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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, November 15, 2013

La Sportiva Spectre! One boot to rule all?

Much more to come on my impressions of this boot.  I didn't intend this to become a full blown review.  But if you are looking for a easy walking and "stiff ski " boot you'll want to check this new guy out.  The Spectre is stiff as 110+/- flex rating.  Think Scarpa RS here for flex.   All buckled up tight I'd say 110+ but a very progressive flex on the plus side.  The farther you go forward the stiffer the boot.  No on and off here.  Which I really like.  Easily the stiffest and most progressive boot I have had on, ever.  High and supportive with a lovely single latch walk mode...that is simply (no chit) impressive.  Quality of both the inner boot and the buckle system shines through.  Although it may take a bit of time to really appreciate the buckle system.  They are worth the effort to figure out.  Fair warning there how ever :) 

La Sportiva Spectre!  One boot to rule all?  May be.....just may be.

BSL?   Same as all my 28 shells 314mm thankfully!

Weight?   Take a look...amazing for the boot you are getting IMO!

all 28 shells...all insoles on my postal scale
Spectre                1480g
Maestrale RS       1590g
TLT6                   1354g
ONE                    1580g
Vulcan                 1730g

Price?   The real shocker to me!

Spectre 1480g              $600
Maestrale RS 1590g    $700
TLT6 1354g               $1000
ONE 1580g                  $650
Vulcan 1730g            $1000

More on price?
"$600 sure makes Dynafit pricing look off."

"Seriously, I have to wonder if it isn't a marketing ploy by La Sportiva to snatch up some market share here in NA. The pricing I'd bet will turn the market upside down when you make a direct comparison of any of the usual suspects, boot to boot."

To the point?
"Seems that you in NA are getting a good price on this boot. In the UK I can find it for £500. If you convert the USA price of USD 599 to GBP at today's rate it is £375."    $800 plus would indeed seem a more typical for a boot easily in the Mercury and RS range of performance and likely much better imo than either to date."

La Sportiva sez:
"The boots have a 120-flex rating with three adjustable forward lean angles of 10, 14, and 18 degrees. A polyurethane innersole mitigates conductive heat loss through the sole and the dual density EZ Thermo liner can be custom molded to provide exceptional comfort and warmth."

2014 Backcountry Magazine Gear Guide sez:
The Spectre “won over testers in nearly every category earning especially high marks for ergonomics and touring prowess. The ‘very functional’ macro- and micro-adjustable Pegasus™ buckles, testers felt, were sleek and streamlined.   Its EZ Flex™ tongue allowed for 60 degrees of fore/aft range in walk mode without forcing testers to unbuckle.” The boot was also noted for being “unmatched in walk mode.

I don't generally give a lot of credence to "gear guides"   My opinion is Backcountry gave this boot an Editor's Choice award for good reason.  Unmatched in walk mode?  Not so easy to say or define actually, as much as we'd like it to me.  The Spectre is easier to get into and use in walk mode than anything available currently.  That is for sure.  Hardly better in use....if you ski a TLT6.  But the walk mode on the Spectre is really very impressive.  Just different all in good ways from a TLT6.  Not as much of that 60 degrees going a comparison to a TLT6 or ONE.  The same flex ROM required skinning on moderate ground.    May be not the full 60 degrees if the TLT is 60.   But plenty of  range of  motion on this boot  Spectre is the easiest boot to use in walk mode by far.  Cleanest profile in walk mode?  The most compact "ski" boot with a decent walk mode?  Sure!  I will give all that to the Spectre!

If this boot holds together for a season or two I'd say La Sportiva just changed the dynamics of alpine touring both in performance and at the price point.  No reason to think they won't hold together!  Can they actually hold that price point for a season or two?  My guess is this will be the boot that takes a big leap for ski boot performance in the back country.  Not for everyone mind you.  Buckle it tight and you have a reasonably stiff, high performance boot for tech or plate bindings.  Rubber sole and better than decent walk mode.  Spectre was done better by a fair margin than anything I am currently skiing in.  Kinda a shocker, that.   It may take a bit of work to get them to fit me as well as I like but it doesn't seem like that will be a big hassle either.  The resulting scramble within the Industry to better this boot for weight, performance and may be most importantly, for the price, will be entertaining!  No one else even in the ball game at the moment IMO for this over all level of performance.  

