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 outsole is entirely waterproof. 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. Luckily, this boot proves to be fully waterproof. It offers amazing traction, beating all others on icy surfaces due to its soft lugs that boast huge surface area. While our testers appreciate its versatile fit and easy lacing, they are less impressed with its style.
Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat - Women's Review
Cons: Aggressive and techy look, not cozy, less arch support
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat is a winter hiking boot with incredible traction, perfect for moderate conditions.
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. The only downside to the OmniHeat lining is that it's not the most breathable. While our feet were warm in motion, it doesn't offer much in the realm of moisture escaping, which led to colder feet while standing still. 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. This one has neither.
This boot is quite waterproof, keeping us dry in 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.
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 huge arch support, 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.
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 levels 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 stands out for its amazing traction. 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 really does excel with its softer rubber composition.
Ease of Use
Columbia made some nice improvements. 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.
This is the least expensive winter hiker we tested. It is comfortable, warm and performs well, especially for the price. While we don't love the style, the ladies that'll find the most value in it are those seeking a technical winter trail hiker with awesome traction. Not a stylish winter boot.
The Columbia Bugaboot IV OmniHeat is a solid winter hiker with exceptional traction. Take it on your next winter hike, or strap it onto a pair of snowshoes.
— Laurel Hunter