The NEW 2011 La Sportiva Batura!
It may look the same, but trust me, it aint!
Above: Jack Roberts in the 1st generation Batura
climbing Curtain Call in 2010.
La Sportiva makes two of the most popular and highly technical alpine single boots on the market, the Nepal Evo and the Trango Extreme ExLt GTX . Both are truly benchmarks in current technical alpine/ice footwear. I and many others get an exceptional fit and performance in either of these La Sportiva boots. The Batura is a bit heavier and a good bit warmer than the Trango Extreme. And now a bit heavier and still a bit warmer than the Nepal Evo. So the Batura is in heady company here. It is easily slotted into the La Sportiva mountain boot line, between traditional single boots and heavier double boots.
La Sportiva Spantik 3#.05oz / 1362g
La La Sportiva Baruntse 3#2.5oz / 53oz 1502g
La Sportiva Batura 1st gen. 2#7oz / 39oz, 1105g
La Sportiva Batura 2nd gen 2#11/ 43oz 1219gm
La Sportiva Nepal Evo 2#10.5oz / 42.5oz/ 1205g
La Sportiva Trango Evo Extreme GTX 2#3oz (35oz) / 992g
More here on weights
The Batura is state of the art technology in a stiff soled, flexible upper cuff and warm mountain boot. What is not to like here?
Before I answer that question, a couple of comments before I get in to the gist of this Batura review.
I think the Batura style boots (boot with a built in insulated gaiter) have the most potential in cold weather alpine climbing of all the boot designs currently available. The "best design" might well evolve into a super thin dbl boot or new technology (OutDry for example) might allow the single boot design to finally live up to the task of multiple days out with no worry of accumulated moisture.in the boot. I don't know. But I do think the boot manufactures are on the right track. La Sportiva, Zamberlan, Scarpa and Kayand all have similar styled boots available now.
The new 2011 Batura
At the moment my two favorites are the current version of the La Sportiva Batura and the Scarpa Ultra. And while close to being prefect for my needs, neither are perfect, as of yet. So you are about to read a detailed and very specific commentary on my thoughts of the Batura. It was and is a very good boot. The potential is so great I think it worth the effort in being very specific in my critic and comments. My comments to follow might sound harsh out of context. So think about the next sentence before you decide just how good or bad the Batura is.
High praise? The Cold Thistle blog's opening picture is a pair of Batura on my feet for the 2nd ascent of Blue Moon, IV WI4 R M6 5.8 At the time the climb was a good challenge for me. It was no accident I chose to climb in the the Batura on "Blue Moon".
I started climbing in the original La Sportiva Batura in 2007. I used the same pair of boots off and on until I sold them last winter (2009/2010) while they were still in decent shape and lots of life left in them. They had held up well and no issues on the zipper or boot for that matter. But I have not been kind in my previous reviews of the Batura. All the while having specifically chosen the Batura for some of my best winter climbs in the last couple of years. Some quite cold, where a double boot would have been more appropriate, And not even a hint of a cold injury in the Batura let alone cold feet.
I had hoped La Sportiva would have done it better for fit and comfort the first Batura go around. The previous Trango Ice series of boots certainly gave La Sportiva the back ground and insight to get it right on the Batura. I bet my $550 cash on La Sportiva getting it right the first time in fact.
I wouldn't have made the effort to get another pair of Baturas recently or do this review if La Sportiva had not chosen to make a few significant changes to the 2011 Batura Changes for the better, imo. Having spent the last 6 months in the 3 Scarpa, Phantom series of boots, the Ultra, the Guide and the 6000, I can make some easy comparisons.
Worth stopping here for a moment I think and discussing design in general. Often times I look at several products from differing companies built for a singular purpose. It might be boots or crampons or ice tools for example. Three different categories of gear and all very specific and highly technical. Making direct comparisons of similar items makes it is easy to see things that get missed. Sometimes it is durability. Some times it is fit. Some times you just have to wonder why they stopped "there" instead of finishing the project. Or may be they thought the project was finished. It might be a pair of boots, a crampon design, ice tool, or a pair of pants.
Classic example? I looked at a British's climbing company's new lwt belay jacket the other day. Amazing jacket. Primaloft 1, Pertex shell, nice long arms, perfect cuffs and a generous helmet compatible hood. One internal zippered pocket and two unlined outside pockets. Unlined to be lighter and absorb less moisture. Beautiful jacket that I'll never buy. Why? No zippers and no other way to close those two outside pockets. What were they thinking?
It happens a lot on anything you want to look at and compare in detail. Even boots.
Back on task. Here are the previous Batura reviews and comments:
The comparison post below is rated 2nd for all time hits on the Cold Thistle blog! A comparison I don't believe is valid now with the newest model is now available.
While still an issue just not as much, thankfully. One way to address the soft ankle support issue.
If you are buying new boots now, make sure you don't get just the new zipper and the old boot internally!
Which is exactly what the boots shown in the picture below are, a new zipper and the old boot. There is a BIG difference between that boot and what I am now reviewing.
The main reasons I think the Batura is worth another look?
The new zipper is nice, incredibly so compared to the previous yellow YKK toothed version. This one looks to be a small, continuous coil, YKK that has taped seams on the inside and a decent seal on the outside. But it is only water resistant. Water proof maybe in perfect laboratory conditions where nothing flexs the zipper. No where close to being water proof once you move the zipper around a bit.. Great over size slider and pull strap though. At least the zipper moves up and down very easily. That should no longer be a zipper failure point. The Scarpa TZip is pushing the definition and seems fairly "water prof". The TZip has been what everyone seems to have measured reliability by to date.. I've never felt a zipper "ooze quality". This new zipper on the Batura does. It remains to be seen just how reliable it really is. The small coils worry me. But I would expect a distinct improvement on durability and water resistance over the original YKK. Why La Sportiva didn't just buy the T Zip for this project still baffles me. But that isn't the reason, the zipper is trivial in my mind. I didn't have any issue with the first one but almost everyone else certainly seemed to.
I think the change making the Batura worthy of another look and detailed review is the major redesign of the lace system, heel pocket and a totally new boot tongue. All three of which greatly improve the over all fit. Heel lift is totally eliminated now even with my funky feet and super skinny ankle volume. I had to come back and add this part because I hadn't yet stuck my hand inside the boot and felt around. These boots have the biggest, specifically built heel pocket I have ever seen in a mtn boot.
And I have seen a lot of mtn boots! The pronounced heel pocket is comfortable on my foot so far. No track record on the heel pocket but gotta say it sure impresses me. The fit, because of the new heel pocket, is incredible. The tongue is noticeably thicker, better articulated at the ankle and much more comfortable. The old wear pattern on the sides of the previous boot's tongue is also reinforced now.
La Sportiva says the Batura is built on the Nepal last. It may be true but you couldn't prove it by me. I find th Batura much tighter in the heel now and much bigger in the toe box than the Nepal Evo. I found the original Batura had a bigger toe box as well. The bigger toe box makes for a warmer boot I think. I certainly have room to roll my toes and wiggle them around to keep them warm or warm them if chilled.
More room in the toe box is a big advantage over the Nepal Evo I think. It feels like the Batura was designed specifically for cold weather climbing......with the appropriate attention to detail and build quality.
The more I wear and use this boot the more impressed I become. I am not easily swayed because of my experience with the first generation of Batura.
The fit is really important to me. This version of the Batura really delivers there. The Batura has also gained a bit of ankle support on the forward flex by adding the extra and well spaced eyelets. Which were really needed imo.
The advantages the Batura has over the Scarpa Phantom Guides/Ultra are worth listing;
Not all are obvious to first inspection let alone 1st use. It took 6 months to come to these conclusions.
Much better crampon fit (and it is a biggy as almost anything snaps on perfectly)
Better and slightly taller gaiter
More comfortable top gaiter closure
slightly better Achilles ergonomics on the cuff design
Much stiffer mid sole
Laces that stay tight first try
A stronger and reinforced toe box
Better boot/ankle protection from crampons
Slightly larger external volume should mean a warmer boot
But the Batura is at least 3oz (7.5oz on the Ultra) per boot heavier than the Guide.
And it is built like a truck. It can afford to be "better".
Above: Check out the new positions of the five cuff "eyelet" on the ankle and upper cuff compared to the previous version pictured on the right below. Basically 4 eyelets where there were only 2. before. And they are all better positioned and more comfortable on my skinny ankles and shin.
The previous picture is the newest Batura. In the picture above compare how the lock lace has been moved down, another lace eyelet added above it. The metal speed lace on the original Batura have been replaced with a lower profile and less intrusive fabric "eyelets". The actual lock lace eyelet is lower profile and way less likely to bite my (your?) ankle in use. As the previous one did occasionally on my foot.
