There are hundreds of winter boots on the market, from crazy-light unlikely-looking beasts through to old skool massive leather numbers. This is a review of something nicely in the middle – read on for our AKU Serai GTX boots review!
The AKU Serai boot comes with all the trimmings – an upper Kevlar core and Primaloft thermal insulating lining, welded on top of a carbon fibre lasting board with honeycomb aluminium core. They’re compatible with automatic locking crampons say AKU – ie: B3 rated, so C3 crampons are go, and the real killer punch – weigh an impressive 840 grams each.
To put that in context, the excellent but standard-issue mountain stomper La Sportiva Nepal Evo pictured is 1012g per boot, while the previously ‘ultralight’ crown holder, the La Sportiva Trango Extreme Evo is 960g (these all in a size 42 Euro for reference). That 172/120 grams may not sound much out here on the internet, but in the hand and on the foot it’s significant – these AKU’s feel like trainers. Is that cheating? Perhaps it is, and while there are more extreme weight saving schemes afoot – just look at Scarpa’s Ribelle for example – this is one area technology should actually deliver – composite carbon and kevlar should make a stiffer, harder wearing boot than standard leather and EVA – right?
Well, yes and no. There are plenty of purists out there, who point to the lengthy life of a well-cared for pair of leather boots, and there is some truth to this – Gore-tex linings will fail after a few months of front-pointing, or even a season’s bog trotting, but without extensive care regimes the liners are pretty supreme for a few months/seasons depending on use.
The AKU Serai has an excellent waterproofing addition to the obligatory GoreTex lining, in the shape of a velcro ankle gaiter, which is excellent for keeping out light powder and general Scottishness without adding much weight, and the faff of full gaiters. The only criticism of this system is that the velcro cuff is a little short, so some velcro is always exposed to the spindrift, and it feels like it should be an inch or two bigger for gloved-donning ease. However, the shortness does make you pull it tighter, which is perhaps the idea.
There are some nice touches too, with lace pulleys on the lower section of the lacing system, which allows you to really perfect the tightness along the actual foot. Essential for front pointing exploits, and much easier to ‘lace down’ for the walk-in, ‘lace up’ for the climb when the laces run smoothly through the pulleys. Speaking of front pointing, the welts front and back here will see you right for most auto or semi auto crampons. We tried Petzl Lynx (C3) and Grivel G12 (C2) crampons on these, both of which fitted easily and cleanly. The chunky toe bail might cause problems with slimmer-fit front bails like the Grivel G22 crampon, for example, but needless to say it’s always best to check your specific crampon/boot combo works before leaving the house.
A critical question when buying ultralight mountain boots is the state of your calf muscles, and this can be quite an issue. In the pic up top you can see what we’re on about – the Sportiva Extreme Evos coming so low on the ankle, presumably to lose weight and allow more movement, but on long mountain days this will test your calf endurance considerable, and if you’re not up to scratch you’ll know it. The AKUs, in spite of being lighter than the Sportivas, have a much higher ankle support, and for those long days we find that pretty important. Worth trying on a few different pairs and making your own mind up. Note the brilliant glove-friendly loop at the rear, which is awesome when gearing up for alpine starts, and especially if you’re sitting down in a tent.
Overall the AKU Serai is an interesting boot at a particularly vibrant time in mountain boot design history. Just a couple of years ago this design and spec would be basically seen as witchcraft, but now it’s almost a traditional design, with admittedly a slightly techno edge, which we personally rather like. They’re light, stiff, comfortable in use and have some neat design touches as well as some highly practical ones to ‘boot’, if you’ll pardon the pun…
If this review isn’t sufficient, check out this particularly Italian video rundown of the AKU Serai on show last summer at the Outdoor Show – enjoy!