The North Face Chilkat III Review
Cons: Basic footbed, not completely waterproof, bulky
Manufacturer: The North Face
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Chilkat III shares the Chilkat moniker with our previous Editors' Choice Award winner, the North Face Chilkat 400, which has been discontinued. The two boots have many similarities, but the Chilkat III is a slightly lower-end model than its more expensive and higher-performance sibling.
Easy to pull on, with lots of traction, this boot scores competitively. It is also quite comfortable and warm, though it can't quite match the more precise fit and warmth provided by the top-performing competitors. Still, it's a versatile winter boot that will serve you well in most situations, and it's reasonably priced. Read on to find out how it compares to the competition.
We tested the Chilkat III's warmth in a couple ways: 1) objectively, using our ice bath to determine their internal temperature loss, and 2) subjectively, hiking in them side by side with another model. Testing revealed that their 200g of Heatseeker insulation fell short of the bar set by boots with double the insulation. This doesn't mean they don't keep your feet warm. They generally do a fine job of that, but other boots are just better.
In our ice bath test, the Chilkat III's internal temperature dropped just over 21.8 degrees in 12 minutes. For comparison, the best boots in this test fell by only 14.1 degrees in the same amount of time. To further test warmth, we went for a hike with the Chilkat III and another top competitor on the other, noticing that the foot wearing the other boot was considerably warmer. Both tests confirm what you might have guessed, that the Chilkat III doesn't keep you as warm as well as boots with more insulation.
The North Face claims that the Chilkat III is waterproof, our testing revealed that this is not entirely true. These boots do, in fact, have a very high degree of water resistance, but our submersion test proved that they are water permeable. Admittedly, our submersion experiment is an extreme test of a winter boot's waterproofness, but if a boot claims to be waterproof we expect it to be just that. We dunked the Chilkat III in water only about 4 inches deep and within 30 seconds or so, water was leaking into both boots through the seams at the base of the tongue.
This is not to say that the Chilkat III won't keep your feet dry, because in most situations they will. The molded rubber lowers are completely waterproof, as are the leather uppers, which even bead water despite their suede finish. Walking through snow, slush, or quick splashes through puddles you stay nice and dry. However, if you ever find yourself standing in a puddle deeper than the top of the rubber portion for an extended period, you'll find yourself with wet toes.
Fit and Comfort
The Chilkat III fit true to size in length and has an average width. There is ample room to wiggle your toes within the toe box, and these boots are roomy enough that they never cut off our circulation, causing our feet to get cold. The Chilkat III is a little bulkier overall and has a less precise fit than the boots that we gave the highest scores to for fit.
The Chilkat III is quite comfortable. The 200g of Heatseeker insulation is quite lofty and very soft. The boots are lined with soft fuzzy material, including microfleece around the top of the cuff and the tongue. Though it is somewhat bulky, the insulation conforms nicely around the feet, ankles, and lower leg. This results in a less refined and looser fit than boots that are more appropriate for winter hiking.
The Chilkat III comes with a flat and relatively basic foam footbed. It provides some cushioning, but it doesn't have any real arch support or contouring to enhance fit or comfort. Testers prefer the higher quality contoured footbeds found in boots like our Editors' Choice Award Winner, especially for walking or hiking long distances. It is also difficult to get these boots super tight and supportive for activities like hiking due to the thick insulation.
Ease of Use
The Chilkat III is among the most user-friendly lace-up models in our test. The medium height cuff and simple lacing system make getting your feet in and out of these boots about as easy as it gets. When the laces are loose, the tongue opens wide, and the lacing system is straightforward and easy to use.
Four sets of metal d-rings make up the lower lacing system and there are two sets of lace hooks to finish the job up to the top of the cuff. The only issue we had with the laces is that it can be tricky to get the laces into the upper lace hooks. And, as we mentioned, it is difficult to get these boots super tight due to the bulk of the thick and soft insulation.
The Chilkat III offers good traction. It's not the best in the test, but it is comparable to many of our top performers in this metric. The North Face clad the Chilkat III in their Winter Grip sole with IcePick temperature-sensitive lugs.
Softer rubber runs around the sole's outside edge with siped rubber lugs with relatively squared off edges. The lugs' siping is generally shallow, but these small slices in the rubber do add some bite on ice and firm snow. A number of denser orange rubber lugs are arranged in a more longitudinal pattern down the center of the sole.
Overall, the traction these soles offer is confidence-inspiring on everything from icy parking lots to hardpacked snowy trails. There were not many boots that we tested that could without argument be said to have better grip in winter conditions.
With a pretty low retail price, the Chilkat III offer a pretty solid value. They aren't the least expensive boots in our test, but they are a versatile option with a good all-around performance at a reasonable price. If you're looking for an even better value with a similar level of performance then we suggest checking out our Best Buy Award winner.
The Chilkat III is a reasonably priced versatile winter boot from The North Face. It is a good option for anyone looking for a boot that can do it all, though people looking to do serious winter hiking should look at higher performance models with a tighter fit. They are comfortable and provide good traction on slippery surfaces like firm snow and ice, but lose ground to the competition in both the warmth and water resistance tests. That said, the Chilkat III will keep your feet plenty warm and dry in most situations.
— Jeremy Benson