Climbers nearing the summit of Vinson Massif
In the world of high altitude mountaineering, your feet are an extremely valuable asset.
Part of caring for this asset means selecting the boot design that will serve you best. Companies have gone to great lengths to create a variety of boot technologies and options to maximize comfort and performance on the highest peaks of the world. This post is going to delve into a comparison of two specific boot styles: the high altitude double boot plus a neoprene overboot and the triple boot.
From a design and functionality standpoint, the main difference between the two boot types is the fact that the triple boot has an extra insulating layer, making it significantly warmer than the double boot. The double boot functions well up to a certain altitude, but when taking it on colder climbs the neoprene overboot can be added for additional warmth. It’s important to note that this combination does not provide the same level of warmth of a triple boot, and is not appropriate for certain higher altitude climbs.
Identifying your future mountaineering goals and aspirations is a great place to start when contemplating investing significant funds in a new piece of gear. While this is good practice from a goal setting, life planning, budgeting standpoint, it is especially helpful in making sure that the items you invest in will serve you well on as many of your future trips as possible. Read on to see if either of these descriptions resonate with you:
High Flyer: You are only happy when your head is not in the clouds, but above them. You thrive in austere environments, and your dream home is a snow cave. If you yearn to conquer Everest and its 8,000 m neighbors or you are enamored with the idea of trekking to great heights in extreme conditions on massifs like Vinson or Denali, the triple boot just may be the one for you. The maximum warmth that this boot provides means that your feet will be protected in the coldest of climates.
The Explorer: You can’t be put into a box. You want to have your cake, eat it, and maybe have a second helping, gosh darn it. If you want a boot that will take you to the top of Aconcagua, Chimborazo, or even an early or late season on Mount Rainier, but you would also jump at the opportunity to head north to Denali or south to Vinson, the versatile high altitude double boot plus neoprene overboot combo could be move for you.
As previously alluded to, another key difference between the two boot options is how often and in how many different scenarios they can be used.
High altitude double boots are warm enough in most conditions for most climbs up to 6,000 m. However, for higher peaks or climbs with more intense weather, the addition of the neoprene overboot will add the necessary insulation. Having a removable insulation layer can be quite nice; especially on Denali where huge temperature fluctuations are the norm.
Triple boots are not recommended for as many climbs because outside of proper conditions, they are simply too warm. As we learned from a previous post, sweaty feet can lead to unwanted friction, blisters, and a premature descent back to base camp. While less customizable, triple boots are still totally acceptable for Denali. Some people actually prefer having one boot for the entire expedition rather than having to deal with putting on and taking off the overboot as needed.
In order to save weight, triple boots are designed with outsoles that are lighter and less durable than their double boot counterparts. While this is not an issue for travel on snow or in crampons, it bears considering when choosing a boot for climbs such as Aconcagua that involve sustained travel over exposed rock. Rocky terrain will do a number on triple boot soles, while high altitude double boots are better able to handle those conditions.
Both triple boots and high-altitude double boots are compatible with semi-automatic and fully automatic crampons. However, when using a neoprene overboot with double boots, it can be very difficult and often frustrating to get a secure fit with automatic crampons. If you already own a pair of automatic crampons, don’t despair. Both Petzl and Grivel make interchangeable semi-automatic toe bails that can be swapped out as needed to get a more secure fit over your overboots.
A Note About Overboot Fitting
Suppose you decide that the double boot and overboot combination is the one for you. After finding a pair of double boots that you love, the next step is picking the appropriate overboot. A relatively niche item, it is likely that you will have to purchase a pair online. (If you are coming through or live in Seattle, you are more than welcome to come see us Monday-Friday 9-5 and check out our store in person!)
The fitting process is quite straightforward. Measure the length of the sole of your boot at its longest point from toe to heel. That length will coincide with an overboot size as listed in the product specifications. The fit should be snug so that you can have a secure fit when traveling in snowshoes or crampons, but you don’t want you overboot to be so tight that you are unable to fit your boot inside it!
Remember that, unlike LeBron James, you are not alone in this Decision! Our knowledgeable Operations Staff are happy to talk through your options with you and help you come to a conclusion that is good for you and your feet.