3 Feet Deep: Winter Boot Test in Colorado Blizzard

The KEEN Summit County is one of the best winter boots on the market. After brutal testing, it’s proven a comfortable, warm, durable performer.

KEEN Summit County III

I was deep in the Rocky Mountains, miles from the nearest road, and it was like a giant dump truck of snow had been heaved from the sky. The mounds of snow blanketing the ground had grown from a few inches to a foot and a half since I’d left the truck.

Editor’s note: The Summit County III has been discontinued but is very similar to the new Summit County, which is still sold by KEEN.

I had neither snowshoes nor gaiters — not exactly ideal planning for such an epic day of hiking through the Eagles Nest Wilderness area of the Gore Range in Summit County, Colo., but it was darned good testing conditions for the KEEN Summit County III boot.

The proving grounds

To say these boots were impressive is an understatement. For transparency, KEEN did sponsor this test. But after post-holing through many miles of remote, cold and steep terrain off trail in snow up to three feet deep, I was happy with the Summit County III on my feet.

The boots performed exceptionally in this, my first test of KEEN boots.

The author slogs up a steep, snow-covered ridge in the KEEN boots

The gear: KEEN Summit County III (info on the Summit County here)

Price: $160

Available: Now

The test: Deep snow and temperatures in the single digits pushed these boots hard. I was hunting elk, and the only way to fill the freezer in this blizzard was to push on.

The hunt, and the test, lasted for three long days. I hiked between 5 and 10 miles each day. Temperatures ranged from around 0 to the mid-20s. The final day I did wear snowshoes, which worked beautifully with the boots.

After filling my tag, I also wore the boots to slog out about 200 pounds of meat, which we pulled in sleds over large ridges.

Again, the boots were perfect. I could find nothing to complain about.

So take a look at the nitty gritty details below. If you’re shopping for winter boots and have a wide-ish foot, consider the Summit County III’s. For me, they were spot on.

In snowshoes, pushing a 150-pound sled of elk meat up a steep hill

Where to use it: Winter forests, mountains and fields.

Who it’s for: Hikers, snowshoers, hunters and others who walk long miles through snow or in cool weather.

Boring but important: These are the warmest boots that KEEN makes. While they are not really designed for long hours of sedentary activity in the cold (such as ice fishing), they were remarkably warm for such a light boot.

Important specs:

  • Weight: 26 oz.
  • Sole: Non-marking rubber outsole
  • Fit: They fit me true to size
  • Upper: Waterproof leather
  • Insulation: 400g synthetic KEEN.Warm insulation
  • Tread: 4mm lugs
  • Waterproofing: KEEN.DRY waterproof-breathable membrane

Made in: China. KEEN manufactures many boots in the USA, but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them (yet).

Awesome! While not designed for sedentary activities like ice fishing or sitting for hours in a deer blind, I found the Summit County III exceptionally warm for such a light boot. They excel at long-distance hiking but still give the warmth needed to sit still in cold weather.

Even after my feet got wet due to deep snow entering in the top of the boot, my feet stayed warm in single-digit temps.

Flaw: Without gaiters, deep snow will get into the top of the boot and form hard balls against the leg — this is common with any boot of this kind. It is hard to close the top entirely through snug lacing. Lesson? Wear gaiters in deep snow.

First impressions: Light but rugged and warm, the Summit Count III fit perfectly right out of the box.

The wide toe box is wonderful and allows feet to splay while the heel locks the foot in for off-trail scrambling. I had no blisters or discomfort even with zero break-in period before hard use.

Who should buy it: Anyone who wants to spend a lot of time on their feet outdoors in the winter.

Contact brand/More beta: KEEN

Sean McCoy

Sean McCoy is the Editorial Director of GearJunkie, and 5+ other All Gear websites.

He has been writing about hunting, fishing, trail running, camping, skiing, and more for 15+ years.

Prior to GearJunkie, he was the chief photographer for the Virgin Islands Daily News and former Editor In Chief for GearJunkie. Based in Denver, Colorado, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.