Winter nature has its own unique beauty. And the main color in this season is white, due to one thing- snow. Sometimes in the mountain- a lot of snow. Such a landscape is attractive, calling you to enter inside it and wander deeper and deeper in it. But of course, you need the necessary equipment. And an important part of this equipment is what you would wear on your feet. There are various kinds of shoes and boots, but the best of them is winter hiking boots. Let’s focus on the 10 best winter hiking boots for 2021!
What kind of boots are these
The main purpose of the winter hiking boots is to allow you to hike safely and comfortably on a snowy and icy surface, as well as in snowless but cold places. So, these boots are high (but not too much), with better insulation, and with a harder (but not the hardest) sole. And this is the main difference between the winter and three-season hiking boots (shoes)- the three-season ones are a bit lower and with a softer sole.
The harder sole has two goals. First- it gives you more stability when you walk on snowy trails. And second, it allows you to attach some kinds (but not all) of crampons.
Yes, there are boots with a harder than the winter hiking boots’ sole, allowing you to attach all kinds of crampons, but they are called mountaineering boots. However, if you just want to hike in the winter mountain, if climbing and extremely difficult terrains are not the priority, winter hiking boots are more proper than mountaineering boots.
The main features of the good winter hiking boots
There are several important features that you have to look for when you choose your winter hiking boots. Some of them are general, like sizing and comfort, but others are more specific, like warmth. Let’s get into details.
Since you will deal with low and sometimes extremely low temperatures, warmth is a very important feature. In the case of winter hiking boots, it is achieved by insulation. There are various kinds of insulation, from various materials. This insulation is usually input inside the boots in different amounts, measured in weight.
For winter hiking boots, the amount of inner insulation varies from 200 to 400 g, and since it is related to weight, it has to compromise with the weight of the boots. Of course, the lighter is a boot or a shoe, the better. But in the winter conditions, warmth is more important than lightweight.
This is another very important feature, especially if you walk in a not-so-cold winter environment where the temperatures are around the point of freezing. In such an environment, snow often melts during the day and freezes during the night. Also, sometimes you have to cross streams with thin ice or just walk in the water, sometimes you have to walk in slush or just in mud.
In such a case, your boots must be well waterproof designed. Wetting inside is uncomfortable during the other seasons, but in winter it can be dangerous.
The waterproof ability for winter hiking boots is achieved in two ways. First- by a good and breathable membrane. And second, by the boot’s height and the tongue’s design. The second is important because the wetting factors like slush, mud, and icy waters are often deeper in the winter.
This is another important feature, but not like the waterproof because it can be easily resolved by gaiters. But if you walk on deeper snow without gaiters, snow can penetrate inside from above. In this case, there are two things that can help.
The first is the boot’s height again- the higher the boot, the deeper snow you can walk on. And the second is the wrapping of the upper around your leg. The tight wrapping, the less snow can penetrate. But the winter hiking boots can’t be too high and too tight- it would compromise the comfort.
Walking on snowy and especially icy surfaces can be slippery- more than on the snowless ground. If you walk on ice, you can easily fall. If you walk just on snow (especially deeper snow), you would not fall, but if your boot doesn’t have good traction ability, you would at least walk more hardly.
So, good traction can be achieved by well-designed soles with a rough surface. At the same time, the sole has to be enough stiff (but not like in mountaineering boots), to provide as comfortable walking on snow and ice as possible.
Of course, this is important too, like in every other boots or shoes. It has to fit well on your feet and it should not cause blisters or other uncomfortable conditions. And the boots should be good in it even after long trekking. Also, the shorter the breaking period, the better.
Every brand claims that their boots are comfortable, but in reality, not every boot is what their manufacturers say. So, the best way to know it is just to read as many users’ reviews as possible.
Ease of use
Winter hiking boots and mountaineering boots are more difficult to use. While you can quickly pull on and off a summer hiking shoe, the winter hiking boots are higher, with a much more complex lacing system, combined with wrapping and tightening. You can put off your light hiking shoe for 1-2 seconds, but you may need 30 seconds and more to put off your winter hiking boots.
Sizing is important too, and you need to have in mind that sometimes the number written on the boots is not the real number that you expect. Some brands have this problem and try to improve it, other brands have this problem only in some boots. Again, if you can’t try your boots in advance, only reviews can help you to buy the right size.
For men and women
There are some models exclusively made for men, and other models made for women only. But most of the models offer versions for both men and women, and the difference is just in the outer design. Finally, there are also unisex models that don’t need to be specifically divided for men and women.
