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Sorel Caribou - Women's Review

This Top Pick is great for winter chores when the mercury plummets.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $160 List | $140.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Warm, great weather protection, removable liner, super thick outsole
Cons:  Sloppy and clunky fit, heavy, not very stylish
Manufacturer:   Sorel
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 14, 2018
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


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

The Skinny

Entering the market in the 1960's the Sorel Caribou is the classic workhorse Pac Boot. It's a perfect compadre for shoveling snow or stacking firewood around the house, hence why it's Top Pick for Winter Chores. It features an 11-inch shaft with a removable 9-mm felt liner that provides ample warmth in the double negative digits. The leather upper provides unbeatable water and snow protection, while the construct is easy to pull on and off at the door. It's not as comfortable or stylish as the Sorel Joan of Arctic, our Top Pick for Severe Weather or the Sorel Tofino II. It's very heavy with a less than precise fit. They are big and bulky, and you might feel like you are floating in boots, but they are classic! These boots are best for trudging around town or those aforementioned chores. Wear it in the coldest weather or when mother nature truly pukes with all its glory. This Top Pick will keep you warm and protected whether you're taking out the garbage or walking the dog.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Sorel Caribou is our Top Pick for Winter Chores because of its burly construction and beefy nature. It is extremely warm and protective, but it lacks a precise fit. Use it to shovel the driveway or walk around town, but don't consider it as a winter hiking boot.

Performance Comparison


The Caribou is a workhorse boot built for winter chores.
The Caribou is a workhorse boot built for winter chores.

Warmth


Among the warmest boots tested, this Sorel features a 9-mm felt removable liner in addition to a super bomber outer that locks in warmth. The shaft height is about 11 inches with a sherpa-pile snow cuff that keeps warmth inside. With a removable liner, this double boot system provides more warmth than most single layer systems. The liners are easy to take out and dry if they get soaked. According to Sorel, this boot keeps feet warm to -40 degrees. While we can't verify these temperatures, this is a believable claim due to the boot's thick liner and soles.


Not many contenders proved to be as warm as the Caribou. The only other boot to make a similar claim is the Keen Durand Polar, the women's winter hiking boot that features 400-grams of insulation and allegedly keeps feet warm to -40 degrees. While we can't verify these ratings, the Caribou is so toasty, so thick, and so insulated it is hard to imagine anything else keeping us as warm when temperatures dipped as low as -20 degrees.

This boot features a 9-mm felt removable liner that is super warm and durable.
This boot features a 9-mm felt removable liner that is super warm and durable.

With incredible warmth, the Caribou trades off comfort and fit. That said, if you're interested in a Pac boot that's close in warmth but is a little less bulky, be sure to check out our Top Pick for Severe Weather, the Sorel Joan of Arctic. This boot has a removable 6-mm liner that keeps feet warm into sub-zero temperatures. It's also a tad bit more stylish than the Caribou.

The outsole is super thick providing great insulation from cold underfoot.
The outsole is super thick providing great insulation from cold underfoot.

Weather Protection


Equipped with a bomber nubuck leather upper and a removable liner, the Caribou offers bullet-proof weather protection. In our cold water and puddle tests, we learned it keeps feet dry to roughly ten inches. There is absolutely no leakage throughout the boot when properly laced up, and the material did not saturate or become less protective at any point during testing. These factors make it a great choice during the worst and coldest weather.


No other boot performed as well in these tests. That said, the Sorel Joan of Arctic earned our Top Pick for Severe Weather for its higher shaft height and taller puddle depth ability. The Joan of Arctic has a waterproof suede outer layer that keeps water out, and it is topped with a faux fur collar. The collar (not found on the Caribou) provides better protection against tall snowdrifts and blowing snow.

Here we take the Caribou for a walk through the water to determine how water resistant the upper leather and liner. No surprise that it was waterproof!
Here we take the Caribou for a walk through the water to determine how water resistant the upper leather and liner. No surprise that it was waterproof!

If you're in search of a hiking boot with bomber protection, be sure to take a gander at the Oboz Bridger that offers excellent protection from all the elements.

Comfort & Fit


Scoring a sickly low score, this boot is not comfortable or well-fitted. It is extremely voluminous throughout the footbed and shaft of the boot, making it feel like you're wearing a pair of heavy clown shoes. The interior of the liner is soft to the touch, and it's removable for better drying capabilities. Weighing over 2 lbs per boot, our testers were not psyched to be wearing it throughout the day, and we found ourselves tripping over our feet on some occasions.


The footbed has little to no support, the heel is large and not fitted, and the shaft of the boot can't tighten down very far. This boot earns the lowest score of any in our selection for comfort & fit. Because of this performance, we only recommend for winter chores around the house or the odd errand around town. It's not ideal for all-day wear at work or while hiking technical winter trails.

