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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Kamik Vipers > Test Report by Edwin L. Morse

KAMIK VIPER BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY EDWIN MORSE
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 16, 2008

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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Edwin Morse
EMAIL: ed dot morse at charter dot net
AGE: 70
LOCATION: Grawn, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. Starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. I am slowly reducing my pack weight. Starting the last one week trip in New Hampshire I carried 35 lbs (16 kg). I am slowly obtaining lighter gear. I am also occasionally switching to a hammock in warmer weather.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Kamik
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kamik.com
MSRP: US$ NA
Listed Weight: NA
Measured Weight: 44.8 oz (1270 g) for both boots
Other details:Listed height: 8 1/2 in (21.6 cm)
Measured height:
Back of ankle: 7.25 in (184 mm)
front of ankle: 8.25 in (210 mm)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

November 13, 2007

The boots came in what I see as a standard boot box just as in a store.
Kamik boots and box
These appear to be a very comfortable boot for mild (in this area) winter weather. Unfortunately in the size delivered they are much too small for me. I asked for a size 10 1/2 but received a size 10. All my hiking shoes are size 10. I could just squeeze my foot into these boots.

The following is copied from the Kamik website:

Viper - FK0461
Men's Sizes 7-13, Full and Half Sizes

Features
Waterproof Lightweight Ballistic Nylon Upper
Waterproof Bootie Construction
200B Thinsulate™ Insulation
Moisture Wicking Lining
Speed Lacing System With Heel Lace Lock
Padded Collar & Gusset Tongue
Kamik Comfort Footbed
Rubber Toe Guard
Lightweight Compression EVA Midsole
ADRENALINE Rubber Outsole Maximizes Traction
Height: 8.5 Inches (21.6 cm)

My description:
The soles are an interesting tread pattern that looks as if it should give a good grip. They are a series of curved ridges with both small nubs and raised sections on the outside edges. There is a black rubber (?) toe cap and a black rand around the front half of the boots. The low heel is slightly rounded at the back which, in my experience usually makes smoother walking on hard surfaces.

The uppers are of a man made material. The color of the boots I have is called moss but it looks like brown to me. The other color choice is black. The boots are 8.25 in (21 cm) high but can only be waterproof, for wading, to 5.5 in (14 cm) because that is as high as the tongue is gusseted.

The boots are very smooth and soft inside with a removable insole. The round laces are an alternating brown and black pattern which matches the color of the rest of the boot quite well. The "Speed Lacing System" with the fabric loops really does tighten the laces with a good jerk.
The Vipers are nice looking boots.
Kamik viper boots

TRYING IT OUT

Delivery time was great, except that the boots were much too small.

I had requested a size 10 1/2. All my hiking shoes and ski boots are 10. I thought a half size larger would let me wear the boots with heavy socks through most of the winter.

I received a size 10. I could not get my foot in the boot wearing my hiking socks. I tried thin liner socks and I could get the boot on but it was much too tight to walk in. These boots seem to run very small.

I called telephone number listed on the shipping carton. When I was transferred to customer service I got a recording to leave my name and telephone number and they would call back. No call that day or the next.
I left all the information with my wife when I left early Friday morning for a few days of backpacking. They called on Friday (I had called on Wednesday), and said they needed to talk to me to arrange shipping and would call back the day after I was scheduled to return.

I finally talked with Kamik Customer service. We discussed sizes and the nice lady is going to arrange immediately to send a boot 2 sizes larger.

She gave me an address to return the original boots.

I have no experience with the boots yet, as of the date of this report.

TESTING STRATEGY

During the test period I will answer the following questions:

How will the Kamik Viper Boots fit me?
Will the boots keep my feet warm and dry for several months of
hiking, trailwork and (maybe some) snowshoeing in snow? The snow is
nearly always wet and slushy in the first and last weeks of snow.
This is a real test for "waterproof" boots.
Will the Kamik Viper Boots work well with added insulation of heavy
socks?
I want to know how comfortable I am in a heavy rain or a heavy wet
snow storm. These are conditions I often encounter and enjoy, as long
as I can keep warm.
How durable are the Kamik Viper Boots?
Will the Kamik Viper Boots provide good traction on frozen ground,
wet leaves or in snow?
I am not familiar with the type of soles pictured. The curved ridges with raised sections on the outside edges should make for an interesting test. I have always looked for lug soles when shopping for boots. Perhaps I will have to change my idea that lugs are best. I will discuss traction on different surfaces in later reports.

