A common question we get from guests is, “Should I buy my own alpine mountaineering boots or rent for a trip or a course?” The answer may vary based on your situation so we will attempt to provide some context into what might help with your buy or rent decision.
The case for buying a mountaineering boot
Having your own boots is usually the preferred approach for most people. A good pair of boots are an extension of your feet and when your alpine mountaineering boots are broken in (or your feet are broken in) you probably couldn’t imagine renting. If you are certain you will love mountaineering and will likely do more of it after a trip or a course, its definitely in your best interest to buy a good pair of boots. Depending on the type of terrain and how many miles you put on them, a quality mountaineering boot will last you many years.
Over time, your boots will shape to your feet and unless they are poorly fit, you shouldn’t get blisters. Its imperative to do a lot of walking with a new set of boots and not just in your living room. Putting on a heavy pack and walking both uphill and downhill with a new set of boots means any foot issues will happen before you end up in the backcountry. You should probably have a blister kit in your first aid kit for good measure (and to help others who have blisters) but when your boots are broken in, blistering isn’t likely to negatively affect a trip for you. Many people will pre tape their feet to proactively prevent blisters.
The case for renting a mountaineering boot
For a lot of people, investing in alpine mountaineering boots is a serious expenditure. Good boots are not cheap and in this category, you definitely get what you pay for. So, if you are taking a short course or doing a ‘bucket list’ type trip and maybe aren’t sure if you will ever do something like that again, renting alpine mountaineering boots is probably your best option.
The downside is that the first time your feet are the boot, you likely have a heavy pack on and need to do a lot of uphill walking. This is the perfect breeding ground for blisters. Blisters can completely end a trip for you. Whether it’s the pain or the risk of infections from open wounds, blisters have been responsible for shortened trips and even serious evacuations.
We recommend you have a variety of hiking socks to try with your rental boots and pick the ones that aren’t so thick they constrain your foot or so thin that you have play in the heel. Once again, proactively taping for blisters in common spots, such as your heals, is a good idea. Managing any hotspots that do form with blister tape right away can be the difference between a successful trip and a nightmare. If you have abnormally wide or narrow feet, heel spurs or corns, these can add to any discomfort and should be watched closely and pre taped. Clients usually run into trouble when they don’t want to be the one to stop and hold up the group by addressing a budding blister but this is definitely the best way to go.
So what is a good quality mountaineering boot appropriate for the Canadian Rockies?
In our rental fleet we use the Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX. Over the course of the years we arrived at this boot after trying a variety of hard and soft boots. The Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX is a good all-round four season boot that works for summer climbing and can also be used for ice climbing. They fit a variety of crampons for general mountaineering and technical ice climbing. As far as rental boots go, we get good feedback from clients on this set up.
The LaSportiva Nepal Evo is also a great four season boot. Similar to the Mont Blanc GTX many clients and our staff use this boot all year for alpine climbing and ice climbing.
If summer is your thing and you can’t bear the thought of pounding ice axes into a frozen waterfall in January, then some of the lighter summer mountaineering boots should be on your shop list. The LaSportiva Trango Cube GTX and the Scarpa Charmoz are high on the recommended list. Lightweight, technical and crampon compatible make both of these boots excellent choices for glaciated and alpine rock settings. These models are also available in a women’s specific boot.
Buying a mountaineering boot is a big investment and for many people the cost doesn’t make sense. If you do rent, just remember that you need to manage your feet and address any issues right away. When considering buying, try on several pairs and pick the quality boot that best fits your foot while appropriate for the application. Don’t cheap out when purchasing mountaineering boots. Also, you shouldn’t think your good hiking boot will make a good mountaineering boot – it won’t. If there is any flex in the sole of the hiking boot, your crampons will come off your feet. Not only is this frustrating but it could be very dangerous.
A mountaineering boot is an important part of your mountain kit. Whether buying or renting, take care of your boots and feet then enjoy the experience.