BackpackGearTest
  Home Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Kamik Vipers > Test Report by John Waters

KAMIK VIPER
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 21, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 58
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Kamik
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kamik.com/
MSRP: US$ N/A
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 22 oz (624 g) each boot
Sizes Available: Men's Sizes 7-13, Full and Half Sizes
Size Tested: 10.5 USA
Colors Available: Black
Color Tested: Moss
Height: 8.5" (22.6 cm)
Other details: 200 g Thinsulate Insulation;
Temperature rating: -25 F (-32 C);
OutDry™ waterproof barrier and
ADRENALINE rubber outsole
Kamik Viper Boot - Moss
Picture from Kamik Website

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - Nov 2007

Kamik Viper Hangtags
Kamik Viper Boots' Hangtags
The Kamik Vipers were packaged in a standard retail boot box complete with three hang tags. One tag was for the Kamik Viper; a another indicated the boots were Thinsulated and the third tag listed the boots' temperature rating as "-25 F/-32 C."

Having viewed the Kamik website, I had a pretty good idea of how the boots would look on the outside, including the Adrenaline soles. I was surprised that the color "Moss" is in reality a light "coffee with cream" color rather than the dark green I expected from the color name. The boot graphic on the website also appears to be darker than my boots.

The upper portion of the Vipers is a lightweight ballistic nylon material that is very flexible yet appears to be of a very rugged construction. A darker suede-like band of fabric runs along the sole of the boots from mid-foot to mid-foot with a very generous rubber toe cap protecting the front toe area of the boot. An additional dark band of an even rougher material forms an angled strap over the top of the heel of the boot forming a support which cradles my heel.

This band intersects at the back of the boot with another suede piece of fabric which continues up the back of the boot just up to the collar of the boot.

Kamik Viper Logo
Kamik Viper Logo on Tongue
The collar of the boot comes well over my ankle and is very nicely padded as is the gusseted tongue of the boot. The round woven laces are black with lighter brown accent threads throughout. The last three lacing hooks are a speed lacing system and begin above my ankle for a snug secure closure.

The Adrenaline outsole is a very unique design of a series of curved nubbed bands from side to side interspersed with parallel ribbed inserts which extend all the way up to the toe cap. The parallel inserts are not very deep, so it will be interesting to see how they shed mud and snow.

The interior of the Vipers is smooth with no bumps or lumps and my foot slides easily on the fabric. The inner sole is fairly thin and is removable.

While the Kamik website, literature and even the boots themselves proclaim they are "waterproof", that feature will be limited to the height of 5" (13 cm) which is the length from the sole of the boot to the top of the gusseted portion of the Vipers' tongue. Even with that limit, it's more than any other boot I own.





TRYING IT OUT

Before receiving my Kamik Viper boots, I was concerned with reports of other hikers needing larger sizes. So I did order a half size larger than other boots I am wearing. I normally wear a size 10 so I ordered a 10 1/2 and it's a good thing I did. A 10 would have definitely been too small. The 10 1/2 fits fine and on a trial hike, my toes don't touch the tip of the boot even on steep downhill slopes. I do feel some touching of the top of my 4th toe and little toe, so the toe box may be just a little more narrow than I'm use to, but it is not bad enough to make it an issue, at least, at this time. The boots may just need more wear in that area or just a bit of breaking in.

These boots are quite flexible around the ankles. I can see a lot of bunching up of the fabric, so I'm curious how this will be on long hikes; if I get any ankle abrasion.

I like the speed lace system. Always been a fan. I like being able to lace and go.

In my field report I'll report on the measurements of the toe box. There is quite a distance from the inside toe box to the outside toe tip and I'm going to figure out a way to measure that without an x-ray machine. In any case, it appears that there is PLENTY of toe protection.
Kamik Viper Toe Cap
Kamik Viper Toe Cap

I've worn these now a couple of times on short day hikes of a mile or two to start breaking them in. I don't think that there will be much more break-in time needed though. I'm anxious to get into some mud and water to see how these perform in rough conditions. The bottom tread looks like it will be very easy to clean out when mud clings to the sole.

The weather around here has been in the 50 F (10 C) range during the breaking in period, but these boots have not caused my feet to sweat yet and I'm wearing my favorite Darn Tough Vermont wool socks. These boots will get plenty of use in winter ice and mud, so I'll see how they do under those conditions. So far things are good.

TESTING STRATEGY

I wear my hiking boots a lot. Not only do I wear boots on day and weekend hikes and while snowshoeing, but thanks to a new work project, I will be in Colorado for the next 4 months, hiking several miles almost everyday (60 or more miles (97 km) per month) to and from destinations that cannot be reached by vehicle. I wear hiking boots almost every day on rugged trails and rough bushwhacked paths. So it's especially important to me that my boots be very comfortable and well built. Since I encounter lots of rocks, my boots must be durable and supportive enough to protect my feet scrambling over bedrock, through plenty of cactus, and have a tread can handle the slick conditions of snow, ice and slippery mud as well.

