Oboz Bridger 10" Insulated Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Warm, completely waterproof, comfortable, good traction, supportive
Cons: Sizing runs a bit small, expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When you think about winter boots, Oboz might not be the first brand that comes to mind, but that didn't stop the Bridger 10 from impressing us across the board and earning our Editors' Choice award. Our initial impression is that the sizing runs a little small, but they break-in with a bit of time and use and feel snug and precise. We suggest sizing up a half size if you like a roomier fit, or like to frequently wear thick socks.
The Oboz Bridger 10 truly impressed us with their warmth, and the 400g of Thinsulate insulation and the heat reflective footbed proved to retain heat better than the competition. Because their B-Dry membrane is entirely waterproof and their winter rubber sole provides reliable traction on virtually all surfaces, it's no wonder these boots bested the competition. The uppers are moderately stiff and supportive, laterally and fore and aft, making these an excellent choice for winter hiking and snowshoe adventures.
The Bridger 10 is insulated with 400g of Thinsulate. Oboz doesn't provide a temperature rating for these boots like many other manufacturers do, but it's clear that they intend for them to keep your feet warm and dry no matter the weather. While 400g of insulation is certainly a lot, it isn't especially lofty or bulky, which helps to give these boots their more precise fit and feel.
In addition to the insulation, the O-Fit insole also has a mylar layer (think emergency blanket), which is designed to reflect heat up towards your feet and cold back down towards the ground. Keeping your feet dry is another critical aspect of keeping them warm, and Oboz's B-Dry waterproof breathable membrane is, in fact, completely waterproof.
In our controlled ice bath warmth test, we found the Bridger 10 to be the warmest of all the boots in this review. We submerged them approximately 4-inches deep in a slurry of snow and water and took a temperature reading at 4-minute intervals for 12 minutes. At the end of our timed testing, the Bridger had an internal temperature loss of only 14.1 degrees, the least of all the models tested. For comparison, some other models lost up to 23 degrees during the same test.
While we feel the ice bath provides a good objective test for heat retention, we also supplement our findings with some real world on-the-feet testing. This warmth testing took place during our water resistance test while standing in nearly frozen water for ten full minutes, general wear while shoveling, walking in the snow, and testing the fit and comfort of the boots. At no time during any of our testing did our tester's feet get cold while wearing the Bridger 10. These are hands down the warmest in this review.
To test the water resistance of the Bridger 10 we submerged them in approximately 5-inches of water at the edge of a mostly frozen lake for 10 minutes. At the end of this test, our tester's feet were still completely dry, proving these boots are capable of handling whatever wet weather may come your way.
During our ice bath test for warmth, they also withstood 12 full minutes of submersion in a slurry of snow and water, further proving the waterproofness of the B-Dry membrane and quality construction. Of course, these boots can only keep out water up to 8-inches deep, at which point it can start pouring in over the top of the tongue attachment point. In addition to the waterproof membrane, the nubuck leather uppers are treated with a DWR that really works and effectively prevents it from soaking up any water.
The Bridger 10 also features a small D-ring at the bottom of the laces that can be used to attach a snow gaiter. When used in deep snow while hiking or snowshoeing, a gaiter will keep snow and moisture from entering the boot from the top, keeping your feet dryer and warmer for longer. This level of water resistance is truly impressive. In contrast, some of the other competitors leaked water in through their seams after only a minute or two of submersion.
Fit and Comfort
Overall, we are very impressed with the comfort of these boots. The one caveat we have is that they felt very snug the first couple of times we wore them. These are one of the tightest fitting models we tested, and we recommend sizing up a half size or so, especially if you prefer a roomier fit or you like to wear thicker socks. They feel pretty good in terms of length, but the width straight out of the box may feel like a bit of a squeeze. The result is an exact fit, though it changes a bit with time. Be prepared for them to feel a little tight right off the bat. After the first couple of times you wear them they begin to loosen up and break-in, making them easier to get on and off your feet and slightly roomier all around.
