We really like the Sorel Winter Carnival for its stylish comfort and water-resistant outsole but were disappointed with the overall performance in our field tests. Despite a waterproof nylon exterior and a mid-high rise upper, the boot lacks waterproofness and weather protection on stormy days. The removable felt liner and rubber outsole kept us warm during active movement but didn’t do the job when standing out in cold temperatures for an extended period of time. If you’re searching for stylish footwear that works as a winter boot and won’t entirely break the bank, this is a solid option. But if you’re searching for exceptional traction, durability, and weatherproofness, you may need to look elsewhere.Editor's Note: This Sorel boot review received an update with more information to help you make a boot buying decision. It happened on February 23, 2022.
Sorel Winter Carnival Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Flexible, solid coverage, fashionable, warm
Cons: Flimsy structure and support, looser fit, limited traction
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Sorel Winter Carnival
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|Pros||Flexible, solid coverage, fashionable, warm||Full coverage protection, highly durable, reliable traction||Good value, ultra warm, great traction, highly waterproof||Warm, great weather protection, removable liner||Lightweight, super soft interior, durable leather exterior|
|Cons||Flimsy structure and support, looser fit, limited traction||Pricey, very heavy, retains moisture, difficult to drive in||Only ankle-high coverage, hiking-specific style, narrow fit||Clunky fit, very heavy, not very stylish||Unimpressive outsole traction|
|Bottom Line||A fashionable winter boot that provides style and comfort but is not necessarily the warmest, sturdiest, or most protective||This highly durable boot is completely waterproof and great at insulating, though it's a bit too bulky to wear on low-snow days or during high-output activities||This well-priced boot hits all the marks with a winter-friendly design that maintains great traction, weatherproofing, and warmth||A warm, bulky, and durable boot built for a lifetime of Alaska-grade winters but that isn't light or comfortable enough for extended use or mobile activities||One of the most comfortable choices in our lineup, with a soft, heat-retentive interior and durable, waterproof exterior|
|Rating Categories||Sorel Winter Carnival||Muck Boot Arctic Ic...||Merrell Thermo Chil...||Sorel Caribou - Wom...||The North Face Shel...|
|Weather Protection (25%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Sorel Winter Carnival||Muck Boot Arctic Ic...||Merrell Thermo Chil...||Sorel Caribou - Wom...||The North Face Shel...|
|Maximum Puddle Depth Before Major Leaking||6"||16"||6"||10"||7"|
|Measured Shaft Height (from bottom of sole to top of shaft)||10"||16"||6"||10.5"||10"|
|Measured Weight (per pair, size 7)||2.75 lbs||4.59 lbs||1.79 lbs||3.78 lbs||2.25 lbs|
|Type of Boot||All-around winter wear||Winter workwear||Winter hiking||All-around winter||All-around winter|
|Fit Details||Runs big||Runs big||True to size||Runs big||True to size|
|Lining/Insulation||6 mm recycled felt liner||Fleece||M Select Warm (200g)||9mm recycled felt liner||Heatseeker Eco Pro (200g)|
|Footbed||N/A||bioDEWIX||Kinetic Fit BASE||N/A||OrthoLite|
|Upper Material||Waterproof nylon||Rubber||Waterproof PU-coated leather and mesh||Waterproof nubuck leather||Full-grain leather and ballistic nylon|
|Outsole||Vulcanized rubber||Vibram Arctic Grip A.T.||M Select GRIP||Aero-trac rubber||Surface Control rubber|
|Company Claimed Cold Weather Rating||Not stated||Not stated||Not stated||Not stated||Not stated|
|Temp Change in Ice Bath||-14.9 F||-9.5 F||-5.2 F||-6.9 F||-6.5 F|
|Sizes Available||5 - 12||5 - 11||5 - 11||5 - 12||5 - 11|
Our Analysis and Test Results
We took the Winter Carnival all over Lake Tahoe, from river paths to post-storm hikes, to test the boot's performance in fluctuating winter weather conditions. We found it a comfortable option to spend the day in, and we maintained warmth when moving around. However, our field tests exposed issues with the upper being too flexible and thin to provide structure on uneven and slippery surfaces. The outsole traction is commendable on flat surfaces, but the wave pattern had us slipping around when trudging up snowy slopes. Additionally, exposed areas in the collar region allow snow to sneak inside, ultimately limiting the boot's insulation capabilities.
