Columbia Ice Dragon
Make the most of mud season: This comfy boot proves its worth in mucky, slushy situations.
Slogging through heavy, wet Cascades concrete in Washington's Glacier Peak Wilderness was no problem in the warm, waterproof Ice Dragons, thanks to leather uppers with Thermolite insulation, and a heavy rubber rand that runs all around the foot. Despite the somewhat bulky insulation layer, we found that these boots provide a good deal of support, because the effective lacing system lets you snug the cuff around your ankle. The knobby Vibram outsoles grip loose and compacted snow equally well, while the soft rubber flexes to flush clumps from the lugs. Best for wide, high-volume feet and high arches.
Sizes: men's 7-13;
Weight: 3 lbs. 12 oz.
Contact: (800) 547-8066; www.columbia.com
The North Face Ice Storm GTX
When conditions are extreme, you'll appreciate the fail-safe waterproofing and fumble-free lacing system.
Never again fumble with shoelaces in the cold-the Ice Storm lets you keep those gloves on. Dubbed by testers the best feature in this crop of shoes, the Boa lacing system uses a thin steel cable that attaches to a tightening knob. Just crank it clockwise to tighten the "laces," and counterclockwise to loosen them. Even when the Boas were caked with ice after an accidental dip into a stream on Mt. Rainier, adjustments were fast and easy. Aside from being supremely convenient in cold weather, the system snugs the boots around your foot and ankle for maximum support. The synthetic leather upper and Gore-Tex liner sheds wet snow like a metal roof on a sunny day, and a stiff midsole kept our feet from getting fatigued after miles of hiking. Our only beef: Chilly-toed testers wanted more insulation. Best for wide forefeet.
Sizes: men's 8-12, 13, 14
Weight: 3 lbs. 6 oz.
Contact:(866) 715-3223; thenorthface.com
Keep your feet happy when the mercury takes a dive.
Temperatures often dipped a few degrees below zero during our outings, and all of our testers-even the perpetually frosty-toed ones-stayed warm in the Patriot, thanks to the dense layer of Thinsulate Ultra and the extra-tall cuffs. Nine-inch-high leather uppers also boost ankle support; one tester marveled that he didn't wobble once, even when traversing steep slopes on Mt. St. Helens and scrambling through rolling, forested terrain around Hahns Peak in Colorado. The big rubber-reinforced toebox barely fit in some snowshoe bindings, but our size 12 tester was eventually able to make it work with every snowshoe in this month's field test. Roomy enough for double layers of thick socks, these boots are best for high-volume feet and high arches.
Sizes: men's 7-14
Weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz.
Contact: (800) 341-3950; www.kamik.com.