Boot: 2018-2019 Fischer Ranger Free 130
Stated Flex: 130
Available Sizes: 25.5 – 30.5 (half sizes only)
Stated Last (size 26.5): 99 mm
Stated Range of Motion: 55°
Stated Forward Lean: 16° (18° with removable spoiler)
Size Tested: 27.5
Stated Boot Sole Length: 315 mm
Blister’s Measured Weight (27.5):
- Shells, no Liners: 1230 & 1236 g
- Liners, no Footbeds: 357 & 354 g
- Shells + Liners = 1587 & 1590 g
Buckles: 4 micro-adjustable aluminum
Powerstrap: 50 mm Velcro
- Cuff: Carbon-Reinforced Grilamid
- Shoe / Clog: Grilamid
Soles: GripWalk w/ Vibram rubber (replaceable); Alpine soles available separately
Binding Compatibility: GripWalk and MNC bindings
Tech Fittings: Dynafit Certified
Skis / Bindings Used:
- 189 cm DPS Alchemist Wailer 106 / Salomon STH2 16
- 190 cm Moment Bibby Tour / Fritschi Tecton 12
- 186 cm Black Diamond Helio 116 Carbon / Fritschi Vipec
Test Locations: Chugach range & Alyeska Resort, AK
Reviewer: 6”, 190 lbs
Days Tested: 7
For the 18/19 season, it seems as though just about every major boot company will be offering some kind of lightweight, “130 Flex” boot with a walk mode and other touring specific features.
This category of boots is getting lighter while still claiming to maintain performance very similar to full alpine boots — which was unheard of just a few years ago.
For 18/19, Fischer is introducing the Ranger Free series, which will include the men’s Ranger Free 130, 120, and 100 and the women’s My Ranger Free 110 and 90.
I’ve been testing the Ranger Free 130 inbounds, when sled-accessed skiing, and when touring around the Chugach mountains for about a month now. (And Blister reviewer, Alex Mueller, has had the Ranger Free 130 in Chamonix.) So here, I’ll go over my thoughts on the boots so far, we’ll add in Alex’s thoughts, then I’ll provide my own update after spending more time in the boot.
Here’s what Fischer says about the Fischer Ranger Free 130:
“Ranger Free 130 – an ultralight freeride boot that is a stable, high performance boot on fast groomed slopes, while also offering serious tour walkability.”
“When the best downhills are waiting on the other side of a long uphill, the Ranger Free 130’s excellent walkability is a skier’s best friend. Switch the integrated cuff lever to Walk mode for an excellent range of forward motion when walking or touring.”
For reference, below are a few of our measured weights for some other notable boots (keep in mind the size differences). Our measured weights show the size of boot, then the weight of each boot + the weight of each liner, then the total weight for shells + liners, listed in grams:
Scarpa Maestrale RS (24.5 / 25.0): 1053 & 1057 + 244 & 245 = 1297 & 1302 g
Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro (26.5): 1099 & 1100 + 210 & 211 = 1309 & 1311 g
Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 (26.5): 1124 & 1128 + 271 & 276 (lighter pre-production liner) = 1395 & 1404 g
Head Kore 1 (26.5): 1132 & 1136 + 392 & 393 = 1524 & 1527 g
Salomon S/Lab MTN (26.5): 1257 & 1246 + 288 & 303 = 1545 & 1549 g
Fischer Ranger Free 130 (26.5): 1204 & 1204 + 348 & 351 = 1552 & 1555 g
Tecnica Zero G Guide Pro (27.5): 1335 & 1333 + 220 & 225 = 1555 & 1558 g
Lange XT Free 130 LV (27.5): 1472 & 1473 + 376 & 376 = 1848 &1849 g
Lange XT Free Promodel LV (27.5): 1505 & 1507 + 418 & 417 = 1923 & 1924 g
As always, we strongly recommend that you work with your best local bootfitter to figure out what boot best works for your foot.
With that important caveat aside, I am overall pleased with how the Fischer Ranger Free 130 fit my feet (described by bootfitters as being low-volume, skinny heel, high instep, and average to slightly-wide forefoot). The Ranger Free 130’s ample room in the instep was especially nice as this is often a problem area for me and consistently causes me issues in many boots on the market. The Ranger Free 130’s heel pocket is probably not the tightest and most contoured I’ve used, but it provides very good retention for my skinny heels and bony ankles.
In the forefoot and toe area, the Ranger Free 130 is pretty average in width and, as usual for me, required a small 6th toe punch to be tolerable for long days in the boots.