The Winter Carnival had mixed results for this category. We anticipated that it might not live up to the Sorel Caribou, but frankly, it felt equally as warm when moving around outdoors. The Carnival's removable 6mm felt liner is thinner than the Caribou's 9mm liner, as is the nylon upper. While this didn't make a massive difference during activities, we did notice a difference in the boot's capability to retain warmth while stationary. After 1-2 hours of minimal to no movement, we began to feel our feet get colder and colder.
The Winter Carnival exterior construction is relatively thin for winter wear. Less material makes for a lighter weight boot, but it compromises heat retention. During our ice bath tests, this boot had the most significant internal heat loss of any model in our review, at -14.9 degrees F. We weren't necessarily surprised by this, though we were a little disappointed.
In the end, we would reach for this boot on the way to work or to quickly shovel snow. The black fur collar is a nice touch to retain some heat around the mid-calf region. It's fashionable and comfortable and looks good with pants and a puffy. Unfortunately, it's just not as warm or cozy as some fur-lined options.
The Winter Carnival has a mid-high construction, with a shaft height of 8¼ inches with a ½ inch of platform height in the sole. This boot is one of the taller in our lineup, offering great coverage over pants or leggings. However, we don't love the tongue height. It reaches the top of the upper but does not extend past the nylon to cover the empty space between the fur collar. For those who can't tolerate the snow-in-the-pants feeling, this might bother you. That said, we frequently wore our snow pants over leggings and didn't seem to catch too much snow in the exposed area.
The waterproof nylon exterior maintains weather protection, shedding excess snow with ease. The boot wicks away water from rain and puddle splashes, though we wouldn't recommend walking into rivers or using this as a rain boot. When tightened, the tongue and laces have a rather sloppy fit, limiting the boot's overall ability to protect from water entering through the front. Despite the boot's limited waterproofing capabilities, it does provide great coverage during snow-related activities.
Comfort and Fit
Comfort and fit for the Winter Carnival is good, though it didn't exceed our expectations or stand out from some of the other products in this review. It's a comfortable work boot that can maintain the warmth while moving back and forth from indoors to outdoors. The felt liner is easy to slip into, and the flexible nature of the exterior makes it comfortable for long periods.
The fit is not perfect on this boot, but it works. It's a bit too spacious for narrow feet, though thicker socks help fill out the extra room in the heel and underfoot. Luckily, the laces cinch down tight enough to keep you securely strapped in. However, the versatility of the boot is limited by the flexibility of the upper. The shaft is strong enough, but it is not supported by another stiff material to add structure. Paired with limited traction on the outsole, there is a higher probability of slipping and twisting an ankle on slippery slopes, rendering this a better choice for more urban locales.
The Winter Carnival performed well throughout our entire testing period, but we feel that multiple seasons may prove to break this boot down with heavy use. Nylon is not the most durable material compared to leather and suede regarding longevity. However, waterproofing treatments will help protect the boot from scuffing, scratching, and tearing. The rip-stop style interior is tough for abrasion resistance and is often seen in outdoor goods like camping gear and bike bags.
The wave construction on the sole of the Winter Carnival proved to be a lesser-performing design than the protruding lugs of some of the burlier winter boots we tested. The wave is a good pattern for wet surfaces but is not capable of gripping snow. We found ourselves slipping backward or to the side when walking uphill in ankle-high snow. While the traction is better on flat surfaces, it still didn't impress us. Lugs are completely necessary for traction on snowy inclines and declines.
Should You Buy the Carnival?
Unfortunately, the Sorel Winter Carnival did not quite do it for us. We like the look, the lightweight nylon, and the removable felt liner. Still, its performance capabilities were limited, and it wasn't versatile enough for us to use outside of low-output activities. If you need a burlier boot that is reliable and keeps you upright in the most slippery circumstances, you may lean towards Sorel's heftier winter boot, the Caribou. We genuinely like this fashionable snow boot, but we can't quite justify the price tag based on its performance out in the field. Compared to other boots in this review, you can spend a little bit more for higher quality and functionality. We like that the Carnival is on the lighter side of snow boots in our lineup. Still, other options aren't much bulkier and have greater traction, weatherproofing, and durability.
What Other Winter Boots Should You Consider?
Sorel is a mainstay in boots for some folks and with good reason, but that doesn't mean it does everything well. We prefer the Sorel Caribou - Women's over the Carnival and think most outdoor ladies will as well. Additionally, we believe the UGG Adirondack III tops them both as a great all-around boot that is good for shorter hikes, chores outdoors, and comfortable fun for snowy activities.
— Liz Chamberlain
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