I wasn't expecting much having seen the Spectra at the OR shows and skiing some of the best boots available now for a couple of seasons.  Frankly I am pretty blown away by the Spectre.  But don't be turned off by your first impression getting into a pair :=)   Some fun new technology in this boot worth wrapping your head and a heat gun around I think.

Two the buckles. Don't try this boot on if you are in a hurry. Buckles are very cool, technical and effective IMO. But they take a minute or two (took me 5) to figure out.  The answer?  Be gentle.   The second, Fit? I have narrow heels, long feet, medium for-foot. First try, the boot pinched the chit out of the top of my instep. It was painful. Once my foot was in the boot, tongue adjusted correctly, they fit reasonably well.   Liner un-baked as of yet .  Big, thick liner that I have no doubt will mold up exceptionally well. A liner I like and had a good deal of experience with previous.   Freakin home run for La Sportiva!  Oh, and crampons fit them ;-)

Adding to this as I work on shell fit tonight and have a conversation at TGR all at the same time.

FWIW..I don't have a high instep. But this boot bit me some in the instep, on first go and playing with it more this evening. Took all of 5 minutes per boot with a heat gun, a big aluminum coffee mug and a pair of gloves to solve that problem.  Although it might take one more session to get it perfect.  I'll mold the liners before I work on the shell again.  The shell is really, really easy to mold/move around. I'm no boot fitter by any means and found it surprising easy to work on this shell for what I required. And I suspect most will require the same. It is a wider boot in the for-foot than the TLT and the ONE/Mercury/Vulcan.    Close enough to the Maestrale to be a clone I think.  Heel is plenty snug on me.  And I have a very narrow heel.

Prior to opening up the shell @ top of the foot, tight two fingers and crushed hand.  Almost painful fit where I have never had a problem in any ski boot, ever.

Five minutes with a heat gun,  The end result is room for a rather open hand and 3 plus fingers easily for width.  No more foot pain the bonus of an easy shell/material to modify.

The overly tight shell on the instep alone would have stopped me from making an in store purchase.  And that would have been a mistake on my part.

With un-molded liners this boot is already the best fitting boot I own.

I have a very good over all fit actually because of the easy adjustment of the buckle system and high quality of the inner boot.  The shell last is different internally for size and volume compared to everything else I own.  For my size 28 feet this is one of the best fitting shells yet.   I expect the fit to only gets better as I heat mold the inner.  Prior ot molding the inner boot it feels as much like a La Sportiva double boot as it does a typical AT ski boot. 

Are you selling this boot?  Pity the poor bastards trying to sell and fit these boots. The shell crush on top of the instep is going to be a PIA for just about anyone until the shell is remolded. You want to move this boot out the door and make ski peeps happy?  If I had a shop selling this boot I would fix the instep even prior to ever letting a customer try them on. 

I had first thought of taking up some for-foot volume with a shim.   A shim kit is included with the boot as is a better than average insole.  Turns out it wasn't required with my full length insoles. 

"The attention to detail and amount of thought that went into them is pretty apparent."

Agreed. What is really apparent to me is how La Sportiva really went to school on Dynafit's and Scarpa's previous dime/efforts here.   Better than average walk mode? check. Lwt weight? check. High performance ski boot? check. Really nice liner? check. Freakin amazing buckles? check!   Think RS with less weight, easier to walk in and IMO more boot.  Or a TLT6 that you would dare take as an every day lift serviced boot.  A delightfully more progressive flex that either.  Wider last up front than the Dynafits.  On par with the Maestrale's last .   Durability might be a question yet un-answered. Molding the shell with such ease tonight made that a question that will need answering eventually.

I am as curious as anyone now to hear how they hold up for real chargers and hucking chit. At under 1500g per boot it might just be "race parts".    What are "race parts"?  Go fast parts, until they fail/break in use.  Speaking of parts?  Really want a stiffer boot?  This should be a easy fix on this boot.  Just replace the tongue with something (almost anything will likely do it) stiffer.  More like a Full Tilt/ Flexon design here.  I'd bet a pair of Dynafit Mercury tongues would work in these with only a little bit of effort. I'll have to check! 

Other reviews?
Be sure  the reviews you read on line for this boot are the current production 2013/'14 model Spectre.  Earlier pre production samples that were passed around until recently were a lot softer version of the  current Spectre. 

Some other comparisons..

In general TGR sez the Freedom SL is slightly stiffer than the Maestrale RS. Better walk mode on the RS and a better ski boot in the SL. That sound about right?

