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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Kamik Vipers > Test Report by Tom Callahan

KAMIK VIPER BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY TOM CALLAHAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 25, 2008

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Tom Callahan
EMAIL: tcallahanbgt AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Seattle, Washington, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)
TORSO SIZE 17 in (43 cm)

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.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Kamik
Model: Viper
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kamik.com/
MSRP: N/A
Listed Height: 8.5 in (21.6 cm)
Measured Height: Confirmed
Listed Weight: Not provided
Measured Weight: 2 lbs 14 oz (1.3 kg)
Size: 11.5

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

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.

IMAGE 1


IMAGE 2
Toe Guard, Tread and Lacing System

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.

Even though they were snug, I could tell this is a comfortable boot. The soft liner material, plus all the insulation padding makes for a very plush feel. My heel fit well in the heel cup. My toes did feel cramped but this is the result of not having the proper size. The light weight of the boots also contributed to their comfort.

The boot is very supple and flexible through the ankle area and provides only minimal support. But to add reinforcement or stiffeners here would compromise the lighter weight. These boots flexed well across the front when I bent forward on the balls of my feet so I am not anticipating these needing a long break in period.

TESTING STRATEGY

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).

Once the snow season kicks in I will be using the Vipers as my primary snowshoe boots. Snow conditions will range from wet and heavy to dry and light. I will be on trails that are a combination of packed and unconsolidated snow. Snow depth in the Cascades will exceed 10 ft (3 m) so I will have ample opportunity to test these out in deep snow. Temperatures will be in the range of 40 to 10 F (4 to -12 C).

During this testing I will be checking to see how well these boots keep my feet warm and dry. I am anxious to see how the Kamik waterproof material performs. I will be paying close attention to that area where the tongue is not fully gusseted to see if any moisture seeps in. With such a well insulated boot I will be very interested to see how well the boot keeps my feet warm when the temperature plummets. I will also be checking to see if my feet overheat while engaged in rigorous activities. This will include reporting on how well the boot wicks sweat away from my feet. My testing will also assess how well the boot keeps my feet warm when just standing still.

In addition to boot comfort, I will be testing to see how well the boot tread provides traction under different conditions such as mud, snow, ice, wet pavement. As noted above, I will be testing these boots on trails and while wearing snowshoes. I will also be checking these boots for compatibility with my gaiters and my semi rigid, universal crampons.

SUMMARY

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.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

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


FIELD REPORT

BOOT FIT

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.

Now that I had a good fit in length I was able to better evaluate the overall fit. The boot was comfortable in the fit between my toes and heel. However, the boot feels to be a high volume boot with extra room across the top of my foot and through the ankle. So it feels a little loose across in this area. The nature of the construction of these boots are that they are soft sided, so there is not a lot of support through the ankle like some of my other stiffer leather boots. With the light weight, soft construction and flexible sole, in a way the Kamik Vipers felt like I was wearing a well padded, high-top sneaker.

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.

During my outings in the Cascades I was right in the middle of the "transition" season here in the Pacific Northwest. This is the time when trails are very muddy and there hasn't yet been enough snow to cover all the trails for good snow shoeing. So while testing these boots I encountered the full range of wet, muddy trails, as well as ice and snow. In the beginning of the test period I wore just the boots on my hikes and towards the end of the period I also used them with my snowshoes.

Elevations ranged from 1,500 to 4,500 ft (450 to 1350 m). Temperatures were generally around the 30 to 35 F (-1 to 2 C) range. I did use the boots in temps has high as 50 F (10 C) and as low as 15 F (-9 C).

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.

Hiking in Snow
Hiking in Snow

I intentionally did not wear gaiters with these boots to give them a good shake down as to their waterproof features. While hiking on muddy trails with light rain my feet would stay dry. However when in wet snow conditions the snow would build up on the boots and moisture would eventually seep in to my feet. This would take a several hours to occur. In the areas where the outer boot material would become saturated and darken the moisture would soak through. This would happen first in the area across the top of my toes, where the boot flexes and compresses. I would also get some saturation across the top of my boot where the snow clung to the laces and my snowshoe binding. I did not notice any problem with water seeping around the sides of the tongue. This surprised me since the tongue is not fully gusseted. There is good overlap between the tongue and the upper part of the boot, and with the soft nature of the material, this seemed to make an adequate seal. Based on my experience, I would rate these boots as very water resistant but not strictly waterproof.

In terms of the boot's insulation properties, I was very comfortable when wearing these boots in the 20 to 40 F (-7 to 4 C) range. I found the upper temp range for which these boots were comfortable to be approaching 50 F (10 C), at which point my feet would begin to over heat and sweat. At temps around 15 F (-9 C), my feet would stay comfortable as long as I was moving. Standing still for half an hour would cause my feet to begin to feel cool. This would happen even sooner when I had been working hard and my feet sweating a bit. However, once I got moving my feet would quickly warm up.

As noted in the Boot Fit section, the Kamik's felt a little loose through the ankles. Because the Kamik's are a lighter weight boot and made with a soft flexible material, there are some trade-offs in terms of support. However, I was still able to comfortably do all my regular hikes. I just had to be mindful over rocky and uneven terrain that I did not have the full ankle support of a heavy winter hiking boot. Another benefit of the soft nature of the boot material was that they needed no break-in time. My foot felt comfortable and secure from the very first hike. I never developed any hotspots or blisters during testing. So for me it was a reasonable trade-off to sacrifice a little ankle support to have a lighter weight boot, one that kept me warm and provided a secure fit.

The boots fit well with my snow shoes. I was able to easily secure the boot in my MSR Denali snowshoe binding. The boots stayed securely in place, even during long hikes. The light weight construction and insulation makes them a very good snow shoe boot.

Kamik Boots with Snow Shoes
Viper Boots with Snowshoes



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.

SUMMARY

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.

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

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


LONG-TERM REPORT

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.

During this phase of the testing I was out in much more wet snow conditions than the earlier testing. I found that after several hours of use under wet snow conditions moisture would seep through to the boots' interior. This seemed most prevalent across the top of my foot, where snow would collect as it stuck to my snowshoe binding. The non-gusseted tongue never did become a problem, as I initially expected. There was plenty of overlap between the tongue and the boot upper. Plus the boot laced securely, such that the tongue stayed in place and no snow leaked in around the side of the tongue.

The boots continued to keep my feet warm down to 20 F (-7 C). However, at this temperature when my feet were wet they would quickly become cold if I was standing still. My feet would warm up once I got moving again. I would be concerned about how warm these boots would keep my feet if they were wet and the temperatures were less than 20 F (-7 C).

I did not encounter conditions that required crampons during this testing. However I did try my Stubai crampons for compatibility with the Vipers. The crampons fit snugly and securely. Should I have been out in icy conditions I am confident the Vipers would have performed well with my crampons. Now the Viper is not built as a mountaineering boot, but even so there is enough stiffness to enable me to kick steps in firm snow conditions.

Viper Boot w/ Crampons
Viper Boot with Crampon



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.

SUMMARY

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.

Likes: light weight, good thermal protection under conditions I encounter, compatible with my snowshoes and crampons
Dislikes: not waterproof, size runs very small

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.

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