In addition to the above questions I am sure I will think of more
questions as I use the Kamik Viper Boots. We seldom get much warm
weather in the North Country between October and April.
I will describe my experiences with the Kamik Viper Boots, including
any problems I find.
I will also include several pictures, both to show little details and
also to show the Kamik Viper Boots in various activities

SUMMARY

The Kamik Vipers are nice looking boots. Customer service seems to be responsive talking on the telephone. I will know soon if they actually follow through.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be added in about 2 months, with actual experience in using the boots. Please check back later for more information.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I received the replacement size 12 boots a few days after I submitted the Initial Report. This is 2 full sizes bigger than my old leather hiking boots or the trail runners I've been wearing in the summer with light weight merino wool socks. The new size 12 Vipers are roomy with the light weight hiking socks. They fit very well with heavier socks or light socks with liner socks.

I have worn the Viper boots for nearly all my outdoor activities in the last 2 months. The only exception was a day of cross country skiing. Since I have the Viper boots to test I have shifted my activities to hiking or snowshoeing instead of skiing.

I've worn the Vipers to clean snow from my driveway, 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Traverse City, several times. My driveway is about 115 feet (35 m) long and 20 (6 m) feet wide. This can be a very slow walk behind the snowblower when the snow is warm, wet and heavy. One time the temperature was 36 F (2 C) when it was warm & wet. It can be a fast walk if the temperature is colder and the snow is light and fluffy. One time when the snow was light and easy to move the temperature was 22 F (-6 C).

I've worn the Vipers snowshoeing in the Sleeping Bear Dunes along Lake Michigan. I've also worn the Vipers on several all day hikes in the Manistee National Forest and in the Pere Marquette State Forest.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I am generally out hiking 3 or 4 times a week in nearby forests. A few hikes stand out to show the different conditions and performance of the boots.

January 8, 2008
When I started walking in the Manistee National Forest (MNF) the temperature was 40 F (4 C) and there was a steady rain to keep the leaf covered ground wet. Three days earlier there was over a foot (30 cm) of snow in the same area. This combination made for very wet and sometimes muddy trail conditions. I was wearing rain pants with tight elastic cuffs over my light hiking pants and the Kamik Viper boots. This was my best opportunity yet to see if the Vipers are really waterproof.

I was walking along the bottom of a ridge and the edge of a swampy area, when I suddenly sunk down to my knees in soft muck. I could feel some water inside one boot. After I worked my way out of the muck I stayed on higher ground until I got to the smaller creek. Then I followed this creek out to Upper River Road. I waded across the creek several times to stay on higher ground and away from muck areas. I was getting very warm by this time and checking my thermometer I saw the temperature was up to 48 F (9 C).

The Kamik Vipers nearly kept my feet dry, even with going in over the top once. The left boot had some wet muck about half way down the inside from the top. The tight elastic bottom of the rain pants had kept out most of the muck and water. The Vipers really do seem to be waterproof, like any waterproof boot in my experience they take some time to dry when they do get wet inside. The whole inside of both boots was sweaty wet. Based on my past experience, this is one of the negatives about any waterproof clothing.
rainy day walk

January 12, 2008
There was about 4 in (10 cm) of new snow and the temperature stayed about 36 F (2 C). I was wearing Kamik Viper boots over merino wool socks. I hiked north on the NCT until I got to the north boundary of the MNF, about 2 miles (3 km). I went east and then turned southerly after getting a bearing to where I wanted to cross a road, a straight line distance of about 1.2 miles (1.9 km) according to my GPS. I came to a creek at the bottom of a ravine that was just too steep sided to get across. I detoured to find a place to cross. The place I finally decided to attempt was a little lower and slightly less steep sides. I still had to go down by hanging on trees and saplings to keep from sliding all the way down. Going up the other side was mostly on hands and toes and grabbing on trees and bushes. The Vipers give better traction going straight up than going down or sideways.

I got another bearing from the GPS and tried to go in a nearly straight line. This was probably the most difficult route I could have picked. It was very hilly and in heavy trees and brush the snow was sometimes 18 inches (46 cm) deep. I finally got back to the truck after walking 7.6 miles (12.2 km) according to my GPS.