I skied the RS all last winter. Didn't buy the orange Maestrale first year out because I thought it too soft. Still ski a TLT P in the 5 or now 6 version more than any other boot.

I was pretty stoked when the Spectre showed up. By late the first night I was second guessing myself while fitting the shell. Playing with my trusted Maestrale RS at the same time. 2nd guessing my own opinions again the next day as I we molded my liners.   While in the shop a couple of us tried on and carpet tested the Freedom SL and the Spectre  side by side. Both of us surprised at the mutual consensus.

No question all three boots discussed are excellent  for their intended purpose. Most boots are very good these flies on any of them. Getting them to fit perfectly is the only real issue at some point.

I have a few boots...all of them different. None bad. All ski well. As Lee has said before..."I can only ski so many boots!" Crystal is open. Time to put carpet theory to the test.

More data points/ on snow impressions:

Skied a couple of hours in the Spectra doing a TLT6 side by side comparison.   Of my current closet the TLT6 is likely the most easily comparable boot. Found the Spectre easy to over tighten. Buckle system allows that.  Buckles now a non issue getting in and out of the boot.   Rock shoe tight with little effort. It is a stiff boot tightly buckled.    Re-buckle it one hole down on every strap and run them a bit loose? Still a very good/snug fit on the inner/shell and warmer feet the bonus. Buckled up tight at similar tension levels it is noticeably stiffer than my TLT6 with a black tongue. Loosen up the buckles and it is still a very progress flex but noticeably softer than a TLT6 with a black tongue. The shell's last and inner boot seem to have a mtn boot heritage (a good thing for me) for my foot's fit. Quickly obvious what boot actually works better for my foot's shape.  Of my 6 pair of current production ski boots, all heat molded, the Spectre is the best fitting ski boot I currently own.  The highest performance ski boot I currently own.  Again surprised.

Walk mode is easily ignored it seems natural.  Like every boot should be...but no others are.

Only ski boot shell I have been required to reform.  A punch on one foot may be next.  So far all very easy to do.

Weird nuances to this boot and lots of adjustment. Flex change caught me off guard. Kinda reminds me of the old Salmon SX91 lever to change flex. Had to stop and actually look at what I had done to recognise the full effect of a loose buckles/tight buckles. But easy enough to feel! Ankle cant, tongue positioner, forward lean adj, calf wedge and the buckle system of course are going to take me some time to get dialed.

More here recently:

Feb 3, script :

...after weeks of of skiing on the Spectre now I am still not sure where I want to use this boot. Unusual for me.

I get a good fit, like the quality and fit of the inner boot and like the progressive flex of the shell. Don't like how much the boot's flex changes from really soft (too soft and I like a soft boot) to moderately stiff + depending on how I buckle them up and how tight. To get them "stiff enough" it get uncomfortable even on my skiing legs. Walk mode is so easy to use. It becomes a wonderful climbing/skinning boot. I want to really like this boot. But the TLT skis the same every time out just with one buckle and one position. Hard to fault the TLT any where. Hard to sort out the Spectre for day in and day out use.

Annoying too in that the tech inserts are not Dynafit. All the boot factories/brands should just get over it and buy the Dynafit inserts. Everything else I have use that isn't...isn't even 2nd best.

I found the RS a easy choice as a Ski boot. The TLT6 a ski or climbing boot that could still use a better inner boot. The Spectre long term has just confused me. It will do anything...but it is so finicky to get sorted, I get frustrated.

I know how tight I can buckle this boot in my living room and how stiff the boot is as a result.  But I don't want to ski with the boot buckled that tight as it is simply not comfortable for me.  The resulting flex of the boot for and aft then is not as stiff as I would like it to be.  

I still think the Spectre is THE  incredible value  in AT boots currently.  Great walk mode and climbs really well in crampons.  But as an all around ski boot it comes up lacking some compared to the RS and the TLT6P.   Mind you I ma being very critical here and it is a very personal opinion.  But the boot that fits your feet first...the rest is easy enough to sort out.

I ma hoping La Sportiva will offer a stiff version of the Spectre tongue sooner than later.  Then we'd have a more competitive horse race! 


Anonymous said...

Got the Vulcan weight right?

Dane said...

just dbl checked...yes it is right. 1730g

Anonymous said...

I just assumed that unbuckling the top two buckles in tour mode went with the territory for boots like the Spectre but the full range of motion did seem like it was available with just a flip of the lever when I tried them on. Impressive.

Other than comfort, is there really no advantage to unbuckling when it comes to touring or would unbuckling bring it closer still to the TLT6?

