A winter 15 deg f hiking boot conundrum…weight, warmth, durability
Dec 10, 2020 at 12:08 pm #3688136
I’m going to look for lightweight boot shells that I can use my wool felt liners or the equivalent of loose fitting sock layers. Tight budget so might look at the used market if I really really need to. These are for rough, no snow, trail conditions.
Here’s the conundrum – My boots (the uninsulated shell) vary from 27 oz to 87 oz. The heavier Rocky and Sorrel are heavy synthetic plastic/rubber bottoms and leather tops.
Seems the boot temp ratings have nothing to do with the shell weight, and the liners happen to all be about the same weight. What gives? Is it only the liner and fit that matter?
Rocky -10 deg boots, (pair) shells are 87 oz. foam liners 7 oz. These I can stay out all day at +10 deg, lots of sitting, and not freeze my feet off.
Sorrel +20 deg boots (pair) shells are 63 oz. wool felt liners 7 oz. These are only good to +20 deg all day, even when walking, and when inactive for a couple hours my feet start to get cold.
Steger mukluks, shell (pair) are 25 oz. wool felt liners 7 oz. No idea yet my personal cold temp limits are with these. I really don’t want to wear these on rocky or rough trails without snow.Dec 10, 2020 at 3:11 pm #3688173
Quick question, have you used some sort of VBL against the skin or over a liner sock and inside your main insulating sock when testing your comfort level at these temperatures? It makes a big difference for me. I like oven bags.Dec 10, 2020 at 3:22 pm #3688178
@iago No, never used bags, but I will now. Is there a difference of putting the VBL (breadbag) over all my socks, or does it have to be under my main insulating socks? I like the idea of the bag helping to insure all my socks stay dry as well as act as a VBL. I suppose I should try both ways: one foot in and one foot out? :-)Dec 10, 2020 at 4:05 pm #3688188
If the boot has room, I will layer a thin liner inside. Often my boots are not oversized enough and I will wear the oven bag directly on my skin layering the sock over it so my immediate insulating layer is dry. This is key to comfort for me.
Then making sure that the sock’s volume does not overwhelm the boot volume constricting my feet or being mindful not to overtighten one’s laces to create unnecesary constriction.
I have also found that switching the insoles for wool felt or foam with a silver reflective top layer helps keep my feet warm.
When outdoors at those temperatures, I am typically mostly moving and do not need a huge amount of insulation. One of my favorite winter boots is a full size larger than I typically use and it is wide width (Vasque something or other). It is uninsulated but I can wear two pairs of socks, one midweight and one heavy weight over my oven bag. So my socks act as my insulating liner system and I have a lightweight boot. I have been happy with that system and taken it to zero in a couple of occasions. When winter camping, the socks can be brought into the sleeping bag to stay warm or can be exchanged for new pairs. If for whatever reason the socks get wet, I could exchange the wet sock(s) for my sleeping socks and spare. Then I would use two bags, one against my skin and the other over the dry socks so as keep them both dry from the moisture from my feet and the moisture in the boot. I came up with this solution after being unable to find lightweight insulated boots with a removable liners.Dec 10, 2020 at 5:10 pm #3688203StumphgesBPL Member
For hiking you only need waterproof shoe/boot + wool sock for 15F.Dec 10, 2020 at 6:40 pm #3688228Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I’ve posted on BPL at least a dozen time about the BEST VBLs around. They are 3 mm thick closed cell neoprene divers’ socks. Mine are from US Divers because they have Left and Right shaped feet and factory sealed seams.
You wear these warm VBLs over thin polyester liner socks and NO other socks (because they won’t fit inside your regular hiking boots.
Change out the poly liner socks every night before bed and turn the neoprene VBLs inside-out to dry.
THIS is the warmest and most long lasting VBL I’ve ever used, and believe me I’ve used everything from coated ripstop VBL booties to plastic bags.
If you have Gore-Tex or other Waterproof Breathable liner (WPB) so much the better because the inside of your boots will stay dry IF you have a good VBL.
