Typical during the spring months, there is deep snow to contend with in some regions of the world. And this snow can sometimes be measured in feet, rather than inches. To venture out in the world – from the far reaches of the Antarctic to the driveways of American suburbia – a reliably warm boot that has “quick on and quick off” features is required. Suburban driveway shoveling and on-the-fly snowshoeing is my reality. Sitting in the coat closet near the door to my garage I have my KEEN Alaska boots prepared for service.
Appropriately named, the Alaska boots are a perfect blend of KEEN’s utility and trailhead designs. These boots aren’t your everyday winter hiking boots; they are especially suited for sub-zero temps, harsh weather and deep snow. While a rather bulky boot, the Alaskas are best for hardcore backcountry snowshoeing when reliability is the chief concern.
The boots cover the ankle and a majority of the calf – eliminating the need for gaiters. The lining is a combined 400g of KEEN.WARM insulation that’s breathable and waterproof, and it boasts a faux shearling. They’re a bulletproof boot that combines style and sturdiness. They also work well as an emergency pair of boots to be stored in a vehicle during the winter.
Over the years, I’ve relied on Sorel’s Caribou boots for the quality and dependability needed for warm expedition-style adventures in the snow-covered backcountry. But the Caribou boots are bulky and extremely difficult to fit into a snowshoe binding. Of course, they were probably never meant for snowshoes, but nowadays that’s a feature that most companies have to remember to include in their design.
Plus, the Caribous are extremely heavy (I own an older model). The KEEN Alaska boots weigh 27.76 ounces – mere feathers compared to my bulky Sorels. While the Sorels have a more rugged commercialized look, the KEEN Alaska boots are made to be more fashionable and attractive. Style desires aside, the Alaskas are a warmer boot – no doubts there. They perform flawlessly on the snowshoeing trails. (And that’s compared to a -25F rated Sorel boot.)
The boots’ lacing has a cinch-down system that locks the laces in place; no tying bulky laces that are difficult to adjust with gloves and get tangled in snowshoe bindings. It’s a simple pull-to-tighten and then lock-into-place. Very easy.
The Alaska boots fit perfectly in a snowshoe binding – as do most of KEEN’s trailhead shoes. The company’s sole design is always my favorite feature. No matter what, KEEN just knows how to design a shoe with a superior sole for all types of sports. Because the sole is molded over the toe of the boots, they fit perfectly in a snowshoe binding and prevent toe-pinching.
The sole’s thermal heat shield footbed reflects heat back into the shoe, rather than allow it to escape through the base of the boot. Generally, in most cases, heat will escape through the soles of the shoes.
The Alaska’s full-grain leather encompasses the entire boot, allowing for complete waterproofing and a robustness that protects from all types of snow. An additional waterproof feature includes the KEEN.DRY breathable membrane and nubuck upper.
For snowshoers, the KEEN Alaska boots are ideal for backcountry, deep-snow tours. But the Alaska boots aren’t for every snowshoeing situation – especially for first-timers. The Alaskas can be too bulky and can make tightening of the binding somewhat difficult. Without prior practice, it can be tricky. However, the Alaskas are an all-around boot for every winter activity.