The North Face Chilkat 400 II Winter Hiking Boots Review

TNF Chilkat 400 v2

The North Face Chilkat 400 II is an insulated waterproof/breathable winter hiking boot rated to -40F/-40C. Available for both men and women, these boots come up to mid-calf for maximum heat retention and feature metal lacing hardware for durability, a gaiter ring above the toes, and a ridged heel counter that helps keep snowshoe straps securely fastened. A pronounced forefoot rocker makes them great for hiking and they have enough of an arch under the sole to run a gaiter strap if you wear high gaiters in winter.

But what sets the Chilkat 400’s II apart from other insulated boots is their warmth. They are exceptionally warm for all-day comfort in freezing temperatures, without being ungainly for winter hiking  However, sizing runs about ONE FULL SIZE SMALL. Wide sizes are not available and while the toe box is roomy, it’s not as high volume as other brands like KEEN and Columbia.

Specs at a Glance

  • Temperature Rating: -40F/-40C
  • Height: Mid-calf
  • Waterproof/Breathable: Yes
  • Gender: Men’s (size 7-15); Women’s (size 5-12)
  • Sizing: Runs One Full Size Small
  • Insole: Felted foam insole
  • Weight: 3 lbs 8 oz/pr (size 11.5 men’s)
The wide wraparound rand provides great protection and waterproofing
The wide wraparound rand provides great protection and waterproofing

The North Face Chilkat 400 II is the kind of insulated boot you want for long winter hikes when your trips start before the sun comes up and end after it goes down. Rated to -40F/-40C, they are insulated with 400g Heatseeker insulation, which is a highly compressible synthetic insulation similar to Thinsulate and used in many of The North Face’s products. These Chilkats 400 II are also mid-calf height, which traps more body heat than mid-ankle height insulated winter boots which cover less of your lower leg (See: 200g vs 400g Insulated Winter Hiking Boots).

The upper cuff and tongue are covered with a soft fleecy synthetic liner while the exterior is covered in leather with ballistic nylon in high flex areas. The bottom half of the boot has a wide wraparound rand that provides great toe and side protection while helping to ensure that the boots stay watertight for the long haul. While that makes them look a little like PacBoots, (See: The Problem with PacBoots), they are anything but, with an aggressively rockered and curved sole which makes it easy to walk and hike in them.

The Chilkat 400 II’s have a rubber outsole and beefy outsoles that provide great traction on a variety of surfaces including slush, dry snow, wet snow, and wet leaves. I’ve been hiking and snowshoeing with them the past several weeks and they grip well on all of those surfaces.

Multi-directional lugs provide excellent grip on snow and slush
Multi-directional lugs provide excellent grip on snow and slush

The North Face includes a thermal insole with the Chilkat 400 II, which is covered in felt for warmth but does not have a reflective aluminum coating. The insole is glued inside the boots although you can peel them out if you want to replace them. When worn, the boots have enough internal volume that you can replace the insole with one that has more arch and heel support. I wear mine with Superfeet’s merinoGrey insoles which are wool-covered for warmth but have a much more aggressive arch to prevent plantar fasciitis.

The exaggerated ridge on the back of the heel prevents snowshoe and microspike straps from slipping down and off
The exaggerated ridge on the back of the heel prevents snowshoe and microspike straps from slipping down and off

The Chilkat 400’s have an exaggerated front toe kick for toe protection and a reinforced heel counter to lock your heel in place and prevent pronation. Ridges on the back of the heel help keep snowshoe, crampon, or microspike straps from slipping down and off which is a real plus for more technical winter hikes from traction aids are required. The boots also have enough of a mid-sole arch that you can wear gaiters with a thick stirrup strap, like OR Crocodiles, without worrying about wearing them down from excessive surface abrasion.

