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Decoding Mountaineering Boots: What Are The B0, B1, B2 & B3 Categories All About?

Whether you are hiking in the mountains on a dry summer day, or whether you are roped up on a snowy technical mountain ridge, there are 2 things that connect you to the terrain – your feet. Having the correct type of boot means that you can use your feet efficiently, place your feet well and as a result, hopefully avoid slipping or falling.

In this blog post, we’ll describe the 3 main types of boots that are out there, and list some the of conditions you may use them in. We’ll also share a few popular brands with you as a starter for 10 on your search for the right boot for you.

This blog post accompanies our video tutorial:

Introduction to mountaineering boot categories

The 4 main categories of boot are:

B0

A soft, flexible boot, suitable for summer walking on non-technical terrain. Doesn’t really work with a crampon, but you could ‘bodge’ a C1* crampon on, in desperation.

B1

A slightly stiffer boot, usually with a protective ‘rand’, suitable for poor weather summer days and easier technical terrain, or non-technical mountain walking in snow. Works well with a C1* crampon.

B2

A semi-stiff, warmer boot, with plenty of protective features and a ‘lip’ on the rear to accommodate the attachment bail of a C2* crampon.

B3

A fully stiff, flex-free, warm winter mountaineering and climbing boot, with the same lip on the rear as a B2, but also with a second lip on the front to accommodate a stiff C3* climbing crampon.

What on earth is a C1, 2, etc crampon?! Check out our blog post and tutorial video.

How to choose the right mountaineering boot

Firstly, have a read of the more detailed information that follows, then work out which boot fits with the type of mountain adventures that you find yourself on. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a ‘one boots fits all’ solution, but some overlap can be achieved, maybe by sacrificing a little comfort or functionality. However, although you could go for a long summer trek in a B3 boot (it would be horrendous!!) we’d definitely not advise trying steep ice climbing in a B0, or even a B1 to be honest! That would be a recipe for disaster!

Secondly, ignore the advice of people who say “I have x, it’s really comfy”. All our feet are different – you need to go to a decent shop (think ‘climbing shop’) and try on lots of pairs with some expert assistance.

And thirdly, and linked in with ‘secondly’: if you’re aiming to use your boot in the snow, with crampons, read our blog on how to fit crampons, as boot A doesn’t necessarily fit well with crampon B… even if they look cool together in some marketing vid. Ask a professional for help.

Detailed info on mountaineering boot categories

B0: trekking boots

These are soft, often have ‘trainer like’ soles, are really bendy and flexible and probably fairly breathable. They work well for hiking in the summer and maybe nicer days in the spring and autumn, but quicky find their limits once the winter weather sets in, and especially when crampons are needed.

Suitability: trekking the Fairfield Horseshoe in June.

Crampon: none really. Maybe some micro-spikes to get you past a short slippery section, but that’s about it.

Example: Salomon Quest (known as ‘slippy Salomons’ to those in the guiding industry, due to their terrible grip in the wet! Comfy though!)

B1: a tough hiking boot

Take a B0, build it out of something more solid (e.g., stiffer leather), add some warmth, a protective ‘rand’ and a more robust, harder sole, and you’ve essentially got a B1.  As this boot is a bit stiffer, it will work well with a walking crampon (C1), so it’s a good boot for hikers who want to get out throughout the winter, but not to get onto technical terrain.

Suitability: 4-season walking in the high UK mountains, including in the snow with a C1 crampon. (Note: might be a bit warm and clumpy on a hot summer day).

Crampon: C1

Example: Scarpa SL Active

B2: a mountaineering boot

This is when boots start to get a bit more technical and can vary massively in features and design. A B2 boot is designed for more technical terrain, where placing a foot accurately is important, so they tend to be a bit more streamlined and have a sole design that works well on more scrambly, mountaineering type ground.

These are a great boot for easy Alpine summer mountaineering, or winter walking and mountaineering in the UK. They’re not as warm as a B3, so they’re not great for terrain where there can be a lot of waiting around in the cold (e.g., waiting while your mate leads a hard ice pitch!).

Due to the lip on the rear they can take a clip in, C2 crampon (as well as a strap-on C1).

Suitability: Bad weather UK summer scrambling and mountaineering; summer Alpine mountaineering; winter walking & mountaineering.

Crampon: C2 ideally (but will take a C1)

Example: Salewa Raven 3; Scarpa Charmoz & Manta

B3: technical winter climbing boot

As we said above, this is a fully stiffened boot (very little flex in the sole). It’s going to be lined with nice warm technical materials and may even have a built-in gaiter to keep the snow out. Expensive and super technical in its design, the B3 is designed for precision and support when climbing steeper ice and mixed terrain. It will take any crampon (C1 -3) but we’d advise using at least a C2 with it for decent crampon/boot stability.

Suitability: winter climbing and mountaineering (winter walking at a push, but it’s not going to be great with the lack of flex, so best saved for walking in/out of a climb, rather than just a hike in the hills)

Crampon: C2 or C3 (C3 for climbing, C2 for mountaineering). Will take a C1, but if you’re buying a pair of B3s, you’re heading into terrain that isn’t suitable for a C1 crampon!

Example: La Sportiva Nepal; Scarpa Phantom Tech

Conclusion

Unfortunately, if you’re the sort of person that spends lots of time in the mountains, on lots of different types of terrain, you’re going to need lots of different boots! Your author has several pairs of B0, B2 and B3 boots to cover most eventualities!

Most importantly though is to get a pair of boots that are comfy, as there is nothing worse than miles on your feet when your boots are giving you jip. Go to a shop, get some advice and buy what works for you.

A good quiver for the mountain walker who likes to get out all year but isn’t a climber, would be a B0 for summer and a B2 for winter or for mountaineering in poor summer weather. A B1 and a B2 aren’t ‘massively’ different, apart from the tech and the crampon fit, so the B2 will do everything that the B1 will do, and some…

Regardless. Enjoy your time in the mountains and if you have any questions or want some advice, drop us a message or check us out on You Tube.

Si at Lakeland Ascents

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