You might wonder why, if I like the Scarpa Ultra and the Scarpa Guide so much, why would I bother playing the Batura again. Easy answer. The first being, crampon fit.
Yes you can get a crampon to fit the Guide but it takes some effort. The Ultra and 6000 take more than a little effort and some serious desire with a bit of trickery thrown in to get a perfect fit. The Batura has a more rigid sole that the Scarpa Phantom boots....any of the Phantom boots. Another major advantage on steep ice. From my experience with both brands of boots I also prefer the gaiter on the Batura. That is not an opinion easy to come by. The Batura gaiter seems to breath better in really cold conditions and is easier on the back of your calf and Achilles tendon once tightened. The Batura cuff is ergonomically better cut for Achilles tendon relief. Seemingly trivial but I also find the Batura gaiter easier to tuck my pants into instead of using a pant leg over them as a gaiter. Not so trivial if you want a smaller profile on yo r lower leg. And lastly the reinforced toe box on the past Batura seems much more durable and reliable than the Scarpa toe box. The Scarpa Guide toe box is rapidly gaining a reputation for collapsing on water ice from the pounding they take.
Tucking your pants into the Phantom line almost guarantees wet feet as the tight elastic gaiter stops evaporation from the boots cuffs. For me the condensation and freezing only gets worse in really cold weather.
By the numbers you can see the Batura is 99g or 3.5 oz heavier per boot than the Scarpa Guide. More than a fair trade for a slightly stiffer boot sole, toe box and a softer cuff if they fit your feet. 3.5 oz heavier than the Scarpa Guide or 7oz heavier per pair. As I mentioned the volume is slightly larger than the Guide. And the boot is a bit heavier (115g or 4.2oz) than the 1st generation design. I would expect the Batura to be a slightly warmer boot than the Scarpa Guide simply by volume alone.
What I am looking at is over all weight and thickness of the mid sole on the La Sportivas as a comparison.. "MIDSOLE: 8-9mm "
By the numbers?
TRANGO EXTREME GORETEX
WEIGHT: 35oz- 992g - Gore-Tex® Insulated Comfort Footwear INSOLE: 9mm insulating Ibi-Thermo MIDSOLE: 6-7mm HP3 SOLE: Vibram® Lavaredo (Sticky Supertrek Rubber)
WEIGHT: 42oz 1205g - leather with high-abrasion resistant fabric/ Vibram® rubber rands LINING: Gore-Tex® Insulated Comfort Footwear INSOLE: Insulating Ibi-Thermo 9mm MIDSOLE: 8-9mm TPU/ PU inserts/ SBR Aircushionion resistant fabric/ Vibram® rubber rands LINING: Gore-Tex® Insulated Comfort Footwear INSOLE: Insulating Ibi-Thermo 9mm MIDSOLE: 8-9mm TPU/ PU inserts/ SBR Aircushion SOLE: Vibram® with Impact Brake System
WEIGHT: 39oz 1106g - Elastic Corduraynamic™ with water repellant membrane UPPER: High tenacity nylon/ Insulated anti-dragging felt/ Insulated PE/ Insulating aluminum layer LINING: Polyamide Thermic layer/ Mesh INSOLE: Insulating Ibi-Thermo 9mm MIDSOLE: 8-9mm TPU/ PU Inserts/ SBR Aircushion SOLE: 8-9mm TPU/ PU Inserts/ SBR Aircushion
The real numbers on weight?
La Sportiva Batura original version 2#7oz / 39oz, 1105g
La Sportiva Batura 2nd gen 2#11/ 43oz 1219gm
La Sportiva Nepal Evo 2#10.5oz / 42.5oz/ 1205g
La Sportiva Trango Evo Extreme GTX 2#3oz (35oz) / 992g
SCARPA Phantom ULTRA new 2010 model 2#3.5oz (35.5oz) 1006g
SCARPA Phantom GUIDE new 2010 model 2#7.5oz (39.5oz) 1120g
The Batura is going on 5 years old this winter. That is a long time to leave any technical boot in today's market place unchanged. Obviously La Sportiva has sold thousands of them world wide. That isn't luck. The Batura is a good boot...just not yet a great boot. It is a good step closer though imo. But I'm glad La Sportiva is still invested in the idea and continues to improve upon it. The technology and basic design have huge potential.
