I spent much of this winter looking for really good snow boots—something I can wear while walking the dogs, hiking, and other outdoor activities. I’m looking for warmth, water resistance, comfort, aggressive treads for snow, and “grippiness.” This last one has been the toughest. All the winter boots I own have let me down this winter, with its constant thaws, flash freezes, and resulting ice… A few weeks ago, Vasque offered to send a pair of their Snowburban II UltraDry snow boots to try out. Are these the ultimate boots for winter outdoor activities? Read on to find out…
Once they were on (more on that later), the Snowburban II boots were very comfortable. There’s not a lot of flex in the sole, but you don’t need that so much in the winter, even when hiking or walking. There is also ankle and heel support provided by the high design, which helps protect against turning an ankle if you do manage to slip.
Overall, my feet felt well-protected from cold, as well as accidental stubs on logs or rocks. I didn’t get the chance to wear them on an extended hike—the one day we had booked for a forest hike was canceled by 75mph winds. I didn’t want to be wearing a helmet as well… However, I’ve worn them for multiple shorter sessions and around the house for a day. The boots provide support and they’re comfortable for walking in.
According to my scale, they are 1.9 lbs each, which isn’t light for footwear, but they actually weigh significantly less than most of my other winter boots. And they’re still light enough to not cause fatigue. I was also able to drive in my wife’s car with the boots on—something I can’t do with traditional, bulky snow boots.
Warm, Waterproof, and Great in Snow
These are winter boots and they even have “UltraDry” in their name. The expectation is that they will be warm and dry. Vasque covers those requirements off with 400g of 3M Thinsulate Ultra insulation, a terry loop wool collar lining, a 1.8mm PU treated leather upper, and a proprietary UltraDry membrane.
We’ve had some pretty cold temperatures and with my usual single pair of wool socks, my feet remained toasty warm in the Snowburban II boots. They also didn’t overheat.
In terms of snow, there are aggressive lug treads that provide excellent traction when walking through snow and on snow-packed paths. At 10-inches tall, the boots are high enough to keep loose snow out so long as you don’t go wading through drifts. I never once had an issue with damp or wet feet, even when slogging through slush and puddles during a thaw.
Better Than Most on Ice, But Not Perfect
I’ve been on a real quest this winter, looking for boots that offer a fighting chance of staying upright on ice. This winter has seen multiple freeze/thaw cycles here in Southwestern Ontario (Canada), and that means layers of mirror-like sheet ice with fluffy snow on top. It’s the perfect recipe for wiping out and I’ve done more than my share over the past few months. I own winter boots from Patagonia, L.L. Bean, and Columbia, and none of them has performed overly well in this regard. I also have a pair of Merrell hikers that grip wet surfaces like they have suction cups, but on ice, they’re all but useless.
The Suburban II boots feature Vasque’s “ColdHold” tech, which is supposed to remain softer in low temperatures for better adherence to cold surfaces. You can also see the company has cut thin siping in the treads to improve grip on wet surfaces. The combination is essentially the same approach used for ice tires. I found the boots were a big improvement on ice that was partially covered by snow and ice that had any cracks, ripples, or striations. I felt completely secure on these surfaces. When I tracked down sheet ice, though, I still had to be careful to keep my footing. These boots are better than any others I’ve tried for gripping ice, but they’re still not perfect.
At this point, I’ve basically concluded that the only way to get a truly solid grip on ice is to strap a set of ice cleats onto my boots…
They Fit Small
The only complaint about I had about the Suburban II boots was a small fit. I ordered my usual size—men’s 12—and they were a bit of a struggle to get on. There’s a loop on the back to help pull them on, but I had to loosen the laces completely to down to the top off my foot to get these on (or off). If the laces used grommets on the top half, that procedure would be easier, but they are threaded through eyelets, so loosening and lightning everything can take a few minutes. They weren’t too tight once on but were slightly snug.
I would suggest ordering half a size or one size up…
The Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry Snow Boots are a great option for hiking and walking in the winter, and they would serve well as general purpose winter boots as well. At $159.99, the price is reasonable, especially given the comfort, water resistance, and performance in snow. They’re pretty good in icy conditions as well, although they still aren’t a match for sheet ice. Depending on the size and color option you choose, you can actually find these starting at $103.97 on Amazon at the moment…
It would have been better timing to review these in December or so, but better late than never. There are still weeks of winter ahead—at least where I live—so there’s still time to invest in a good winter boot for hiking and general use. And if not this year, you can be prepared for next winter.