Now, let’s take a look at the 10 best winter hiking boots for 2021.
The 10 best winter hiking boots for 2021
These boots are not arranged in a chart (No. 1, no.2, etc.), because there is not a “perfect” boot. But at least, the boots of our Top 10 are excellent in one feature and good or just so-so in another feature. So, they have pros and cons. But again, the average level of points for these boots is the highest.
First, take a look at the comparative table below:
Oboz Bridger Insulated
This is one of the warmest, driest, and most comfortable winter hiking boots. It has several versions of height- 7 to 10″. The boot is supplied with 400 g “Thinsulate” type of insulation, so it can protect your feet warm even in very harsh winter conditions. Also, it has a B-dry waterproof membrane which is breathable and can protect your feet dry even if you walk straight on cold water for а long time.
Concerning the other important features, Oboz Bridger Insulate presents excellent levels- traction, lace system, ankle support. Also, the boots are enough high and wrap your leg enough tightly, so if you are without gaiters, snow can’t easily penetrate inside. Probably the only weakness of the boots is their price, as well as their sizing.
Pros: Excellent warmth, waterproof and comfort features.
Cons: Expensive. The sizing is not perfect.
Salomon X-Ultra Winter CS WP 2
Salomon is one of the leaders in hiking footwear, and X-Ultra Winter CS WP 2 is one of their best examples. They don’t stress on the warmth too much but on the lightweight, yet this boot can keep your feet enough warm in moderate conditions.
This boot has excellent waterproof abilities, but since its height is 7″, it is not proper for walking in too deep snow or liquid water. So, for deeper snow you still need gaiters.
The other features like traction and ankle support are excellent too. This boot is comfortable, but again, its best advantage is in the lightweight- it is almost as light as a three-season hiking shoe, so it gives you comfort during a hike. For moderate conditions, the only weakness is its sizing- it fits too narrowly for some people.
Pros: Lightweight and comfortable. Great for moderate conditions.
Cons: Too narrow. Not proper for extreme conditions.
KEEN Revel IV Polar
This boot is a great choice if you go out in freezing or cold wet weather for a long time. Its warming ability and waterproofness can still keep your feet warm and dry after hours of trekking in bad winter conditions. Actually, it is more like a three-season hiking boot, but its weatherproof makes it proper for winter.
Another excellent behavior of KEEN Revel IV Polar is its gripping ability even on icy surfaces. So, you can walk steadily on quite difficult and slippery kinds of terrain. At the same time, it is quite comfortable and roomy, so you can wear thicker socks.
The weakness of this boot is its weight- it is a bit heavy and bulky. Another problem is its breathability. Although it prevents the penetrating of water and snow from outside, you can still feel wet from inside.
Pros: Great weatherproof features. Excellent gripping on icy surfaces.
Cons: A bit heavy and bulky. Low breathability.
Vasque Snowburban II Ultradry
This boot has a bit stiffer sole than the average winter hiking boots, and this makes it closer to mountaineering boots. But at the same time, it is still lightweight and comfortable for normal hiking on snow, slush, or ice.
One of the main advantages of Vasque Snowburban II Ultradry is its warm-keeping feature. For this purpose, it is supplied with 400 g of insulation material. With these boots, you can walk in serious winter conditions like extreme cold weather with temperatures deep below freezing, and your feet will still feel warm.
Another strong point of this boot is its waterproof feature. It not only protects your feet from wetting but with its height of 8,5″ and the design of the tongue, you can immerse in 7,5″ deep waters. The other features like traction, comfort, and stability are also well-presented. The only weakness is that the lacing system is a bit complicated and it is more difficult to pull off and on.
Pros: Great warmth and waterproof features.
Cons: Complicated lacing system, difficult to pull off and on.
Salomon Toundra Pro CS WP
This is another great product of Salomon. Its features are more comparable with Vasque Snowburban II Ultradry presented above, but there are some differences. Again, Salomon Toundra Pro CS WP can keep your feet warm even in polar conditions like -40°C, but it is achieved by a different type of insulation, called Aerotherm Aerogel. Its waterproof feature is great too.
However, its design is different. The boot is more massive and burly, although its weight is almost the same. Concerning the other features- traction, comfort, break-in time- the boot is very well-presented.
But it has a weakness. Its seams on the forefoot are not durable, at least in some of the boots. Some customers complain that the sewn seams tear apart, and it destroys its waterproof abilities. Due to the multiple complaints, Salomon works on improving this weakness, although not every boot has this problem.
Pros: Excellent warmth and waterproof keeping.
Cons: In some boots, the sewn seams are weak and tear apart, breaking their waterproof.
