A common rule of outdoor adventure is to break in your equipment before you hit the trail. And understandably. One of the fastest ways to kill your buzz is to suffer through ill-fitting gear after setting off from the trailhead – especially when it comes to boots. So I brought that very principle to my go-to trail with a fresh-out-of-the-box pair of Keen Revel winter hiking boots for their first field test.
I’ve been fooled by other hiking boots with the false promise of a tough grip in winter conditions, so I was surprised by how well the Keen Revel reacted to the variable trail conditions in front of me. The Keen Revel’s dual climate rubber sole and traction lugs hold a grip in slick terrain with its deep tread design, suited for packed-down snow or muddy trails. Like the name implies, the dual climate sole can handle contrasting temperature differences, which hardens in cold weather conditions for a better bite into snow. That technology allowed me to feel more confident and maintain my casual pace in spots where I’ve previously slid uncontrollably down small, slippery descents in other boots.
In terms of performance technologies, the Keen Revels feature a waterproof and breathable membrane that didn’t soak up any moisture as I stepped through puddles of mud and water. A boost of insulation adds all-around warmth for those extra cold hikes in slush or heavy snow, but the real perk is what the insulation is made from. A blend of charcoal and bamboo fibers are packed inside the insulation, and their natural properties help reduce the buildup of funky smells after a season of snowshoeing in damp conditions.
Keen has always been founded on the idea of protection for your feet, most notably with their signature rubber toe outsole. The toe cap is a great defense against branches and rocks when your focus is somewhere other than on the obstacles in front of you. But the Keen Revel offers much more than just armor for your toes. A sturdy midsole built with compression molded EVA foam translates to stability in uneven terrain, and combined with the above-the-ankle fit, the Keen Revel boot gave me all the support I needed while taking fast – and careless – strides up rocky switchbacks. That construction is especially important while snowshoeing off trail, where obstacles are sometimes hidden by a thin layer of snow.
As durable as the midsole is, the Keen Revel flexes in all the right spots without creasing or pinching into my feet. The result was a blister-free foot after 2.5 hours of breaking in the boots. I did notice that the balls of my feet were quite tender, which could possibly be relieved by replacing the wool insole with a custom footbed if the fit doesn’t improve after more hikes.
While I wouldn’t break in a brand new pair of Revels on any longer of a hike, I applaud Keen for their cozy approach to footwear design straight out of the box that I expect will only get more comfortable the more they’re used on and off the trail.
The Keen Revel, which comes in a men’s and women’s version, runs a half size small, so size up if you prefer a little wiggle room.
For more information or to purchase the women’s Revel, visit http://www.keenfootwear.com/us/en/product/fw11/shoes/women/trailhead/revel/gargoyle!azure%20blue#.
For the men’s Revel, visit http://www.keenfootwear.com/us/en/product/fw11/shoes/men/trailhead/revel/dark%20shadow!chili%20pepper.