Dane said...

Weird buckles as you probably noticed. Seems to me that unlatching them (mid tow anyway)gives you a much bigger freedom of movemenrt may be not any more ROM. I ahev not triedplaying wiht the strap or upper buckle. Might be a lot more there for ROM. I really need to play with them some to comment more.

Ian said...

I finally fitted my pair. I have a low volume C width foot with narrow heals, medium arches, high instep, and my first three toes are the same length. We (the boot fitter) did a mild 6th toe punch to keep my instep from getting taller, and then relieved/opened the instep. The liner is very thick so heat molding them helped significantly. I was actually surprised how thick the liner was. The buckles are no longer maxed out and I can now actually use some of the adjustment in the cuff.

Anonymous said...

I got a pair of 2013-2014 Vulcan size 28, and one of the first things I noticed is that for 2014, the Vulcan comes with removable forward flex stops. They are bolted in with hex screws attached to the carbon cuff. Prior to this year, the Vulcan did not have these stops. The stops hinder forward range of motion in walk mode a bit, but I think they are an overall positive thing.

The Mercury apparently has molded in stops to make up for the lack of overall stiffness compared to the Vulcan. This made the Mercury almost as stiff as the old Vulcan. These new stops on the Vulcan completely eliminate for me the consideration of using the Vulcan tongues.

My size 28 Vulcans came in at about 1730g per boot as well. I have removed the front buckle and buckle strap, the tongue, the booster strap, and I have replaced the stock liner with an Intuition Pro Tongue. With the Pro Tongue liner and the flex stops but no tongue, the boot seems every bit as stiff as the Vulcan+tongue from last year.

With these mods, my boots are now 1500g on the dot. I maybe could have approached 1450g if I had opted for one of Intuition's lighter liners.

Kai said...

Been ice climbing in them yet? How would these perform as a winter alpine boot, particularly on climbs where you're skiing on the approach and descent?

Dane said...

I have not Kai. But it is the first boot that has tempted me to leave my TLT6 at home. If I had to choose and could only use one boot? Skiing a priority? It would be a tough choice. If the priority was climbing I'd stick to the TLT6 but skiing really important...Spectre is a pretty slick package. Fits crampons well and easily a good enough walk mode to take them climbing. If you wanted to you could even pull off the lower buckles (bolt on/off) to climb in them for a cleaner profile. Ony need to add some duct tape on the holes. I have yet to even think about climbing in them....but some really fun options on the Spectre!! I might have to try that sooner than later ;-)

jimkusa said...

Re: stiffer tongues in the Spectre:
Just for grins I slid a pair of TLT tongues under the ez-flex tongues of the Spectre and the stiffness went postal. Like Vulcans with tongues.
Like you I was tempted to heat spread the shell instep, but waited until after moulding the liners and discovered it wasn't needed. I'm a 27.5 and removing the front buckles dropped the weight down to 1385g per.
Great write up. I was/am a TLT fanatic too. These black beauties really rock.

Dane said...

Thanks Jim. Been wanting to pull the lower two buckles, add duct tape and climb in them :) Skiing has been good in them for me on 110+ skis.

mark said...

Dane I noticed you set these boots in what looked like Marker tour AT bindings I have read on other blogs that there is difficulty fitting these boots in the tour binding Was I correct in identifying those bindings and did you have that difficulty?

Dane said...

Hi Mark, Not me. I am only useing Dynafit bindings. The Spectra are on either Radical Speeds or Speed Superlights. Pin holes on the boots are a little off compared to my Dynafit boots but nothing you would really notice on the hill. FWIW some frinds in Chamonix are o nthe Spectre as well and sending me rave reviews for both free skiing and climbing. Shoot, score!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your timely response I was referring to the video insert on your blog i thought you were its author. I want to get these boots to begin making the move to BC skiing but I have seen some that have said it is nmot very compatible with the marker tour.

Dane said...

Thanks. I wonderred where the idea came from. I do know the boot's designer, Colin Lantz @ la Sportiva. He assures me dispite the rumors the Spectre will work with any of the plate bindings including Marker.

Anonymous said...

would it be any good for freeriding with fat K2 obsethed ski's with marker binding's? as i also want to do some turing and climbing ?

Dane said...

Sure...But not sure why you'd use the heavy Markers. Guess it makes sense with the heavier yet Obsethed. Good as the Spectre is for skiing I am getting word from Chamonix that it is a great climbing boot as well. I have yet to climb in them.

