La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX
$390, 3 lbs. 3 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 37-48/US 5-14
Traditional mountaineering boots are heavy, and we’ve all heard the maxim that every pound of weight on your feet is like five pounds on your back. That’s taxing when you’re climbing a big mountain—and that’s why I picked the Trango Cube GTX for a four-day, April snow climb of the Mountaineers Route on California’s Mount Whitney. On it, and other classic mountaineering routes in the western U.S. and elsewhere, you hike more than you “climb”—meaning that you’re striding normally (albeit often on snow) more than you’re employing French technique or kicking steps for ascending steeper snow in crampons. Due to their heft and stiffness, many mountaineering boots aren’t all that comfortable to walk in. But that’s exactly the kind of adventure where this boot shines.
The remarkably lightweight Trango Cube GTX falls as naturally into the role of trekking boot as the role of climbing boot—in fact, in some respects, it’s more of a heavy-duty trekking boot than a mountaineering boot. Of our four days climbing Whitney, two were spent on the approach hike and one day on the hike back down to the trailhead. These boots walked comfortably for hours a day on trail, dry rock, and low-angle snow. But when it came time for climbing, their lightness and slim profile proved advantageous for nimbly cramponing and scrambling up snow and rock ledges steeper than 40 degrees.
The Trango Cube GTX looks, feels, and performs like cutting-edge technology, beginning with its tough, seamless uppers made from waterproof, QB3 and Flex Tec2 fabrics and an injected-TPU lacing harness that’s one-third lighter than traditional lacing systems. The midsole blends more-durable PU at the toe and heel with softer EVA in the mid-foot. A TPU insert in the midsole provides the rigidity needed to hold a non-automatic, strap-on crampon—the only type of crampon this boot’s compatible with. Lacking a toe welt (or bail), the boot doesn’t hold “automatic”-style crampons used for ice climbing. The boot also pairs well with snowshoes. A full wrap-around rubber rand offers superb protection, while the Vibram One outsole, with its deep, widely spaced lugs and smoother tread under the toe for smearing, shed wet snow and gave me confident grip when scrambling steep rock ledges.
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On Whitney, we had sunshine every day mixed at times with strong, cold wind, and were on snow almost the entire four days. The Gore-Tex lining breathed well enough to keep my feet dry even through a hot afternoon descent in soft, wet snow—moisture didn’t penetrate from outside or build up inside. Stretch fabric in the tongue, collar, and behind the Achilles makes those areas more breathable; and part of the tongue is removable, to create more space or release heat when needed.
One caveat: These boots are best for temps not much below freezing. With no insulation beyond what’s provided by the soft foam padding around the ankle and in the tongue, my toes felt slightly cold for the first couple hours of summit day (and warmed up once the sun found us). That fact, and its limited crampon compatibility, means the Trango Cube GTX isn’t designed for technical alpinism or ice climbing.
But for many traditional mountaineering and glacier routes in temperatures not far below freezing—i.e., the numerous classic routes where you’re using one ice axe and sticking to moderate-angle snow and glaciers, from late spring into summer—La Sportiva’s Trango Cube GTX sets the standard for lightweight climbing boots.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX mountaineering boots at backcountry.com.
See all the mountaineering gear we used on Whitney’s Mountaineers Route in my “Review: Gear For Climbing Mount Whitney.”
See my “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots,” all of my reviews of backpacking boots and hiking shoes, and all of my reviews of backpacking gear and hiking gear.
See also my stories:
“My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips”
“10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier”
“7 Pro Tips For Avoiding Blisters”
“The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
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