I bought these boots in mid 2011 and thought I’d write up a Scarpa SL M3 review to give you a quick summary for those interested in getting them. Note although they’ve been replaced by the ‘SL Activ’ they are virtually the same boot.
For anyone who knows anything about walking boots, the Scarpa SL M3’s are pretty legendary. At the time I bought them I was oblivious to this fact, and frankly the price and ‘serious’ look of the boots scared me a little! However, they were literally the only pair in the shop in my size (Go Outdoors – shame on you!) and so I tried them on.
To say the boots were in a different league to anything I had tried before is an understatement – they were a revelation! The boot was so solid and stiff, and yet comfier than a pair of slippers. The construction was also very impressive, with not a stitch out of place. So despite the cost (£160), I couldn’t see me being happy with anything else, so I made the purchase and looked forward to my first walk.
The first walk in the Scarpa SL M3’s
My first walk was rather ambitious in new boots. I made a trip to Edale to undertake a walk which I’ve done a number of times – up the Nab to Ringing Roger, across the top and back down via Grindslow Knoll.
First of all, and to point out a rather obvious fact, the Scarpa SL M3’s are hill and mountain boots. This means the construction is solid, thick and as a result, heavy. This made the walk on the road from the car park at the bottom of Edale, to the start of the Pennine Way just beyond the Nags Head, difficult. By the end of this short stretch, the fronts of my lower leg muscles were aching. These boots are not meant for tarmac, and it took a while for my legs to adjust – so if you will be undertaking any length of tarmac walking in these boots, I’d have a trial run first to allow your muscles to adjust.
Once off the road, the characteristics of the boot changed – they became much easier to walk in, and gave me a great deal of confidence in the icy conditions – even up the part rocky climb up the Nab, I didn’t slip once, with the Vibram M3 providing much reassurance. Further on in the walk, the ice turned to deep snow, and the M3’s coped well with these conditions too.
Longer term use
The boots have been absolutely top notch, and have been a dream to own. The only problem I have had is scuffs (more on this below) which is hardly the fault of the boot, and the inner fabric split after the first wear. This problem was dealt with very well by Go Outdoors, and it was apparently the first pair they’d ever had back.
Looking after the Scarpa’s – HS12 Cream or Nikwax Aqueous Wax?
Scarpa, recommend both their own Scarpa HS12 Cream and Nikwax’s Aqueous Wax. Because I already owned the latter I thought I would stick with it, and have had generally good results. Not surprisingly, the wax doesn’t really soak into the new leather, and it was only until there was a generous selection of scuffs on the front of the boots that it did. The wax however, doesn’t cover up the scuffs at all, so I thought I’d order some of the Scarpa HS12 cream and give that a go. It was £5.95 from Taunton Leisure (who despatched very quickly I might add) and has been amazing. There are no real instructions with the cream so I just applied some to a sheet of kitchen roll and rubbed it in a circular motion into the leather. Almost straight away you could see the scuffs improving. It was also very good at beading the water, and seemed to do a much better job of nourishing the leather.
If you have a pair of Scarpa SL M3’s I would strongly recommend you invest in some of the HS12 cream also – it really will keep them looking like new.
These boots have now been replaced by the ‘Scarpa SL Activ‘ – with just a new name and slightly updated styling to distinguish them from the classic M3’s. If you are the market for a pair of new walking boots, I would strongly recommend you give them a try – even if it is to set a benchmark. And if like me you are a wide size 12 fitting, then the wide BXX last used in this boot means there is very little in the way of competition.