Review: Fighting the morass with La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots
I trashed myself and these lightweight Italian hiking boots during some Type II ‘fun.'
Last Friday, I did a dumb thing. I wanted to demo a new pair of La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots that my editor sent me, so I hit the trails in my local state park. I took my usual trail running loop through the hills, past the abandoned 19th Century house, downhill through the grove of pine trees, and past the historic cemetery, banked right and hit the East bank of the Potomac. Usually, when the tide is out, you can walk down the beach for miles and collect sea glass and shark’s teeth. There’s a point where the bluffs meet the river that I wanted to get to. It’s a secret spot where President Herbert Hoover kept a hunting cabin and it’s now dilapidated and overgrown by a thick, dark, barely penetrable bamboo forest. But that day, the tide was in and the wind was blowing solidly from the West. The East bank was littered with floating mats of driftwood, seagrasses, downed Sycamore trees, and the myriad detritus that floats down the river from Washington. Sizable waves of muddy brown water slapped against the river bank. Just before I started my traverse South through this morass, I met a friendly but somewhat dodgy-looking lady with a mangy dog. “I love it out here!” she hollered at me. “Me too!” I hollered back through the wind. “Be careful!” she said. I nodded my cavalier nod, turned, and told her to have a great morning.
I should have listened.
My traverse began with some casual driftwood hopping and rapidly turned into wave-dodging and climbing over sizable flotsam and jetsam. For the first 300 meters, I was able to keep my feet dry in the Ultra Raptor IIs. There was enough beach occasionally peeking out between the bank and the river to step into the water without it broaching the boots’ flood zone. Then there wasn’t. The beach disappeared into an utter mess and I bushwhacked for about a mile through a tangle of trees, thorny vines, sharp grasses, poison ivy, nine turkey vultures eating a three-foot dead blue catfish, discarded automobile tires, old plastic bottles, a car battery, a manky queen-sized mattress that made me recall the creepy movie Saw, seagrass, swamp, an old cooler, swamp again, and more. I felt like I was hiking through the fucking mangrove and convinced I was going to stumble across a dead body. It was that kind of place. The further I went, the worse it got, but I was convinced the beach would open up again … just … around … the … next … corner. For the next 43 minutes, I stupidly persisted along this tangled, junky, murky, oh-so-not-fun mile of river.
Editor’s note: the La Sportiva Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots also made Task & Purpose’s guide to the best hiking boots of the year.
Through it all, the La Sportiva Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots enabled me to keep my footing, prevented me from twisting my ankles and knees, and protected my feet from countless unknown hazards along the bottom of the Potomac as I waded thigh-deep through the murk. I emerged scratched, cut, bruised, and banged up, and finally made it back to the main trail to complete this five-mile epic. Despite this, the Ultra Raptor IIs delivered a premium performance at a mid-range price. At $175, the Ultra Raptor IIs fall in the middle of the pack in terms of price as lightweight hiking boots generally cost between $139 (cheap) and $250 (premium). Anyone looking for boots for day hiking, fastpacking, or light backpacking should definitely check the Ultra Raptor IIs out.
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots came in a recycled cardboard box, plainly decorated with La Sportiva’s black, yellow, and light green color scheme and mountain logo. Unfortunately, the box came wrapped in a plastic wrapper — totally unnecessary. Inside, the boots were wrapped in some light tissue paper festooned with La Sportiva’s logo. The boots were tagged with a Gore-Tex guarantee paper label and a similar card with a QR code to find information on La Sportiva’s warranty and technologies. I greatly appreciated that they didn’t stuff the box with a bunch of other marketing materials.
La Sportiva is an Italian company that’s been making quality footwear since 1928. Their founder, Narciso Dellado, began his craft making leather boots for the lumberjacks and farmers of the Fassa and Fiemme valleys in the Dolomite mountains. His boots became known for their quality and he began producing mountain boots for the Italian army during World War II. After the war, La Sportiva continued making rugged mountain and ski boots through the 1970s. In the 1980s, they began focusing on making climbing boots and shoes and technical mountain products. Today, they are known as a world leader in making high-end shoes and boots for rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain and trail running, and backpacking.
