The new Zodiac Tech from Scarpa fits squarely into to uber popular scrambling / lightweight mountaineering boot category. Incredibly versatile, this boot’s a fantastic option for summers in the mountains. The soles are flexible enough to walk well but still stiff enough to take semi-auto crampons, kick steps up steep snow slopes and rock climb. They’re even warm and dry enough for shorter bouts on slushy summer glaciers. A solid balance of features in a lightweight boot at a fantastic price point.
- Weight (sz 43): 1280g/pair
- Upper: 1.8mm Suede Perwanger
- Insole: Pro-Fiber 20
- Mid-Sole: Multiple density zones of PU & EVA
- Sole: Vibram Mulaz S / Mont
- Lining: Gore-Tex Performance Comfort
- Last: BZ
- Crampon Compatibility: Semi-Automatic
- Full rand
- Small cuff gaiter
- Dual zone lacing w. locking eyelet
- Sizing: 37 to 48
- No women’s specific model
I opted to post a First Look review of the Zodiac Tech’s as the summer season abruptly ended before a sufficient number of testing days achieved. That being said I still managed to get the boots out for 6 days in the Bugaboos, 11 days climbing around the Coast Range and 5 days in the Canadian Rockies. This included some alpine rock routes to 5.9. Lots of chossy scrambling. A bunch of glacier travel. And of course some easy alpine snow and ice climbing. Enough to get a good feel for performance but not enough to really evaluate durability and longevity. That being said, some conclusions can be extrapolated through wear patterns (educated guesses).
Scarpa, like a lot of boot companies, seem to be a bit funky with sizing when it comes to mountaineering boots. It’s almost like they size the boots before they add insulation. Heavily insulated winter boots often fit smaller than uninsulated summer boots. Well at least it feels like that sometimes. Anyway, I typically wear a size 43 with Scarpa unless I want a real performance fit in which case I’ll downsize to 42.5. My Zodiac Tech’s are a size 42 but still offer a bit of wiggle room in the toes.
Fit & Feel:
Aside from the previously mentioned sizing inconsistency the overall fit of the Zodiac Tech’s is fantastic. They feel fairly soft and comfortable right out of the box but with a leather upper still require a few trips out truly break-in. I found that it took several big days before the middle width toe box stretched to accommodate my 102mm wide right foot.
The Zodiac Tech boots have a fairly low cuff giving them the feel of a mid-top shoe more than a boot. The upside is that the boot’s lighter and has greater dexterity and mobility. This comes at the cost of ankle support and stability. Not at all a bad trade-off for a light-duty boot.
The dual zone lacing system uses the standard locking metal eyelet at the ankle to allow for differing lace tensions in the upper and lower part of the boot. This type of lace lock works reasonably well but can allow lace the tension to equalize over time. An issue is easily solved with a surgeons knot back-up.
The small gaiter-esq cuff on the Zodiac Tech’s are a really nice touch. Personally I try to avoid wearing gaiters unless they’re absolutely necessary. They can be hot, bunch up my socks, represent an extra step or layer to worry about, etc. So of course I really appreciate boots that have them built-in. Now the gaitered cuff on the Zodiac’s are minimalist, but still they work quite well. A great feature not often found on such a light boot.
Scarpa’s given the Zodiac’s what they’re calling a “Sock-FitDV” feature. This means that the tongue of the boots are made from a soft and lightweight Shoeller material. Similar to the Mont Blanc Pro’s or the old Rebel Pros, just without the ribs. And the flex-point at the ankle is made from a break in the leather upper. I’m a big fan of Shoeller tongues in summer alpine boots as they breath well and provide a snug and secure fit. Of course the downside is that they’re less water resistant than a more robust fabric.
Definitely on the light end of the mountaineering boot spectrum the Zodiac Tech’s are great when it comes to climbing easy rock routes, scrambling, etc. They have a very dexterous feel, sticky rubber soles and walk very well. The Zodiac’s also performed quite well kicking steps on steep snow slopes or walking around on glaciers with crampons.
As can be expected from a lightweight, un-insulated summer alpine boot the Zodiac Tech’s are not the best choice when it comes to extended periods of time on snow and ice. The soft, thin Shoeller tongue will eventually let in some moisture and the lack of insulation means cold feet. The leather stood up amazingly well though!
A warmer and more waterproof, albeit heavier, boot would be a better choice to tackle long mushy glacier treks. The boots also lack the ankle support and stiffness needed when it comes to front pointing for extended periods of time.
The leather upper combined with the extended rubber rand have given the Zodiac Tech boots a pretty tough shell. Aside from some nicks and scratches on the toe they look almost pristine despite over 20 days of use. That being said, the laces are not protected at all along the toe of the boot. I expect that they’ll require more frequent replacement as a result.
The soles have also stood up very well so far. Of course I’ve avoided kicking steps in dirt and scree as that’s just a recipe to destroy good rubber!
Pros: lightweight, dexterous, sticky sole, walk well, great cuff gaiter
Cons: No lace protection along the toe, leather requires a short break-in period
Overall: A fantastic boot for summer mountaineering and scrambling. Perfect when an approach shoe is a little too light-duty but you don’t need the added weight, warmth and stiffness of a full blown mountaineering boot. They also offer good value. The Zodiac Tech is a bit more boot than the Salewa Repace for example but still costs less!
Black Sheep Adventure Sports was supplied a pair of boots for testing but of course this didn’t influence our review in any way.