Fischer Vacuum Ranger Pro 13 & RC4 130

Will Brown reviews the Fischer Ranger Pro 13 & RC4 130, Blister Gear Review
Fischer Ranger Pro 13

Fischer Ranger Pro 13 Vacuum & RC4 130 Vacuum

MSRP: $950

Stated Flex Rating: 130

Sizes Tested: 27.5 / 318mm Boot Sole Length

Stated Last Width: 98mm – 103mm (see Fitting section below)

Reviewer Info: 6’2”, 160 lbs

Reviewer’s Feet: Bony, with excessive forefoot and heel pronation (corrected to a more neutral, stable position with custom footbed). Pretty normal, medium-height instep. B-width, but with pressure imparted on 6th toe area.

Will Brown reviews the Fischer Ranger Pro 13 & RC4 130, Blister Gear Review
Fischer RC4 130

Test Locations: Canterbury Club Fields, New ZealandTaos Ski Valley, resorts all over Utah and Colorado.

Days Tested: ~35 in the Ranger Pro 13 Vacuum; ~70 in the RC4 130 Vacuum

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 Ranger Pro 13 and the 12/13 RC4 130, both of which remain unchanged for 14/15. Fischer’s 1st generation Full Thermofit liner and the current, updated liner were tested as well.]

For the 2011-2012 season, Fischer introduced a new, innovative heat moldable ski boot technology. Salomon and Atomic now offer lines of boots with heat moldable shells, but Fischer’s Vacuum Fit process remains unparalleled, since Vacuum Fit allows the boot’s shell to not only expand where more volume is needed, given the shape of the foot, but to also get smaller, eliminating empty space around the foot, yielding a comfortable, but extremely snug, precise performance fit.

Blister’s Charlie Bradley reviewed Fischer’s first Vacuum boot, the 2011-2012 Soma Vacuum 130 just after its debut. In the three seasons since, Fischer has expanded the Vacuum line to include over twenty Vacuum models, including a line of touring boots.

I’ve spent over a season in the Fischer RC4 130 Vacuum, which is the same boot Charlie reviewed (it goes by a different name now), as well as nearly a season in the freeride-oriented version of the RC4 130 Vacumm, the Ranger Pro 13 Vacuum.

So technically, this review is a 2nd Look on the RC4 130, and an initial review of the Ranger Pro 13—though the RC4 130 and Ranger Pro 13 are nearly identical: the Ranger Pro 13 has a rubberized, shock-absorbing boot board and a wider power strap (and its paint job is visible from outer space), but it is otherwise the same. Both are full alpine boots with no hike / walk modes.

I’ll give my two cents on the performance of the RC4 130 / Ranger Pro 13; make some general comparisons to other boots with heat moldable shells now on the market; and mention some other important factors to help you determine whether or not the RC4 130 or Ranger Pro 13 may be a good match for you.

For brevity’s sake, I’ll mainly refer to the Ranger Pro 13 in what follows, but anything said about it applies to the RC4 130, too, unless it has to do with the boot board or the power strap.

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Will Brown in the Fischer RC4 130 Vacuum, Taos Ski Valley.


Jonathan Ellsworth has reviewed the Salomon X Pro 120 and the Atomic Hawx 2.0 120. Both boots have a heat moldable shell, and he opted to drop down two sizes (to a 25.5) from his measured size (27.5) in both boots, partially because of the ability to heat mold the lower shell, and partially because Salomon boots tend to run big, both in terms of length and volume. (The same is true of the Atomic Hawx 2.0 120.)

The Ranger Pro 13 seems to run true to size, however. My feet measure right at a size 27.5 on a Brannock device, and a 27.5 size shell fits me perfectly, providing a snug, “performance fit,” which I’ll talk more about below.

