By sheer accident, KEEN and Kamik sent some of their boots to the right place for some serious cold-weather testing.
When KEEN sent me a pair of their Summit County II boots around the same time as Kamik sent a pair of their Snowcliffs, I had no idea I would be able to give them a workout in temperatures in the -40C range. Coincidentally, that’s also what the Kamiks are rated for.
Having found myself in the northern Northwest Territories this winter has given me the chance to – ahem – put the boots through their paces and see if I wound up with cold feet. To no surprise the answer is of course I did… sometimes.
It must be a frustrating thing for a footwear manufacturer to label boots as being comfortable to -40C if you’re reasonably active, since the only thing the customer remembers is -40C.
Listen up people… that doesn’t mean that you can stand around like the proverbial bump-on-a-log and the boots will keep your feet warm. It means that if you’re walking around, or maybe snowshoeing, the boots will keep you comfortable as the temperature drops to that level… depending on your personal biological quirks. Keeping warm in cold weather isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
So, how did the boots size up against each other? Surprisingly, it wasn’t truly a close contest.
The Summit County II boots are phenomenal, even in those kind of temperatures, while the Snowcliffs were clearly approaching the limits of their usefulness. I wasn’t really surprised at that, since the KEENs have up to 400 grams of insulation in them while the Snowcliffs have 200. With those numbers, you’d expect the Summit County to be significantly better.
The other pair of boots I used were some old Sorel “super-warm” boots rated down to -100C. They outperformed the KEENs the way the KEENs showed up the Kamiks. So, it’s all relative.
The Summit County II were also better in terms of support and grip. KEEN says the Summit County treads turn harder as the temperature turns colder. I can’t say whether that helps or not – after all, winter tires are made of softer rubber than all-seasons because that grips better, but the grip was impressive. Not infallible, but impressive.
The Kamiks, though, are lighter, with decent support, and lower than the KEENs. That made them ideal for snowshoeing in the NWT… and as long as you keep moving at a brisk pace, you can keep warm in them. Stand around for more than a minute or two, though, and you’ll notice the cold.
The KEENs held their heat for as long as 15 minutes or so at a time while I stood in the snow looking for the northern lights. After that, things quickly grew uncomfortable. Like the Kamiks, keep moving and you’ll be fine.
The Summit County boots work fine for snowshoeing as well, although the weight and bulkiness left them in second-place to the Kamiks.
All in all, some very good boots. And if you can say that after using them in the NWT, I think you can survive in them pretty much anywhere else this side of Antarctica.