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Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)

We searched the Outdoor Retailer Show to find footwear to keep feet warm and dry while winter hiking and snowshoeing.

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by Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl | 2008-01-30 14:19:00-07


Our focus in this article will be on new products and technologies that have emerged since our article on Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel, published in March 2007. There are very few noteworthy developments in gaiters, vapor barriers, socks, overboots, and booties, so not much to say there. However, the selection of lightweight insulated boots continues to expand, and we found several noteworthy products.

Lightweight insulated boots is a fairly new category emerging over the past couple of years. Of course there are lots of warm boots intended for après ski, but our interest is restricted to boots that are suitable for cold weather hiking or snowshoeing. Until recently, most insulated boots were HEAVY, because rubber and leather are just plain heavy. Now we are seeing more waterproof/breathable lightweight insulated boots made of mostly synthetic materials that drastically reduce the weight.

However, the category is still in transition. Many footwear manufacturers still adhere to the notion that hikers prefer leather boots, so many of the boots we found have leather components. Granted, today’s leathers benefit from high tech waterproofing processes, but leather is still heavy compared to fabrics, and the waterproofing disappears after a while, allowing the leather to soak up water. Insulated boots with a rubber bottom section also tend to be heavy, but manufacturers are now finding lighter substitutes - like porous synthetic rubber and injection molded polyurethane and EVA foams - to make them significantly lighter.

Most of the insulated boots we found have 200 gram Thinsulate or Primaloft insulation, which is warm enough for active snow travel, but not enough to prevent chilly toes in really cold weather or while winter camping. Some of the boots have thicker insulation (400 to 600 gram) of the same insulation types, which adds more warmth for really cold conditions and winter camping, and adds a little more weight. Two of the boots we found have a removable insulated liner, which puts them in the extreme warmth category (-40 F claimed), and the liners can be removed for faster drying. Finally, we found one boot that is insulated with Aerogel, an ultra-lightweight nanotechnology developed for space suits.

The following table summarizes the results of our search for lightweight insulated boots. It is by no means comprehensive; we were not able to contact every manufacturer and weigh every model of boot. Notably missing is The North Face, which has several good candidate boots, but we were not able to get in to see them during the show.

Manufacturer/ModelWeight/Boot (men’s 9)InsulationMSRP
AKU Suiterra Injected GTX26.3600g Duotherm$240
Ahnu Lodi Mid18.7200g Thinsulate$130
Baffin Edge28.7Synthetic Liner$90
Kamik Viper19.0200g Thinsulate$100
Kamik Shadow9.6 (kid’s 6)Felt Liner$60
Helly Hansen Kikut 3 Hi22.7200g Thermolite$180
Keen Summit County26.5600/400 KeenWarm$140
Keen Snoqualime21.3400/200 KeenWarm$135
Keen Blackcomb19.0200g KeenWarm$120
Keen Growler19.5200g KeenWarm$125
Keen Winterport22.4200g KeenWarm$110
Lowa Creek II GTX Mid22.5200g Primaloft$210
Salomon B52 TS GTX20.8400g Thinsulate$140
Salomon Chill Out WP22.8200g Thinsulate$120
Salomon Tundra Mid WP24.0Aerogel$160
Salomon Snowtrip TS WP20.1200g Thinsulate$100
Salomon Deemax Dry17.3200g Thinsulate$140
Sorel Timberwolf24.0200g Thinsulate$100

Some Favorites

The following boots are Backpacking Light staff favorites, based on our testing to date.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 1
Still a favorite is the Keen Growler (19.6 ounces/boot). It’s made of durable synthetic materials, so it won’t soak up water. The insulation and waterproof/breathable liner are proprietary KeenWarm and Keen Dry. Available now in men’s and women’s sizes.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 2
The Kamik Viper (19 ounces/boot) is also made of synthetic materials and is insulated with 200 gram Thinsulate. The waterproof/breathable membrane is proprietary. The Viper runs a bit narrow for a winter boot. Available now in men’s sizes only.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 3
The Salomon Tundra Mid (24 oz/boot) is insulated with Spaceloft, which contains Aerogel, a nanotechnology insulation developed for space suits. The Tundra Mid will be available in fall 2008 in men’s and women’s sizes.

Perhaps the ground breaker in this roundup is the Solomon Tundra Mid Boot (replacing the taller Salomon Aspen Boot for fall 2008), which is insulated with Aerogel (a nanotechnology insulation developed for space suits). Aspen Aerogels's Spaceloft insulation is ideally suited to footwear applications because it provides a very high warmth/thickness ratio and is unaffected by compression. It allows thinner uppers that provide the same level of warmth as thicker and heavier insulations. These boots look heavier than they really are. Will is currently testing the Aspen Boot, and they are awesome!