There’s minimal time to break-in The North Face Chilkat 400’s which are soft and pliant out of the box. The only difficulty you’re like to experience with them is choosing the right model because The North Face names many of their boots with very similar variants on the same Chilkat product name. (Note: The Chilkat 400’s women’s model is called The North Face Chilkat 400, not the Chilkat 400 II)

Comparable 400g (-40F/-40C) Insulated Winter Hiking Boots

Men'sWomen'sInsulationHeightPrice
KEEN Revel IV High PolarKEEN Revel IV High Polar400gMid-Calf$190
Oboz 10" BridgerOboz 9" Bridger400gMid-Calf$199
Salomon Toundra ProSalomon Toundra Pro400gMid-Calf$200
The North Face Chillkat 400The North Face Chillkat 400400gMid-Calf$150
Vasque Snowburban IINot Available400gMid-Calf$160

Recommendation

The North Face Chilkat 400 II insulated winter boots are ideal for men and women who want or need very warm winter hiking footwear. Rated to -40F/-40C, their high mid-calf height helps lock in warmth while a fleece-lined collar and gusseted tongue provide both comfort and additional warmth. Their thick soles provide excellent insulation from the cold ground while durable metal hardware ensures trouble-free use and long life. The sizing runs a full size small though, so size up. Amazingly, these boots are wearable out of the box and require virtually no break-in period.

Do you want 200g or 400g insulated winter boots? See our insulated winter boot FAQ that explains the differences and pros and cons of each.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

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12 comments

  1. If this boot does NOT have a removable liner I would not buy it. For winter camping I want to be able to remove the liners (as withy felt pacs and Scarpa T3 ski boots) so I can put them in the foot of my bag overnight and have WARM liners in the morning.

    For day hikes (with a VBL sock) these TNF Chilkat boots will be fine. Otherwise it’s like a “Mickwy Mouse” military winter boot, too large to put in a sleeping bag.

    • I’m not suggesting that they be used for overnight trips, but for day hiking.

    • The Baffin Borealis boots with a removable liner that Philip previously reviewed seem to have gone out of production and are marked down. $160 at Amazon, a bit more elsewhere. I’m thinking of grabbing a pair.

    • Eric, I own and love my Vasque Snowburban boots, which are rated down to -40F degrees, but they don’t have removable liners which I agree are important for overnight trips. The Baffin Borealis boots have removable liners but are only rated down to -20F degrees The Baffin Yoho boots are rated down to -58F degrees and have removable liners, so I’m probably going to buy a pair if the weight is reasonable.

  2. Is the small sizing issue the same for the womens’ boot? From your review, this sounds like the boot I need for winter hiking to address cold feet. Keen’s and Oboz with 200 gr of Thinsulate just aren’t cutting it. In past winters I’ve not had good luck with toe warmers so think I need to invest in a boot with 400 gr of insulation. I thoroughly enjoy reading your reviews.

  3. As I have a very wide foot, this is a no-go. Which do you suggest that come in wide?

    –Square Feet

  4. After looking around for winter boots with removable liners I cam up with VERY few boots suitable for seriously sub-zero use. Yes. felt packs abound but anything lighter but good to -40 F. is rare – unless you go for full on winter mountaineering boots which are horribly expensive.

    My 100 gram Thinsulate lined Timberline “winter” boots are good for about 10 F. as long as i keep moving moderately and wear GTX gaiters and 3 mm neoprene divers’ socks as VBLs. That’s not saying much for those boots’ insulation. I’m hoping that if TNF’s “Heetseeker” insulation is no warmer than Thinsulate somebody will invent one for footwear that is warmer yet not too bulky or heavy.

    PHILLIP, is there a winter insole with an aluminized liner? I just use felt insoles in my SOREL felt pacs over a thin leather arch support 1/2 insole glued on the felt.

  5. Great review! I’ve just bought these boots! Would you advise using Sno-Seal to help protect the leather and stitchings from road salts and abrasion?

    • Try nikwax wax. Some mfgs recommend against snow seal because it contains oils that can dissolve any glue that holds the boots together. Nikwax wax is just wax and is safe for all boots.

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