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Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat - Women's Review

A great winter hiker, perfect for slippery trails and long days.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $145 List
Pros:  Warm, wider-forefoot, waterproof, fantastic traction, stability and support
Cons:  Aggressive and techy look, not cozy, less arch support
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Laurel Hunter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 5, 2018
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Warmth - 20% 6
  • Weather Protection - 20% 8
  • Comfort & Fit - 20% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8
  • Traction - 15% 9
  • Style - 10% 3

The Skinny

Columbia offers a no-nonsense winter hiking machine with the Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat. It has traction to spare and a nice roomy fit. The new Bugaboot Plus IV's waterproofing is also better than the Plus III we tested previously. It offers 200-grams of Omni-Heat Insulation (the shiny mylar dots visible at the top of the boot) and a 7.5-inch shaft height, providing warmth and comfort on the backcountry trails. The shorter height is typical of a winter hiking boot and is short relative to other options. So, we don't recommend dunking it in over six inches of water (to the top of the tongue gusset). Luckily, this updated boot proved to be fully waterproof in our puddle tests and while hiking in wet snow. The Bugaboot IV was also stellar in our traction test, beating all others on icy surfaces and making it our Top Pick for Traction. While our testers appreciate its versatile fit and easy lacing, they were less impressed with its style.

There are taller winter hiking boots, like the Keen Durand Polar, or more supportive boots, like the Oboz Bridger Insulated, but the new Bugaboot IV is a burly winter hiking boot that will keep you warm and trekking through the cold months.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat is a winter hiking boot with incredible traction, perfect for moderate conditions.

Performance Comparison


Testing the warmth and traction of the Columbia Bugaboot IV on a cold day on the glacier.
Testing the warmth and traction of the Columbia Bugaboot IV on a cold day on the glacier.

Warmth


This boot is lined with 200-grams of Columbia's Omni-Heat insulation, which they claim reflects heat and saves bulk. They certainly kept our feet comfortably warm in cold temperatures. The laces are easy to pull tight, locking in heat, while the Omni-Heat technology does a great job of maintaining warmth without making us sweaty. The soles are burly thick rubber, insulating our feet from the cold ground. Perhaps most importantly, there is plenty of room to wiggle our toes.

We put the Bugaboot in an ice bucket and took its internal temperature with a laser thermometer regularly for 20mins. It lost a whopping 21.8 degrees. (For perspective, the Oboz Bridger boot lost only 14.7 degrees.) We attribute this poor performance to the boot's thinner insulation, and also to the type of insulation. Columbia's Omni-Heat works by reflecting insulation. Without feet in them, there was no heat to reflect. This boot is intended for heat-generating action, and we found it to be warm in the field.

Unfortunately, this boot isn't exactly cozy. The other winter hikers we tested have faux-fur or soft wool around the ankles, adding an extra level of comfort. For super decadent hiking, check out the Keen Durand Polar which has a cushioned shaft and oodles of faux-fur, or our Editor's Choice the Oboz Bridger.

The Bugaboot's 200 grams of insulation and mylar dots that are more than just bling! They keep your toes toasty.
The Bugaboot's 200 grams of insulation and mylar dots that are more than just bling! They keep your toes toasty.

While this product is rated to -25 degrees by Columbia, we could not verify this temperature as have not yet tested this boot in temperatures that cold this winter.

Weather Protection


In last year's test, the Bugaboot III was not waterproof in our tests. Fortunately, we had no such issue with the Bugaboot IV. The only way you'll get wet in this boot is if you walk in water deep enough to overtop the tongue gusset. We stayed dry in up to 6 inches of frigid water.

The outer material is rugged. The bomber construction sheds snow and water efficiently. For deep snow and drifts, you may want to extend the boot's 7.5-inch height with gaiters or snow pants, or look at a taller boot, such as the Sorel Joan of Arctic which protects you in puddles up to 10 inches deep!

Taking notes on the Columbia Bugaboot IV during the depth test at the lake.
Taking notes on the Columbia Bugaboot IV during the depth test at the lake.

Comfort & Fit


The Bugaboot IV is roomy and comfortable. The heel cup holds our feet in place, and the toe box is wide enough to allow for plenty of toe wiggle, helping feet stay nice and warm. That said, the outer material is sturdy and very stiff. It feels a bit like a shell. One tester compared it to a lightweight ski boot. As a result, the fit isn't very forgiving. If you have a wider forefoot, it may feel very restrictive.

While the footbed doesn't have the arch support of the Oboz Bridger or the Keen Durand Polar, it is firm and supported our feet on long hikes. Overall, we like the comfort and fit of this boot and rate it above average.

Ease of Use


Columbia made some nice improvements when they shifted from the Bugaboot III to the IV. One of these upgrades is the lacing system. We love the closed metal eyelets that made tying these a breeze, even with cold hands.

The boot is roomy, and it opens up wide when untied, making it easy to slip on and off. As with all hiking boots, you will want to tighten the laces for a precision fit, and you can't get them off without untying them first, but we found these among the easiest to use.

We love these closed metal eyelets  which allowed for quick and precise boot adjustment.
We love these closed metal eyelets, which allowed for quick and precise boot adjustment.

Traction


Utilizing a variety of lug shapes and sizes, and sporting Michelin Winter Compound rubber, this boot provides fantastic traction over a variety of surfaces. We tested it over snow and ice on both level and steep terrain. We walked across snowy ridgelines and up icy valleys. It did well in all conditions, grabbing on snowy and steep ascents, but it really shines on the slippery stuff.

The lugs are less faceted than those on the other winter hiking boots we tested and the heel rubber extends wide beyond the shaft of the boot, especially on the heel. This gives it a particularly aggressive look and also provides more surface area on slippery trails or sidewalks. As a result, it trounced the competition and it is our Top Pick for traction. A perfect option for winter hiking on packed, slippery trails!

All of the winter hiking boots have excellent traction and are great choices for cold, snowy terrain. However, when ice was part of the trail equation the Bugaboot performed the best.

Look at those lugs! Love the traction on the new Bugaboot IV
Look at those lugs! Love the traction on the new Bugaboot IV

Style


Winter hiking boots tend to favor function over style. However, even in this less than fashionable category, the Bugaboot IV was not our favorite look. The all black boot, with hits of bright pink and shiny silver became known as the heavy metal hiking boot.

On the other hand, some testers appreciated it's no-nonsense, no faux-fur attitude. Its lack of bulk also allows it to work well under pants. If you prefer a hiker with a softer look, try the Oboz Bridger Insulated boot — our favorite all-around boot and winter hiker, or the Keen Durand which has a faux fur collar and taller shaft.

Best Applications


Hiking in the winter! While you can wear this boot for winter chores or a walk around town, its best use is in the backcountry. With snowshoe and gaiter compatibility, you can head out to your favorite trails for hours of winter exploration.

Trusting the traction of the Bugaboot IV!
Trusting the traction of the Bugaboot IV!

Value


For $145, this is the least expensive winter hiker we tested. It is comfortable, warm and performs well, especially for the price. If you are looking for extra coziness, more foot support, and dare we say style, in an active winter boot, check out the Oboz Bridger. It won our hiking hearts. If you prefer the best, least expensive, boot that can still handle some light winter hiking, don't forget about the Columbia Ice Maiden II, our Best Buy winner for just $80.

Conclusion


The Columbia Bugaboot IV OmniHeat is a solid winter hiker with exceptional traction.


Laurel Hunter