Hot Winter Gear: Killer Kicks from Salomon and Salewa

A few days ago, in honor of winter, I started your guide to “Hot Winter Gear”  by writing about Kahtoola Snow Systems. Now that we’ve got you staying upright on the snowy, icy trails, we’ve got to make sure you’re choosing good boots because without ’em you’ll be miserable. Here’s installment # 2 of your guide to winter gear for hiking and snowshoeing.

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We’ve all done it – thrown on a pair of brand new boots and headed out the door for a long hike or snowshoe only to return with blisters and sore feet.  To avoid this you either have to pick a boot that’s comfortable right out of the box or actually take the time to break them in by walking around your house and taking short hikes…But who’s really going to do this?

Since we are an “instant gratification” society, companies know that many folks won’t really take the time to properly break in boots so it’s becoming more and more common to find kicks that are comfortable right out of the box. That’s the case with my two new favorite boots  for this winter.  Pair them with some warm woolly socks and head to the hills confident that you can hoof it through snow and cold temps with no problem.

Salomon Quest 4D Hiking Boots

While these aren’t technically winter boots, they’ve done really well for me while snowshoeing in deep powder and hiking on icy surfaces above treeline. Salomon has managed to perfectly mix lightweight comfort with durability. From my experience they are perfect for day hikes, but they also measure up for longer adventures requiring a heavy load. I just used these on a hut trip where I was carrying a 50 lb pack and was amazed at how well they stood up to the added weight.    
Their Gore-Tex® membrane helps keep my feet dry, but they are breathable enough that my feet don’t sweat or overheat  which has proven key to keeping my feet warm on the downhills or when the weather suddenly turns gnarly. I especially like the added ankle support and the reinforced toe and heel that offer extra protection on rugged terrain.  The grip on the bottom of these boots is okay, but like with most boots you’ll need an added gripper – like Kahtoola’s – if you’re headed for icy or slippery terrain.

Overall, I love having the comfort of a trail shoe built into a boot that is burly enough to take on 14ers in winter.   And, the best part is that these also do really well on long summer hikes and backpack trips. It may be that I’ve finally found a boot that moves seamlessly across seasons.  http://www.salomon.com

Salewa MS Raven Combi GTX

Mountaineering boots aren’t supposed to feel good. They have to be stiff, heavy and bulky to perform on steep and mountainous terrain…. Or, that’s what I thought until I threw these puppies on. They arrived at my house on a Thursday afternoon and because I was so anxious to try ’em, I decided to put them to the test the following day. I knew I might regret wearing them right out of the box on a 15 mile snowshoe trip up and around Niwot Ridge, but I couldn’t resist so I went for it.

It ends up that this was the perfect testing ground for Salewa’s new technical trekking shoe; throughout the day we encountered an array of conditions from deep powder (where we used snowshoes), to packed snow (where we just used crampons), to bare rock above treeline (where we just hiked in boots).  Luckily for my feet, these heavy duty mountaineering boots are  lightweight and comfortable enough that this didn’t phase me.  They were flexible in all the right spots so that I didn’t feel like Frankenstein, but stiff enough that I know they would provide the needed support for more technical terrain.      

I especially liked how the “Y” shaped wire on the back of the boot controlled my heel movement, but didn’t restrict the freedom of the rest of my foot. These  boots are roomy and have a wider toe box than I’m used to with mountaineering boots so I was able to wear thicker socks and keep my feet warm. One feature that I absolutely love is the high-cuff that helped keep snow out even when we went off trail and found ourselves snowshoeing through thigh deep powder.

One of the biggest tests of a boot for me is the downhill. This is when a boot can’t hide it’s imperfections as your feet begin to scream each time they jam into the edge. But, that didn’t happen with the Raven. They performed flawlessly on the ups and downs and  I can honestly say that I wouldn’t mind walking around in them for a few days – which is saying a lot for a  mountaineering boot.  I look forward to pushing these boots further especially when I climb Mt. Rainier this coming April. http://www.salewa.com

So, depending on what you’re up to in the mountains – you can’t go wrong with either of these boots.  If you’ll be in even more than a few inches of snow, toss on some gaiters – Outdoor Research makes a few different kinds that work really well.

Enjoy the New Year.  Hope you get out there and frolic in some snow…It’s out there, you just gotta work a little harder to find it.  Stay tuned for more hot winter gear in early 2012.

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