After the brief initial break-in period, you can begin to appreciate the comfort of these boots. It all starts with the proprietary insole, which Oboz claims is what they are known for. The insole is very supportive and features a semi-rigid molded heel cup that extends forward and includes a nice moderate arch support. Immediately under the heel and integrated into the heel cup design is a small shock-absorbing foam pad. On top of the molded heel cup is a four-layer laminate that runs the full length of the boot and starts with a thin layer of soft felt-like material on top. Under that is a thin layer of insulating material, then a thin layer of denser foam, and finally a Mylar heat reflective layer on the bottom of the insole.
Unlike many of the other boots in this review, you won't need to buy an aftermarket footbed to make these boots comfortable and supportive.
The Bridger 10 has a 10" shaft height, as the name suggests, making them one of the taller boots in this review. Initially, these boots have a relatively stiff upper shaft, but it quickly breaks in to have a more moderate flex while still being plenty supportive. They also offer plenty of lateral support and a torsionally rigid mid and outsole, which is a benefit when walking on uneven and slippery surfaces.
Ease of Use
These boots have a relatively standard lace-up closure that provides a very secure and snug fit. As lace-up boots are concerned, the Bridger's closure is about as user-friendly as they come. The round laces crisscross the boot. They start in two sets of webbing loops by the toe and move up into two sets of fixed metal loops, then one more webbing loop, and they finish with three sets of metal speed lacing hooks to the top. Lacing these boots is quick and easy. As winter hiking boots are concerned, the Bridger has the most user-friendly lacing system we have used.
Due to their generally snug fit, they do require a little effort to pull on and off. It's not that challenging mind you, and it results in a snug and supportive fit, but it pales in comparison to roomy slip-on models.
Oboz added a small rubber shelf on the boot's heel that keeps snowshoe straps in place and is a surface to grab with your toes if you take your boots off with your feet. They've also included a small metal D-ring at the base of the laces that makes attaching a gaiter quick and easy.
The Bridger 10 boasts impressive traction thanks to their winterized Granite Peak Outsole. The outsole is identical in shape and lug design to their standard hiking outsole but features their winter rubber compound, which they claim grips in a greater variety of conditions. The outsole features a deep and aggressively lugged design that has sharp edges in all directions. These lugs grip well while hiking both up and downhill, and they provide good bite on steep sidehills. The design bites well in both soft and firm snow surfaces, and all of the lugs have a little bit of siping (i.e., small slices that increase surface area) that adds to their grip on very firm snow and icy surfaces.
When we tested these boots head to head against others on a very slippery ice patch behind our lead tester's house, the traction performed admirably. However, they were not the absolute best boots when it comes to traction, a quality held by Columbia.
Getting your feet into a pair of these boots will certainly set you back a little bit. In this case, we feel these boots still represent a good value considering the comfort, warmth, waterproofness, and traction they provide. We also like the attention to detail and quality craftsmanship, which appears to be top-notch. These boots will likely last you for years of faithful service. If you're looking for the best value in a winter boot, check out our Best Buy Award winner, which costs less than half the Bridger at retail price.
Testers are very impressed with virtually every aspect of the Bridger 10, earning them our Editors' Choice award. The sizing runs a bit on the small side, and those on the upper end of a whole size should consider sizing up a half size. Beyond that, we these boots to have a snug and precise fit with a moderately stiff upper that provides excellent support when hiking or snowshoeing. They are the warmest boots in this review, with 400g of Thinsulate insulation and a heat-reflective insole that helps keep your feet toasty warm.Testers also found them completely water-resistant, with a waterproof breathable B-Dry membrane that genuinely works. The lacing system is user-friendly, and the outsole provides excellent traction on all surfaces and conditions. If you're looking for a boot that can do it all, from serious winter hiking or snowshoeing to chores around the house, we don't think you'll find a better boot than the Bridger 10.
— Jeremy Benson