Hello and welcome to my Vans Hi-Country & Hell-Bound review.
In this review I will take a look at the Hi-Country & Hell-Bound as freeride snowboard boots.
As per tradition here at SnowboardingProfiles.com I will give the Hi-Country & Hell-Bound a score out of 100 (based on several factors) and see how they compare with other freeride boots.
Boots: Vans Hi-Country & Hell-Bound
Price: $349 (USD recommended retail)
Flex Rating: Medium to Medium Stiff (5-8/10)
Flex Feel: Medium-Stiff (7.5/10)
Rating Score: 86.8/100
Compared to other Freeride Boots
Out of the 19 freeride boots that I rated:
Overview of the Hi-Country & Hell-Bound’s Specs
Check out the tables for the Hi-Country & Hell-Bound's specs.
Heavier than normal
Who are the Hi-Country & Hell-Bounds Most Suited to?
The Hi-Country & Hell Bound are best suited to someone looking for a mid-stiff boot, that's highly adjustable and strikes a good balance between stability and response at high speeds, whilst also being a boot that rides slow well too.
Will suit a wide range of boards, particularly with the removable tongue stiffeners. Anything between a 5/10 flexing board, even 4/10 at a stretch, and an 8/10 flexing board, would work with these boots, IMO.
Not for beginners, too stiff for that, even with tongue stiffeners out. But good for anyone intermediate or above.
The Hi-Country & Hell-Bound in More Detail
O.k. let’s take a more detailed look at what the Hi-Country & Hell-Bound are capable of.
Boots: Vans Hi-Country & Hell-Bound 2023
Size: 10 (US Men's Sizing)
Date: Main test January 19, 2023. But also rode them again February 7, 2023 and February 12, 2023.
Cloudy mostly bit sun came out at times. Blue patches the whole time. Visibility excellent.
Temp: 27°F (-3°C). 21°F (-6°C) with wind in morning. Same in the afternoon, except wind chill was gone.
24 hour snow: 6" (15cm)
48 hour snow: 19" (49cm)
7 day snow: 40" (102cm)
On groomer: Well groomed and really fun. Hard packed for sure, but not really icy except in the odd patch.
Off groomer: Pretty crusty and icy in places. Was more of a groomer day, though not undoable and certainly not bullet proof or anything. With the recent snow was expecting a little better though.
Bindings angles: +15/-15
Board Demoed With: YES Greats
Bindings Demoed With: Union Falcor
Rider Height: 6'0"
Rider Weight: 180lbs
Outersole Length: 30.8cm (mondo 28cm)
Difference between Mondo & Outersole: 2.8cm
Backstay Height: 11.4" (29cm)
Weight: 2lbs 15oz (1320 grams)*
* Average of a sample of around 50 boots I've weighed was 1028g (2lbs 4oz). Heaviest I've weighed were 2lbs 15oz (1320g) and lightest were 1lb 8oz (680g).
These boots have removable tongue stiffeners, which allow you to customize the flex to an extent. They rated 5-8 for stiffness, which presumably means they rated them for a flex feel of 5/10 with all the tongue stiffeners out and 8/10 when they're all in.
There are 4 tongue stiffeners in total, 2 per boot. So you can increase and reduce the lateral and medial side of the tongue as you see fit.
In reality, I found them to be more like 7.5/10 flex at most with tongue stiffeners in, bordering on 7/10. And without them in, more like 6/10 flex.
This review is based on having all the tongue stiffeners in the boot.
True to Size?: Overall these boots fit me really well in a 10. And I'm typically a 10, so I'd say true to size.
When I first tried them on my toes were touching the end with a bit of pressure. Quite cramped up in there. Nothing super painful but definitely closer than I’d prefer them. End of toes and top of toes. More pressure on the big toe side (medial side). First impressions, thinking this would fit better in a 10.5.
As I wore them though, even before heat molding, they got better for both toes and ankles.
After heat molding them, they were even better and the 10 felt just right. After a couple of laps they felt even better. Toes stiff touching the ends, but just brushing the end and no pressure on them.
