After a half-season with my new riding boots last year, I had a flashback to my first meeting with a then-young Kirk Zack nearly 20 years earlier. Zack – a Wisconsin native who moved west and was working in the snowboard industry – showed up at our offices in the late 1990s with a stiff, snowboard-style boot aimed at snowmobilers. He noted then that snocross racers were increasingly using snowboard boots for maximum ankle support. Consumers were digging the look, but those boots weren’t fully designed for the unique rigors of snowmobiling. So he was planning to bring the stiff, upright boot to our sport, except with snowmobiling sensibility.
That’s just what he did, launching HMK in 1999 with that original boot and since then he has expanded it into an entire clothing and accessory business. Other brands have followed HMK’s lead, and now you can find all sorts of mega-stiff, canted-forward snowmobile boots for people looking for that fit and look.
I just happen to not be one of those people. I don’t select my boots based on what looks cool or impresses other people, and I have no cause for that much ankle support. Instead, I insist that my winter boots be flexible, light and comfortable to walk and stand in, as well as warm and waterproof. I found it ironic that the man who started the opposite trend was the one who had a boot in his lineup that fit my needs expertly.
Compared to many high-end, trendy boots, the Carbon Boot is beautiful in its simplicity. It features a leather upper with a rubberized material from the ankle down to enhance durability and protect against water intrusion. The boot is light – weighing in at just 1 pound, 10 ounces. Its grip on my foot, ankle and lower leg was controlled by a good, old-fashioned shoelace – not a trendy Boa system (though a
Boa version of this boot is available).
Warmth was ensured by 1200 grams of Thinsulate built into the boot and an XR Performance Membrane aids in making it waterproof and breathable. Only the insole is removable for drying out foot sweat. Compared to some boots I’ve had in recent years, the 11-inch tall Carbon Boot is rather narrow – measuring just 4 inches at its widest point. That width, the gusseted ankles and the light weight made me feel agile while wearing the Carbons.
During my 2,000-plus miles worth of riding while wearing the boots, plus other days walking the dog, shoveling the driveway or standing around at racetracks, I truly appreciated the HMK Carbon. On days when temperatures plummeted double-digits below zero, they weren’t as warm as some other boots I’ve worn in recent years, but they otherwise did their job very well.
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.