Kamik NationPlus Review
Cons: Not completely waterproof, more labor intensive to put on than others
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Our Analysis and Test Results
A kamik is a traditional Inuit soft boot made from the hide of a reindeer or sealskin. These boots are 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 than its closest Pac boot competitors. It also fits more snugly around the foot, in a cozy, warm and comfortable way, that's not at all constrictive. While some internet user reviews claim that this boot fits a bit small, it fit true to size for our testers.
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. Great for running errands or performing chores in the snow, it wouldn't be our top choice for snowshoeing or winter hiking.
The NationPlus winter boot uses relatively little insulation to make it warm. It has 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation. At first glance, we thought it would be one of the coldest boots in our test. In reality, it performs well against boots with double the insulation. This is because the insulation is allowed to maintain its loft, while other boots compress 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, blocking heat transfer from our feet to the ground.
This model is comfort rated to -40 degrees F. We just didn't have those kinds of temperatures in our testing area, though we can say that when compared with another 40 below contender, boots made by Bogs, we would prefer to wear the Kamiks, especially if we had to hop on our snow machine up in the Northwest Territories.
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 seam that stitches the waterproofed, gusseted tongue to the leather upper allows water to leak through, lowering the maximum puddle depth to 4.5 inches. This is a shame since the boot's shaft 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 soak it up, making the inner liner cold and soggy.
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. The leather outer is also 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, for most users, this boot will provide more than adequate water resistance in snow and the occasional slush filled puddle. Nevertheless, compared to the competition, this boot is subpar.
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 but also gave us the option of 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, using 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. Those with wide feet will also be happy to know that Kamik makes a model called the NationWide which is a wide fitting version of the Nationplus
The Thinsulate material used in the boot liner is plusher and softer than the felt liner found in Sorels. If you end up having to wear short socks in this boot, the liner does not scratch at the skin.
However, the bottom of the liner offers only a thin felt piece between your foot and the firm sole below. 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 among the most comfortable boots in the review.
Ease of Use
Pac boots are popular as they are typically some of the easiest to take on and off. While the NationPlus is not as quick get in and out of as the slip-on models, the large opening and gusseted tongue make it easy to slide a foot into. 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 prefer a larger one because it is impossible to fit a gloved finger through the tab. The lacing system is also a little too tricky. Lace locks work great when they are placed in between eyelets and lace-hooks, but they are somewhat awkward to use in the configuration Kamik designed.
Pac boots tend to trap heat quite well, making them warm, but they 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. We ripped some of the liner's stitching out on one replacement attempt. It is 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 do like is that, when the liner is in, it stays in place and hugs our foot better than any other Pac boot we have worn. Overall, we preferred the ease of use found in the slip-on models, but neither boot fits even close to as well as the Nationplus.
The tread pattern on the 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 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 among 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 most of the others.
This is the least expensive winter boot in our review. 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 offer this quality boot for such a bargain price consistently, and feel that it is well-deserving of our Best Bang for Buck Award.
— Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman