Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

GEAR REVIEW and My Favorite Gear #5 Vasque Snow Junkie Insulated Hiking Boot

By Will Rietveld

There’s a time and a place for each type of footwear. Normally I wear lightweight trail runners for summer backpacking, and don’t mind wet feet when it’s warmer and shoes dry out quickly. I wear lightweight waterproof footwear for spring hiking in the mountains where I know conditions will be soggy. And lightweight waterproof insulated boots are great for active snow and cold weather hiking.

For the latter situation, the Vasque Snow Junkie Insulated Boot is my footwear choice.

The Vasque Snow Junkie is my favorite lightweight insulate hiking boot.


At 1 pound 2.5 ounces per boot (men’s size 9), they are lightweight for an insulated full-fledged hiking boot. Insulation is 200-gram Thinsulate, which means they are lightly insulated for active hiking; they are not insulated enough for more sedentary situations. They are constructed of all-synthetic materials (my preference for any footwear), so they do not absorb water. The waterproof lining is Vasque UltraDry. They use the Perpetuum last, which is the same one used for the popular Vasque Velocity shoe.

The Vasque Snow Junkie has all-synthetic construction, so it doesn't absorb any water. I found it to be reliably waterproof and very durable. Its basically a light hiker with insulation.


I wore these boots on dozens of hikes on snow and ice, snowshoe trips, and cold weather hikes in Utah canyon country, as well as winter footwear in town.

As with most insulated boots, the interior is more on the roomy side to allow for extra socks. Even so, the Snow Junkie is barely wide enough for my duck feet (E width). I do fine if I wear thinner socks. The width should be perfect for people with normal (D width) feet. For cold weather footwear, its nice to have extra room inside to wear extra socks for more warmth.

Traction is good in snow that is soft enough for the outsole to get a good grip, but they don’t provide good grip on ice. The outsole is called “Vasque Blur”, which has some lugs of softer rubber, but they are not sticky enough on ice, and don’t compare with newer rubber compounds recently introduced.

As mentioned, these boots are adequately warm during active hiking, but they are not warm enough for inactive situations. I personally did not find them warm enough for snowshoeing, but my feet get cold easily. However, they could be worn in combination with a heated insole inside for lightweight snowshoeing footwear. They are certainly waterproof enough, durable, and friendly for the purpose (gaiter ring in the front and heel strap friendly rand at the rear).

What I especially like about the Snow Junkie is they function like ordinary light hiking boots. They are not klutzy, meaning they don’t feel bulky or heavy on my feet. They are basically light hikers with insulation. While some insulated boots will develop discomfort or wear you down if you hike in them all day, the Snow Junkie feels like a light hiker and I can hike all day in them with no discomfort.

The Snow Junkie is a bit wider than typical hiking boots, but is barely wide enough for my duck feet. They are comfortable if I wear thinner socks in them.  I found them to be comfortable to wear all day for hiking in a variety of conditions in cold weather.

Bottom Line

The Vasque Snow Junkie is the nicest cold weather hiking boot I have found so far. I like their all-synthetic construction and light weight. They provide adequate warmth for active walking and consistently keep my feet dry. They are comfortable to wear while hiking all day. And they have been very durable.

Their main limitation is their traction on ice.

Newer boot models coming out address that issue, incorporating new outsole compounds with excellent grip on ice. For example, I recently reported on Vasque’s new Coldspark boot for fall 2016 which weighs about the same as the Snow Junkie but has a ColdHold outsole for better traction on ice.


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