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Hands-on Gear Review
Kamik NationPlus Review
Cons: Poor design allows water to leak in at base of tongue, more labor intensive to put on than others
Bottom line: A very comfortable boot at the most affordable price.
The Kamik NationPlus boot is a traditional Pac boot, meaning that it has an insulated inner liner and a waterproof outer. This design has long been considered a hallmark of winter boots, and we feel that while the NationPlus bears many similarities to the Sorel Caribou, that this boot is a step ahead when it comes to comfort and warmth. The fit of this boot was surprisingly snug, allowing for more capable footwork on icy pathways and in snow-covered driveways. This performance was also bolstered by the quality high-traction sole found on the NationPlus. While there were some concerns about water resistance and durability, we still feel that this is an excellent boot for the money, and again give it our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Boots for Men of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
A kamik is a traditional Inuit soft boot made from the hide of a reindeer or sealskin. These boots were warm and nimble, allowing hunters to quickly and silently track on the ice. Modern cold-weather footwear such as Pac boots, build on the tradition of the kamik by incorporating an insulated liner with a more rigid sole for more versatility in sloppy conditions. At 3 lbs. 10.3 oz. for a pair of size 11 boots, the NationPlus is considerably lighter and more nimble feeling than its closest Pac boot competitor, the Sorel Caribou. It also fits a lot snugger around the foot, in a cozy, warm and snuggly feeling kind of way, not in a constrictive way. While some user reviews on the internet claim that this boot fits a bit small, we would disagree and contend that it fits true to size.
While the NationPlus weighs less, offers a more secure fit, and has superior grip, we found that there were flaws in the boot that were hard to overlook. Wet weather performance was severely impacted by the low flood height, and the wet material leached color and ended up staining the wood floor of our entryway, so exercise caution. For dry and cold snow, however, this is a great model. Compared to the best-insulated winter hiking boots, such as our best overall winter boot, The North Face Chilkat 400, this boot would not be our first choice for long hikes or snowshoeing.
The Kamik NationPlus winter boot uses relatively little insulation to make its boot warm; in this case, 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation is included in the construction of the inner liner. At first glance, one would be tempted to think that this would end up being one of the coldest boots in our test, but in reality, it performed quite well against boots with double the insulation. This is due to the insulation which is allowed to maintain its loft, while other boots have compressed their insulation by sewing it behind an inner liner material. The sole is thick rubber and gives a good amount of insulation from cold concrete and asphalt. There is a thin metallic lining sewn into the bottom of the boot liner to increase its R-Value or the ability for a heat transfer to occur from our feet to the ground we stand on.
The bottom of the boot liner is uninsulated, instead using a felt material. This model is another contender in our review that is comfort rated down to -40 degrees F. We just didn't have those kinds of temperatures in our testing area to accurately verify that, though we can say is that when compared with another 40 below contender, the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid, we would prefer to wear the Kamiks, especially if we had to hop on our snow machine up in the Northwest Territories. 7 out of 10 points.
The exterior is built from thick rubber and suede leather, which did not suffer from major leakage issues, though performed less admirably than we would have hoped for such a tall boot. The rubber sole and outsole is one molded piece, so major damage would have to occur for a leak to spring there, and a waterproofing agent is daubed along the inside stitching where the rubber meets the suede. However, the place at the bottom of the waterproofed, gusseted tongue, where it is sewn to the leather upper, easily allows water to leak through, lowering the maximum puddle depth before leakage to 4.5 inches. This is a shame since the shaft of the boot is so high (11 inches). While prolonged deep immersions are not what this model is meant to withstand, as soon as water enters by way of the tongue gusset, the Thinsulate foam insulation is very quick to sop it up, making the inner liner cold and soggy.
For wet and slushy conditions, we preferred the impermeability of the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid or Sorel Caribou. The suede material on this boot is prone to wetting out after prolonged exposure to water, though this was not an issue during our immersion test. An annual application of an aftermarket waterproofing treatment to the suede upper will increase its waterproofness and longevity. We also found that the leather outer was treated with a non-durable pigment that leached when wet, and got red splotches all over the entryway to our home. Despite the apparent leak point, we feel that for most users, this boot will provide more than adequate water resistance in snow and the occasional slush filled puddle. Never the less, compared to the competition, this one deserved only 6 points for water resistance.
