We've included The North Face Chilkat 400 in our review for the third year in a row. Its reign as our Editor's Choice Award winner has unfortunately come to an end, but this boot remains one of our tester's favorites. It's the second highest scorer in our side-by-side comparison testing and is also our favorite model for tackling trails, earning it our Top Pick for Winter Hiking Award. It features 400g of Primaloft Eco recycled insulation, making it the warmest boot in our review. It is waterproof, and as long as you size up, it is among the most comfortable winter hiking style boot we've tested. Its temperature-sensitive lugs scored near the top when it came to traction. If you see a pattern here, the Chilkat 400 scoring near the top in every metric, then you are starting to understand why we love this boot so much.
The North Face Chilkat 400 Review
Cons: Fit is short (order a size up), mildly laborious to tie
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This boot has once again garnered the attention of our expert review team, by providing top-notch warmth and comfort for cold winter conditions. Previously our Editors' Choice Award sinner, the Chilkat 400 has finally been unseated by a newcomer to our winter boot test, the Keen Durand Polar.
That said, the Chilkat 400 is still our favorite winter boot to hike in, winning a Top Pick award for winter hiking. We loved most things about the Chilkat 400, but there are a few issues you should be aware of, the most important of those is that it can be a tricky boot to size correctly. The North Face winter boots have consistently run small over the years, so you should try on at least one full size larger than your typical boot size.
When compared to, say, the Blundstone Thermals, this boot is very tall, coming up six inches or so above the ankle. This design is great for keeping snow out but means that it is prone to rubbing on the front of your shin. That said, the boot's upper portion is flexible, with medium flex. As a result, the high shaft isn't as annoying as some other models. All in all, there is little to complain about with this boot. It's easy for us to recommend it to you as one of our favorite winter boots.
After extensive testing in cold and snowy environments, we can decidedly say that this boot is one of the warmest in our test. We are impressed at how cozy, and snug these boots are when properly fitted. (If you buy your normal size, a tight fit may lead to cold toes).
In our ice bath test, we each boot's internal temperature at 3-minute intervals for 12 minutes to see how quickly they lost heat. After 12 minutes, the Chilkat 400 lost 19.8 degrees. It's a respectable performance, but they're far from the best in the test. For comparison, the Keen Durand Polar dropped by only 15.2 degrees in the same amount of time. Boots with less insulation, like the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV and the North Face Chilkat III lost even more heat during this test.
In the real world, however, we never have complaints about how warm the Chilkat 400 keep our feet. We took a quick, cold hike with a Chilkat 400 on one foot and a Chilkat III on the other, we hiked for approximately 10 minutes. At that point, it was very apparent that the Chilkat 400 was significantly warmer than the III. We attribute this to the 400g of Primaloft insulation.
Due to a thick, molded rubber lower that extends from the sole three inches up the boot, the Chilkat 400's provides outstanding water resistance. This durable shell keeps water at bay, while a waterproof membrane bolsters the water resistance of the leather upper. Submerging this boot in the ice bath and standing in a lake for ten minutes did not phase this boot one bit. We recommend this boot for wet weather as well as just cold.
In the end, this boot's water resistance tied with that of the Keen Durand Polar, another perfectly waterproof model. Both boots are completely watertight even when submerged in water for an extended period. They kept our feet completely dry in our extreme waterproof testing, unless we stepped in deeper than the height of the tongue, of course. The Sorel Caribou and the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid also keep our feet incredibly dry, though neither offer the versatility of the Chilkat 400.
Fit and Comfort
The winter boots that favor hiking support over pure comfort are not quite as plush and cozy as the softer, looser-fitting Pac boots we tested. That said, this one ties with the Keen Durand Polar as the coziest of the trail-ready bunch. It is definitely more comfortable than some of the other competitors like the Keen Summit County, which is much looser fitting. Some of this boot's comfort is thanks to its flexible shaft. It has soft to medium flex while providing lateral support, which can make a huge difference when walking for long distances.
Remember to order a full size up in this boot. Web-based user reviews back up our experience, often describing this boot as short and narrow. We wholeheartedly agree with the short assessment but don't think that it's overly narrow. Its width seems pretty average to us.
The short length doesn't give you enough room to wiggle your toes around, which ultimately makes them colder. But even in our normal street size, we can wear this boot all day as long as we wear a thin pair of socks. When sized correctly, the Chilkat 400 is as comfortable as they come.
Ease of Use
This boot is relatively challenging to get on and take off. But, keep in mind, the low score is relative to the other boots in this review. They aren't absolutely difficult to use. Sliding our foot into this boot is no problem, even with the taller shaft. It is relatively easy to cinch up the majority of the boot with a single pull on the laces. From that point, you just loop the laces around two hooks on each side and tie. The large, flat laces grip each other well and do a great job of staying tied and tight.
The Keen Durand Polar's lacing system is a touch more user-friendly. The laces on those boots don't pass through a loop near the top and tightening them is more straightforward. While they aren't all that difficult to put on, they take more time and effort than the ridiculously simple slip-on boots, like the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid, Blundstone Thermal 566, or the Kamik Greenbay 4.
The North Face claims that their WinterGrip soles and IcePick lugs are temperature sensitive, increasing traction on slippery surfaces. A soft rubber compound rings the sole's outer edge with large rectangular lugs that provide good traction and edge bite. The middle of the sole features a firmer rubber compound in the form of numerous small triangular lugs. Each of these little triangles is another little tooth that bites into firm snow, giving these boots some of the best traction in our entire test.
The traction is quite good, on par with the Kamik Nationplus, but not quite as good as the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV, our Top Pick for traction. They are all miles better than competitors like the Keen Durand Polar, Sorel Caribou, and the Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry.
Versatility is the Chilkat 400's strong suit, and these boots are capable of doing anything you ask of them. This is an ideal choice for casual use around the house yet is also good looking enough to be paired with jeans to commute to work or go to school. Snowshoers and winter hikers will appreciate the comfortable fit as well as the high cuff that keeps snow out when tromping through deep snow.
The MSRP for these boots is $150, which is about average for the boots we have tested in this review. Since they are one of the best of the bunch, it's easy to justify the expense, and we think they represent a great value. If you're looking for the best bang for your buck, consider our Best Buy Award winner, the Kamik NationPlus, which rings in at $85.
The North Face Chilkat 400 is one of the highest scoring winter boots in this review of the most popular models on the market today. It is an incredibly warm boot that is also totally waterproof, so you can count on it to keep your feet warm when the days are cold. It is our favorite boot for winter hiking and snowshoeing and is also versatile enough to use around the house or for commuting. As long as you buy a pair that is about a size larger than your normal street shoe size, we can't imagine you not being satisfied with this winter boot.
— Jeremy Benson, Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman