Looking to lace up a new pair of winter hikers? Consider the Vasque Snowburban Ultradry. A rarity, the waterproof and breathable hiker combines the warmth of a winter boot with the trail-taming tread of a tough summer hiker in a package that weighs just over 3 pounds. Built on a base originally designed for endurance running, the boot proved stable and steady on everything from soft pack to ice during several 15-hour cold-weather hikes with a 45-pound pack. What's more, the wide toebox and tailored instep meant we went blister-free during the 11-mile break-in hike. And in terms of lining, 400 grams of 3M Thinsulate Ultra Insulation run from the toe box to the top of the boot's ankle cuff – enough to ensure our lower extremities were protected during all of our routes, including a sub-20-degree summit push up Mount Whitney in November when other hikers complained incessantly of cold feet. [$180; vasque.com]
Days tested: 30
Area tested: Northern California, specifically around Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney.
Conditions encountered: Temperatures as low as sub 20 degrees; dirt, mud, snow, packed ice with crampons, and creek crossings; 12-plus-hour hikes with heavy packs.
Nitpick: There's excessive bump on downhill trails; be sure to ratchet the laces down if you don't want to lose a toenail.