Field Testing Salomon Toundra Forces Winter BootsShare on Facebook
Last winter we tested the Salomon Toundra Forces tactical winter boots. We can warmly recommend these warm winter boots to everyone whose toes freeze easily or who need to operate in a super cold environment whether it is military use, hiking, hunting, or everyday life.
Toes freeze, what to do?
Otherwise I don’t really freeze in winter easily but I’ve frostbitten my toes quite severely, so nowadays they cannot take cold very well. Because winter is my happy place and I’d like to be out in the snowy forest as much as possible, I’ve been looking for truly warm winter hiking boots for quite some time. I’ve tried all sorts from felted rubber boots to MuckBoots, moon boots and everything in between. Many so-called "super warm" boots proved out to be insufficiently warm in proper Finnish winter or when they were, they were the size of a walrus and only good for standing still. Or they simply couldn’t take any tough use.
Finally I bumped into Salomon Toundra Pro, which is the civilian version of these tactical winter boots. They were a very pleasant surprise and I used them for several years in all sorts of winter activities. However, when they finally died and I was about to buy a new pair, I got the opportunity to test the tactical Toundra Forces. Of course I had to take it.
A few words about the boots
At the first glance, Salomon Toundra Forces look like slightly chubby high-cut army boots but when you pick one of them up, you will be surprised how light it is. One boot only weighs c. 640 grams / 22.6 oz (size 42). So, compared to e.g. felted rubber boots or even basic army boots, these are like elf boots.The reason for the warmth despite the light weight lies in the materials. The insulation is called AeroTherm AeroGel, originally developed for NASA. Without going too deep into this material because I am not a chemist and don’t know jack crap about it, I can simply say that it works. It is lightweight, waterproof, and doesn’t require a very thick layer. The manufacturer says that it doesn’t compress and lose its warmth in use. We tested these for just a winter so we cannot say much about this claim in the long run but the civilian version was in use for several years, and it didn’t become colder during those years.
Salomon promises the following figures for these boots: Comfort -30 °C (-22 °F) , Limit -40 °C (-40 °F) , and Extreme -78 °C (-109 °F). Unfortunately our marketing budget didn’t cover a ski adventure in Antarctica, so my scale ended at the Comfort level. At that range, these worked very well. Of course eventually the cold will creep in, the time frame depending on your toes. I personally sat in a snowy forest for three hours at below -20 °C (-4°F) waiting for the deer wearing these without problems even though my toes are what they are.
These boots work very well with snow shoes.
At the back of the boot, there is is a groove for certain types of ski and snowshoe bindings. I used these with snowshoes and OAC skis, and they sat very well. But they would work without the groove, too. Others I haven’t tested.
The outsole tread pattern is Salomon’s Contagrip Winter. It is fairly coarse and designed to remain flexible even when it is Ragnarök cold. These boots feature Salomon’s own ClimaShield membrane, making them fully waterproof.
These are tall army boots but won’t beat the knee high boots in deep snow as is. However, I use gaiters with them in winter, which keeps the snow outside no matter how much you have it.
Gaiters and Toundra Forces are a happy couple in deep snow.
Differences from the civilian version
Salomon Toundra Pro and Toundra Forces are pretty similar boots. Both are black, made from similar materials, also the shape, height, and tread pattern are similar. The biggest difference is in the lacing. The civilian version has the hooks that most hiking boots have. This tactical version is equipped with regular lacing. I actually like the regular lacing more. The hooks catch on all sorts of things, and I’ve never really liked tying laces on them. But this is pretty much a matter of personal preference. Furthermore, the tactical Toundra Forces is made from non-reflecting materials. For hiking, hunting, and other civilian use, both work very well. For tactical stuff, I would pick Toundra Forces.
I was able to test these boots for a few months last winter. This is strictly a user review, no lab coats were involved. The temperature, conditions, and the way they were used varied quite a bit. The period is quite short so it isn’t possible to say much about the durability based on that alone. However, I used the civilian version for several years, which probably tells something about the durability of these as well.
I wore these in cold temperatures in all sorts of activities plus even on milder winter days when I had to sleep outdoors. The coldest day was around -30 °C (-22 °F) and the longest trip was 4 days. During the sub-zero °C days I used them every day.
Most hours of use came from dog walks and hunting. On top of that, there were a few winter ski/snowshoe treks and loads of everyday use. Hunting was primarily deer hunts from a stand/tower plus a spring beaver ski trek close to the Russian border in North Karelia where I slept in an open shelter in snow for a few days. The civilian version saw a lot more use from moose hunting to deer, bird, and beaver hunting plus all sorts hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing plus some ice fishing.
In short, I’ve been very happy with these boots. Below you’ll see a few pros and cons in more detail.
- Really warm
- Lightweight and comfortable
As already mentioned, these are very warm. The only boots that have felt warmer were the Kamik Goliath but they are meant for sitting still while e.g. ice fishing, and walking in them sucks ass.
Secondly, these are a lot more comfortable than any other really warm winter boots I have tried. So, you can walk or march very long distances without any problems. They basically are just like any other lightweight military boots, although a bit bigger due to the insulation. Some people that use these have commented that they find the size a bit clumsy I haven’t felt it. But I am used to winter footwear being bigger than summer footwear. And these are a lot nicer than any other warm boots I have used before.
These are also fully waterproof. When it is freezing cold, this feature isn’t really necessary but if your toes freeze easily, it comes very handy e.g. when you have sleet or when you go ice fishing and there is water on the ice.
Army boots work in deep snow as long as you use gaiters.
Because of all the afore-mentioned features, these boots are very versatile. They work very well on long marches and hikes but also when sitting still while on guard duty, waiting for deer, ice fishing, or camping. You can also use them when skiing and snowshoeing with suitable bindings. With gaiters, they work in deep snow, and the waterproof membrane keeps them functional when wet.I’ve used them in slushy sleet, and on frozen lakes that have meltwater, and they’ve kept the water outside. However, they won’t replace tall rubber boots if you have to tread through deep water.
- Stitching in front of the lacing
- Tread pattern isn’t super aggressive
Personally I don’t like it when the upper has stitching at the front where the foot bends on each step. There the stitching will eventually break when you walk long enough. That is precisely what happened to my civilian Tundra Pro boots. In their defense I have to say that I used them a lot for several years. I fear that gone are the days when hiking and army boots lasted for over ten years in any case.
Salomon gives their boots a two-year warranty, which also covers the stitching failure. So, if this happens during that period of time, it will cover it. Mine did last quite a lot longer than that.
The tread pattern isn’t super aggressive. The grooves between the lugs are quite narrow, and they can get filled with snow, which can make these a tad slippery in certain conditions. For me this wasn’t really a problem because I mainly used them when the snow was deep or when I had skis or snowshoes on. And when it was slippery, I had ice spikes with these. And I have never found winter boots that aren’t slippery in certain conditions.
Despite the minuses, these are the best winter boots that I have ever had. They are warm enough even for my damaged toes but usability still doesn’t suffer unlike with some equally warm moon boots. Because these have regular laces, I like these even more than the civilian version that was my previous favorite.
These would be perfect if the upper was stitched together differently because it would eliminate the possible weak point. However if cold toes cause you problems and you still want to walk comfortably, this is nevertheless most likely the best option on the market. Or if you find a better one, please let us know.
I will continue to use these as my number one cold weather boots when walking, skiing, or snowshoeing. For the end of the season canoeing trips and whenever there is lots of cold water around, I will use the felt-lined rubber boots.
The author Kai Tikkunen is a copywriter at Varusteleka plus a hunter, canoer, and (pre)historical bushcrafter in his spare time.