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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Kamik Vipers > Test Report by Tom Callahan
KAMIK VIPER BOOTS
For the past 20 years I have lived off and on in Washington State, backpacking in the Cascade Mountains. I get out regularly on day hikes and multi-day trips and usually try to include a good off trail scramble. During the winter I get out snowshoeing at every opportunity. I also enjoy glacier climbing, summiting prominent peaks like Mt. Rainier (14K ft/4K m) and Mt. Baker (10K ft/3K m). My pack weight will range from 15 - 50 lbs (7 - 23 kg) depending on the season and the length and type of trip.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
The boots arrived in a standard Kamik boot box. It is a good looking boot with nice styling. The boots' color and appearance are true to the picture of the product on the Kamik web site. There were 3 hang tags; a general Kamik tag, a Thinsulate tag and a tag indicating the boots temperature rating, "-25 F/-32 C." When I picked them out of the box I was impressed with their light weight.
The boot upper is constructed of a sturdy nylon weave material. There is a black rubber rand that runs from midway on the boot forward into the rubber toe guard. The toe guard is quite beefy and extends to the inside edge of the boot. This non-symmetrical toe guard design is interesting and I think is more for style than function. The heel cup is supported by a stiffener built into the boot and on the exterior by a textured material. The stitching and cut of materials is of very good quality. There are no loose threads and all seams are nicely finished.
The sole of the boot is black rubber and the tread is a series of lateral curved grooves that contain channels and small nubs.
The lacing system consists of nylon web and metal hook eyelets. The boot laces up initially with the web eyelets, a single at the start then 4 pair, finishing with 3 pair of metal hook eyelets. The website notes "Heel Lace Lock" as part of the lacing system and I'm not quite sure what they are referring to. As I understand Heel Lace Lock, this is a method of lacing, and I did not see any specific feature of the boot lacing system that makes it different from other similar boots.
Moving to the boot's interior, the website describes a "Waterproof Bootie Construction" which gave me the impression this boot had a removable bootie. But this is not the case, the boot is of one piece construction. The interior lining of the boot is a very soft, tight weave synthetic material which feels good to the touch. The boot is well padded with the Thinsulate insulation. The tongue is also well very padded. This tongue is gusseted, but only half-way up. I was expecting a fully gusseted tongue since this is a waterproof boot.
TRYING THEM ON
When I put these boots on with just a thin sock they were very snug, actually too snug. This surprised me since I had ordered these a size larger to accommodate a thicker sock. These boots appear to run small and I will be contacting Kamik Customer Service to exchange them for a larger size.
I will test these boots on a combination of day hikes and overnight trips in the Cascade Mountains. The initial part of the field testing will take place during the transition time between dry trail hiking and snowshoeing. During this "transition" season I will encounter mud, slush, snow and ice on the trail. Temperatures will range from around 50 to 30 F (10 to -1 C).
The Kamik Vipers are very well constructed boots. I am looking forward to getting the right size and hitting the trail to see how well they perform in the soggy Pacific Northwest this winter.
Before beginning my Field Testing I had to exchange the boots I initially ordered for a different size. I usually wear a size 10 1/2 or 11 in a hiking boot, depending on the manufacturer. This is with a liner sock plus a mid-weight sock. I was cautioned that the Kamik boots run small so I ordered a size 11 1/2 figuring that would provide a comfortable fit. As noted in my Initial Report, the 11 1/2 was extremely snug, even when wearing just a thin sock. I contacted Kamik Customer Service and they were very accommodating to help me get the right size. I had in mind to request a size 12, however the rep explained that if the size 11 1/2 was so snug, a size 12 may not be big enough. Since the boots only come in whole sizes larger that 12, she recommended that I go with a size 13, and reluctantly I did. The boots were shipped promptly and to my surprise the size 13 fit very well. The size 12 definitely would have been too small for me.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I wore these boots on all my outings in the Cascades Mountains during the Field Testing period. I averaged more than two outings each month and one overnight. I also used these boots as my evening dog walking boots around the neighborhood.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I found these boots to be very comfortable during testing. It was great to have a correct match between my foot and the size of the boot (I was still getting use to the fact I was wearing a size 13). These are a lighter weight boot, much lighter than my regular leather, winter hiking boot. I really noticed a difference, much less fatigue on long hikes when wearing these boots.
