Dave takes a look at the super lightweight AKU Serai GTX from Italian bootmakers AKU
The X-factor of this model is its lightweight (840 grams, half pair) that makes the SERAI GTX one of the lighter products in this mountaineering category.
I can clearly remember many years ago a mate of mine had managed to get hold of a pair of AKU Spiders. I was totally blown away with how light they were – his argument and the argument of many climbers and backpackers is – a gram off your legs is worth two off your back and it’s a mantra I’ve adopted ever since. As a Mountaineering Instructor I’m out on my feet a lot, so a lightweight boot means I can save my poor knees a lot of grief.
On top of lightness a B3 boot needs to be comfortable and warm – there is always some trade off between lightness and warmth but I’ve discovered that as long as you take good precautions to keep your feet dry then a light boot can offer warm feet.
Enter the AKU Serai GTX, a super light (and I mean super light) B3 boot that performs superbly. AKU are an Italian boot maker who are based in Montebelluna, Italy. They are packed full of features, are comfortable and have a ‘climb all day’ feel to them. I was able to use them and climb with them straight out of the box.
The outer is made from a mixture of Kevlar, Nylon protection on the toe area and around other high wear areas and a microfibre tongue which is very comfortable.. This provides a great looking and durable outer that is nice mixture of black, silver and orange which doesn’t seem to look too gaudy. The Kevlar is particularly good and has stood up to some rough treatment on U.K. Winter as well as keeping my feet dry when continental icefall climbing.
The Serai GTX really has performed well on steep icefall climbing. I found them to be an awesome ice climbing boot. Comfortable, warm, light and stiff enough to take any crampon, especially C3 ones. I have been using the Serai GTX with my Black Diamond Cyborgs and they have worked really well. They would also work well with Grivel G20’s and Petzl Darts. They have a great, modern feel about them. The toe profile is quite narrow though and I will have to buy a narrow pair of toe bales for my crampons in order to make the toe profile fit to my satisfaction. That was my preference though and they worked OK with the supplied bales so don’t feel you would have to change your crampon bales if you decide to buy a pair. I quite happily climbed technical 4+ icefalls in the set up I have. One of the advantages of the narrow profile is that the boot offered a full length of my mono point, one of the few boots that have ever offered that!
The lacing system worked well with the first few eyelets having rollers and the hooks at the instep locked in well. I did have a problem with the top hooks turning around and I had to reposition them with my Leatherman when in the hut. Since I have changed them they haven’t moved again. The laces lighten over an excellent microfibre tongue, this was really comfortable and I had plenty of space at the toe and instep, but they began to close in at the ankle – I do have spindly sport climber ankles however! At the top of the Serai GTX there is a debris gaiter. This is a great idea but could have been a tiny bit higher on the leg and needed to be finished with press studs and not Velcro which got into gaiter and forced it open when post holing. The boot is finished with great, large heel loops which were great for pulling the boot on. And talking of heels, I have had absolutely no heel lift in these boots at all.
The AKU Serai GTX were plenty warm enough as they are insulated with Primaloft, I have only had to wear a general wool sock with these on and on no day have I had cold feet. It’s important to get the fit right however as remember, the profile is narrow so if you buy a little too small they will pinch your foot and you’ll get cold feet no matter what you are wearing. They also have the ubiquitous Gore-Tex lining to help keep them dry and when I used them in Cogne recently the boots kept my feet dry all week, even in quite snowy conditions. If the insides do get wet the footbed is removable so you can dry them off easy enough, they have a foil liner to help reflect the cold, a neat little piece of design.
As I said earlier the AKU Serai GTX are a fully stiffen boot. AKU are renowned for their last and they have not disappointed here. The stiffness is achieved using a blend of innovative technologies including a carbon fibre and honeycombed last and EVA to create a very light and stiff midsole. I would say that they are probably too stiff for rock and scrambling but perfectly fine for Alpine mixed days out. The midsole has good shock absorbing properties with the double density polyurethane midsole. This was a godsend for my knees which can, on occasion become quite sore at the end of a long day.
The Serai GTX also has a fully resoleable, Vibram Nepal sole unit. Which has good lugs and provided great security when descending snowy ground, a quick tap of the boot with my ice axe was enough to clear the boot of snow. They were also great on firmer snow and the stiffness was great for kicking front and side steps.
In conclusion, although these boot deserve five stars I have decided to give them 4 and a half. If the debris gaiter was a little higher and had press stud closures I would not have hesitated to award them 5 stars. I have used the AKU Serai GTX boots for ice fall climbing, UK mixed climbing and dry tooling this season and they haven’t disappointed. They are easily the best boots I have worn for quite a while. They come in sizes UK 5 – 13 and in half sizes too.
Dave Sarkar has tested and reviewed climbing, mountaineering and outdoor equipment for over 10 years. He works as a qualified MIA both in the UK and Internationally: working full time as a mountaineering instructor and expedition leader for his company Wild Spaces. When he isn’t working in the mountains he’s playing in the mountains and enjoys all aspects climbing and mountain sports whether bouldering at his local crag or ice climbing; as long as he’s going upwards he’s happy!