When I got home the Viper boots were damp inside so I took the insoles out and opened the boots as much as possible to dry. I'm starting to believe the Viper boots really are waterproof. Walking in wet snow is a severe test that many of my supposedly waterproof boots have failed in the past.

Hike January 20, 2008
I was wearing the heaviest socks I could under the Kamik Viper boots. My feet got cold while I was standing by the truck getting the pack and GPS ready to go. I started walking up the unplowed road, which, as usual in this area, means a snowmobile trail. The snowmobiles had left the snow hard packed and easy to walk on. I walked the 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the NCT in about 30 minutes. I really expected that my feet would quickly get warm but it didn't happen. The temperature was 6 F (-14 C) when I got to the NCT and my feet were uncomfortably cold. Other than my feet I was a little too warm.
Snowmobile Trail

I walked about half way back to the truck on the snowmobile trail then turned off to find a route along closer to the river. Now I was wading in 8 in (20 cm) to 16 in (41 cm) of snow and walking much slower. I was very surprised when my feet soon were warm. The temperature was now 10 F (-12 C) and I was climbing over down logs and brush in a cleared area then slowly working my way through trees and brush along and down a steep bank. There were some good views of the river both from the top of the bank and when down close to the water.
view from river bank

At noon I sat down in an area protected from the wind at the bottom of the steep bank and ate my lunch. My feet were still warm after sitting 15 minutes eating lunch. I continued to walk generally along the river, working my way up and down the bank when necessary to cross several small creeks. I finally got to a creek that was too wide and too deep for me to cross. I turned back and looked for an easy route back to the truck. There was no easy way back. By the time I got back to the truck the temperature was back down to 6 F (-14 C) and my feet were still warm.

Now I am confused. I was convinced that the Vipers were only comfortable down to about 25 F (-4 C) because my feet had been cold previously walking fast at 20 F (-7 C). Today, walking slowly but in deep snow, my feet were warm at 6 F (-14 C).

Hike January 23, 2008
I was exploring along the Manistee River in the Pere Marquette State Forest looking for the best reroute for the North Country Trail (NCT). I walked east on 12 Road to a 2 track and followed that south to the high river bank. Then I walked about 4.3 miles (6.9 km) generally along the river to another snowed over 2 track. This was within sight of (less than 500 feet (150 m)) a point I had marked previously, across a gully. I took the 2 track north about a half mile, then west bushwhacking through the woods to a snowmobile trail and followed that back to my truck.

I was wearing the Kamik Viper boots over my heaviest Smartwool socks. The temperature was 20 F (7 C) when I started and there was 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) of snow. I did not take snowshoes since I expected to be in the trees climbing up and down the high river bank. My feet were comfortably warm for several hours. I was otherwise warm and sweaty especially under the backpack. Climbing up and down the high river bank uses energy and generates a lot of heat.

When I stopped to get a position and to take a few pictures I also had to put new batteries in both camera and GPS. While I was stopped my feet started to get cold.
hike in the snow
I set the camera on a small tripod on top of my pack to get the picture. I had to put my mittens on the ground to get a focus, by then I had cold hands and feet.
After hiking slowly up the 2 track for a while I checked the thermometer. It had fallen to 14 F (-10 C) and my feet just did not get warm. When I started bushwhacking I could move faster and my feet were less uncomfortable. When I got to the snowmobile trail the temperature had fallen to 10 F (-12 C) but now I could walk fast enough so my feet were starting to be comfortable by the time I got to the truck.

SUMMARY

I think the Kamik boot sizes run small. While it is possible that my feet have gotten bigger I expected to need a half size larger rather than 2 full sizes larger.

I am convinced that the Viper boots are waterproof, unless I go over the top. I've worn them in wet snow, wading shallow streams, soft muck and all day rain.

I had been concerned about traction with the different type of soles on the Vipers. I found this concern to be justified in one way. When going up or down steep banks with my older lug soled boots I often turn my feet sideways to the slope which seems to give better traction. This just does not work with the Viper boots that have no traction at all turned sideways. When I go straight up or down a steep slope I think the Vipers give just as good traction as my lug sole boots.