Columbia Bugafoot Plus IV Omni-Heat
As various winter hiking boots have different pros and cons, the main strength of this one is the traction. Its sole is designed with Michelin Ice Control feature that makes it strong like a snow tire. You can hike on a sloped slippery surface without falling while other hikers that wear other boots (without crampons) would experience difficulty walking.
Concerning the other features, Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat is very good too. Although it has only 200 g of insulation, it still keeps your feet quite warm. Also, it is still comfortable and easy to use.
But its main weakness is waterproof. This boot is not fully waterproof which can be a problem in slushy and muddy terrains. At least, it is excellent in dry snow. Another problem is that its insole is too flat.
Pros: Perfect traction, good in most of the other features.
Cons: Low waterproof, flat footbed.
Kamik is a traditional Inuit soft boot that has been used by these people living in the Arctic for thousands of years. And now, this boot combines the traditional Pac boot design with inner insulation and outer waterproof with the Inuit kamik technique. Just the sole is more rigid as in the typical winter hiking boots.
Kamik Nationplus presents an excellent warming feature with its high-class insulation, as it should be in the lands of the Inuits. Thus, you can hike in extremely low temperatures without feeling cold. In addition, it is comfortable and its traction feature is great too.
But it has a weakness (as every other boot)- the waterproof. First, this boot is 11″ high, but the way the tongue is attached to the boot allows water resistance only in less than 4,5″ deep water. And in the long term, the waterproof feature weakens too quickly. Anyway, since it is a relatively cheap boot, it has great value for its price.
Pros: Excellent warmth feature. Comfortable, with great traction.
Cons: Waterproof disappears too quickly, can’t walk in deep water.
The North Face Chilkat 400 II
This used to be almost the best boot in everything during the last 2-3 years. But although now Oboz Bridger presents a bit higher level in some features, The North Face Chilkat 400 II still remains one of the hiker’s favorites, one of the best winter hiking boots.
The boot is excellent in its warm-keeping feature due to its 400 g of Primaloft Eco insulation. It is very comfortable and provides perfect stability for your ankle. Concerning the traction, it is also at a high level.
But its best feature is its waterproof. It is absolutely waterproof, and its water-resistance ability is for the long term. You can walk 10 minutes in cold, icy water and you would feel absolutely no change on your feet. Its only weakness is the sizing- its size is often smaller than expected.
Pros: Perfect waterproof feature. Great in the other main features.
Cons: Sizing is sometimes different than expected.
Columbia Powderhouse Titanium Omni-Heat 3D
This is another great boot specifically designed for cold winter conditions. It is achieved by its 600 g of Thinsulate insulation. And although it seems heavy, the whole boot’s weight is still average. After many tests, the temperature of -65 F is determined as comfort- with these boots you can walk in the Arctic!
For good traction, the boot uses the Michelin Ice Control feature that spreads the contact with the surface equally, without pressure points. Its waterproof feature is excellent too- it is achieved by the OutDry construction with breathable 3D membrane.
Probably the main problem is that a too-large percent of sold Columbia Powderhouse Titanium Omni-Heat 3D boots are not as warm and comfortable as described above. So, we hope Columbia will increase their control on the quality of every boot they sell.
Pros: Great warmth ability. Excellent traction and waterproof.
Cons: Some of these boots don’t have the quality as described above, mainly about warmth.
La Sportiva Trango Tech Gtx
La Sportiva is well-known as the best professional favorite for various types of shoes and boots. They present a great variety of shoes and boots for different activities in the mountain. It includes winter hiking boots. And Trango Gtx is such a model.
However, this model can be also used as a mountaineering boot. In fact, La Sportiva Trango Gtx (Leather or Trx) combines the best of both categories. The boot has a stiff sole that allows you to attach all kinds of crampons. At the same time, it is designed to be enough comfortable for long hiking in winter.
But due to its transition-type of design- between mountaineering and hiking boots, its warmth ability is not the best. The boot is shorter than the average winter hiking boots, and its strength is mainly to allow you to hike in extreme terrains during the winter. Anyway, concerning the other features- traction, waterproof, and comfort, Trango Tech Gtx is excellent.
Pros: High quality in combination with mountaineering boot’s features.
Cons: Not enough warm.
These are the 10 best winter hiking boots for 2021. There are many other models that are also good, but not in everything. Some are more proper just for a city walk, others enter more in the neighboring categories like mountaineering boots or three-season hiking boots. Anyway, if you are looking for exciting hiking or trekking in winter, these 10 boots give you great options.
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