Keep Your Toes Warm While in the Snow
Proper fitting footwear means the difference between a good trip, and a miserable trip. Unfortunately too many people, myself included, go with an ill fitting boot because they are down to the last few in stock or you get a sweet deal.
It seems like a money saving idea at the time. But here’s why you want to make sure you get perfectly fitting boots. And when you shop right, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to save a few bucks.
What to Look for in a Well Fitting Boot
Back in the winter of 1999-2000 I desperately needed new boots. During a sale in February I found some Salomon boots that were very well designed, perfect for hiking around in the back country, and on sale for about $75. The problem was that they were about half a size too small. At the time I didn’t have a lot of money so I decided to buy them anyway.
For the next 17 years or so I wore those boots all over the place. Snowshoeing, ice climbing approaches, hunting, ice fishing, and more. Every time I was out I would put on some nice wool socks, usually strap on the gaiters, and enjoy most of my day. Inevitably, my feet would get cold. Not ice cold. Not to the point where they were numb. But uncomfortably cold.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized it was because the boots were too tight. While you don’t want your feet flopping around inside the boot, you want enough room to let them breathe. A little space is good.
What to Look for in an Insulated Boot
Boots come in a variety of insulation levels. Some models have different levels for the exact same boot. So if you’re looking for a summer and a winter boot, you can often get the same fit and feel, but season appropriate. These boots are winter boots. So we want insulation.
Insulation in boots is listed in grams. Usually in 400 gram increments. The higher the number, the heavier the insulation and the warmer your feet will be when hiking in cold weather. The Rush Creek boots that I purchased fell into the 1,200 gram category. Not the highest insulation, but enough that I can have warm and dry feet down to below zero temperatures.
Insulation is key, but you also want to look at the height of the boot; especially if you’re not going to be using gaiters. Boots generally come in three heights: 8 inches, 10 inches, and 12 inches. The higher the boot, the deeper the snow you can walk in without added protection. I recommend using gaiters which will essentially negate the need to choose a boot height. But if you have to choose, go for 10 inches. High enough to keep the snow out, but not uncomfortably high.
Try on several styles and determine which feels best for you.
Cabela’s Rush Creek Hunting Boots
When purchasing new boots there were a lot of different brands to look at. While I’m sure the $300 boots fit well and felt great, I couldn’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on boots. Cabela’s, however, makes high quality clothing and footwear, without the high price. With a regular price of $119.99 and on sale (at least at the time of writing) for $83.99, the Rush Creek Hunting Boots were within budget and turned out great.
I purchased them the day before a 3 day long hunting trip. Over the course of the next three days I put on dozens of miles. I walked on dry ground, rocky ground, slushy snow, packed snow, and powdered snow. No matter where I went my feet felt awesome. I didn’t get any hot spots where blisters were forming. My toes never got cold (although they did get hot quite a bit). The boots stayed in place on flat ground, steep ground, and uneven ground.
All in all, these boots have met every expectation I wanted in a winter boot. The only exception is that they only come in camouflage. I would prefer an all around winter boot, not just a hunting boot, but I’ll take the color I don’t want in exchange for meeting all other requirements.
You can read more about keeping safe in the backcountry over on Billings365.com