The Best Winter Boots Review

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Beating the snow: the Sorel Caribou on the lookers right and Best Buy winner Kamik NationPlus on the left.
Credit: Jediah Porter
What are the best winter boots to protect your feet from cold, wet snow? We got our cold feet into seven pairs of the best insulated boots on the market and did a lot of stomping in slush to find out. Anyone who lives, works, or plays in even the most temperate snowy climate needs a pair of waterproof, insulated boots. You may only use them for a couple hours on a few days a year, or spend all day for months at a time in your kicks. In either case, some careful shopping is bound to pay off. After rounding up the top insulated, waterproof models on the market, we ranked them on categories from warmth and water resistance to traction. Read further to see which pair will work best for your lifestyle.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab February 23, 2014

Top Ranked Winter Boots - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 7 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Bogs Ultra Mid
Bogs Ultra Mid
Read the Review
Baffin Arctic Men
Baffin Arctic Men
Read the Review
Kamik NationPlus
Kamik NationPlus
Read the Review
Sorel Caribou
Sorel Caribou
Read the Review
Baffin Maple
Baffin Maple
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award     
Street Price Varies $115 - $126
Compare at 4 sellers
Varies $78 - $115
Compare at 2 sellers
$64
Compare at 1 sellers
Varies $140 - $160
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $88 - $140
Compare at 2 sellers
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Editors' Rating
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Easy to put on, plenty protectiveWarm and comfortableclose fitting and warmClassic look, durable.Low cuff, very warm
Cons Not as warm as someClunky for walkingcompromised water resistanceWide, sloppy fit.Clumsy fit and low cuff
Best Uses Day to day wintertime useSedentary use in very cold climatesday-to-day cold and snowy climate useShort-distance snowy walks.Sedentary work and play in dry, cold climates
Date Reviewed Feb 23, 2014Feb 25, 2014Feb 23, 2014Feb 23, 2014Feb 23, 2014
Weighted Scores Bogs Ultra Mid Baffin Arctic Men Kamik NationPlus Sorel Caribou Baffin Maple
Comfort - 25%
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7
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7
Warmth - 25%
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9
Water Resistance - 20%
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Style - 5%
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8
Traction - 20%
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Ease Of Use - 15%
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Product Specs Bogs Ultra Mid Baffin Arctic Men Kamik NationPlus Sorel Caribou Baffin Maple
Weight (Per Boot, size 9) 2 lb 5 oz 1 lb 15 oz 1 lb 12 oz 2 lb 6 oz 2 lb
Shaft Height (from bottom of sole to top of shaft) 12 in 14.5 in 11 in 11.5 in 8.5 in
Maximum puddle depth before major leaking 9 in 14.5 in 6.5 in 8.5 in 6 in
Lining/Insulation 7mm Neo-Tech⢠Neoprene Thermaplush Synthetic 200g Thinsulate 9mm ThermoPlus⢠felt Thermaplush Synthetic
Upper Neoprene Nylon Suede and rubber Nubuck leather Leather and Nylon
Toe Box Rubber over neoprene Rubber Rubber Vulcanized rubber Rubber
Outsole Rubber Rubber SnowTread Synthetic Rubber AeroTrack Rubber Rubber
Animal products used? No No Yes Yes Yes
Sizes Available 4 to 14 7 to 14 7 to 14 7 to 17 7 to 14
Colors Available Black Black, Camoflage Brown Light Brown, Black, Olive Green, Grey, Dark Brown Black, Brown, Red

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Bogs Ultra Mid
$126
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80
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Kamik NationPlus
$80.00
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76
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Columbia Bugaboot Plus II
$120
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64
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Baffin Arctic Men
$145
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79
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Sorel Caribou
$140
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71
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Keen summit County III
$150
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Baffin Maple
$155
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Selecting the Right Product
Whether you’re walking to your car on the occasional snowy day outside your mid-Atlantic home, snowshoeing to remote summits in the High Sierra, or working 10-hour days on a Wyoming oil field, choosing and using excellent insulated and waterproof footwear will enhance your comfort and safety. We ranked each boot on comfort and fit, warmth, water resistance, style, traction, and ease of use to accurately compare the performance across the board.