I suppose you could size up in the boot in order to achieve a more relaxed fit, though I’m not sure why you would. If you’re looking for a ski boot with a more relaxed, less performance-oriented fit, then considering a boot with a stiffer ~ 130 flex wouldn’t make much sense. And in many ways, I don’t think the age-old Comfort vs. Performance trade-off really applies to the Ranger Pro 13, thanks to the unique Vacuum Fit process. I don’t see a need to size down for better performance or to size up for improved comfort—the boot’s fit is both very snug / responsive and quite comfortable.

(To learn more about a performance fit vs. a more relaxed fit with respect to a boot’s shell size, check out Charlie Bradley’s Boot Fitting 101.)

The Vacuum Fit Process

In order to fit a pair of Vacuum boots, you’ll need to find a shop with one of Fischer’s Vacuum Fit Stations (if they sell boots from Fischer’s Vacuum line, they’ll have one).

Blister’s own Charlie Bradley fit my RC4 130s and Ranger Pro 13s at one of Blister’s recommended shops, The BootDoctors, in Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico.

Here’s a quick run-down of the Vacuum Fit process:

  1. The shells are put in an oven at 175° F for about 12 minutes.
  2. Neoprene toe caps are placed over the toes and pads are stuck on the feet at any prominent “problem areas.” Your socks go over the toe caps and pads.
  3. The skier puts on the liners and slips into the shells. The boots are bucked to a medium tightness (not loose, but not as tight as when skiing).
  4. The skier stands on the Vacuum fitting station with the desired amount of forward lean and their preferred stance width set.
  5. The technician wraps a thin cold pack around each boot and a pressure bag is layered on top of it (think of the doctor’s blood pressure cuff).
  6. The bags are inflated, exerting an inward pressure on the boot that molds the shell to the contours of the foot.

Step 2 is important. When you go to fit a pair of Vacuum boots, it helps to know what your “problem areas” are ahead of time, so you can place foam pads on them before you mold the shells. This helps push the shell out and make some room for that spot of your foot – e.g., your 6th toe (5th metatarsal) area, the top of your instep, the inside of your ankle, etc.

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Will Brown on the Fischer Ranger Pro 13 Vacuum, Taos Ski Valley. (photo by Ryan Heffernan)

While I don’t have especially wide feet, excessive forefoot pronation imparts a lot of stress on my 6th toe. Out of the box, the Ranger Pro 13 has a 98mm last, and with no punching or stretching in this part of the boot, I’ll be in a lot of pain after an hour of skiing.

Fischer says the last of the Ranger Pro 13 is “98mm – 103mm,” suggesting that you can effectively widen the last of the boot by about 5mm. That “5mm” number isn’t exact—you can get a bit more stretch out the the Ranger Pro 13’s VACU-PLAST shell—but there’s a caveat (more on that in a moment).

If you have a very narrow foot and need a boot with a last considerably narrower than 98mm, Fischer does make a narrower version of the RC4 130 (the RC4 Pro 130 Vacuum) which has a stated last of 91 – 99mm.

Knowing I wanted to create some space in the 6th toe area of the Ranger Pro 13s, Charlie stuck some dense ⅛” foam padding my foot, and with that done, we went ahead with the fit process as described above.

As you’re standing on the Vacuum fitting unit, you can feel your entire foot getting squeezed from all directions. The extra, added padding helps maintain the additional room where you need it, and any empty spaces around the foot are taken up / eliminated as the shell and liner are pushed inward by the pressurized air bag.

After the boots have cooled and you’ve had a chance to ski in them, if you feel you haven’t had a specific point pushed out enough, or there’s something about the fit you don’t like, you can mold the shells again. The shells can be remolded up to ten times, and the Full Thermofit stock liner can be remolded up to five times.

23 comments on “Fischer Vacuum Ranger Pro 13 & RC4 130”

  1. I really respect your reviews! I am intrigued by the vacuum fitting process and how the fit when it is all done compares to Surefoot’s. Do you have any experience with Surefoot and how it compares? The Surefoots seem to have a pretty firm liner. Surefoot claim’s that it does not pack out as quickly as most. Thougts?