Fit and Comfort
This boot fits true to size, and unless you want to be able to wear two pairs of socks in the boot liner comfortably, we recommend going with your regular shoe size. In our experience, Pac boots tend to give a sloppier fit than others because they occupy a space somewhere between a traditional lace-up boot and a slip-on. We liked this contender because it allowed for easy entry and was comfortable with the laces undone, tucked into the liner for quick trips out to move the car when the snowplow arrived but also gave us the option for a tighter fit. Kamik uses speed-lacing eyelets to get a fast and tight fit, with lace locks to keep the lower lacing in place. While this sounds like the perfect combination, the use of eyelets (instead of hooks above the lace locks) makes it difficult to release the laces and open up the tongue to easily get out of the liner boot.
The Thinsulate material used in the boot liner is more plush and soft feeling than the felt liner of the Sorel Caribou, and if you end up having to wear short socks in this boot, the liner does not scratch at the skin nearly as much as Sorel's felt liner. The bottom of the liner does only have a thin felt piece between the foot and the firm sole below, and we found that after standing around in the boot for a while we were able to feel the hardness of the boot sole. So we stuck an aftermarket Superfeet insole into the liner and voila! The boot still fit like a glove and the comfort level was dramatically improved. All in all, we feel like this is the most comfortable boot in the review, and gave it 9 out of 10 points.
Ease of Use
Pac boots are popular as they as some of the easiest to take on and off. While the NationPlus is not as quick to do as the slip-on models such as the Blundstone BL566 or the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid, the large opening and gusseted tongue make it easy to slide a foot into and the open cut, lace-free liner boot has a smooth unrestrictive fabric. Pulling the boot on or off is made easier with a pull tab on the heel, though we would have preferred a larger one - it was impossible to fit a gloved finger through the tab. The lacing system was also a little too tricky. Lace locks work great when they are placed in between eyelets and lace-hooks, but they were awkward to use in the configuration Kamik designed.
Pac boots do tend to trap heat quite well, making them warm, but are also prone to holding perspiration. Taking the liner boots out to dry them in front of the fire is possible but returning them into the boot is very difficult given their floppiness, and we ripped some of the liner's stitching out on one replacement attempt. It was much easier just to put the boots on our dedicated boot dryer and leave the liners in the boot, but not everyone has one of those in their house. What we did like was that when the liner was in, it stayed in place and hugged our foot better than any other Pac boot we have worn. Overall, we preferred the ease of use found in the slip-on Bogs, out Top Pick Award winner, so we gave it 6 out of 10 points.
The tread pattern on the Kamik NationPlus boots is reminiscent of a pair of burly off-road tires, featuring deep lugs that offer superb traction in soft snow and muck, but still keep enough surface area to travel on flat and slippery surfaces like icy pavement effectively.
The soft, sticky rubber compound seems to aid in the grip on icier surfaces and does not cost the boot any grip on snow or hardpack. Every time we thought we had found a boot with good grip on the ice, we would slip the NationPlus on the other foot and test them side by side, and every time the NationPlus was the grippiest. That said, ice is still ice, and nothing will guarantee you can stay on your feet on an ice rink, but these boots did better than the others. The next best option for traction would be The North Face Chilkat 400. 9 out of 10 points.
This is a boot that will work well for most consumers looking for an insulated boot that can keep their feet warm and dry. This boot is quite warm and will keep your feet toasty even on a long snowmobile or sleigh ride. If you are planning to walk far, we recommend an insulated winter hiking boot, like the Vasque Snowburban UltraDry, which is more comfortable over longer distances.
With an MSRP of only $85, the NationPlus is the least expensive winter boot in our review by a long shot. While many consumers will look at the low price and infer low quality, we found that this model offers a lot of boot for a very reasonable price, making it easily the best value, and therefore the winner of our Best Bang for the Buck award.
The NationPlus is a great boot for those who seek the comfort and ease of use that a premium boot like the Sorel might offer but do not wish to pay the premium price. This is a good choice for working around the house in cold and snowy conditions, taking on a ski vacation to the mountains, or even as a work boot. We appreciate that Kamik has been able to consistently offer this quality boot for such a bargain price, and feel that it is well-deserving of our Best Bang for Buck Award.
— Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman
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