Usually companies send gear reviewers their newest stuff; things that haven’t been on the market long or are just coming out. This is how they get press and buzz going for the new products. It’s tougher to get ahold of samples of established products, but I was lucky enough to get to take the venerable Glacier boots out for a spin on a press trip with Backbone Media, sponsored in part by La Sportiva. I am so glad I got the chance to do this, because even though I’m a solid Sportiva fan, it’s always good to have some quality time with the merchandise to verify my opinion of a brand and I was not let down in the slightest.
I was keen to have Sportiva participate in the site as a Featured Brand for that very reason – every single pair of Sportivas I’ve ever tried has been absolutely incredible, and the Glacier boots are another example. I wore them on a long overnight, during which I trekked about 20ish miles on variable ground (ranging from packed trail to trail-less woods, to loose snow, to packed snow, to sharp loose rocks – pretty much anything you can think of, we walked on it) with a moderate-weight load and absolutely zero boot break-in time. Ordinarily I would have cringed at the idea of doing this in brand-new-out-of-the-box boots but I’ve been in this boat with Sportiva before. Way back when, I was testing the Nepal EVOs and took them out on a three day winter camping trip with no break-in time. At the end of the trip my feet were warm and dry and I had nary a blister. Based on this experience, I had faith that I’d be fine in the Glaciers, and I was right. The one concession I made was to switch out the insoles to ones I know work for me, but I do that with all boots that I test so that wasn’t an unfair advantage.
Not only were the boots solid, supportive, and comfortable from the word go, they handled all the tough terrain with ease. Kicking steps up a snow field was kid’s play as to be expected, and I’d be happy in these boots for all but the most technical of ice and snow climbing (for that stuff, I have the Nepal EVOs). The Glaciers excelled in unstable terrain and a few of the other press types were a little envious that I got to head out with slightly beefier boots than they (though the Pamirs they all had performed flawlessly on all counts) during the step-kicking and post-holing portions of our trip. I was very glad to have them on the steeper parts of the climb because their stiff soles really helped with stability. I must admit that, faced with the 8 mile slog out to the parking lot, I wondered if I’d end up with blisters from such beefy boots, but in the end, I didn’t have any issues at all.
The temps on our trip were really nice so we didn’t have to worry too much about cold, but wet was a problem as we had many river crossings, a lot of postholing through snow, and lots of creeks to ford. For the thigh-deep water, I went ahead and took my boots off, but for everything else I just splashed on through and the boots shed the water without any issues. No blisters. No wet feet. Nothing negative or even cautionary to say about these boots. If you want to buy them for your main hiking boots, I’d say go for it. If you need more of an endorsement, check it out – my wildland firefighting peeps are even using this boot as their fireline boot (though Sportiva won’t cover fire-related damage, sorry), which should go a long way to assuring you that the boots are tough, durable, and comfortable. And you know what? If I went back to the fireline I’d have no hesitation going out for weeks in the Glaciers. I love that Sportiva is now billing the Glaciers as fireline and/or linesman boots – in the special “WLF” configuration which features heat resistant heels and toe boxes. WLF = wildland firefighting, get it? Hey, if the shoe fits…(ha!)
Wildland firefighters are into them. The community is into them – check it – five star reviews on backcountry.com. I’M into them. I will reach for these boots in the winter months when I climb the peaks around Anchorage, knowing that my feet will stay warm and dry and I’ll have the stability I need on icy slopes. I didn’t try them out with crampons yet but they do take a step in crampon which would make these boots practically invincible.
It’s my understanding that the “regular” Glaciers – not the EVO – only have a 1/2 shank instead of the 3/4, and lack the locking lace mechanism. The regular Glaciers would be great for straight backpacking but I’d recommend going for the EVO version if you have to do any technical, sketchy, or high angle climbing.
True to size in my opinion.