist on the inside.
- Warm: They are warm, warmer than any other shoe or boot I have worn in winter, even after a long day outdoors. They are not as warm as double boots like the Phantom Guide or Phantom 6000, but for my needs they offer plenty of warmth. If you get very easily cold feet then one of the aforementioned Phantoms might be a better choice, though for me they offer plenty of warmth when out on a -15°C day climbing on frozen waterfalls.
- Crampon compatible: Sure thing, or did you think I climb ice without crampons?!
- Comfortable: As you know, I’m a trailrunner kind-of-guy. I wear them each day on all occasions, so getting into a boot was a new thing. Well, the Phantom Ultras were hailed as very comfortable boots in reviews, and I will join in that song. They are very comfortable. After I got used to walk in boots it was nice to put them on each morning and walk to the ice falls, and even on longer approaches they didn’t harm my feet. So far there have been no blisters or other foot problems, and just a very good, comfortable feeling.
- Stiff sole: The sole on the Phantom Ultra is a Pentax Speed sole, which is considered soft in the midsole. I haven’t been able to feel that, as a soft sole is for me something like the X-Talon 190 and the Phantom Ultra are for me rigid. As I have only used the Ultras I obviously can’t compare them to other technical mountaineering boots. Keep in mind though that I have quite small boots (Size 42.5) which are inherently more rigid than larger sized models, where this soft midsole could be easier felt.
Some of the features you already read about above, other things which I really liked:
- The laces are great: Easy to knot and open, just the right length and a great match for this boot
- Integrated gaiter means no need for an extra gaiter to keep snow out of your boots
- A Vibram Sole which won’t let you slip on wet rocks
My pair is a Size 42.5 and they fit very well. I took them a half number bigger so that I’m not hitting my toes against the inside of the shoe when kicking the crampons in the ice, and that works well.
The boots fit me perfectly. Out of the box. There was no long, painful walks required to make them comfortable and fitting my feet, they just were perfect from the start. Plenty of room for the toes, even in thick socks, a tight fit in the heel, comfortable around the ankle and lower leg, a little bit of flex when walking, rigid enough for climbing.
Ueli Steck helped develop this boot, and on his recommendation Scarpa partnered with OutDry which provides the WPB membrane for the boot. I feel that OutDry dries faster than Gore Tex in shoes, at least my shoes where, when overnight indoors, dry again the next morning.
Of course the weight of these boots is one of the biggest innovations, there were, as these boots came out, not many comparable boots which were as light and warm.
These boots are 100% Made in Italy, and if you know a thing or two about shoes then you likely are aware that the Italians are great craftsman which can make superb shoes and boots. This pair is no different, and the Phantom Ultras are impeccably made. From a smooth outer which is waterproof and which offers no place for stones, snow, dirt and dust to enter or a crampon to snatch a lace to a comfortable inner these boots are exceptionally well made.
My Phantom Ultras are 1845 gram for the pair or 918 g per shoe, Size 42,5. That’s slightly over the claimed weight of 850 gram per boot but still acceptable for me. The new La Sportiva Batura 2.0 is lighter, as are the new Scarpa Rebel GTX.
Sustainability & Recyclability
I expect these boots to hold very long. Probably the zipper or the gaiter will be the first ones to go broken, but the sole and boot itself make a very durable impression on me. And even when the sole will wear down, you can get them resoled.
More in the future.
Before I decided to get the Phantom Ultra I did quite a bit of research. Dane from Cold Thistle, Artturi, Toby, Joni and Nick all have helped me to make the decision. Especially Nick and Dane who also both use the Phantom Ultras have been answering my questions about warmth and sizes - again many thanks for that.
Once the boots were here I decided to go for a walk in them. It’s surprising how different boots feel after years of using only trailrunners and slip-ons. I got used to it pretty quickly though, and appreciated how warm they were. On their first outing we had a short walk-in in deep snow, and walking wasn’t a problem by now anymore. Climbing then.
After I put on my crampons, a first for me, I walked up to the ice and started my first ice climb. It wasn’t that cold that day, and my skills were at the beginning, but what they were supposed to do they did: I had warm feet, happily kicked my crampons in the ice and didn’t hit my toes. In Abisko then the walk-ins were equally short, but in Korouoma we were hiking for up to 45 minutes from the camp (and the hike out back to the car was a strenuous 30 minutes uphill hike!). In these situations the boots performed great too, the secret is to not lace them up to tight - that way the walking is more comfortable. But also because they have a bit of flex they’re good to walk in.
Once I broke through the ice underneath a fall and stood till my knee in ice cold water, but thanks to the integrated gaiter only a tiny bit came inside. But even after this accident I didn’t get cold feet at temperatures of around -10°C, standing on ice at the bottom of a fall belaying my partner leading up a route, which was evidence for their warmth for me.
In Korouoma I also slept outside, and after a full day of climbing the boots were slightly moist from sweat. In the hut I was able to dry them a bit by the stove, but they were next to me in my shelter during the night. As I woke up in the morning it was -15°C and getting in the frozen boots was difficult, but once inside and walking they quickly got warm again, and there were no problems with cold toes/ feet.
Overall I rate them very high: Comfortable to walk in on approaches, rigid soles for climbing, warm when standing on ice and belaying, and keeping my feet dry from the water you’re bound to encounter when ice climbing.
A whole lot, but only a handful in the same weight category: the La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX is claimed 1800 gram for the pair. It’s the lightest alternative I’m aware of, although the Mammut Nordwand TL is only a few dozen of gram heavier with a claimed weight of 1888 gram. The new Scarpa Rebel GTX are lighter too, but have no integrated gaiters. If you know other lightweight boots please leave a comment (incl. weight if possible!) and I’ll add them here.
What Others Say
Dane from Cold Thistle rates the Phantom Ultras very high, as does Nick.
I’m very happy with the Scarpa Phantom Ultra boots and can recommend them for anyone who is looking for a lightweight boot for ice & mixed climbing and winter mountaineering. They’re warm enough reasonably cold conditions (about -20°C I’d say), keep your feet dry and are comfortable to walk in. They’re great for climbing both ice and mixed, easy to put on and also look very good in my opinion. And after all: Boots that are used by Ueli Steck just can’t be bad =)
Where to buy the Phantom Ultra
Only the Bergfreunde have the Phantom Ultra in stock. However, Backcountry and Bergzeit have other Phantom models in case you’re looking for double boot, or contact them and ask if they can get the boots for you.
In the next update
- In the next season I will add more on how they’re in use climbing ice and mixed, if there were any failures, and overall experiences
Disclaiming the Disclaimer