The Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry is a heavy-duty winter hiking and snowshoeing boot with an UltraDry waterproof/breathable membrane and 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation, making them suitable for cold weather use. Vasque doesn’t publish a temperature rating for them but they’re comparable to other 400-gram insulated winter hiking boots (-40F) in terms of warmth, provided you’re active, and not standing around on a frozen lake.
The Snowburban II is a heavy boot as winter hiking boots go, with leather-covered uppers and a high cuff. It has a gusseted tongue to prevent water from getting into your boots when you step in a deep puddle or cross a stream, with a surprisingly rigid toe kick to protect your foot from ice and hard snow. The Snowburbans come with a front gaiter ring to attach your gaiters, a protective rubber heel cup with ridges to help secure traction aids, and thick rubber rand between the sole and uppers that provides lateral foot protection.
The fit is narrow and small, so I’d recommend sizing up by a 1/2 or full size. Because they’re leather, the boots do require a short break-in period. I’d recommend using them for 15-20 miles on local trails before you take on any major hikes or climbs, just to soften them up. It’s important that the break-in process is done on uneven terrain, like trails, and not sidewalks, because you want to stress and stretch the leather in a random, non-uniform manner.
The upper part of the boot has some non-leather cutouts around the ankle, to give the boot little flex, and that’s where they soften up first. The inside of the uppers is covered with a wool waffle weave pattern, which Vasque has used on other boots I’ve owned, like the now-retired Snowjunkie (2014) and the first generation of Cold Spark Boots (2016.) Both of those were 200-gram boots, designed for warmer temperatures, close to freezing.
The insole of the Snowburban II is made with dual-density EVA, while the midsole is a molded EVA with a TPU shank. The soles themselves are very rigid with little rocker, although I’d still classify the boots as having a flexible heel and not a rigid one like a mountaineering boot. There’s a slight arch in the sole that enables the use of a gaiter under the strap, but you’ll want to get a gaiter with a low profile strap or a very tough one, and only use it on snow to avoid strap abrasion. The sole itself is made with multiple materials to provide enhanced traction, but I’ve never noticed any benefit to this claim and suspect that it probably only works on the pavement (in the city). If you need extra traction for hiking on snow and ice, use microspikes or snowshoes, like other hikers.
There are two types of eyelets in the lacing system. They bottom eyelets are hinged metal eyelets, while the laces thread through leather loops on the upper half of the boot, starting at ankle height. Vasque uses these leather loops instead of eyelets or speed hooks to help distribute some of the pressure that laces can exert on the top of your foot if you tie your laces very tightly. You can still use alternative lacing techniques with them, like a lacing window or heel lock (see Hiking Boot Lacing Techniques).
Still, it can annoying if you have to thread the laces through the leather loops each time you put the boots on. One trick you can use to avoid this is to tie a simple overhand knot in the lace above the top loop. This will prevent it from pulling through. Still, my preference is to use boots that have speed hooks because they require much less fiddling to tie. You do get used to the Snowburban lacing system eventually, but I still wish they used speed hooks at the top of the uppers.
The Vasque Snowburban II UtraDry is a rugged, waterproof winter hiking boot if you can get past the need to try on multiple sizes to get a good fit and then break them. While they are far more agile than a Pac boot, the Snowburbans fit and perform more like mountaineering boots or heavy backpacking boots than any other insulated winter boot I’ve ever tried. That’s not a bad thing if you’re looking for a boot that has a stiffer feel but is better insulated than most mountaineering boots or 3-season leather backpacking boots.
I was initially put off by the product name since “Snowburban” sounds so much like “suburban”, but I got over that pretty quickly once I started using them. They’re also lighter weight than they look, weighing in at 1 lb 13 oz per boot in a size 11.5, which isn’t as heavy as I feared they’d be. As I said previously, they do run narrow and small, so size up, and think about wearing a thinner sock so your toes have room to wiggle around. They’ll stay warmer if you have good blood circulation in the toe box.
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