I use my US Divers VBLs inside my felt pacs, plastic SCARPA backcountry ski boots as well as my 3 season GTX MERRILL MOAB hiking boots. For really cold weather where insulated boots are necessary you should ALWAYS have boots with removable insulating liners so that can be removed at night and put inside your sleeping bag to stay warm. Don’t agree? Then you have never put your feet into freezing cold boots in the morning and later felt the pain of cold toes as you tried to make breakfast or break camp!Dec 10, 2020 at 8:07 pm #3688251
LOL. You folks are killing me. Funny how so many of us don’t catch on to the excellent advice already posted in other threads. I would not have put 2 and 2 together without the firm admonishment to use VBL’s and, of all things, neoprene boots or socks. Duh.
Earlier this winter I wore Sealskins neoprene waterproof socks inside my frozen Steger mukluks (couldn’t avoid all the water so they did get a little wet inside and those liners are a b*tch to get out of the boot) and my feet stayed very very warm though the boots didn’t really thaw for a couple hours of walking. That was when we still had snow and 18 deg at night up by Ely.
I’ll match up wool socks I have with the Sealskinz and plastic bags with my larger GoLite unlined waterproof boots and give them a few sessions this winter to get an idea of what temperature limits that setup has.
Never thought I would have so much difficulty accepting the truth of lightweight, mobile, backpacking. It’s taking me years to unlearn the gospel of heavy clothing and gear when out in the woods.
I’m 61, grew up rural mid-MN, ice fishing, learned to hunt deer hot-tenting for a week or two with my dad up by Baudette, and done my share of wading in knee deep slush getting snowmobile’s unstuck. Did some late-October night diving in Leech Lake with wet suits. Yeah, I know cold feet. Don’t want to experience it anymore.Dec 11, 2020 at 5:15 am #3688277
Not sure you would need a VBL with Sealskinz socks. If I understand Eric’s system correctly, they may be unnecessary. Perhaps he can clarify.
I loved the idea of neoprene socks. I tried Sealskinz and some other neoprene ski socks and I don’t like the fit of the ones I ended up buying. They seem built too narrow for my wide feet. So I went to wool or synthetic socks with plastic bags and I am much happier with that approach. Perhaps if Altra starts making neoprene socks with the wide toe box I will give them a try again.
I have the impression that your boots have plenty of insulation and you just need to figure out the sock system.
Sounds like a great childhood well spent outdoors :)Dec 11, 2020 at 6:45 am #3688282
@iago Yeah, I’m fortunate to have had such a childhood. Just didn’t know it until I grew up.
You’re right on all points: don’t need other neoprene socks with the Sealskins. At some point I’ll probably try some properly fitting 3 mil as Eric spelled out.
What I’m trying to do is get light, durable, warm boots for these odd minimal-snow cold stretches. The Rocky and Sorrel are way to heavy. Built like tanks. The Steger’s are the cats meow in the snow. My first pair, bought at the factory in Ely this fall on a whim and because it was colder and more snow than I expected.Dec 11, 2020 at 8:09 am #3688288Matt DirksenBPL Member
@namelesswayLocale: Mid Atlantic
Speaking of neoprene socks… has anyone tried NRS .5 mm neoprene socks? Being thinner than some of the other neoprene socks out there, might these be a good contender?Dec 11, 2020 at 9:04 am #3688309Dave @ OwareBPL Member
@bivysack-comLocale: East Washington
I like the thin neo socks so I can layer with wool socks too. The last pair was 1mm. Got them thru Campmor.
NRS has some thin ones, haven’t tried that brand tho.
I am all about neoprene socks. Even wore one pair as my only socks on a 21 day summer Sierra Trip inside leather hikers as a test-no blisters, nice cushioning, felt a bit clammy but I ignored that. Wore well too.