Overall, I think Fischer did a really good job with the liner. The tongue is made with stiff plastic reinforcement like a nice alpine boot liner, which provides a bit more comfort and support (though the liner is still relatively light at around 350 grams). The liner’s heel is nicely contoured and complements the shell’s heel pocket well. Similarly, the overall volume and thickness of the liner strikes a nice balance — it’s just plush enough to provide good warmth and comfort without feeling mushy and imprecise. The liners are heat-moldable, and I did a quick in-home heat mold using the rice-in-sock method. Along with Scarpa’s Intuition-branded liners, these Ranger liners are among the best stock liners I’ve used in boots of this class.
Walk Mechanism — Engagement and Range of Motion
We’ve come to like the simplicity and reliability of the increasingly ubiquitous external, spring-loaded walk mechanism used on boots like the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD, 18/19 Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro, and Scarpa Maestrale RS, so I was a little surprised that Fischer decided to go with an internal system on the new Ranger Free 130.
However, I’ve been impressed by the Ranger Free 130 ’s walk mode. It can be activated very easily via a small metal lever that lies just under, and flush with, the top buckle (see image below). I have had no issues engaging either walk or ski mode, and it became second nature to just flip the walk mode when I flipped the buckle. This was especially nice for the more fast-paced nature of sled skiing when doing fast laps with minimal transition time.
The Ranger Free 130’s walk mode (all of the “Ranger Free” and “My Ranger Free” boots share the same walk mode) has very little play, and I have had zero issues with the boot going in or out of tour mode unintentionally. I do worry that it’s a little more mechanically complicated than other boots out there, and subsequently might be a little more prone to durability issues. But I have had no issues so far. I’ll update this if I experience any unusual problems.
Rather than a rockered, full-rubber touring sole, the Fischer Ranger Free 130 uses GripWalk soles (similar to the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD, Nordica Strider Pro, Head Kore 1, and many other 50/50 boots on the market).
Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of boots featuring Walk to Ride or GripWalk soles, which are essentially thickened and rubberized alpine soles that are slightly rockered for easier walking. In reality, it sometimes seems like the difference between these soles and standard alpine soles is only noticeable when walking on flat surfaces like parking lots. While walking / scrambling around the mountains, the GripWalk soles still feel much more like regular alpine soles than the shorter, fully rubberized, and more rockered soles of dedicated AT boots.
One major downside of GripWalk is that if you buy boots that don’t have the option of swapping the GripWalk soles for traditional alpine sole blocks, you’ll need to make sure that all of your bindings are GripWalk-compatible. (The Ranger Free does not come with alternate sole blocks, but people will be able to purchase alpine sole blocks separately.) For some skiers, this could mean that if you get Ranger Free 130 as a 1-boot quiver (as Fischer suggests), you may also need to buy new bindings for any skis that don’t already have GripWalk-compatible bindings on them.
Of course, all boots that use any sort of rockered and/or rubber sole that falls outside of the ISO 5355 alpine boot norm will face a similar issue (i.e., you’ll need to get bindings that accommodate the different boot sole norm). However, rockered, full-rubber touring soles provide significantly more grip and better walkability compared to GripWalk soles. So, the tradeoff between binding compatibility and improved walkability makes a bit more sense with full-rubber touring soles since they actually provide a very noticeable improvement over traditional alpine soles when it comes to grip while scrambling on snow, ice, rocks, etc.
And it is worth noting that we will be seeing an industry-wide change to the GripWalk norm, with Walk to Ride options not being available within the next few years. This should make it easier to find bindings that are compatible with GripWalk soles.
I’ve only had the chance to do a few tours on the Ranger Free 130 so far, but have put enough miles on them to get a pretty good idea of their overall touring performance. The boot’s range of motion feels completely adequate for anything I do, and even after recently using boots like the Scarpa Alien RS (which offers more ROM than I could ever use), the Ranger Free 130 doesn’t feel restrictive, even when taking longer strides across the flats.
The Ranger Free 130’s tech fittings came with the Dynafit Certified seal and have been easy to clip into both Dynafit and Fritschi tech bindings.
The Ranger Free 130’s four buckles are fairly traditional for a boot in this class, and the upper buckles include an extra hook on the end to use while touring so you can maintain a loose fit while still having the buckles latched / secured. I typically tour with all buckles completely unlatched, and this works fine with the Ranger Free 130. This is likely in part due to how well it holds my heel, even without any buckles tightened.
The only issue I’ve had with the Ranger Free 130 on the up is that I cannot figure out a way to stop various parts of the upper and lower cuffs from clicking together when the cuff rotates through its travel. I’ve tried all kinds of buckled and unbuckled configurations but, so far, have not been able to stop them from clicking. This is a little annoying and is definitely palpable on every step. I’ll keep working on it and update this review if I can figure it out. Maybe it’s related to how my fairly thick shins, high instep, and big calves push on the shell, but I don’t have this issue in many other boots.