The Sherpa Pile collar is cozy and provides decent weather protection from blowing snow.
The Sherpa Pile collar is cozy and provides decent weather protection from blowing snow.

If you are looking for a much more comfortable boot with similar performance, again check out the Sorel Joan of Arctic. While this boot is also somewhat clunky and heavy, it has more comfort features, including a full faux-fur lined interior and collar. The Joan is also a touch lighter, making it a better option for longer-term use. Another option is the Sorel Tofino II, a more comfortable boot. While the Tofino isn't as warm or weather protective, the shaft is far more flexible, and the boot is a lot lighter. It is a much better choice for wearing around town or to work than any of the Sorel boots tested in this review.

The pull tab makes it easy to put this boot on and pull it off.
The pull tab makes it easy to put this boot on and pull it off.

Ease of Use


Our testers found the Caribou easy to slip on for a quick excursion outside. The laces are a quick one-pull system that doesn't bunch or bind. The leather outer holds its structure well, so you don't have to make too many adjustments. It also features a handy pull-on tab on the back.


The liners are removable and getting them in and out can be a bit of a hassle, but you only need to do that if they are really soaked. Other than that, it's a pretty straightforward construct. And, since we couldn't get a precision fit anyway, we often left ours loosely tied for super easy in-and-out.

If you're searching for a boot that takes no time to strap on, consider the laceless Kamik Momentum. It has an elastic one-pull tightening system that makes getting the boot on and off quite simple.

The laces are easy and with just one pull the entire boot comes together.
The laces are easy and with just one pull the entire boot comes together.

Traction


Utilizing a vulcanized rubber composite, the Caribou features a unique outsole not seen in any other models tested. The lugs are long ball-like shapes, resembling the outsole of a strange-looking cleat. We found this boot to grab most surfaces well. We trudged over snow and ice, sand and dirt, and it proved to grip nicely on all surfaces. During our snowy hill tests, it grabbed the slope better than any of the Sorels tested.


All other Sorels in this review feature a lug-less design with a wave-outsole that doesn't provide the best traction over most slippery surfaces. So it's not too surprising that it performed better than these competitors.

That said, it didn't perform as well as the Oboz Bridger Insulated boot, our Editor's Choice for winter hiking, which features super deep lugs that bite the trail at all angles. And it's a far cry from the Top Pick for Traction, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV. Regardless, wear the Caribou while you walk the dog or perform winter chores around the house or town. The lugs will stick well to snowy and snowy-ice surfaces.

This outsole is bomber providing great traction over technical terrain.
This outsole is bomber providing great traction over technical terrain.

Style


It's no surprise that this burly beast was not considered the most stylish amongst our female testing team. While it doesn't have a techy look, nor is it ugly, it is just plain, bulky, and not very feminine. We do like the Sherpa Pile collar in addition to the super classic Pac boot style, however. The outsole features a contrasting color that adds a little country-stylish flair and is quite versatile. You can wear it above or below a pair of jeans.


The Sorel Joan of Arctic wins here again. It showcases a taller shaft and faux-fur collar. This boot is far more stylish than the Caribou with similar performance features. An even cuter option is the Sorel Tofino II that is far more feminine than both due to the less bulky single boot design, and narrower fit in the forefoot.

While this boot isn't the cutest tested  it certainly has a specific style that some of our testers loved.
While this boot isn't the cutest tested, it certainly has a specific style that some of our testers loved.

If you seek a boot that is versatile and without a faux fur collar, consider The North Face Shellista II Mid. It is a super cute 12-inch boot with a nubuck leather outer and knit upper. A great option to wear with a winter dress or skirt for a fully mountain-chic look.

Best Applications


As the workhorse boot of this review, it functions best for performing winter chores or to wear around town. If you need a boot that will keep your feet warm and protected with the mercury plummets to the lowest of the lows, this classic Pac boot is a prime choice.

Shoveling snow after a winter storm is a great application for the Caribou.
Shoveling snow after a winter storm is a great application for the Caribou.

Value


This super burly boot comes with a hefty price tag of $160. While perusing reviews online, we learned that for many, this boot has been a go-to mainstay that has lasted for years. However, recently there've been reports of lugs wearing and breaking off after about a year of use.

While we didn't test this pair for a year or longer, these reports do concern us. That said, we didn't have any durability issues during our testing period, and in our experience, it's proven to be fairly durable. Aside from that, we would say this is worth the money for a super warm and protective Pac Boot.

Conclusion


This Top Pick for Winter Chores is a workhorse Pac Boot that can really take on the elements. Classic in natural, it provides ample warmth and weather protection through the coldest days of winter. Use it to collect firewood or shovel the driveway, but leave it at home for long hikes in the wilderness.

This boot is ultra-protective and burly. Our Top Pick for Winter Chores.
This boot is ultra-protective and burly. Our Top Pick for Winter Chores.


Amber King