They are not as warm as wool socks for the same thickness but really cushion when kicking steps and hiking downhill and keep outer layers dryer.Dec 11, 2020 at 10:45 am #3688328Dondo .BPL Member
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
Matt, those are the socks that I’ve been using over a pair of thin X-Static liners. The seams on the NRS socks are sewn tightly but not taped. The socks are marked Left and Right and fit my my feet well. And they do help keep my feet warm and dryish. A pair of size XL weighs 3.3 oz. on my scale.Dec 13, 2020 at 12:17 pm #3688745Tom MBPL Member
Im a big fan of these https://www.baffin.com/products/wicrm001 paired with darn tough wool socks. The liners remove and you can wear them at night in your sleeping bag or throw them in the bottom. Not cheap but by far the lightest and best winter traverse boots I’ve ever owned.Dec 13, 2020 at 8:20 pm #3688842Tjaard BreeuwerBPL Member
@tjaardLocale: Minnesota, USA
I wear Neos over boots with heat moldable foam liners (Intuition or Palau). But, this set up is mostly for snow, since it has the built in gaiters. And for colder temps. The closed cell foam liners are much better than felt liners: they don’t absorb water, whether from creek wading or sweat.
For your scenario I would just go Altra Lone Peak Mid RSM or similar sized up. I have them in regular size, and the roomy toe box would work well with thicker socks/liners.Around 15F I don’t think you will have much need for a felt liner.
VBL work supremely well for me in winter. I too use neoprene socks to combine VBL with some stretch and insulation. Covered with a mid weight sock and perhaps a gaiter, this would be light and comfy to walk in.
If you want a removable liner, then that Baffin boot seems awesome. Just replace the felt liner with a foam one. I upgraded my Steger Mukluks to the Palau liners and never looked back. When the Mukluks wore out, I wanted something more waterproof and with a better sole, so that’s why I got the Neos boots. The Neos are not great boots though, with a clunky sole, so if you can live without slip on functionality and calf height, that’s the way to go.Dec 14, 2020 at 9:20 am #3688919
There’s a distinct possibility I would have had warmer feet on many of those cold November hunts with a VBL. We’d walk, then sit for hours, (getting cold feet) then walk again. Every night I would have to dry my liners.Dec 14, 2020 at 9:31 am #3688926
Thanks for the suggestions on the Altria’s, Baffins, and liners. That gives me something to work with. I’ll get something similar that fits large enough and in my budget.
Better to fit better liners and then find the boots that fit?? Addendum: yikes! I just saw the price of those foam liners. I’m gonna have to stick with my array of wool socks.
Good to know I was halfway there with my similar GoLite boots- just missing the VBL.Dec 14, 2020 at 1:00 pm #3688979Tjaard BreeuwerBPL Member
@tjaardLocale: Minnesota, USA
The foam liners do last a long time. I am still using this pair after 6 years, and I wear these boots several times a week in winter.
You can also look for Intuition liners branded as Scarpa AT ski boot liners. Sierra some times has those on sale(I bought them for my kids ski boots for $60). Unfortunately for this type of use, they mostly sell the beefier ones from the more downhill oriented boots. For hiking I I would prefer the models from the lightweight, more uphill oriented boots. You could mod the beefier ones.
But again, if 15f is as low as you will see while hiking, I would just get a waterproof midheight boot with a roomy toebox( hence the Altra suggestion), and use neoprene socks, covered with a midweight wool sock. Then for camp some super thick down or synthetic booties.
That is an inexpensive set up.Dec 14, 2020 at 8:52 pm #3689068Mike MBPL Member
Speaking of neoprene socks… has anyone tried NRS .5 mm neoprene socks? Being thinner than some of the other neoprene socks out there, might these be a good contender
That’s what a bunch of us use on the Bob Marshall Open in conjunction with a trail runner. In May traveling across the Bob your feet are always wet and potentially cold- frequent creek/river fords, cold mornings and nights and lots of snowshoeing insure this. The NRS .5mm with a very (very) thin liner sock has been the best thing I’ve come up with to deal with those conditions.Dec 22, 2020 at 9:11 pm #3690331
Purchased a pair of Keen’s in wide size that I can wear a light liner sock and my heaviest wool sock w/o feeling like they are binding. Even with my experience, I’m still a noob when it comes to performance gear and hiking, along with the realization I’m not 30-something anymore. Hey, at least every day is a new day!
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