Some Strong Contenders

Following are some standouts we found in our search for lightweight insulated boots at Winter 2008 Outdoor Retailer. We have not had an opportunity to field test these boots, so we don’t have any information on their performance and warmth.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 4
Although the Kamik Shadow (part of their new Synergy series) will only be available this fall as a kid’s boot, we included it because of its technology and light weight. Kamik has developed a proprietary injected EVA foam for the lower, which combined with a waterproof nylon upper, reduces weight substantially. The Shadow, with a removable liner, weighs just 9.6 ounces (kid's size 6) and is rated at -40 F. Available fall 2008; if the line is successful, the technology will be offered in adult boots in 2009.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 5
The Salomon Deemax Dry has an outer softshell fabric and weighs just 17.3 ounces/boot. It’s insulated with 200 gram Thinsulate and has a proprietary WP/B lining. Available fall 2008 in men’s and women’s sizes.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 6
For more insulation and low weight, the Salomon B52 TX GTX has 400 gram Thinsulate Ultra and weighs just 20.8 ounces/boot. The membrane in this boot is Gore-Tex. Available now in men’s and women’s sizes.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 7
The Keen Snoqualamie (left) is a taller and warmer boot with 400 gram KeenWarm in the toe area and 200 gram in the upper. The waterproof/breathable membrane is KeenDry. At 21.3 ounces/boot, the Snoqualamie should give a lot of warmth for its weight. Available now in men’s sizes. The new Summit County (right, 26.5 ounces/boot) is warmer yet, with 600 gram Thinsulate in the toe area and 400 gram in the upper, and will be available in men’s and women’s sizes in fall 2008.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 8
The Keen Winterport is a taller boot that saves weight with an insulated fabric upper with drawcord closure. Weighing only 22.4 ounces/boot, it’s insulated with KeenWarm and kept dry with a KeenDry membrane. Available now in men’s and women’s sizes.

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 9
We didn’t know that Helly Hansen made shoes until we visited their booth at the OR Show. The Kikut 3 High has a lacing system inside its insulated waterproof/breathable soft shell cover, accessible via a waterproof zipper on the front. The boot is insulated with 200 gram Thermolite, and weighs just 22.7 ounces/boot.


While we are seeing some clear progress toward lighter insulated footwear, it seems that this category still has a ways to go. For one thing, it’s time to ditch the leather. It’s counterintuitive to build a leather waterproof/breathable boot. Many of the boots can be made lighter through the use of durable, more breathable fabric uppers (like the Kamik Viper) and injection molded foams in the lower section (like the Kamik Synergy Light series). Rubber is still the best material to provide an outsole with good traction on ice, and some manufacturers have reduced weight by making the outsole thinner. Thinsulate and Primaloft insulations dominate the market, but we would like to see more boots that incorporate advanced materials like Spaceloft containing Aerogel. With these improvements, it should be possible for manufacturers to provide insulated boots that weigh 16 to 22 ounces/boot, depending on the boot height and the amount of insulation.


"Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)," by Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-01-30 14:19:00-07.


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Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)
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Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) on 01/30/2008 14:30:22 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight Insulated Footwear Roundup (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Lots of intriguing choices! on 01/30/2008 21:31:18 MST Print View

Thanks for another great survey of what's out there, Will and Janet!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Thanks! on 01/31/2008 18:10:31 MST Print View

Really valuable information for winter.

Warren Wilkinson
(icensnow) - M

Locale: New England, USA
more thanks on 02/03/2008 09:18:17 MST Print View

really appreciate this info, it's invaluable - be lost without it . . . ooops (that's the GPS), make that cold and uncomfortable :-)

Craig Lewis
(craigl28) - F

Locale: SoCal
SnowShoe Use on 02/08/2008 12:52:31 MST Print View

Which favorites are best to wear with snowshoes attached?
I have MSR DenaliEvo's.

Edited by craigl28 on 02/08/2008 13:03:20 MST.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Re: Snowshoe Use on 02/12/2008 06:24:23 MST Print View

Snowshoe bindings are very versatile so any of the boots shown will work well with snowshoes. The main factors to consider when choosing an insulated boot is the fit and amount of insulation. The fit depends on your foot shape of course, and most insulated boots run wide (except the Kamik Viper) to accommodate extra socks. For insulation, 200 gram is minimal for cool weather and more active snowshoeing. For colder temps, lower activity level, and snow camping you definitely need more insulation, or put chemical heat packs in your boots. There are socks available that have a pocket for a heat pack on the top of the toe area. Although this is a disposable technology, heat packs work very well. Best, Will.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
KAMIK SHADOW on 01/28/2010 14:03:41 MST Print View

I like the Kamik Shadow for its REMOVABLE liner, which can easily be taken inside your sleeping bag & kept warm for a nice warm boot for the morning.

This feature is critical for very cold weather camping, as is a good VBL sock to keep the insulation dry (thus warm) all day.

Edited by Danepacker on 01/28/2010 14:04:24 MST.