  2. Three comments:
    1 – The Fischer Vacuum innovation is an important one, but the tech isn’t a panacea and won’t work for everyone – I’m an example. My story is long, and mostly uninteresting – short version: I spent a very frustrating and costly 13/14 season trying to get a pair of Ranger 12’s to work for me. Unlike Will, I could NEVER get good hold in these boots and had constant issues with shins. My bootfitter was fine and had a good reputation, but by the end of the season it was clear we were chasing symptoms and not problems. A fresh set of eyes this fall diagnosed a couple of issues, none of which could be adequately addressed using the Fischer. Why is beyond the scope of a comment section, and my issues, according to bootfitter #2 aren’t common. I do have a suspicion that even good fitters have started to lean on these shell technologies a bit more than they should. I have no doubt that they have improved the hit rate for success substantially, but they aren’t there yet as a universal solution.
    2 – The plastic that Fischer uses isn’t just cold (see #3), it also isn’t the sturdiest. The amount of wear my pair of Ranger 12’s accumulated, in areas like the toe and heel, in one season of resort use is astonishing. I’ve never had a pair of boots that looked as beat up after 30-40 days of skiing.
    3 – The cold thing isn’t bs. They are cold. Like really cold.

    • FWIW: I’ve spent the past 12 years working in different shops when not working in non-skiing related industries. I’ve fit more than a few people into boots, with what I’d define as a better than average hit rate in terms of success while working with boots ranging from low-end Salomons to Lange ZCs and everything in between, including Fischers.

      First things first: Fischer’s “Vacuum Fit” system is grossly misnamed. It’s a pressure-based system. At no time whatsoever is there any sort of vacuum created by the machine. The blood-pressure cuff analogy used by the author is bang-on, and that’s important to know. This isn’t even remotely similar to the vacuum process that Superfeet Custom Corks are made with, for example.

      The Ranger 12 and 13 are very different boots. The 12 is built on a high volume, 101 mm last that feels more like a 104 mm last. The 13, on the other hand, is built on a much lower volume, 98mm last (still, it’s a reasonably generous 98mm last). Both will expand or contract up to 5 mm, and neither is what I’d consider a “stiff” boot. The Ranger 12 is particularly soft. My experience is that assuming equal outside air temperature, it’s at most no stiffer than a Full Tilt boot with a 6-flex tongue, though YMMV. While I have no idea if the soft forward flex was part of your problem, it seems likely. Given your other complaints, I’m thinking that either a Ranger 13 or a Progressor boot would have had a better chance of working out for you.

      Either way, there’s a crucial truth to Fischer vacuum boots illustrated by your comment and it’s more or less mentioned in this review: you’ve got to start with the right shell. That means taking into account the feet you’re working with, the customer’s performance requirements, and their priorities in terms of fit and comfort. Yes, you can make a very high performance boot shockingly comfortable but no matter what, it’s still a high performance ski boot. Your feet will have to get used to being in them. The vacu-plast and vacuum fit helps out quite a bit but it’s not a magic bullet. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that your story isn’t uncommon.

      Lasts go roughly like this: RC4 Pro starts at 95mm (90-100mm range) across the forefoot and lowest overall volume. The RC4/Ranger Pro 13/Trinity 110/Junior 100 flex race boot last starts out at 98mm across the forefoot (93-103mm range), a bit higher volume. The Progressor last starts at 100mm across the forefoot (95-105mm range) and higher volume still, particularly over the instep, on the medial side of the boot, and in the cuff. The Ranger 12 and other Ranger boots with a walk mode are built on a quite high volume 101 mm last (96-106mm range). These numbers are all out of Fischer’s catalog and can vary a bit, but they give a good starting point.

