Hands-on Gear Review

Sorel Caribou - Women's Review

This Top Pick is great for winter chores when the mercury plummets.
By: Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 14, 2018
Price:  $150 List  |  $134.99 at Amazon - 10% Off
Pros:  Warm, great weather protection, removable liner, super thick outsole
Cons:  Sloppy and clunky fit, heavy, not very stylish
Manufacturer:   Sorel
70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 11
  • Warmth - 20% 9
  • Weather Protection - 20% 10
  • Comfort & Fit - 20% 3
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Traction - 15% 8
  • Style - 10% 5
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  • 2
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Top Pick Award

Our Verdict

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, as it very heavy with a less than precise fit. In fact, wearing it feels a bit like wearing large clown shoes as the foot moves around in the large toe box and shaft. It's best for around town use or performing outdoor winter 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.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Sorel Caribou is our Top Pick for Winter Chores because of its burly construct and beefy nature. It is extremely warm and protective but trades off comfort and 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


Scoring a nine out of ten for warmth, this Sorel features a 9-mm felt removable liner in addition to a super bomber outer that locks in warmth. The shaft height of the boot 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 claims to keep feet warm to -40 degrees. While we can't verify these temperatures, we could believe this claim as it has the thickest liner and thickest soles of any boot tested. It also did the best in our cold-weather and warmth tests.


Not many contenders proved to be as warm as the Sorel Caribou. In fact, the only other one is the Keen Durand Polar, out Editors' Choice winner. This women's winter hiking boot features 400-grams of insulation that allegedly keeps feet warm to -40 degrees. While we can't verify these ratings, the Sorel Caribou performs on par, keeping us warm when temperatures dipped as low as negative 20 degrees. When we dunked our feet into sub-zero water temperatures, both boots provided the most warmth of any contenders tested. Comparatively, these are both the warmest in our tests.

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 bulkier, 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 Sorel 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 scores a perfect ten out of ten for weather protection. In our cold water and puddle tests, we learned it keeps feet dry to roughly ten inches. There was absolutely no leakage throughout the boot when properly laced up, and the material did not saturate or become less protective throughout the tests. It scores the highest in this category, making it a great go-to 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 (instead of the Sorel Caribou) for its higher shaft height and taller puddle depth ability. This boot has a waterproof suede outer that keeps water out along with a faux fur collar. The collar (not found on the Caribou) provides better protection against tall snowdrifts and blowing snow. That said, the Caribou can simply be tucked under a pant to prevent this, while the Joan of Arctic cannot.

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 Keen Durand Polar that offers excellent protection from all the elements. It also comes with a cute faux fur collar to keep out wind and snow.

Comfort & Fit


Scoring a sickly low three out of ten in this metric, 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.


If you search for a much more comfortable boot with similar performance, the Sorel Joan of Arctic is our next recommendation. While this boot is too considered clunkier and heavy, it has many more comfort features, including a full faux-fur lined interior and collar. This contender is a touch lighter, making it a better option for longer-term use. Another option is the Sorel Tofino II, a super cute and more comfortable boot. While it isn't as warm or weather protective, the shaft is far more flexible, and the boot is a lot lighter. It is much better suited for wear around town or to work than any of the Sorel boots tested in this review.

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're in search of the ultimate in coziness, the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat is super lightweight (less than a pound!) with a fully fur-lined interior and collar. It is incredibly soft with a less supportive shaft and a more narrow forefoot. Though it's an excellent option for those in search of a lightweight and comfortable winter boot that hardly feels like it's on!

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


Scoring an average six out ten in this category, 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. And 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 pain (hence the lower score). Other than that, it's a pretty straightforward construct that can be used with average ease.


If you're searching for a boot that takes no time to strap on, consider the laceless Kamik Momentum, our Best Buy award winner. It has an elastic one-pull tightening system that makes getting the boot on and off super easy. Alternatively, consider a lower cut boot like the Ugg Cecile that only requires a quick slip on, pull, and tie of the laces. This boot is lightweight, making it easy to wear all day long. Both of these options score a comparative nine out of ten in this category.

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 Sorel 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. Scoring a comparative eight out of ten, we found this boot to grab most surfaces well. We hiked 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, and it hiked better (traction-wise) on desert hikes.


All other Sorels in this review feature a lugless design with a wave-outsole that doesn't provide the best traction over most slippery. So it's not too surprising that it performed better than these competitors. That said, it didn't perform as well as the Keen Durand Polar, which features super burly lugs that bite the trail at all angles. Regardless, take it out 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. That said, it won't do well on pure ice (none of our boots did), so make sure to get a pair of YakTrax if you are treading over super icy conditions.

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

Style


Earning a low score of five out of ten in this category, it's no surprise that this burly beast was not a huge favorite 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 classic Pac boot style though. The outsole features a contrasting color that adds a little country-stylish flair, and is quite versatile, with the ability to wear it above or below a pair of jeans. It's a great option for taking care of winter chores around town or at home. But we wouldn't wear it to work or out with friends at a fancy restaurant.


If you seek a cute Pac boot, be sure to check out the Sorel Joan of Arctic that showcases a taller shaft and faux-fur collar. This boot is far more stylish than the Sorel 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 our Editors' Choice winner, 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 wear around town. Given its heavier construct and design, we wouldn't recommend it for wear to a formal workplace or dinner with friends. But if you just 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 Sorel Caribou.
Shoveling snow after a winter storm is a great application for the Sorel Caribou.

Value


This super burly boot comes with a hefty price tag of $150. While perusing reviews online, we learned that for many, this boot has been a go-to mainstay that has lasted over the years. However, just recently there's been some 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, it's important to mention this in consideration for the purchase of this product. On that note, without the durability issues, we would say this is worth the money for its use as a super warm and protective Pac Boot. Though considering the alleged issues, it's worth second-guessing the value of this Top Pick. That said, we didn't have any durability issues during our testing period, and in our experience, it's proven to be fairly durable.

Conclusion


This Top Pick for Winter Chores is a workhorse Pac Boot that can really 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

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