For some of our best tips on how to pick the right insulated winter footwear, reference our Buying Advice article.

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Typical winter outdoor tasks like cleaning off your car, walking to the mailbox, and getting groceries require special footwear when the snow gets deeper than an inch or two.
Credit: Mike Phillips

Types of Winter Boots
Winter boot applications are diverse and broad, and the boot field reflects that with styles ranging from everyday comfort models to insulated winter hiking boots. Your selection will depend on your preferences and intended usage.

Pac Boots
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Side by side comparison of two of the more traditional "pac boots" we tested. Best Buy winner Kamik NationPlus on the lookers left, and Sorel Caribou on the right.
Credit: Jediah Porter
A pac, as defined on dictionary.com, is “a soft, flexible, heelless shoe worn as a liner inside a boot or overshoe.” Boots made with a separate, removable liner are therefore known as pac boots. When one thinks of winter footwear, those constructed in this style are the first to come to mind. Footwear like this can be made quite warm, inexpensive, and are readily disassembled for drying and the replacement of the inner liners. These are excellent for extended, sedentary time in the outdoors. If you work and play outdoors but don’t walk a long ways, you have to consider pac style model. In our test, the Sorel Caribou, Kamik NationPlus, Baffin Arctic, and Baffin Maple represent this style.

Pull-On Boots
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The smooth, slightly stretchy interior of the Editors Choice Bogs Ultra Mid allows for easy use and comfortable, secure walking.
Credit: Jediah Porter
This is your classic “barn-boot” style of footwear. We only tested one pair in this style, the Bogs Ultra Mid. In fact, according to the manufacturer, these were “designed to help dairy farmers stay safe and comfy”. This style has found far more widespread appeal and application outside of agriculture. These can be comfortable, warm, and convenient. If they are well-shaped and designed, they are excellent for short-term and short-distance use. They generally will not work well for walking long distances or for use in the deepest snow.

Insulated Walking Boots
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Side by side comparison of the insulated walking boots we tested. Keen Summit County III on the lookers left, and Columbia Bugaboot Plus II on the right.
Credit: Jediah Porter
Just like it sounds, this category of footwear is optimized for distance and walking comfort. If you will hike and snowshoe miles and miles, consider models in this category. We lump designs from both hiking manufacturers and those from hunting companies into this category. Both types of companies design footwear with the same criteria, but have simple aesthetic differences. If you are looking for snowshoeing or hunting footwear, realize that your options are far broader if you consider products from this larger pool. In the insulated walking boots category, especially among the models we tested, the boots are one single piece. Basically, the liner, insulation, and outer, protective layer are all sewn and laminated together. This allows the boots to fit closely and comfortably, while remaining lightweight and inexpensive. It also means that they cannot be readily dried without a heated space. If you are looking for boots for multi-day, mid-winter snowy travel, whether on snowshoes or not, we recommend choosing your footwear from the selection of double-layer mountaineering boots. The single-layer insulated hiking boots we tested are best for day-trip distance endeavors. In our test, the Columbia Bugaboot II and Keen Summit County III represent the insulated walking boot category.

Criteria for Evaluation
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Our 2014 tested selection of winter boots. From L to R: Bogs, Baffin Arctic, Columbia, Kamik, Baffin Maple, Sorel, Keen.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Fit and Comfort
The user’s tactile experience with his footwear is highly subjective. Basically, each foot and boot combination will differ from another. People have different shaped feet and each boot company uses a different “last”, or form, around which it builds its boots. There is no substitute for trying on your footwear. Thankfully, even most internet retailers offer some sort of option for trying footwear out, and many easy generalizations can be made. We compared the fit and comfort of all the boots we tested, and found the Bogs Ultra Mid to be the most plush and wearable. We note in each review how wide or narrow the fit is overall, as well as any problem areas in the seams or construction. The Keen Summit County III and Sorel Caribou are excellent for those with wider feet, while the Bogs and Kamik are better suited to slender feet.