The first thing I noticed about the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots was how light they were for a full-sized boot. I wondered how they would stack up to my current favorite lightweight hiking boot, the Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX. The Ultra Raptor II is a new-for-2021 mid-cut version of the very popular Ultra Raptor II Mountain Running Shoe favored by ultra-marathoners. The Ultra Raptor II boots are specifically designed for fast hiking with light loads. The uppers are made from abrasion-resistant mesh and a microfiber reinforcement band with an anti-abrasion coating. The waterproof lining is Gore-Tex Extended Comfort. They come with an Ortholite Mountain Running footbed insole, which I removed and replaced with my custom orthotics. The midsole is made from Memlex EVA with shock-absorbing injection, and the outsole is composed of Ultra-tight FriXion White with an Impact Brake System and an integrated anti-shock rubber toe box. The heel-to-toe drop is 9mm.
How we tested La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots
I wore the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots on several hikes over the period of a week, to include the aforementioned disastrous river traverse. I tested them on dirt trails, rocks, loose gravel, hardball roads, mud, slippery-assed downed floating trees, and over some unknown and very smelly swamp gunk, all while carrying 25- to 35-pound loads, and evaluated them based on the following criteria:
- Fit, comfort, and support
- Water resistance
Fit, comfort, and support: Out of the box, the Raptor IIs felt comfortable and light. They were built out of the popular Ultra Raptor mountain running shoe chassis and felt more like a beefed-up trail runner than a traditional hiking boot. While snug in the heel, they have a narrower profile than most boots through the midfoot. The toe box initially felt a bit narrow as well, but that evened out after I began hiking. About two miles in, I started to notice a minor pressure point at the fifth metatarsal of my left foot while hiking downhill, but that abated after the boots got thoroughly soaked in the Potomac later in the hike. This made me wish I tried the wide-width model La Sportiva offers. The soft Comfort Collar at the top of the boot has an integrated gaiter (that has an integrated pull tab) that helped keep stones and mud from entering the top of the boot — which it did really well as I sloshed my way down a mile of the Potomac and adjacent swampland. The sole of the boot was light and flexible and comfortable to jog in. At the heel of the boot is a molded TPU stability piece that’s integrated with a mudguard that runs down to the toe box on both sides of the boot. The designers also ensured the area of the boot that meets the Achilles tendon was made from a soft, flexible, elastic material. The Raptor II also features a TPU skeleton that links the laces to the midsole of the boot for a comfortable and supportive fit by enabling the lace pull forces to be distributed equally. The toe guard kept me from stubbing my toes on hidden rocks and tree roots, and who knows what else in the gnarly undergrowth. The high weave air mesh upper has an integrated comfort layer on the inside of the boot and the ankle collars were remarkably comfortable as well. The sole has injection-molded EVA for comfort and shock absorption, and a TPU shank under the arch for stability and torsion control.
Weight: When I threw these boots on my kitchen scale, I was stoked to discover that they are the lightest pair of hiking boots I’ve demoed to date — weighing in at a scant 1035 grams or 2 pounds 4.5 ounces — and this was a pair of US size 13 / EUR size 47!
Traction: La Sportiva’s designers built the Ultra Raptor II with an Ultra-tight FriXion White sole — their stickiest rubber. It performed exceptionally well on smooth rock and slippery-assed fallen trees in the swamp. I was amazed that, despite my local epic, I miraculously didn’t slip or fall once. The outsole features an Impact Brake System on the lugs and the lug height is 4.5mm.
Water resistance: The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX uses the Gore-Tex Extended Comfort membrane that provides great water resistance while still being flexible and comfortable. The boot has a five-inch flood line, which did a great job of keeping my feet dry until I plunged thigh-deep into the Potomac River. Yay. If I get MRSA, I’m gonna be pissed.