Width: Felt really medium. Enough room there for me. Probably too narrow for those with wide feet. But fine for anyone with average width feet or narrower than average.
High or Low Arch: A bit of pressure on top of right foot, which is typical for 95% of boots when I first try them on my right foot. Eased a good bit with heat molding and even more with riding in them. Would say their average in terms of instep.
Around Ankles: A little uncomfortable around ankles on first try on, but even before heat molding it improved with a bit of time in them. Then after heat molding it felt better again. And by the time I'd finished testing them, hardly noticed it.
Fit in Bindings
Had to loosen the ankle strap a notch vs my control boots (Adidas Tactical ADV) as they were a bit bulkier around there. And same for toe strap. But my Tactical ADVs are 9.5s and super low profile, so no surprise there.
They are wide boots (on the outside) - the heel only just fit in my bindings (Burton Malavita, size M) width-wise.
I felt like I could get my board to dig the edge in just a bit more and lay a slightly deeper carve more easily in these boots vs my control boots. But they didn't really loose anything for sharp, slow speed turns, so a great combination there, IMO.
Better than average heel hold for sure. Some subtle lift in there, but not too much.
Really good adjustability. To start with having traditional lacing really helps with getting a custom fit - can keep it looser over certain parts of your feet and tighter in others if you like. I find I can get pressure on the top of my right foot, so I leave that a little looser, but a little tighter on my left foot on the lower part. Then try to get more tight around the ankles and shin - which traditional lacing is great for.
Then you have the power strap, which allows you to add extra support around the top of the boot if you want it, or keep it looser if you'd prefer a bit more give.
For the liner there's the typical lacing harness - and there's two velcro straps at the top to help keep the top of the liner in place and nice and snug, assuming you want it snug.
And finally you have the tongue stiffeners, which allow you to customize the flex of the boots, to an extent.
These boots were not super comfortable when I first tried them on. But they got more and more comfortable the more I wore them (and heat molding helped too). To a point that by the time I was done with them, they were really comfortable. I got 2 extra days on these boots too and they only got more and more comfortable.
I didn't find them super comfortable out of the box, but the kind of boards that need a bit of time to break in. But not that much time.
These boots have great shock and chatter absorption. One of their best qualities for sure. They're not quite as shock absorbing as my Tactical ADVs, but those are the most shock absorbing boots I've tested - these were in that tier just underneath, so really good.
Looks and feels like a really nice sole. Not a heap of pattern variety but still looks and feels like it would grip well - and in the car park (all be it not super icy or anything) they felt like they had good grip. Tread depth a little more than medium I would say, particularly taking into account the little holes that go through to the cushier part of the sole.
They're not super reduced, but they are lower profile than the average boot, in terms of length.
They are quite bulky width-wise - the heel is quite wide and they are quite bulky around the ankle, but in terms of length, they are quite low profile.
Nice and easy to get foot in and out of.
Time-wise, takes a little while to get them on and off with the lacing harness, velcro straps on the lacing harness, then trad lace (which takes a little longer, but worth it, IMO), then the power strip and the zipper shroud (though you don't necessarily have to have that done up unless you're going hiking).
So not super quick but sometimes that's the price you pay for all that adjustability.
Score Breakdown and Final Verdict
Check out the breakdown of the score in the table below.
TOTAL after normalizing
The Hi Country & Hell Bound are high quality boots that, for me, got more and more comfortable as I wore/rode in them.
They have great adjustability, including their removable tongue stiffener system and really good carveability. But at the same time are still fine for short sharp turns at slower speeds.
And they have some of the better shock/chatter absorption going around.
All-in-all, very good boots that don't have any weaknesses and have some good strengths. Not as stiff/carvey as I was expecting, but still really good and you get that slow riding ability in them (was very close to putting these in all-mountain category).
More Info, Current Prices and Where to Buy Online
If you’re interested in learning more about the Hi-Country & Hell-Bound, are ready to buy or want to research current prices and sizing availability, check out the links below.
If you want to see how the Hi-Country & Hell-Bound compared to other freeride boots, or want to check out some other options, check out the link below.
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