How We Tested Winter Boots

By:
Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Thursday

Like all of the reviews found here on OutdoorGearLab, the review you have in front of you is a compilation of years of individual product testing. The foundation of this year's analysis was built upon the testing that we conducted during mid-winter months in Washington State, Idaho, and the San Juans of Colorado. We took the top picks from those reviews, dropped the lowest performing models and replaced them with new models. Our testing includes both standardized, quantifiable tests as well as non-standardized tests and hours of wear time in each model.

We tested ten of the best rated winter boots to help you find the right pair for your needs. We wore them around town and out in the hills. Here's lead tester Ryan Huetter on a snowshoe hike high above the Owens Valley in the Sierra Nevada.
We tested ten of the best rated winter boots to help you find the right pair for your needs. We wore them around town and out in the hills. Here's lead tester Ryan Huetter on a snowshoe hike high above the Owens Valley in the Sierra Nevada.

This winter we spent long days stomping around in snowshoes, putting down some miles on the local winter trails, and shoveling heaps of snow from our way too long driveway to evaluate each boot's abilities in hiking and long-term comfort. We also made countless trips to the post office, the grocery store, and around town dog walks during cold and snowy days to test the ease of use and comfort levels in models meant for less rugged activity. Field testing took place predominantly in the mountain ski town of Mammoth Lakes, California in the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

Testing the traction of these boots on the trails in winter. Packed snow and ice like that found on the Perimeter Trail in Ouray in winter are exactly what these boots are made for.
Testing the traction of these boots on the trails in winter. Packed snow and ice like that found on the Perimeter Trail in Ouray in winter are exactly what these boots are made for.

Warmth


We tested for warmth by putting on a single pair of merino wool socks and slipping each pair of boots on. For 8 minutes, our feet were immersed in a 32-degree slush comprised of ice cubes, snow, and water. We allowed our feet to fully rewarm in front of the fire before retesting so that we did not start testing the next model with already cold feet. We also wore these boots for numerous hours apiece shoveling snow, stacking wood, and doing other relatively sedentary winter chores out of doors.

Water Resistance


Again using the standardized eight minutes slush bucket test, we sunk our feet deep into the icy water to see if the boots were wearing would show any signs of leakage. While this was an easy way to quantify the water resistance of the boots we also tromped through countless puddles and snow banks, going out of our way to see if we could get them to show leakage in real-world applications.

Fit and Comfort


Being a largely subjective measurement, we tried to get as many people's feet into the boots as possible to reach a consensus on fit, and we made fit recommendations on each model in our reviews. Comfort was assessed by walking around in the boots, spending time in and out of doors, and by polling our various review contributors.

Ease of Use


Ease of use was tested by seeing how much time it took to put on and take off each boot. Lacing systems were compared, and for the Pac models that include a removable liner, we compared the ease of putting the liner back in after drying it out in front of the fireplace.

Traction


Traction was scored after testing each one of the boots on an icy path that leads from our house in Mammoth Lakes up towards the ski area. This is often a slippery slope that turns into a major hazard in the winter time, so was a perfect testing ground for seeing which rubber compounds and lug patterns did the best.

Snowshoeing is a great way to travel cross country through the snow in the mountains  especially if the snow is too shallow for skiing. Here we're exploring the San Juan high country on Red Mountain Pass in the Chilkat 400 boots.
Snowshoeing is a great way to travel cross country through the snow in the mountains, especially if the snow is too shallow for skiing. Here we're exploring the San Juan high country on Red Mountain Pass in the Chilkat 400 boots.
 

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