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Many will purchase insulated boots for ante- and apres-ski. In this case, look for models that go on and off easy, look alright, and keep the snow and cold out, whether worn with street clothes or ski pants.
Credit: McKenzie Long

Warmth
All of the boots we tested are insulated and that insulation can be quantified. Insulation is measured either by its thickness in millimeters, or by the weight of a square meter of the sheeted synthetic “puffy” insulation”. This allows for a cursory comparison of the insulation value of the boots. However, the wearer’s warmth experience also relies on the snugness and overall fit. Closer fitting and tight models restrict circulation, leaving the toes numb. No matter how much insulation there is, if your heart can’t push warm blood into your feet, they will get cold. We recommend purchasing winter boots with enough room for your toes to wiggle in the front. Our measure of warmth is based on lengthy and comparative testing. We wore boots, different ones on each foot at times, in a variety of conditions and temperatures. From this testing, we were able to generalize their overall and relative warmth. We found that the high, bulky, and loose fitting Baffin Arctic was the warmest, while the sleek and eminently walk-able Columbia Bugaboot II was the least insulating. This points to the inherent tradeoffs in footwear design; in the case of warm boots, they’ll either be more insulating and less walkable, or more dextrous and less insulating. You can’t have it both ways.

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Our Top Pick winning Baffin Arctic brings sophisticated materials to the classic 2-part "pac boot" style. This is the Arctic with the liner removed.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Water Resistance
Cold climates are often inherently wet climates. Whether the water is liquid or frozen, it is often there to give you trouble. Boots must deal with this. Manufacturers take a variety of tracks to weatherproof your footwear. Some, like the Bogs Mid, are fully waterproof rubber boots. Others use molded rubber at the bottom, sewn and sealed to leather or textile uppers. Finally, some are constructed of panels of leather and textile just like hiking boots, with the waterproofing coming from a combination of external treatment and inner lining membranes.

In our test, none ever let actual water through to the feet. The Bogs Mid was the most visibly and durably waterproof. The Bogs, as well as most of the models in our test, put the bulk of their waterproofing material and technology on the exterior of the boots. Whether this is done with rubber, treated leather, or waterproof nylon, waterproofing the exterior keeps the insulation free of external water. Internal perspiration may dampen or even soak the insulation and liner materials. Regardless of how it gets wet, moisture in the insulation and liners can compromise their heat-retention. You get colder in wet boots. It works the other way as well: Less insulating boots feel wetter as your perspiration gets cold.

Notably, the Keen Summit County III is the only model in our test with a waterproof/breathable membrane. The Keen kept all external moisture away from the foot. However, the membrane is located essentially right next to the wearer's foot. This means that the outer leather and insulation can, and did, get soaked with water. This compromises breathability and insulation value, both leading to the feeling of cold, damp feet. Consult our extensive description of waterproof/breathable technology and limitations in our Hardshell Buying Advice article.

Finally, water resistance scores must reflect the fact that boots are only as waterproof as they are high. Essentially, each one can leak over the top, and some models are higher than others.

Style
Style matters. You’ll wear these boots to the office, to the bar, to the ski area, and out in your front driveway. You want subtle style and inconspicuous colors. Consider whether you’ll wear your pants inside the cuffs, over the top, or if you will want to mix and match these styles. None of the test models we tested were stylistically offensive. Some bring a more classic look, while others blend right in with any non-insulated hiking boots. In each individual review we expand on the look of each model, but we can recommend the Kamik NationPlus and its classic look or the Columbia Bugaboot II for it’s streamlined and sleek hiking boot appearance.

