Monday, 22 February 2016

Salewa Raven Boots: A Review

Introduction
Weighing around the same as their competitors, but quite a bit cheaper, the Salewa Raven Mountain B2 boots are designed by Salewa for:
High mountain
Snow/Ice
Rocky/Technical Path
Mud/Grass
Mixed Mountain Terrain
I bought the boots around 18 months ago and have used them on a variety of terrain. The following is my review based on that use.

Features
Salewa advertise their Raven boots as weighing 800g, but quote this weight for all sizes, which is very hard to believe. My boots are a UK size 9.5 and with the supplied insoles swapped for Grangers G20 insoles. The G20s add very little extra weight, a few grams. My boots come out at an average of 875g (about 1lb 14.9 oz). Not far off the Salewa quote, but nearly an extra 150g for the pair. But that aside, they are still very light, considering their rugged construction.
Working from the ground up; the out-sole on the Ravens is a Vibram New Mulaz, a pretty standard issue out-sole for this boot type.
The mid sole is stiff, made from nylon plus 27% fibreglass which should offer good edging stability. There is also a TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane) welt at the heel for semi-automatic crampons (C2).
The Upper is a PU (polyurethane) coated leather that is highly wear resistant. This has a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort liner and a 360 degree rubber rand. But there is no insulation, so temperature could be an issue.
The lacing system has three zones at the forefoot, mid-foot and cuff. This is intended to allow you to fine tune the fit of the boot based on these three isolated zones. There is also a 3F System intended to optimise heel and ankle support.
The cuff uses Salewa’s 3F System Evo that is supposed to provide flexible but yet be supportive. The rear of the cuff is made of a neoprene gaiter to prevent the ingress of small stones and snow.

In Use (walking)

The Raven’s are very good for walking in. They are fairly light, particularly for the type of boot they are and quite broad fitting. But the broad fit has a negative when it comes to climbing. The toe box, besides being broad, is quite deep and boxy and allows for plenty of toe wiggle room, so helps to keep my feet warm.
The easy walking is aided by a fairly well curved rocker shape to the sole, making walking in the Raven’s less clumpy than many B2 boots. But this rocker shape comes with potential issues, although walking several miles on paths is no problem for these boots. My walks tend to be around 8 miles and I have no problem doing that distance in these boots.
Walking on rocky paths is less of a problem in the Ravens than something like my Salewa Mountain Trainers. The Mountain Trainers I find can roll quite easily, causing ankle pain and discomfort. The Ravens are very much comparable to the Salomon Cosmics and their 4D Chassis.
The Gore-Tex lining as not let me down as of yet. I have gone through streams, muddy fields and water logged Welsh hillsides and still I have had dry feet.
Wearing good quality warm mountain socks I have yet to have cold feet when walking, even stood in -3C degrees with a strong wind.



In Use (scrambling)
Scrambling and easy climbing in the Ravens is confidence inspiring. The out-sole grips well on rock and has gripped rock at angles I would not have expected, making smearing fun.

The solid mid-sole makes edging quite easy but for one thing; the broad toe box can make using the toe area a little less intuitive with less feedback than I get with my Salewa Mountain Trainers. In particular, jamming toes into cracks is restrictive as the useable cracks are broader than those you could utilize with the Mountain Trainers or for sure the La Sportiva Trangos.

In Use (with crampons)
There is a slight issue for the Raven boots when it comes to fitting C2 Crampons due to that really good rocker that makes walking so pleasant. Because of the curve of the sole the front of the crampons stand around 1-1.5cm away from the sole bottom. I didn't find any issue with this during a week of use, maybe because of how stiff the mid-sole is on the Ravens, but it may be a concern to some.
However, my own C1 crampons fit perfectly well due to having a flexible centre bar.
To round up
Pros:
  • Very comfortable, on walk-ins and when scrambling over rocks.
  • Waterproof
  • Breath well, no sweaty feet even when temps around 20 C
  • Rugged so far
  • Lacing zones very helpful
  • Out-sole very grippy
  • Stiff B2 sole makes edging and smearing very good
  • C1 crampons (Grivel Monta Rosa) fit well
  • Warm enough for Welsh Winter
Cons:
  • Lower lace holes and lace locks a little too small making it difficult when removing laces for cleaning or replacement.
  • Too box bulkier than similar boots (e.g. La Sportiva Trango), but fits my wide feet very well as a result.
  • Not so pointy in narrow cracks due to wide toe box
  • C2 crampons do not fit 100% at the front due to rocker
  • Possibly not warm enough for Scottish Winter