Over the next four months, I will be hiking several times a week in southeast Colorado with at least 2 days of each month dedicated to overnight backpacking (weekends). Plus, during the course of business, I have to hike into remote locations often for antenna/tower work. This has me climbing up rocky random paths and remote access roads which are not maintained. I always wear hiking boots in these situations and may hike 4 or 5 miles (6-8 km) each day through this terrain, putting on as much as 30 to 40 mi (48 to 64 km) each week and 60 to 80 mi (97 to 129 km) or more each month. My boots get quite a work-out. During this hikes, I'll carry a pack with as much as 25 to 40 lb (11-18 kg) of gear while scrambling over very rocky sloped and slippery terrain.

Colorado weather will be mostly dry, windy, snowy in the mountains and cold to cool. Temperatures will range from 20 F (-7 C) at night to 75 F (24 C) in the daytime. Assuming a timely arrival. I should be able to get in a good 3-4 weeks of mild weather with a longer period of winter conditions. I can be assured of snow in the Rockies for a good portion of the testing period.

Terrain will cover everything from flat sandy BLM trails to the shale-y mountainous Cooper Mountain region in south central Colorado. Also, lots of mud! Elevation will range from a low of 5000 ft (1524 m), and up to 13000 ft (3962 M).

SUMMARY

This concludes my Initial Report on the Kamik Viper boots. My field testing report can be viewed below.

John R. Waters


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS - Jan 2008

I was quite impressed with the Kamik Viper specifications: -25 F (-32) and waterproof. I got these to test at just the right time of the year and those specs can be put through the test here in Colorado. All I need is some wet weather, some snow and some cold days. And we did get just the weather we needed to do these boots justice for a good field report.

I've hiked and trekked over 50 miles (81 km) in these boots. Walked through water, snow, mud ... lots of mud and more mud. I've hiked cliffs, scrambled over rocks and walked down steep boulder and pebble-ridden slopes while navigating ice covered terrain. Many of those hikes were from 1 to 5 miles (2 - 8 km) long over rough terrain and in snow that was calf high. And many were in mud that reached over the toe box of the boots. In short, they really got into a lot of tough stuff.

I've even been wearing these as my winter boots as well, to get as much time in them as possible under various conditions, even sledding in them (including a few summersaults) and while working on remote tower sites, so the actual mileage is more than 50 miles (81 km).
Kamik Viper Boots in the field
Hiking in Kamik Viper boots to a Remote Tower

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Here are my comments thus far, on the specifications from the Kamik web site.

* Waterproof Lightweight Ballistic Nylon Upper / Waterproof Bootie Construction

In my opinion, these boots are not "waterproof" and I'm a little disappointed. I have other boots that are waterproof and my feet do not get wet at all. The Vipers do keep my feet dry if exposed to short periods of water and snow. In other words, I could hike for a short distance with snow higher than the tops of the boots and my feet would be dry. However as soon as the snow sitting on top of the boot melts, the fabric on the top surface gets darker, as in wet, and I can feel the dampness inside. After one 4 mile (6 km) trek in 6 inch (15 cm) snow at about 40 F (4 C) at 5635 ft (1718 m), when I removed the boots, I could put my hand inside under the darker fabric and feel wetness. The boots were then placed inside to dry at about 70 F (21 C) room temperature. The next morning, over 12 hours later, the inside top toe box was still wet. Waterproof to me means NO water whatsoever at any time and anything else should be labeled water "repellent".

* 200B Thinsulate Insulation

I've used these boots at air temperatures from 40 F to 80 F (4 C to 27 C), in sunlight and at night. I've used the same brand and model of socks throughout the entire testing period to maintain stability in testing; Darn Tough Vermont Trekking Socks. My feet did not stay as warm as I thought they should. My toes were getting cold.

I have other boots that are not rated down to -25 F (-32 C) that keep my feet warmer. There were times when I was standing in snow at 20 F (-7 C) that my feet were probably as cold as they have ever been doing winter hiking and I am not at all a person that complains about cold feet. I'm not in any position to test these to -25 F (-32 C), so I can't tell how they would perform at that low a temperature. There may be days yet that can get that low and maybe, if time permits, we can go down to Alamosa where the air gets to that or lower.

* Moisture Wicking Lining

I have worn these boots almost constantly for about 8 weeks and I have not had any issues at all with sweating feet. I'm not sure about the performance of wicking when there is dampness getting through from the outside. Not sure who wins that battle under those circumstances. But I do know that my feet have been dry when the exterior was. However, I do believe that the interior of the boot gets a little mustier smelling than I am used to. I checked my other boots and they have anti-bacterial liners, so that may be the difference.