Traction
Just like cold climates are wet climates, cold and wet climates offer slippery footing. There are inherent limitations to the grip of rubber soled footwear, though some do better than others. In super icy conditions consider an aftermarket metal-spiked traction aid. Our testing revealed some subtle differences in traction. The relatively smooth soles of the Bogs Mid don’t grip as well on soft snow as the deep lugs of the Sorel Caribou. The hiking specific Keen and Columbia have lower-profile soles for better grip on a variety of surfaces, while the Baffin models, designed for ultra cold, each have deep and sharp-edged lugs that grab well on loose and packed snow.

Ease of Use
Whether you’re slipping your boots on and off for the short drive to the ski area or lacing them up for a long snowshoe hike, you want kicks that are easy to get in and out of. They should dry readily and allow you to walk smoothly and confidently. In some applications you will want to lace up for more active endeavors or in other cases leave them loose and ready for slip-on, slip-off usage. We considered all of these criteria in our assessment of ease of use. Especially given their performance, the Bogs Ultra Mid was by far the easiest to use. They slip on and off easily and absorb virtually no water if completely submerged. The modular pac styles, like the Baffin Maple and Sorel Caribou, are a little trickier to get on and off, but the removable liners can be dried readily.

Editors' Choice Award: Bogs Ultra Mid
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Most at home in sloppy conditions, the Bogs Mid Ultra proved to be a solid all-around performer.
Credit: Jediah Porter
The top-scoring product in our test was the Bogs Ultra Mid. Interestingly, this is also the most unique model we examined. No other footwear we tested represented the slip-on “barn boot” style. However, Bogs executes this simple construction in impeccable fashion. The fit is close, and the lining is smooth. They go on easy and stay put for at least a moderate amount of walking. If your feet are narrow-to-average in volume the fit is perfect. If you have wider feet, these will not work as well for you. The neoprene insulation and rubber coating combine to provide simple and waterproof protection from the cold that doesn’t absorb water at all. This means that the Ultra Mid, even after a thorough soaking, will dry readily and quickly.

Best Buy Award: Kamik NationPlus
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The Kamik NationPlus was an easy choice for our Best Buy award.
Credit: Jediah Porter
Among all the models we evaluated, for all of our testers the Kamik NationPlus inspired the most favorable first impression. The fit is comfortable, light, and cushy. Our extended testing only improved that first impression. The warmth and water resistance scores come out right in the middle, while the NationPlus model has the greatest walking comfort of all the pac style models in our test. Finally, they are the least expensive in our test, by far. High performance and low price makes them an easy choice for our Best Buy award. Unique in our test, the NationPlus Kamiks also come in a wide fit, referred to as the NationWide model. This is an excellent attribute, as pac style models generally suffer from overly sloppy fit in order for one boot model to accommodate various foot shapes.

Top Pick Award for Working in Extreme Cold: Baffin Arctic
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The Baffin Arctic is a Top Pick for its cold-weather, long term protection value.
Credit: Jediah Porter
The Baffin Arctic Men is the most specialized boot in our test. It’s high-top and highly insulating construction is far from the most versatile. However, it is very warm and comfortable for sedentary use in very cold climates. If you work or play in the northern latitudes, consider the Baffin Arctic. It will keep you warm and dry. You can also remove the liner for overnight drying and for replacement as it wears out.

Top Pick Award for Winter Hiking: Columbia Bugaboot Plus II
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Chosen for its hiking performance, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus II won one of our Top Pick awards.
Credit: Jediah Porter
Especially as compared to its closest competitor in our test, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus II is an excellent insulated hiking boot. Whether you are hiking miles and miles in your November elk hunting grounds, or snowshoeing multiple Vermont summits each weekend, the Columbia will serve you well. It fits close and clean, like a good hiking boot should be, but Columbia adds in solid waterproofness and light insulation.

Jediah Porter
Buying Advice
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How to Choose Winter Boots - Click for details
 How to Choose Winter Boots

by Jediah Porter
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