I do not believe that I could wear the Vipers in temperatures of -25 F (-32 C) with any comfort. I can be comfortable in temperatures from 45 F (7 C) down to 20 F (-7 C) with moderate activity. If I am well rested and have eaten well and am very active I can be reasonably comfortable with temperatures down to about 14 F (-10 C). I would prefer not to wear these boots in any colder weather than I have already.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be added in about 2 months. Please check back later for more information.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Locations: All my use of the Vipers in the last 2 months has been in northwest Lower Michigan. Some hikes have been in the Sleeping Bear Dunes (SBD), some have been in the Manistee National Forest (MNF), some have been in the Pere Marquette State Forest (PMSF) and several have been on Preserve land owned by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC).

Weather: The weather has been a big variable. Generally it has been about 10 F (12 C) lower than normal this winter. During most of my hikes (snowshoeing or walking) the temperature rose from about 12 F (-11 C) up to about 22 F (-6 C). There were a few hikes when it started with 30 F (-1 C) and got up to 44 F (7 C). There were 16 people signed up for one group snowshoe hike and 12 people cancelled in the 3 days before. The predicted high temperature was for 10 F (-12 C). Actually the highest it got that day was -2 F (-19 C). It was a good hike. Rather than just follow the group I added several loops off trail so I could walk faster and try to get my feet warm.

Terrain: The terrain is mostly rolling hills. The elevation varied from about 600 ft (183 m) on the first low dunes in the SBD along the Lake Michigan shore to about 1200 ft (366 m) inland in the MNF and the PMSF. These areas are a mix of oak, maple, pine with spruce in the lower areas.

I was working on the GTRLC Preserve rather than just hiking. I've been hired to set posts and signs along their boundary lines. Moving slowly to stay on line and measure distances is much colder on my feet than just hiking. Some of this project is on fairly high ground and relatively open. The majority is wetlands mostly covered with thick brush about 10 ft (3 m) high.

Duration: I've been out for about 20 day "hikes" using the Vipers, including days snowshoeing and walking without snowshoes. Twice I spent too much time exploring and had to use the headlamp with both GPS and compass to get back to the truck. Several days were both with and without snowshoes depending on snow conditions. I often started out wearing snowshoes and then put them on my pack when I got to a packed trail that went in the right direction. There were several other days when I skied or it was so cold I wore a warmer model of Kamik boots.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Performance: This is at least as big a variable, for me, as our weather. The Vipers are very comfortable, for me, when walking or snowshoeing. In terms of my use and my body, they just are not warm enough to wear all winter in this area.

If I am walking or snowshoeing in hilly and fairly open terrain my feet are usually warm enough down to about 20 F (-7 C). If I am moving slowly through thick swamp brush my feet are often uncomfortably cold even at 30 F (-1 C). When I was working in the swamp I did prove to myself again that the Kamik Vipers are waterproof. There was from 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 cm) of snow in the swamp right up to the edge of Upper Herring Lake. I assumed all the water would be solidly frozen over and I should have known better. Some places the ice under the snow was almost thick enough to hold my weight, when the snow was deeper there was very little ice. I waded through water and snow trying to get to the end of a property line. The first time I went nearly to the top of the boots in water I went back and put on the snowshoes. With the snowshoes I could walk over much of the brush and move faster. Moving faster also meant that my feet got warm enough for comfort.

SUMMARY

The Kamik Viper boots are comfortable for me to wear when the weather is warm enough or when I'm very active. Whether my getting cold so easily is caused by the years or the miles I've put on my feet I'm not sure but I have to be active to be warm in the winter.

I have developed a few likes and dislikes for the Vipers. The following are my opinions based on my experience. I've worn the Kamik Viper boots almost daily during the last 4 months. I've worn them for general errands and shopping as well as going to the woods for fun stuff.

The good points: the Vipers are water proof, they are a soft and comfortable boot to wear, the soles grip very well - if I'm going straight or nearly straight up hill. The boots are light and soft on my feet compared with similar leather boots I've used.

The not so good points: If I walk across or at a diagonal on a hill slope I have no traction at all and I tend to slide downhill, my feet get cold (!) at much warmer temperatures than I expected.

This concludes my Long Term Report.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Kamik for giving me the opportunity to test the Kamik Viper Boots.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Kamik gear
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