* Speed Lacing System With Heel Lace Lock

The first thing I noticed is that the Vipers have a speed lacing system. I have always liked speed lacing systems on my boots.

The lacing system is implemented well and I can easily put these on and take them off. That is especially important when they are covered with really gooey expansive soil mud. They even included a flap (it's not really a lock) about 1 inch (3 cm) from the top of the rear of the boot to keep the laces from sliding up. It works well and snugs up the top of the boot to keep snow out. The laces though are too long when used without the top wrap around using the Heel Lock and just a little too short when using the lock. I like it though.

* Padded Collar & Gusset Tongue

Yes, this arrangement is quite comfortable. Compared to other boots I have used, I feel much more sealed in and very comfortable. It's thick and plush and quite flexible. They seem to drift to one side and I have to push them into position when lacing and do some tucking, but it is comfortable.

* Kamik Comfort Footbed

All my other boots have add-on insoles because I can not stand a hard sole. Hard soles on long treks equal sore feet for me. The footbed of this Viper boot is quite comfortable. The only reason I would add on insoles is for extra insulation and anti-bacterial control of odor.

Muddied Kamik Viper
Kamik Viper muddied after Hike in BLM
* Rubber Toe Guard

Yes. The rubber toe guard has been nice to have. I'm abusive to hiking boots. I climb through a lot of rocky hillsides and continually scrape my boots. The rubber toe guards perform well and I can do some nasty toe stubbing without feeling the full affect. Nothing like the protection from steel toed boots, but very welcomed. They show no ill effects and clean up well from our awful mud, too. I've brushed them and banged them against rocks to remove mud and snow and they have held up exceptionally well. It's been difficult to tell if standing in water over the top of the rubber guard will be 100% waterproof, but I'll test that in some streams during the next two months. I have not had any dampness at the bottom of the boot, so I think that the rubber guard is doing its job.

* Lightweight Compression EVA Midsole

The midsole, the heart of the cushioning system, contains a layer of shock-absorbing foam placed directly over the outsole and underneath the insole of the boot. I always see this "compression molded EVA midsole" specification and after some research, it appears there are two types used mostly for high-performance hiking and sport shoes and boots.


    ethyl vinyl acetate - n (EVA). This chemically blended foam material is used in lightweight midsoles and heel wedges. EVA is probably the most popular material for quality running shoes and aerobic dance shoes because of its lightness, flexibility and impact resistance. The quality of EVA varies considerably among shoe models. In general, compression-molded EVA is more durable and shock-absorbent than traditional open-cell EVA.

    polyurethane (PU). Polyurethane is a liquid polyester that forms an extremely durable closed-cell foam material used in midsoles and outsoles. The advantage of PU over EVA is its durability and superior shock-absorbency. However, because polyurethane is generally slightly stiffer and significantly heavier than EVA, it is used less in athletic footwear.
    (paraphrased from research done on various websites)


So, there, I learned more about midsoles. The Viper has the more durable and more shock-absorbent EVA type. I can feel the difference. I have lightweight boots that I can feel almost every pebble through their sole as I walk. I have another pair with the same midsole construction as the Viper and I can really see the difference scrambling over rocks in the 1 inch to 2 inch (3 cm to 5 cm) range because I can barely feel them.

* ADRENALINE Rubber Outsole Maximizes Traction

I can not find anything about what "Adrenaline" is as it relates to shoes. There is no manufacturer's information or description that I can find. Kamik refers to it as a material that maximizes traction, so I guess it's something like other boot manufacturers use, such as Vibram, but I can not tell that it's not just the same material renamed. Other boot and show vendors use the same name for rubber outer soles that have good abrasion resistance.

The traction of these boots on rocks seems as good as my Vibram soled boots. I had little trouble climbing up and down steep 60% inclines, even when the cliff side was covered with 6 inches (15 cm) of snow. I was able to dig my toe in to create footholds and work my way up the entire 200 ft (61 M) or so without losing control However, they do not provide great traction on shear ice.

TESTING STRATEGY

There was 6 inches (15 cm) of new snow here last night and more is on the way. Our lowest temperature for the next few weeks will be 8 F (-13 C) and in order to test these boots at that temperature in snow, I am going to have to do a night trek. With daytime temperatures getting into the low 50 F (10 C) range, there will definitely be more mud. So I'll be able to put on another 50 miles (81 km) or more in various conditions and continue to beat up on these boots.

I'm also planning on hiking along the Newlin Creek for a few miles and/or along the Arkansas River if possible. The idea would be to ford the streams and keep the boots under water (below the neck) for several minutes to test their waterproofness. I'll be sure to bring dry socks and another pair of boots just in case.