      In terms of answering “what shell is best?”, what I’ve seen of Fischer’s vacuum boots suggests that when in doubt, you’re better off going with a narrower, lower-volume boot, padding the foot extensively through critical areas (instep, sixth toe, etc), and using the vacuum fit to expand the boot rather than trying to make a higher volume shell smaller. Toe caps are critical and I’ve had good success in using foam to keep customers’ toes splayed during the moulding process. Some of the more freestyle-oriented skiers I’ve worked with have needed double toe caps and toe-splaying, usually resulting in me putting an Intuition toe cap on their toes before using a Fischer one to hold it all together. Done properly, it seems that this method results in maintaining just enough instep clearance while ensuring the toes and sides of the foot are both held in and comfortable. The only reason this works is due to the pressure exerted onto the boot by the inflated bags, which of course results in an equal (or nearly so) amount of pressure being exerted outwards on the boot. In other words, pressure directed at your foot results in pressure directed outwards from your foot, and the boot conforms to shape. It’s probably worth mentioning that moulded this way, the lower shell usually requires a lot less buckle tension to hold you in enough to ski. Starting out with a higher-volume shell seems to work best for people who’d rather have supremely comfortable boots and are willing to put up with a bit less hold.

      Sizing is another issue, and here I’ll split with the author. Most of the people I’ve vacuumed into Fischers have been downsized, particularly if they’re after as much performance as possible. The vacuum process makes it possible to aggressively shell-size skiers who normally couldn’t handle that kind of fit, thus eliminating any unnecessary length inside the boot. This seems particularly true with the 98mm last Fischer boots. The 101mm last Ranger 12 measures roughly 303 mm for a size 26 and as such runs on the shorter end of the bootsole spectrum for any given mondopoint size (a size 25 Tecnica Mach 1 series boot has a 300mm bootsole length, for comparison’s sake, and a size 26 Full Tilt measures out to 301mm), so downsizing is a little less common. Still, I’ve done it quite a bit. Given what I mentioned about toe caps and splaying toes during the moulding process, I suppose there’s a case to be made for sizing to the sizer and moulding with less padding on the feet but should the liners pack out a bit too much, extra length could result in the boot not providing enough hold over the instep, which can/likely will result in the foot sliding forward and toes banging the front of the boot. And if there’s one thing I don’t trust in Fischer boots, it’s the liners…

      Fischer’s liners suck. The first generation with what looks like black mesh over a silver liner are particularly terrible. The new Ultralon foam ones are better, but they still ski cold. Adding to that problem is the way the vacu-plast seems to have zero insulating value. I mean NONE. Customers have complained about cold feet more than in any other boot and we can’t just write it off as bad boot-fit causing cold feet. Cold temps don’t seem to affect flex nearly as much, but it does affect foot warmth more than in most other boots. I’m looking forward to experimenting with vacuuming Fischers using aftermarket liners, something I haven’t done yet.

      In any case, no, Fischer boots aren’t for everyone. They’re potentially a great option but require an experienced bootfitter who can help pick out the right shell, in the right size, the right flex, all while managing expectations.

      • Awesome comment. Follow-up:
        “While I have no idea if the soft forward flex was part of your problem, it seems likely.”
        – Issue was more complex than that, but this exacerbated one of the issues.

        “Given your other complaints, I’m thinking that either a Ranger 13 or a Progressor boot would have had a better chance of working out for you.”
        – As I understood things this fall, I’m not entirely sure if this is true for the particular host of issues my foot, ankle and calf presented. Entirely possible. The guy I saw this fall (Masterfit University course instructor/boot tester for Ski/Skiing, etc) was not a Fischer dealer so looking at another Fischer wasn’t on the table.

        “I’m looking forward to experimenting with vacuuming Fischers using aftermarket liners, something I haven’t done yet.” [regarding cold]
        – One of the very costly things the Fischer dealer I was working with last year did to try and get things right (an absolute waste, in hindsight, of not only money, but time) was to put in an aftermarket liner. In my case a BootDoctor foam liner. The plastic is unquestionably contributes to the cold here – these helped but only marginally.

