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Field Tested: Vasque Snowburban Winter Hiking Boots

When it comes to choosing footwear for any of my outdoor activities I’m particularly picky. This became a major issue when it came time to purchase a new pair of winter hiking boots. I tried several brands including Scarpa, Keen, Columbia, Salewa, and Asolo. None of the boots felt right. They would either be too bulky and stiff or too light weight with not enough insulation.

First time out in my Vasque Snowburbans

After several weeks of hunting I finally ended up with a pair of Vasque Snowburban winter hiking boots. These boots are a nice compromise between a burly 3 season hiker and a winter mountaineering boot.

For women Vasque also makes an identical boot but calls it the “Pow Pow”. I guess they thought “Snowburban” was too masculine.

Specifications

Yes... I weighed them. I'm a nerd, what of it?

Weight: 3 lb 3oz per pair

Materials: 1.8mm Waterproof leather upper with sections of waterproof fabric

Insulation: 400g 3M Thinsulate

Footbed: Removable Dual Density EVA

Midsole: Molded EVA with a TPU Shank

Outsole: Vasque “Venture”

MSRP: $159 (usually found for much less)

Design and Looks

From Vasque's Website

It might be a minor thing to some people but I like my boots to look OK as well as perform. The Vasque Snowburban boots come in a variety of color combinations that are all great looking. I chose “beluga” and yellow which is a dark gray/yellow contrast.

The upper of the boot is made of a waterproof leather with a fabric section. The fabric section allows the boots ankle to flex more than it would if it was completely leather. A micro fleece is added to the collar to prevent any irritation with skin contact.

The boots also feature a Gaiter “D” ring below the laces. This is a great spot to tie down your gaiters to prevent them from riding up. My Outdoor Research gaiters fit this ring perfectly.

Fit And Comfort

My feet are borderline between a normal “D” and a wide “EE”. I find some brands fit better than others. My feet are wider in the toe area so I tend to gravitate towards narrow heel, wide toe shoes (not many options!). That being said… the Vasque Snowburbans fit me great. They’re designed to be wide and comfortable while accommodating thick winter socks. There’s plenty of volume in the boot to allow for chemical toe warmers. The stock insoles are comfortable but aftermarket insoles could improve the fit even more if desired.

My only gripe with fitting is the lacing system. There is no “lace lock” hooks on these boots. This makes it very  difficult to lock your heel down and get a tight fit. If your heel is loose the boot will rub the back of your foot and start to chafe. In order to tie the boot tightly you need to tighten it in two sections, first the lower portion, then the upper. All while trying to reduce how much the laces slip while you’re tying them.

I also found that the boots tend to get loose after the first mile or so of walking… it’s common to have to re-tie the boots mid hike.

The sole of this boot is semi rigid. If you’re used to highly flexible trail runners in the summer, this takes some getting used to. However, the stiff sole helps a lot with strap on crampons and kicking steps in packed snow. The sole is not completely solid like a mountaineering boot, it still offers a degree of flexibility.

Insulation

Kinsman Ridge in Vasque Snowburbans and MSR Evo Snowshoes

These boots feature 400 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation. Insulation “weight” is somewhat of an arbitrary number. Other factors like the exterior fabric, thickness of the sole, midsole materials, etc… also play a role in how warm the boot will ultimately be. Even with insulated boots I like wear two layers of socks. One being a thin liner to wick away moisture, the other being a heavy expedition weight wool sock.

With the Vasque Snowburban boots combined with my socks I’m very comfortable in even the coldest environments while actively hiking. I’ve had this boot in -30F on top of Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire and my feet remained warm. Compared to other boots in this category (Columbia Bugaboot, Keen Summit County, Etc…) , I’d say these are on the warmer end of the spectrum.

That being said. If you need to stop moving for any period of time, no amount of insulation will keep you warm. It’s all about generating continuous heat and retaining that heat.

Waterproof Barrier

Dunked boot! Luckily my foot stayed dry.

The Vasque Snowburban boot offers waterproof protection in the form of “UltraDry” technology. UltraDry is a proprietary “waterproof breathable” membrane designed by Vasque. From my experience these boots are in fact “water proof”. I have accidentally dunked my foot on cold river crossings wearing this boot and my foot remained dry and warm… A real life saver! I appreciate the higher than average cuff on these boots as it keeps snow and water from entering.

The downside to “waterproof” boots is typically the fact that they don’t breathe well. In my experience the Vasque Snowburbans never felt clammy or sweaty inside. I’m not a “heavy sweater” and I tend to stay drier in the colder months. Using a liner sock also helps reduce the clammyness (is that even a word?)