Here is some of what I have learned in those 5 years on the Batura. The old zipper wasn't very reliable and certainly wasn't water proof. Both of those issues the new water resistant YKK zipper should have solved. The original Batura had a reputation of "eating your feet". Foot cramps were a common complaint. I suspect that was because of the fairly rigid sole, not enough rocker (although La Sportiva did try on the rocker) and the really soft ankles. The soft ankle will let us walk a long ways in some pretty stiff soled boots. I suspect the soft ankle is making your foot do things it normally would not be doing. My theory anyway. Lots of ankle flex and a virtually rigid sole makes a great mixed boot. But if La Sportiva would only add a little additional ankle support, you would have have a great alpine boot as well with little loss on hard mixed.
The Batura excels in this kind of mixed terrain.
photo courtesy of Daniel Harro
If the mixed is going to be very difficult (as in modern mixed and bolts) most will have a fruit boot or a lighter pair of mtn boots like the Trango Extreme on anyway.
Durability is always an issue with fabric boots. La Sportiva 's Batura answer for crampon durability, lots of heavy rubber reinforcement on the fabric at the instep of the boots.
For what ever reason, four of us stopped using the Batura after the onset of some serious foot issues last fall. Which happened to co inside with the NA release of the new Scarpa Guides, thankfully. Used Batura were turning up in numbers on Ebay. The foot issues were not something any of us had ever experienced before. Neuromas and bone spurs were common with this boot on my and other Batura owner's feet. I have not had the same issue with the Scarpas. My foot issues have almost totally disappeared while climbing in the Scarpa Ultras. May be it is just the better insole that Scarpa provides but I would hate to think it was something that simple. Insoles are easy to replace.
I am not a biomechanical kinesiologist. But my guess is the extra flexibility of the mid sole and the added ankle support
of the Scarpa Guide and Ultra is what saves your feet. Again only my guess here but something is defiantly happening with these only slightly different combos of stiffness, sole rocker and support
between the Scarpa boots and the La Sportiva boots. The flex in the Scarpa sole allows your foot to more in a more natural way when walking. I suspect the extra support in the ankle limits the stress on the foot as well. Down side to that is I would rather climb on a rigid sole for ice and alpine. I don't have huge concerns on how well a climbing boot "walks". With any 45/46 size boot all have a little flex. Some just less than others.
The new Batura has substantially more rocker in the sole than the original version. I noticed it immediately in the few few steps I took once in the boots.
While my photos with the yard stick shows 1 1/8" for rocker on the Batura and 1 1/ 4"on the Scarpa Ultra, the soles are enough different that the extra 1/4" of rocker and how I measured it is questionable. But even then that is only 1/16" per foot. The Batura actually feels like it has more rocker than the Ultra. All the while the Batura is stiffer in the sole by a good bit and about the same now compared to the Scarpa Guides for ankle support.
Batura shows 1 1/8" rocker.
Ultra shows 1 1/4" rocker.
Scarpa Ultra, super thin (and light weight) lugs on the left, the Batura with full depth lugs on the right.
Scarpa Ultra's uber sticky and low profile Vibram® MULAZ sole on the left. On the right the Batura's
IBS is a sole born from the collaboration between La Sportiva and Vibram. The sole presents a new treading system, the IBS or Impact Brake System
which was designed by La Sportiva and developed by Vibram to reduce impact on hard terrain. I am thinking, a lwt weight and super sticky rubber may have been a better answer :)
The old plastic Kolfach Ultras double boots were totally rigid boots with a good amount of rocker built into the sole and some reasonable ankle support front to back. I spent some time in my old Koflachs recently just as a comparison. I have walked may miles in those boots and never had foot issues. Shin bang...sure. But my feet were generally happy. The Kolflachs climbed rock and ice well enough. And we all like "happy feet".
The next couple of months of climbing should give me an idea if any of the internal changes have made the Batura a more comfortable boot on my feet. But I already know they are a much better boot for me than the previous generation. Have to say I am pretty stoked at the end result. The test will be my opinion 90 days from now. I'll report back my findings here.. But so cool to have multiple pairs of perfectly fitting crampons again!
More details of the Batura and a Scarpa Ultras as a comparison. What you don't get from the pictures is the obvious better build quality of the La Sportiva. Which to be honest, surprised me.
The toe's sole profile is the reason crampons fit the Batura so much better than the Ultra.