While I intentionally did not use gaiters during testing, I did try my OR Crocodiles gaiters over these boots for fit. The gaiters wrapped fully around the boots. However, the gaiters rely on a hook to go into the boot laces to hold the gaiters down securely. The boot lacing system uses a center loop eyelet at the start which puts the laces at an angle, rather lacing straight across. So there was not a good place for the gaiter hook.
The boot tread provided good traction under a range of conditions. On slippery, wet rocks I had good grip, the soft rubber would cling fairly well. On packed snow, the tread channels would dig in and not slip, making for sure footing. On ice, these boots would slip, but that's more or less to be expected. In terms of wear, the tread channels are holding up well. However the little nubs in the tread wore off and disappeared in the first 10 miles (16 km) of use.
FUTURE TESTING STRATEGY
During long term testing, I'll continue to use the Kamik boots for all my winter hiking and snow shoeing. I'll be in the Cascades encountering more wet snow and cold temperatures. I have not yet tried these boots with my crampons and will be doing that during this long term testing. I'll also be looking to see how well the boot's tread and insulation holds up over long term use.
Overall, I have been pleased with the Kamik Viper boots. The sizing is way off, but once I had the correct size and used them in the field, the padded construction provided a very comfortable, cushioned fit. While I have not found these boots to be totally waterproof, they do provide a good level of water resistance. They have also kept my feet warm under cold conditions typically encountered in the Pacific Northwest. I don't think they would keep my feet warm under extreme cold conditions, down to -25 F (-32 C), as rated by the manufacturer. The tread provides good grip under muddy conditions, on wet rocks and on packed snow. The low weight of the boots is a real plus, cutting down fatigue especially on long trips and when using snowshoes.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I continued to use the Kamik Viper boots under winter conditions throughout the Long-Term Test period. I used the boots for an additional 6 days in the field during this phase. The boots were worn on snow covered trails either by themselves or with snow shoes. Temperatures ranged from 20 to 40 F (-7 to 4 C). Distance traveled each day ranged from 4 to 7 miles (6 to 11 km). Elevation ranged from 2,000 to 5,000 ft (610 to 1,500 m), with daily elevation gain averaging around 2,000 ft (610 m) per day. I encountered an even mix of wet and dry snow conditions during this latest testing.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Kamik Viper boots continued to be very comfortable during the Long Term testing. These boots really needed no break in and felt just as good at the conclusion of phase of testing as they did at the start of the test period. The interior padding has held up very well as has the boot liner material. The exterior boot material is also in very good shape. The tread shows normal wear and tear given the use of the boots.
I had a lingering curiosity about the "Heel Lace Lock" feature listed on the web site for these boots, since I couldn't figure out what that described. I emailed Kamik Customer Service (but did not identify myself as BGT) and inquired about the feature. I received a courteous reply a couple days later, letting me know there was a mistake on the web page and the Viper does not have this feature. Since then, Kamik has removed "Heel Lace Lock" from the list of features for the Viper.
The boot material is very supple, needing no break in time. These boots are light in weight, minimizing fatigue, which adds to their comfort. The boot material is very durable and it held up quite well during testing. The boots kept my feet warm under a range of conditions, however, my feet did get cold in temperatures below 20 F (-7 C) particularly when my feet were damp or when at rest. Therefore I don't think the boots would have kept my feet warm at the rated -25 F (-32 C). The boots do provide a level of water resistance but they are not waterproof. These boots worked well with my snowshoes and were compatible with my crampons. So overall the Kamik Viper is a good winter boot. The sizing of these boots is quite a bit off, running about 2 sizes small. This would be a problem if ordering these boots on-line and not having the opportunity to try them on before hand.
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