Traction

Vasque Snowburbans with Black Diamond Contact Crampons

The Vasque Snowburban boots offer a “Vasque Venture” outsole with “cold hold” technology. This outsole is made of a thick soft rubber, with harder rubber “teeth” on the inner foot. This proprietary design is specifically engineered to grip ice and snow. In my experience these boots excel in soft and packed down snow. These boots climb snow hills like mountain goats!

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for ice or muddy surfaces. These boots do not grip ice very well. They also do not excel in muddy or wet conditions. I suppose this is why they’re dubbed “SNOWburban”. In all fairness, no outsole grips ice that well… this is why we wear microspikes or crampons.

The Snowburban offers a heel welt to assist in mounting snowshoes. This heel welt works well and my MSR Evo snowshoes affix to the boot securely. Strap on crampons and Microspikes also work great with this boot. The stiffer sole offers a nice platform to stand on when front pointing up a steep hill in crampons.

Durability

These boots are tanks. I’ve gone on several hikes between spring, fall, and deep winter. They’ve been dunked in rivers, stomped through mud, on snowshoes, crampons, and microspikes… yet they still look brand new. I’m impressed with the durability and quality. No loose seems or rubber rands peeling back yet! The outsole barely shows any wear.

What I Like

  • Excellent Warmth
  • Actually Waterproof
  • Wide Fit
  • Fairly Low Price
  • Durability
  • Traction on snow
  • Snowshoe Welt
  • Gaiter Ring
  • Stylish looks

What I don’t Like

  • Low Traction On Ice
  • Low Traction In Mud
  • Bad Lacing Design

Conclusion

Fitted with Gaiters and MicroSpikes

Overall this is a great boot for anyone hiking in very cold, snowy conditions! I’ll be wearing mine through the winter until they fall apart… which seems like it may take years. Go try some on!

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12 Comments

  • mm

    Dave Dillon

    July 16, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Hey Amos. Thanks for visiting the site! My rule of thumb is if you’re between sizes always go with the larger size. Otherwise you’ll risk the dreaded “toe bang” as you descend hills. Ultimately I would try to find them at a local store and try them on with the socks you intend to wear. I hope this helps!

    Reply
  • Kate T

    April 28, 2017 at 2:18 am

    I have the women’s version of these boots, and I love them! Served me well on many 4000 footers 🙂
    After a few seasons the waterproofing seems to be lessened on the women’s version (outside is suede, not a hard leather). They look visibly damp after postholing in snow and take a long time to dry. But they still keep my feet warm on the trail.

    Thanks for the insight about crampons- I’m looking to buy a pair that work with my current boots and future mountaineering boots when I invest in some.

    Reply
  • Neil

    February 17, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    I just found a pair at REI for $79–in my size and preferred color–so am very excited! Hopefully there’s some snow left by the time they arrive.

    Thanks for a great review!

    Reply
  • RA

    December 11, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    Excellent review!! Wish I’d come across it before I bought mine a few weeks ago but I feel good now.

    I was wondering what size do you have and whether you had any issues putting on the Black Diamond Contact crampons? I’m looking for crampons and I was told the Black Diamond Contact may be a little too small for my size 10 shoes, esp the width on the heels.

    Reply
    • mm

      Dave Dillon

      December 12, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Hi RA, I also wear a size 10 Mens and the BD Contact crampons do fit without any extra hardware. However, I have mine set to the longest length to the last adjustment hole. So if you were to need a size 10 1/2 and up the crampon likely wouldn’t fit. Alternatively Black Diamond sells an extension bar for their crampons but it does add cost to your overall bottom line.

      Hope this helps! Thanks for reading!

      Reply
    • Joe M.

      December 20, 2016 at 8:36 am

      Thanks for this great review! I have a similar question; I just got these boots with hope of using them with 10-point crampons, but after reading a bit more around the ‘net, I’m finding a lot of people say they’re maybe too flexible for crampons. This review is one of the few that says otherwise. Have you had any trouble in that regard, like with the BDs coming loose? Do you use them in relatively steep spots? Thanks!

      Reply
      • mm

        Dave Dillon

        December 20, 2016 at 3:14 pm

        Hey Joe. These boots require a very specific crampon with a spring steel center bar. Several manufactures make these. I personally use the Black Diamond Contact Strap-on crampons. They work great. Typically any “Walking crampon” will be flexible enough to use with these boots. I even use my Black Diamond Contact crampons on my trail running shoes

        It’s important to keep in mind that these boots ARE NOT mountaineering boots. They aren’t suitable for ice climbing. So “automatic” and “semi-automatic” crampons will not work. The sole is soft, and only compatible with flexible strap on type crampons.

        Hope this helps!

        Reply

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