Scarpa SL M3 Hiking Boots

Post by blogger | July 27, 2007      

Yeah, I’m into leather. Boots, that is. For alpine and desert hiking nothing beats the durability, breathability and comfort of tough animal hide covering your feet. Sure, leather boots weigh a few more ounces than the latest synthetic marvels that they cook up in Italian chemistry labs and espresso shops. And leather doesn’t keep your feet dry like Gortex does if you’re spending days hiking through alpine monsoons. But leather works. To that end, I recently acquired a pair of mostly leather Scarpa SL M3, which they call their “premier backpacking boot.” I’m very happy with these zapatos, but of course everything at world HQ must be modified…

Scarpa SL M3 leather boots
Scarpa SL M3 leather hiking boots, an effective mix of old and new technology. And less black rubber over the toes, so reduced solar powered roasting of the tootsies!

Black Diamond Verdict backcountry ski
Ah yes, the mod! If you use your leather for the rough stuff (hiking, that is), exposed stitching can wear to the point of the boot coming apart. Solution is a protective layer of epoxy. I start this by cleaning the stitches with lacquer thinner, then add some tooth by quickly scuffing with a Scotchbrite. A bit of 5-minute epoxy and I’m done. Hint, the quick epoxy seems to cure better than using 1-hour, perhaps because it doesn’t have as much time to be contaminated by oils and solvents in the leather. WildSnow mod number 3,264 is complete, now my boots will endure.


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13 Responses to “Scarpa SL M3 Hiking Boots”

  1. Joel July 27th, 2007 9:43 am

    had no idea you were into the leather rough stuff. That’s great and all, but keep that to yourself from now on okay?

    2 questions:
    1. Your prep for the epoxy – roughing it up with a scotch bright pad and using lacquer thinner…..does that break the stiching down in any visually apparent way?
    2. I have some La Sportiva leathers that have goretex as well – freaking bombproof! Snow, streams, rocks…even wet, high pH concrete. You name it, these shoes have faced it and shined. I highly recommend the combination of leather and goretex.

  2. Lou July 27th, 2007 9:54 am

    Joel, I do the prep lightly, just a buff with the lacquer thinner on a rag and a quick pass with the Scotchbrite. Never had any problem with this. Since adhesives are used in modern boot construction, care with solvents is definitely in order!

    With older boots, just cleaning with water and drying is all the prep they need, unless they’ve been treated with boot oil or something.

    I’ve used the leather Gortex combos and they indeed keep your feet dry in wet conditions, but I didn’t think they breathed as well as pure leather, and my feet got really hot.

  3. Tony July 27th, 2007 12:45 pm

    I use Seamgrip instead of epoxy in that situation, and have had good luck.

  4. Mark July 27th, 2007 12:47 pm

    I heard from someone in the know at Garmont that yes, properly treated leather is more breatheable than Gore Tex. I also get hot feet, and with Gore Tex, the problem is multiplied.

  5. Terry July 29th, 2007 5:30 am

    Any insights as to the Scarpa Nepal versus the SL M3? Any other ‘lighter duty’ leather boot options worth considering?


  6. Terry July 29th, 2007 5:35 am

    I forgot to share that after a ten day trip, my feet in my goretex boots were the ripest I’ve ever had to endure. :-0 Would the ‘more breathability’ of leather make any real difference?

  7. Jerry Shustrin July 29th, 2007 3:34 pm

    Gotta love Scarpa! The old Fabiano Boot Company. Been wearing them since the days of Galibier Super Guides and Pivetta 8’s.

    Currently on my second pair of Cerro Torres, complete leather inc. inside liner made of soft leather. Little heavy but very solid boot.

    On my 3rd pair of ZG65’s, Goretex lightweight boot, have another in reserve. This with Yoursole soles.

    IMHO, the best non crampon lightweight but supportive footwear I’ve ever worn from Scarpa.

    Kudos to a company that really knows how to make quality!

  8. Nick Paul July 30th, 2007 12:18 am

    Greetings Lou
    Thanks for your advice on stitching. I have just acquired a pair of SLs (after years of saving!) to replace a pair of Berghaus leather Trails which have given 7 years of good service. I will be sure to adopt your solution to the problem of worn stitching. My only problem is that they take some breaking in – I have been walking around my my home town of Hexham for the past fortnight and they are certainly not ready for my next Lake District climb (High Style group) on Thursday. But all the best things are worth waiting for!

  9. Lou July 30th, 2007 7:31 am

    Terry, in my experience the non-Gortex boots breath much better and can be much more comfortable for many people. The way I look at it is this:

    It’s a sweltering hot day. You’re moving up a dry trail approaching a peak in Wyoming, the sun is beating down, even your cotton T-shirt feels hot. Would you wear a Gortex jacket in such a situation? If so, your Gortex boots probably would feel great. Otherwise…

  10. Joel July 30th, 2007 8:27 am

    I must have cool feet or something then. I have had moments when my feet were hot, but not much to write home about. I’ve been wearing my La Sportiva goretex/leathers for 11 years now and my dogs are happy rather than howling.

  11. Lou July 30th, 2007 8:37 am

    Joel, yep, I’m sure there are quite a few people out there for whom Gortex boots work fine — glad you’re one of them!

  12. Terry July 31st, 2007 3:09 pm

    I tried on the SLs (nice boots) for sizing and ordered two sizes of the Nepals for final fitting. I mentioned the epoxy on the stitches to the shop owner and he said he preferred using Stitch Guard as it is more pliable than epoxy. YMMV

  13. Lou July 31st, 2007 3:15 pm

    I like the epoxy because it’s incredibly tough. It does crack if it’s very thick, but that doesn’t seem to be a big deal. One can apply it as thin as possible and sand it down with care and it doesn’t crack as much. If the leather is in good shape and one takes good care of it, the cracked epoxy seems to have no effect on the leather.

    Those Nepals are nice too. Perhaps even better for some folks!

    Whatever the case, if you’re really using the boots protecting the stitching is important. Once it blows out it’s hard to fix.

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