Unknown said...

I've always wondered why velcro power straps have lasted in the market? Mine have always loosened up over the day, so I convert to the "Booster" elastic strap with a positive cinch buckle. Thoughts?

Dane said...

I've not seen Velcro loosen up. I have seen it wear out. I use a Voile rubber strap on some of my boots (PDG/TLT) as a quick and easy booster strap if I want a little more support. Cinch buckles are nice and certainly make sense to me.

Travis said...

Just bought some Spectres, at first I was unsure about the fit. Then I went to Marmot Mtn. in Bellevue and tried on the Dynafit Vulcan and Scarpa Maestrale RS, when I came home I tried on the Spectre again and in comparison it fit great. Looking forward to taking them out this week as we are looking to finally get some serious snow here in the PNW.

Dee said...

Can anyone help me please. I have purchased a pair of these boots in size 28.5. I am trying to find out what length the soles are in size 28.5. I am away from home at the moment and want to find out if the Grivel Tech light crampons with standard central bars will fit my boots. The problem I am having is I am away from home at the moment. I arrive back on a Saturday night and head off on a 4 day ski tour on Sunday morning. If I can find out the sole length of size 28.5 then I can work out if I need to order via the internet the longer bars. Odd request I know but if you know the sole lenght that would be of great help for me. Thanks a million. Dee.

Dane said...

28.5 has a BSL of 314mm. My grivel crampons (haute route and G20) fit very weell with standard bars.

sdizzle said...

Hey Dane huge fan of the blog. Just got a pair of spectres and super stoked coming from a pair of Clinton administration scarpa lazers. Can already tell I will need to mold the shell for all day instep comfort, what did you use with the heat gun? I was thinking shoving a wider beer bottle down there to open it up after the heat gun treatmen, but just wanted to make sure I didnt screw it up. Thoughts?

Dane said...

Beer bottle is good. Wine bottle has more leverage :) Use it with the heat gun. Easy to get it all done that way.

Brad said...

Hi Dane,

Thanks for the comprehensive review, and clearly the updates over the season. I was wondering if you had any comment on the durability of the boot now that you've hit the end of the season. In particular how did the bellows in the tongue and the flex area in the liner hold up after some skinning? Thanks,


Dane said...

Hi Brad, Didn't ski as much as I could have in the Spectra. But what I did there were zero durability issues. Climbed in them as much or more than skiing and nothing broke. Love the walk mode. But have used the Spectre liner in all my boots (including right now with a TLT6 in Las Lenas) and will again this winter in my TLT6 and Mercury. I really, really like how they fit and will buy a new pair to use in everything once they are available from La Sportiva NA. I have over 100 days on this liner including a comfy 6 day trip on the Haute Route in them. And still a solid liner for my own use bot lift served and human powered. I have a lot of liners and could use any other inner boot option made. For me the Spectre liner is super solid. Reason enough IMO to buy the entire boot.

Curtis said...

I know heavier tech bindings are really not your style but I would love to hear what you have to say about the Scarpa Spirit RS and the seemingly innovative Trab TR2 bindings if you ever get your hands on them. Also, for comparison, have you ever climbed in the Scarpa Spirits, like the 3's or 4's or have any insight into how you think they would handle? I'm sure they would climb similarly to this new RS.


Dane said...

Sorry Curtis, zero interest on my part in either. I have skied the Maestrale RS a good bit. Really nice boot. But neither fish or foul for my own use. Hopefully you have seen Lou's review already:

Anthony said...

Hi dane, you've helped me dial in fit very well on other boots, thought I'd ask about this one. I have a 45 in rebel ultras and phantom 6000s. My foot measures just under 10.5 us but is very wide, i usually size up to accommodate the width but in some shoes go as low as a 43.5. I normally see that you are about a half size larger than I am in most postings. But this post you say you have a sz 28 shell for the spectre. I have an decent out of box fit on some f1 evos on a 29.5 that have a BSL of 314 with ample toe room and a "relaxed" fit. I see the BSL of the spectre in a 28 is also 314. I'll no doubt have to punch it, but do you think ill be fine in length? Thanks for all you do!

Dane said...

Wow! Good on ya! I couldn't get a F1 Evo to fit me and I tried hard! It is a very cool boot. I am generally a 28 in a performance fit ski boot. I'd guess the 28 Spectre will fit fine. Easy to punch on the sides for width as well. Good luck!