Good Winter Hiking Boots (if Your Hiking's In Town)
Mar 27, 2008 (Updated Jun 22, 2012)
Review by Steven Mrak
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:warm, (mostly) waterproof, cushy, good fit, good traction
Cons:very stiff even when broken in, lacing system mediocre
The Bottom Line: North Face Chilkats are darned good boots for urban winter hiking: waterproof and warm. I'd look elsewhere for serious snow hiking boots, myself.
Northface Chilkat Waterproof Insulated Winter Boot
Recommend this product?
Whatsamatter, you got cold feet? I'm not talking about backing out of your wedding or that bungee-jumping reservation, I mean COLD, literally. Well, I had cold feet a few times in past winters - Great Corn Desert winters prominently feature sub-zero temperatures and stiff winds whistling through the stubble of the corn fields. Thanks to the Ms and her friends at Land's End and Columbia, I've been able to dodge the hypothermia fairy's kind ministrations since moving back to the MidWest. On the other hand - or, more accurately, on the other foot - my tootsies began to protest on more than one occasion, especially when it came to slogging a mile or two through the frozen glop left behind by snowplows and home- and business-owners who don't seem to own shovels. I solved that problem, though: I trucked on over to the mall and found myself a pair of North Face Chilkats Snow Boots. My feet thank me - mostly. Here's why:
• They're Insulated: North Face sells you an all-weather boot lined with 200-gram Primaloft™ a synthetic polyester microfiber, that's rated down to -25° F (-32° C). I haven't gotten near that cold in them, but I can attest to warm feet at temps down to -5° or -10° F.
• They're Waterproof: There's a latex layer in the uppers combined with sealed seams to keep slush and water out. This lining is excellent for frozen stuff, though not quite as good as GoreTex if there's liquid water involved. The "rubber" footbed includes a waterproof shell to keep water from entering from below; it wraps around over the arch. The only place mine show even slight leakage is at the seams with the leather uppers.
• They're Cushioned: Very cushy dual-density midsoles; the footbed is designed with "flex grooves" that allow your foot to bend instead of making you clomp around like Frankenstein's monster. For added support, there's a nylon shank. The flex grooves are a little disconcerting: if I'm not wearing heavily padded socks, the soles have a ridged feel. Could be psychosomatic, though.
• They have Cool Soles: The thermoplastic soles are bonded to sticky rubber "winter grip" outsoles with a distinctive starburst pattern for increased traction on ice and other wet surfaces. The traction is indeed good. I've had problems in the past with "sticky" rubber, since it's soft and therefore not very durable. We shall see, I guess.
• And Other Features: A single nylon speedlace, a sturdy heel loop, and a D-Ring at the base of the laces for attaching gaiters. Both the tongue and the "cuff" are lined with a water-resistant Dri-Lex® fleece collar that provides cushioning and a little more water resistance.
My thoughts: You don't get to wear snow boots a lot (in normal years, anyway): I find these boots "clunky" enough that I keep a pair of sneakers in the office for inside wear. The Chilkats are very good at keeping your feet warm and dry on snowy days, regardless of how poorly-plowed the parking lot may be (though I've had to break out the gaiters a couple of times). They're not quite as waterproof, however, when there are water puddles instead of slush piles: a tiny bit of water seeps in along the seams.
My biggest complaint with the Chilkats is in design: the boots (especially the shafts) are so stiff when new (and middle-aged, for that matter) that they chafe a lot, and it's hard to drive in them - it might be easier if the heel counter were a little lower and not so stiff. Another mild complaint is the proclamation that these are North Face boots from every direction: red-stitched logos are on the heel and the ankle, and there's a silvery NF logo printed on the rubber of the toe. Guess I'm just not into fashion statements at my age.
As for using North Face Chilkats as winter hiking boots? Don't be silly. They're urban boots as opposed to true hikers. They're great for trudging around town on slushy days; They're heavy, stiff, and the lacing system doesn't adjust well with just the one speedlace - buy yourself a good pair of Vasques or Asolos and a can or two of SnowSeal.
moved 6/12: my God, this site is incompetent...
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