Vasque has made high-quality hiking footwear for over 50 years and is well known for their trail ready boots. The Snowburban II UltraDry is an insulated hiking boot that feels and acts more like a lightweight mountaineering boot than other less supportive products in this review. They do this by adding a midfoot stabilizer made of TPU, which adds considerable stiffness to the sole, without adding cold absorbing or radiating metal under the foot.
Testing the traction of these boots on the trails in winter. Packed snow and ice like that found on the Perimeter Trail in Ouray in winter are exactly what these boots are made for.
Keeping feet warm is one of the Snowburban II Ultradry's strong suits. Featuring 400 grams of synthetic insulation material in the upper to trap heat, this model was among the highest ranking concerning warmth, outperforming many of the contenders that use half as much insulation with ease. In the case of the Snowburban II UltraDry, the type of insulation is 3M Thinsulate Ultra, which seems to be slightly thinner than the comparable Primaloft found in The North Face Chilkat 400 boot, but is virtually just as warm. In years past, we tested this model by wearing them around in the snow while teaching avalanche courses, and always found them to be plenty warm.
The Snowburban Ultradry boots look and feel a lot like a normal hiking boot, but on steroids. They feature a high cuff, totally waterproof materials and construction, as well as 400g of Thinsulate insulation.
Vasque boots have long taken home top marks for their consistent waterproofness over the course of our winter boot reviews, and this year's Snowburban III Ultradry is no exception. With an effective Ultradry inner liner that acts much like Gore-Tex, a waterproof-breathable material that keeps water out but allows perspiration to pass through, winter hikers can go on strenuous snowshoe hikes without having to worry about sopping wet socks by the end. The Snowburban's upper is comprised of durable treated leather, a product that can and should be maintained with an aftermarket product to maintain total waterproofness.
The height of the boot is a moderately tall 8.5 inches, but by using a 3/4 length tongue, the Snowburban can withstand immersions up to 7.25 inches. A feature included in this model is a metal D ring that can be used to affix the lace hook found on a snow gaiter. Using a gaiter will also increase water and snow resistance when using these boots out on snowshoe hikes in deeper snow. All-in-all, this competitor is waterproof. The slightly lower score is a reflection of other competitors providing complete waterproofness to a greater depth.
The Snowburban Ultradry lived up to their name and claim. We couldn't detect a hint of water leakage inside these boots after eight minutes in the ice bath.
Fit and Comfort
The size 11 that we ordered for our lead tester fit true to size. For an average volume foot, the width felt a little bit sloppy when wearing a normal crew sock but felt more snug and secure with a thicker hiking sock. Not as wide as the Keen Summit County, this model may be a good choice for those with just slightly wider feet. The dual-density foam insole provided is of higher quality, and we did not feel the need to swap it out for an aftermarket insole thanks to the generous arch support it provides. The fabric covering the insulation is cut in a way that gives a slight heel cup. With a thick sock we did not experience heel lift, but when only wearing a thin sock it did tend to lift when standing up on our toes. This is a good boot choice if you want to take a long hike or spend a long time on your feet outside at work.
The comfort and support offered by this boot were long lasting, unlike some of the nagging foot pains that came up after using some of the other models in this review for extended periods. There is a break-in period with this boot, however, which is standard fare for a nearly full leather upper. We found that even after just a few uses the upper had relaxed significantly, allowing a bigger range of motion. We noted that the ankle was often much tighter feeling than the foot, which led to some articulation issues before being entirely broken in, mostly noticed when driving and needing to flex the foot forward for pressing down on the pedals. This boot scored high for fit and comfort, but was bested by the North Face Chilkat 400 and Keen Durand Polar for their supreme comfort and exceptional fits.
The Snowburban Ultradry are good looking boots in this year's test, as their brown leather exterior is clean and modern. We found it worked better to have the pants come down over the cuffs instead of stuffed inside.
Ease of Use
The lacing system used on this boot is comprised solely of eyelets, both metal speed lacing rings and leather material eyelets. While this is meant to speed up the process of getting the boots on and getting out the door and on your way, it is harder to attain a secure fit, especially for hiking, than it is with many other boots including the Keen Durand Polar. The speed system works fine if you just need to hop in the car to run an errand, but for a snug fit, having lacing hooks would improve performance here.
Another consequence of using eyelets near the boot top is opening the tongue up enough to slip your foot into the boot — the laces have to be opened up beforehand, and even still it is a tight fit, and we had to pull hard with the heel tab. With so many metal eyelets to continually pull the laces through, we read reports of the laces wearing through and tearing quite quickly on these boots, although we did not experience that ourselves. Getting in and out of these boots proved to be less user-friendly than most of the other lace-up boots in our test, though we had similar qualms with the laces on the North Face Chilkat 400.
These boots don't require any threading or hooking of the laces, simply give them a stout pull and tie them. Also shown is the orange and brown pull tab that helps with loosening tight laces easily.
The sole on this boot is the Vasque Nordic Rover rubber compound, which provides a good hold when heading uphill or down thanks to its bi-directional lugs. The soft and pliable ColdHold rubber compound towards the center of the sole is combined with stiffer more aggressive outer lugs to keep the boot gripping even when temperatures fall, a common problem for lesser rubber compounds. Some rubber compounds used on hiking boots may be great in the summer but lose their tactility when the temperatures drop. This boot performed reasonably well for walking across the icy pavement, although it couldn't quite match the traction provided by the Kamik Nationplus, the North Face Chilkat 400, or our Top Pick for Traction, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV.
Showing the traction pattern on the lugged outsole of the Snowburban Ultradry. The lugs are very firm and work great in snow and soft conditions, but are less grippy on ice than some others.
This is an exceptional winter hiking boot, and it is well-designed for both backcountry and front country use. Many users have reported this to be the best boot they have worn snowshoeing, and we don't disagree with them. Some will find the support and comfort in the Snowburban to make for an excellent work boot. With enough insulation to keep the feet warm on cold winter days but light enough to extend use into the spring and fall, this is a boot we could see working well for shoulder season ascents of Mount Whitney or Mount Washington as well, although it is not designed to take a crampon.
Snowshoe hikes like this one in the Eastern Sierra are a perfect application for this boot.
The Snowburban II UltraDry is an excellent value at its listed price of $160. It is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to price, but performance and durability put it out in front when considering what activities this boot is intended for. Consider the Best Buy award winner, the Kamik Nationplus, if you're on the hunt for the best bang for your buck.
Winter boots come in a lot of different styles, so comparing the Snowburban II UltraDry with the slip-on Bogs Classic Ultra Mid is a little difficult, as they are designed for different situations. But for cold weather hiking, snowshoeing, and other activities where having a warm and supportive boot is going to make or break your day, the Snowburban is an excellent option to consider.