I also used the Ranger Free 130 for a bit of sled skiing and found the GripWalk soles to provide good grip on the sled. I would have preferred a sole with a rubberized instep/arch area, but that would probably add a fair bit of weight for not a ton of benefit while on the sled. (The benefit of a full-rubber sole is more noticeable while scrambling on rocks, ice, etc.)
We’ve written pretty extensively about how subjective and variable flex ratings can be, and the Ranger Free 130 is another example of the inconsistency between boots and brands. My first runs in these boots were at Alyeska on a ~30°F afternoon of skiing crud, chop, bumps, and groomers. On this day, I was immediately surprised by how much forward flexion I felt in the cuff of the Ranger Free 130 before the boots finally stiffened up. More than most other boots I’ve used in recent memory, the Ranger Free 130 has a very linear flex pattern until my ankles (and the boot) is flexed quite far forward, at which point the flex ramps up pretty abruptly. It took me a little while to get used to, but I have pretty flexible ankles and was able to make it work, albeit with some stance adjustment to accommodate for how far I was flexing forward. On several occasions while skiing very fast in variable snow, I found myself flexing so far through the boot that I got dangerously close to going over my tips.
Given that (a) I’m 190 lbs and 6′ tall, (b) was skiing fast in relatively warm temps, and (c) was on firm, bumpy inbounds conditions on long, stiff skis, it’s certainly possible that I’m at the upper limit of what a 130 flex boot should handle. However, during the same day that I found myself flexing so far through the Ranger Free 130, I had also been heli ski guiding with my 25 lb guide pack in the Lange RX 130 — a much heavier, alpine boot with a riveted cuff / no walk mode — and felt that the much more progressive flex of the RX 130 offered significantly more forward support.
I need to do some more side-by-side testing, but my preliminary assessment is that in terms of forward flex, the Ranger Free 130 is softer and flexes more linearly than the 17/18 Tecnica Zero G Pro Guide, Salomon S/Lab MTN, and both the 18/19 Lange XT Free 130 LV and the XT Free Promodel LV (140 flex). The overall forward stiffness of the Ranger Free 130 is more comparable to the 17/18 Scarpa Maestrale RS than it is to the boots mentioned above.
I’m also curious to see how the Ranger Free 130 feels vs. some of the 3-piece alpine and 50/50 boots on the market, as those boots have been known to have more linear flex patterns than most 2-piece overlap boots.
Laterally and rearward, the Ranger Free 130 does feel very supportive and easily capable of driving big skis at higher speeds. The linear forward flex will just take some adjustment for many people coming from stiffer or more progressive boots.
While the forward flex is not as stiff as other boots in this class, the Ranger Free 130’s rearward flex is much more like that of a “130 flex” alpine boot. I had no trouble pulling myself out of the backseat in these boots, even at higher speeds and with my touring pack on. In this regard, the Ranger Free 130 is significantly stiffer than dedicated touring boots like the Maestrale RS or Dynafit Vulcan, and quite comparable to the 17/18 Zero G Pro Guide or S/Lab MTN.
Snow / Ski Feel
One thing that did immediately standout with the Ranger Free 130 is that it provides the most snow / ski feedback of any boot I’ve used. I’m not sure if the Ranger Free 130 is a bit thinner in the soles or if it’s related to some other material or construction, but I’ve enjoyed feeling the texture of the snow through my boots, and I think it might help me ski a little better as result.
Alex Mueller, Jonathan Ellsworth, and I have all been spending time in the Ranger Free 130, and will continue to do so this spring. We’ll report back with some more updates and comparisons to other boots in this class like the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130, 18/19 Tecnica Zero G Tour Pro, Head Kore 1, and 18/19 Lange XT Freetour 130 and Lange XT Freetour Promodel.
Who’s It For?
While boots like the Salomon S/Lab MTN and 17/18 Zero G Guide Pro are stiffer in forward flex, the Fischer is still a very good boot with a legitimate touring mode, great liner, and plenty of support for the majority of situations (especially if you’re lighter than I am). The fit and ergonomics of the boot work well for me, and I’d be happy to have it as a beefy touring boot that can do double-duty at the ski resort — so long as I’m willing to dial back my skiing a bit in certain situations. Big skiers who want the stiffest, burliest touring boot on the market might be better off with another boot, unless they want a deep, linear flex.
The 18/19 Fischer Ranger Free 130 is a well-designed boot that tours well, has a nice liner, and offers a softer, deeper, more linear flex pattern than other “130” boots in this category. All of this, combined with its competitively low weight and overall ease of use makes it another solid option in the growing class of boots designed to handle everything from big tours to long days of riding lifts.
We’ll be spending some more time in the Ranger Free 130, so stay tuned for updates.