Versatility: The Ultra Raptor II is a versatile boot best suited for fastpacking, light backpacking, and general day hiking. It’s a fine boot for its designed purposes, but wouldn’t be my first choice for heavy loads over rugged terrain. For heavy loads over many miles of rough horizontal terrain, I’d lean towards the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX boot. If you’re carrying heavy loads over rock and snow, I’d check out the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX boots.
Durability: While I put these boots through the wringer (literally) over a period of a week, I don’t have enough data to make an educated assessment of long-term durability. With that said, I noticed no unusual wear or breakage, and La Sportiva has a strong reputation for making quality boots.
Value: Lightweight hiking boots generally range from $110 to $250. The Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX, at a $175 price point, delivers great quality and performance at a mid-range price point.
What we like about the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots
I loved these boots. They kept my ass upright when moving across really wobbly, big beached trees, rocks, loose gravel, deadfall, driftwood, beach sand, really overgrown edge area, and boggy swamp. The traction and stability of the boot really perform at a top level. Out of the box, they were pretty comfortable, and that comfort increased after I got them completely soaked wading through a river. Generally, Gore-Tex boots really suck after they get wet, but the Ultra Raptor IIs seemed to have a built-in bilge pump. After a few hundred meters of walking, I didn’t notice any water squishing around the bottom of the boots. Sure, my socks were damp, but the boots seemed to purge the water. I also appreciated how light they are. One pound off the feet equals five pounds off the back in terms of energy expended, and these boots were light AF. I even ran in them for a mile or so down a dirt trail and they felt really comfortable and supportive. They were plenty flexible in the right spots and rigid enough to provide great torsion control. I really liked the Comfort Collar and integrated gaiter which ALSO had an integrated pull tab to help get the boots on — which was a nice surprise. The laces were flat and held a knot well. I didn’t notice any slippage there. They also cleaned up really well after my bog slog. The exteriors did a great job of shedding water, mud, and dirt, and the treads didn’t cling to a bunch of rocks and gunk. When I got home, I was able to spray them off quickly. With the insoles removed, I quickly flooded them and purged them until only clear water remained. They dried out quickly in the sun. Bonus!
What we don’t like about the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots
I found the regular-sized boot to be a bit narrow, which left me wanting to try a wide-width boot. I find this is pretty normal for European-made boots. Once I hiked in them a bit and got them soaked, they opened up a bit. I didn’t like the tubular lace design. They’re a bit fiddly to re-lace, and I wish the boots had two sets of speed hooks instead of one.
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX are a great option for anyone looking for day hiking, fastpacking, or light backpacking boots. They deliver excellent protection, comfort, stability, and premium performance at a mid-range price point. Think of it as a boot you could run in.
FAQs about the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Mid GTX hiking boots cost?
A. The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots cost $175 on Amazon.
Q. What sizes do the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots come in?
A. In women’s sizes, the boots come in EUR 36 to 43, and in men’s from 38 to 49.5.
Q. What colors do the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX hiking boots come in?
A. The men’s boot comes in Black/Yellow, Poseidon (blue)/Carbon, Maple (orange)/Black, Black/Goji (red), and Black/Clay (grey). Note: The Black/Clay is the only model with wide width options. The women’s boot comes in Carbon/Red Plum, Black/Topaz, and Carbon/Topaz (also a wide option).
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Joe Plenzler is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1995 to 2015. He is a backcountry expert, long-distance backpacker, rock climber, kayaker, cyclist, wannabe mountaineer, and the world’s OK-est guitar player. He is currently section-hiking the Appalachian Trail with his partner, Kate Germano. He supports his outdoor addiction by working as a human communication consultant, teaching at the College of Southern Maryland, and helping start-up companies with their public relations and marketing efforts.
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