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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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
- 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
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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