        I do know that the boot I was in last season was the wrong one (fitted on me by a shop with a very, very solid reputation). It seems in retrospect those guys were 1) a bit distracted and 2) got somewhat lost in the forest vs trees. Either way – simply assuming that the vacuum process is an automatic is dangerous. Your comment highlights that the Fischer approach still requires implementation in a competent and thoughtful manner.

      • Great comments.

        I don’t know whether “full fit” is an improvement. For some strange it appears the “vacuum” line is on the way out in ’22- I love the fit. I used to be able to ski only FT/Dalbello/Raichle! (my uncle’s) because a 4- buckle boot could never lock down my ankle.

        The vacuum fit solved this- although the 130’s inevitably sacrifice some useful FT flex I had in the BUMPS.

        I fixed the cold liner problem myself: 2 DryGuy neoprene gloves on each foot (about $30/pair). I use them at 35F- and I don’t care what anyone thinks- I don’t race and the perfect fit is %100 worth the few extra grams of neoprene.

  3. This thread reminds me of the old chestnut, “You fall in love with your skis, but you marry your boots.” The Fischer fitting process sounds very similar to what I experienced when getting my Daleboots fit in SLC at the factory, minus the weighted air bags. I have found the Intuition liner they use quite warm, and I love the overall fit of the boots (by far the best fitting boots I have ever owned). Do you have an insight into the Daleboot process–strengths or weaknesses of it relative to the new wave of fitting technologies that the “bigger boys” are employing?

  4. Hi Will – My pronation issues sound similar to yours. Are you using a custom orthotic footbed or something off the shelf? (I layer duct tape on my boot board for a very “custom” solution, but would love to move toward a real fix.)

    • Hi Dave,

      Yes, definitely. I have a custom footbed that I’ve used in all my boots for the last 4-5 seasons. Although it seems a little counterintuitive, having more support under my arch keeps my heel from rolling / dropping to the inside under excessive pronation, and when that’s the case, my forefoot doesn’t spread out as much, and my 6th toe area isn’t pushed into the side of the shell. Your issues may be a little different, but if you have having fit problems, or you want the best response out of your boots as possible, I would suggest going with a pair of custom footbeds. It’s an investment, but one worth making, as you can re-use them in future pairs of boots.



  5. There isn’t a comfort, performance or problem foot issue I can’t solve with the Fischer Vacuum boots. The first generation were considered cold, however for the number of boots sold the cold complaints were few and far between. Since the introduction of the Ultralon liner cold complaints have all but disappeared. One thing not mentioned is the fact that the Vacuum boot has no memory and will stay in shape until the boot may have to be re vacuumed. Other boots mentioned do have memory and can return to their out of the box shape. Vacuum is the single greatest innovation in ski boots since, well ski boots. With the lower shell of the Vacuum Comfort model also made out of Vacu-Plast, any skier of any ability level purchasing a new ski boot should be in a Fischer. Fischer Vacuum/Comfort ski boots is the ultimate specialty shop product and should be embraced as such, not to mention it will greatly enhance the profitability of ski boot revenues.

    • Seriously?! “Greatly enhanced profitability” in regards to ski boot sales?

      Dead give-away that you’re an industry guy trying and failing miserably at astroturfing review comments. Fail, fail, fail.

      For the record, ski boot sales have been the brightest area of specialty ski retail for the past couple of years. But when you come around and claim “greatly enhanced profitability,” all the consumer hears is “we’re getting ripped off.” It’s simplistic, yes, but that’s how it is. You’re not helping yourself out.