SUMMARY TO DATE

This concludes my Field Report. The results of my Long Term Testing are posted below.



LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Two months and about 100 miles (161 km) later:

" Yes, two months of hiking over cliffs and boulders in snow up over my knees at altitudes from 5500 ft to 6800 ft (1524 m to 2073 m), in temps from 8 F to 60 F (-13 C to 16 C), on flat terrain to 50 degree slopes, on scree and over mud and, yes even dry dirt when it was around. I wore these boots daily for work and play, hiking up to 6 miles (10 km) per trip and carrying packs up to 30 lbs (14 kg). They got quite a workout.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

" I find these boots to be VERY comfortable. Their flexibility is quite nice, due to the fabric construction. I've worn them many times for over 12 hours in one day while hiking, working and/or driving. I can always tell if a boot is comfortable when I forget I have boots on my feet, and these meet that test.

Kamik Vipers on a Hike
Kamik Vipers on a Winter Hike
" I do not find these boots very warm though. My feet continually got cold at temperatures under 20 F (-7 C) even with minor activity. I still used my Darn Tough Vermont hiking socks for the balance of this test and although my feet did get cold at temps under 20 F (-7 C), they didn't get SERIOUSLY cold. When I say they got cold, I mean I KNEW they were cold because my feet don't feel cold normally and I don't think about that. For me to be aware of having cold feet, it means that my feet were colder than I was expecting them to be and they were hollering for attention.

" In my field report, I mentioned that the inside was wet with standing snow on the top that melted over several hours. That has happened several times, so I have been able to replicate that. However, my feet stayed dry while walking though snow of several inches/centimeters (as long as the snow didn't get down inside the boot of course) and through wet mud, water and rain UNLESS the water or rain was allowed to soak in. For example, when walking through wet snow, once the material on the boot turned dark from being wet, it was only a matter of time before continued exposure of the same magnitude made the interior of the boot damp. So I could quickly walk though streams and spend maybe an hour hiking though wet snow or mud, but once the fabric started getting saturated, I knew it was time to feel damp. At -25 F (-32 C) that could be quite dangerous. So I would only use these boots knowing these constraints. For the purpose of this test, I did not add waterproofing chemicals to the fabric, but now that the test is over, I intend to do so. I would like to see the water bead up on the fabric, not turn it water-soaked dark brown.


" I really got used to using the rear tie tab to lace up. It's cool to wrap the laces around back and know they will not slip out of place. I described how this works in my field report, and now I'm enamored with it. Combined with the quick lace system, it's easy and comfortable.

" After so much continued use, I still only have a few scuffs on the toe shield and no other issues with fabric or sole. I hosed off the mud residue and scrubbed them up and they look really good. I have not officially cleaned this pair with detergents of any type, but they appear to wipe up pretty well and brush off just fine. I've had 2 inches (5 cm) of mud on these things and I was able to scrape them off and brush hard to clean them and they show no signs of wear.

" The bottom soles have taken a beating with more mud and rocky terrain and still show no wear at all. I've worn other boots that have shown obvious wear at this point. The trade off appears to be "stickiness" since these soles are harder and wear less. I find myself not as sure-footed with these on wet rocks and ice as other boots I have. However, the soles are VERY easy to clean off when I get that 2 inches (5 cm) of wet clay mud on them so very often around here.

" I never had any issues with support. I always felt in control. Never swayed or twisted even with 30 lb (17 kg) loads over some rough terrain and through some slippery mud (like grease on glass as they say) for several miles/kilometers at a time. Although the traction is not as good as other boots I have, the ankle support is quite good for a fabric boot. I was concerned about that when I first started testing these, but I am satisfied that their support is very good. After using them for well over 300 miles during this entire test, I can only think of only one time that I came close to twisting my ankle and that was while hiking in 2+ inch (5+ cm) deep mud.

SUMMARY

" Since I don't intend to be hiking at -25 F (-32 C), I think I will continue to use these when the snow is dry (in Colorado we get 4 or 5 inches (10 or 13 cm) of powder that you can blow off the hood of a car for example) and when the temperatures are above 15 F (-9 C). If the temperature is below 25 F (-4 C) I know I will need to wear heavier wool socks and maybe thermals if I am going to be out for all day activities and I need to keep moving.

Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Kamik for the opportunity to test these boots.

John R. Waters

PROS

Very comfortable
Looks like they will outwear other boots I have
Clean up great
Love the lacing system
Great support

CONS

Not as warm as expected
Not as waterproof as expected
Soles not as sticky as I like (but they will last longer)

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

Read more reviews of Kamik gear
Read more gear reviews by John Waters

Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Kamik Vipers > Test Report by John Waters



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson