Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, best traction in test, versatile
Cons: Basic footbed, not completely waterproof, stiff uppers
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bugaboot Plus IV is a versatile winter boot with a stiffer, supportive upper and a medium shaft height. This boot performs well across the board and impressed us with its traction on ice and snow, earning our Top Pick for Traction Award. There are warmer and more waterproof options, but none could match the tenacious grip of the Bugaboot Plus IV.
Columbia began using its proprietary Omni-Heat thermal reflective liner a number of years ago. This technology reflects the user's body heat to maintain warmth, allowing them to use less insulation, theoretically reducing weight. The Bugaboot Plus IV features the Omni-Heat liner and only 200g of synthetic insulation, and it's rated to -25 degrees. In short, it has a very high warmth to weight ratio. Due to the reflective nature of the liner, this boot feels warmer the harder you work. During sedentary activities, just standing around in the cold for example, where your body isn't producing much heat, the lighter insulation may be more noticeable.
We submerged the Bugaboot Plus IV and competing boots in an ice bath and took laser thermometer readings every 3 minutes. After 12 minutes, the Bugaboot lost 23 degrees, the most of all models tested that day. We attribute the thinner 200g insulation for this dramatic loss of temperature. We also found that other boots which also have just 200g of insulation lost nearly as much heat. For comparison, the top models with 400g of Thinsulate insulation lost only 14.1 degrees in the same amount of time.
While the objective nature of the ice bath test gives us a good baseline for warmth, it doesn't work flawlessly with these boots. When these boots are on your feet and you're active, the Omni-Heat lining does, in fact, reflect your body heat, making these boots warmer than our ice bath testing suggests. That said, they don't keep your feet quite as warm as models with -40-degree ratings or double the insulation.
We found the Bugaboot Plus IV to be water-resistant. Constructed with a Techlite waterproof membrane, the 8.5-inch tall uppers shrug off splashes of water, slush, and snow and even extended submersion in water up to the bottom of the laces and tongue.
In our submersion test, however, we stood in water about five inches deep, and water leaked into the boot through the tongue after about two minutes. We understand that this is an extreme test. Most people are unlikely to keep their feet and boots submerged in water intentionally for this long. That said, these boots claim to be waterproof. We found that they are not.
Overall, we recommend the Bugaboot Plus IV to people who are less likely to experience extraordinarily wet or soggy winter conditions. Cold, dry snow and moderately wet winter conditions are more appropriate for this boot considering the potential for water leaking through the tongue.
Fit and Comfort
The Bugaboot Plus IV has a slightly larger overall fit than many of the other boots in the test. It has just a bit more length and is a touch wider in the forefoot, making them roomy enough to be worn with thicker socks. People with especially narrow feet may find these to be a little too spacious, while those with average width or even slightly wider than average feet will feel right at home. Putting on and taking off the Bugaboot Plus IV is quite easy, though a far cry from the slip-on boots in our test, and the lacing system cinches down evenly over the foot for a secure and comfortable fit.
While it isn't explicitly billed as such on Columbia's website, the Bugaboot Plus IV is well-suited to winter hiking. We took it for several long walks and found that it is comfortable enough for extended periods of hiking, snowshoeing, or just cruising around town.
Our biggest gripe with its comfort is its flat and relatively basic footbed. It offers little arch support and is not nearly as comfortable as the high-quality cushioned and contoured footbed some other manufacturers offer. We suggest putting a better aftermarket footbed in this boot if you plan to use them for long winter hikes or snowshoe adventures.
The uppers of the Bugaboot Plus IV are also noticeably stiffer and more supportive than many of the other boots in our test. The medium shaft height of 8.5 inches also makes them less prone to rubbing or chafing the shins as we experienced with taller boots. We rated them about average for comfort, as they couldn't quite match the top-rated boots in this metric.
Ease of Use
Even though the Bugaboot Plus IV is one of the only boots in our test with laces that run through D-rings all the way up, they are quite user-friendly. They do require you to loosen the laces most of the way down the boot, but once you do they are very easy to slip on and off the feet. There is a finger loop at the back of the cuff to help you pull them on if necessary. This loop is best used barehanded or with thin gloves. Tightening the laces is simple because they stay in their D-rings and there are no hooks to route the laces through as you move up the boot. Once tied, the laces stay tight and secure the boots comfortably in place.
We found the lacing system on these boots to be slightly faster than boots with a hook system on the upper portion of their lacing system, which require a little more time and attention during the lacing process as you tighten the laces towards the top of the boot. It is one of the easiest lace-up boots to pull on due to this less complicated lacing system. Slip-on and Pac boots still take the cake in terms of ease of use, but they sacrifice fit and versatility as a result.
Columbia also incorporates a small metal D-ring at the bottom of the tongue for gaiters. This is a nice feature that simplifies the gaiter installation process and helps keep them secure while trudging through the snow.
The Bugaboot Plus IV has a unique and innovative sole design that gives these boots the best traction of all the boots we tested, earning them our Top Pick for Traction Award. Columbia has done this by making a sole that looks strikingly similar to the tread of a snow tire. The Ice Control sole is made of a softer Michelin rubber compound with an aggressive tread pattern and generous siping on the sharply edged sole lugs. The sharp edges of the lugs do a great job of biting into snow and other surfaces, even when kicking into firm snow on a sidehill. Each thin slice (i.e. sipe) on the lugs is effectively another biting edge that allows the rubber to grab onto the surface better than the competition.
We tested them side by side with other competitors and found the difference in traction quite dramatic. With the Bugaboot on one foot and a competitor on the other, we had a tenacious grip on one side while we frequently slipped on the other. This performance earned it our highest marks for traction, and we recommend these boots to anyone who is seeking the absolute best grip on icy surfaces.
These boots are good value for the consumer seeking a versatile winter boot with the absolute best traction. Their versatile performance makes them a good option for people looking for a boot that can do it all. While no other boot in the test could quite compete with their traction, there are slightly warmer, more comfortable, and more waterproof options.
The Bugaboot Plus IV performed relatively well across the board in our rating metrics, but it knocked our socks off in the traction department. The unique sole design gives this boot grip on ice and snow that the other models in our test simply can't touch. It is also a very versatile boot that can do it all, from winter hikes, snowshoeing, shoveling snow, or running errands around town, it's got you covered. It's warm, lightweight, water-resistant, and relatively user-friendly. They aren't the most waterproof boots in our test, so those in the wettest of winter environments may want to look elsewhere. That said, if you're looking for an all-around winter boot with the best traction on the market, then look no further.
— Jeremy Benson