  6. Vacuum process is by far he most interesting. Innovation in boot fitting in the past few years, however, there are caveats that people need to be aware of. First the shell deforms but does not stretch, so if you expand the shell significantly, you risk creating gaps and having a leaky boot, so don’t get too aggressive on the width. Second, the liners killed the Vacuum line, the original liner was a piece of junk, the current look a lot better, but the damage has been done. The design and construction of Vacuum boots is also at least a generation behind the step of the art. The toe rubber dam was held in place by a single staple… Seriously??? On a $900 boot??? … No wonder it leaks like a colander. Third, the ugly problem is that the plastic is soft, tends to wear out a lot more than regular boot plastic, and is prone to cracking in areas that are subject to repeated stress. One early adopter here complained about his boots cracked all over by the end of the season, I had both boots crack in the same place, etc. Still, Fischer fit especially with a god aftermarket liner is incredibly nice- snug, uniform, and gentle. The softer flex is also very nice.

  7. Hello Richard,
    It would be good to disclose the fact that you are a Fischer rep as part of your rather over the top comments on the boot. Perhaps what you say is even correct, but for what ever it is worth, your hyperbole backfires on folks like me—the last thing in the world I want to do now is try the boot!

  8. Here here RE soft plastic. As I said in my original comment: the toes and heels of these boots looked abysmal after 1 season of inbounds use. With basic hits to the toe, (e.g. climbing up stairs to the gondola), entire chunks of the plastic would break off. And not just toe and heel: a clipping from a kid being an idiot in the life line left a deep gash in the top of these boots. Even before I abandoned my Rangers, I had concerns about the boots lasting more than two season (tough pill to swallow considering the cost).

  9. Just got a pair of rc4 130s as a warrantee of my almost 2 year old pair of vacuums because of some cracking. For me, the new liner is MUCH warmer than the original liners. Great improvement. Agree 100 percent on amaxing fit and heal hold. Love the vacuums

  10. Re: cracking boots: I’ve seen all boots crack at the same place as Fischer boots. Lange’s, Salomon, Tecnica, Nordica, Atomic etc. I would say the frequency is higher in the latter.
    Fischer is good about replacement.
    Yes these shells are cold. It’s the unique property this plastic has that is the cause. The molecules are so tightly bound that there is less air in the plastic therefore less insulative value. Polyurethane plastic is less dense therefore does not conduct heat or cold that well. It takes much longer to get polyurethane up to a temperature where it will change shape and has higher memory.
    The liners are crap yes. The new ultralon liner isn’t a whole lot better, but it is better.

    I am now in the 15/16 RC4 130 that Jonathan reviewed, and I still love the vacuum process. I put my zip fit liner in it and it’s even better.

    As far as “vacuum” goes, Fischer brought it back from the vacuum ski technology. It’s not a vacuum, they just resurrected vacuum from the dead because people who remember the vacuum ski relate vacuum with Fischer. It’s marketing.

  11. Charlie, did you do the vacuum process with the Zipfits in? Or did you put them in after shell molding?

    Zipfit GARAs or WCs? I own zips and am thinking of going the Ranger + Zipfit route too

  12. I know this is a bit of an old thread but I have a question about the “v technology” or Somatec. I pronate quite a bit and I think that Fischer’s blurb about the additional v built into the boot could be helpful to me. The question is – is this really more than other manufacturers and is it something that you noticed in the riding. Any thoughts gratefully received! Cheers guys.

  13. The insulating R value of ski boot shell plastic is approx. equal for all ski boots. fischer boots are cold because the shells fit tight to the foot. Theres no air gap between the shell and the liner. Same as downsizing to a shorter boots usually means cold toes. Tight boots are cold boots

  14. Just buy a pair of Lange RS 130’s and invest in the time to make them fit your feet and you’ll have the best tool for connecting your mind to your skis that has ever been invented. And if you really want the best, put a set of ZipFit liners in them.

  15. The RC4 130 has a great liner, and it aligns really well, if you have a slightly abducted stance. It gives a great feel for the edges. The RC4 130 has a forward flex, which is not as progressive as the best boots with similar last and stiffness. Its a bit soft, initially. Thats been my experience, given the cuff fit

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