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Mukluk Math


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  • #3747820
    Atif K
    BPL Member

    @atifethica-institute-2

    I am seriously considering investing in a pair of Steger Mukluks for winter hikes in temperatures ranging from -40 F (-40 C) to 20 F (-7 C). Past systems fail below -5 F (-21 C).

    Comparing weights with the footwear system described in Will Rietveld’s excellent article, “Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel Part 3: Model Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Hiking, Snowshoeing, and Snow Camping,” the article says under “Lightweight Footwear System For Hiking In Continuous Snow In Frigid Temperatures”: “Our model system: liner sock, vapor barrier sock, heavy wool sock, insulated footbed, insulated waterproof/breathable boot, and a tall gaiter. Total weight for size large is about 32 ounces/foot…Additional Footwear Needed For Snow Camping In A Frigid Temperature Scenario – We recommend adding extra pairs of heavy liners, heavy wool socks, warm insulated booties, and Tyvek boot covers. The total weight for a size large is about 10 ounces/foot.” The article adds, “If it’s really brutal, put on the vapor barrier socks. Change socks as needed to remove moisture,” implying that the system may require additional pieces (and weight) to function efficiently.

    This trail runner system comes to 42 ounces per foot, or 2.625 lbs (1.19 kg) for active and rest use, and requires 10 pairs of footwear (not including backup socks for VBL moisture buildup).

    The Steger Mukluks come to 2.5 lbs (1.13 kg) for the mukluk and liner sock, and totals 2 pairs of footwear.

    For freezing temperatures, the mukluk system is lighter, warmer, more breathable, more durable, more convenient, more comfortable, fewer moving parts to keep track of, and can be worn while walking or at rest.

    Am I missing something?

    #3747833
    Stumphges
    BPL Member

    @stumphges

    I wear mukluks 4-5 months out of the year, am fond of them, so biased. I doubt they can be beat for cold temp travel. I would not take them on any trip when temps were to be above freezing at any time. I’d look at something else, too, for mountainous terrain.

    im curious to try Wiggy’s Lamilite liners in Stegers. The wool felt liners are great, but are very hard to remove,  and if they get wet take an age of men or more to dry. I think one could take two pair of those liners at similar weight. The fit and feel would probably change, though. As the felt liners do not compress much and are part of the mykluk structure.

    #3747836
    Atif K
    BPL Member

    @atifethica-institute-2

    When have you gotten them wet in freezing weather? Mistepping a stream crossing?

    In the off chance this might happen in freezing temperatures, because the mukluks breathe, would the heat from something like a Rocky GTX sock dry out a liner (assuming other measures are taken: hot water bottle, absorbent microfiber, liners under mat, etc)?

    To my original post I would also add that the mukluks are cheaper than a 10 pair trail shoe system.

    #3747837
    Eugene Hollingsworth
    BPL Member

    @geneh_bpl

    Locale: Mid-Minnesota

    I picked up a pair in Ely a couple years ago and swear by ’em now – as a specialty boot. (I came to hike with the wrong footwear for the cold and snow that we did not have in Mpls.)

    Upside they are comfortable and light like a soft pair of slippers though it’s a tall cold weather boot. Everything you said I totally agree with. Mine are the less-expensive leather version with a single nylon strap so I don’t have to lace anything up.  There’s also a waterproof model just a little heavier. Removeable liners make drying them out much easier.

    Downside is that beautiful soft and grippy type of rubber used for the sole is susceptible to damage from excessive heat during storage, (I suppose that would be like 100 deg f) chemicals like on a garage floor, and wear on abrasive asphalt surfaces. I don’t use them as a everyday work-on-my-car winter boot.

    My hike was 15 deg up to just above freezing. The boots got wet from some running water and stuff. I used bread bags over my socks and never felt uncomfortable, though in the morning the boots themselves were frozen stiff. No biggie, still were warm. Some of my use is just sitting for hours in 10 deg f, and my feet always freeze, so this I purchased larger size to handle extra thick socks as well as an extra felt liner in the bottom if I want.

     

    #3747840
    Stumphges
    BPL Member

    @stumphges

    Atik,

    I meant primarily that I avoid wearing them if the snow will be wet at any time. Not so much for day hikes, but certainly for overnight stuff. We had some heavy, wet snow at 30F temps recently and the Mukluks got soaked and very heavy. Take a long time to dry out.

    For stream crossings, a quick dash or even a quick dunk is not a problem, especially if you’ve put some kind of DWR on them. Steger used to recommend Snow-Seal, a beeswax melt-in product, that does make the moose hide effectively waterproof, but also destroys breathability. They now recommend a spray-on silicone DWR that works fine. I actually prefer the Nikwax product made for suede. I purposely wear the mukluks in wet snow early in the year, go home, and liberally apply the Nikwax stuff (it needs to be applied to wet suede). Once or thrice per year should be good. Treated like this, I can dash across a stream,  or have a boot go through the ice, without the moosehide wetting out. It’s prolonged rubbing contact with wet snow or puddles that will spell disaster to mukluks.

    Apart from water, the other weakness of Mukluks is sidehilling – they don’t have the structure in the upper to provide enough stability and the latex soles are constructed in a style that leaves a vulnerability to sliding sideways.

    Regarding soles, I much prefer the thicker, Arctic soles, and my recent pair is the Yukons with the Arctic soles, heavy Cordura upper and single buckle for cinching the boot at the ankle. I would not buy any other model after trying these. The sole is thicker and far sturdier than the thinner sole on the majority of their models, and offers better traction on hardpack and glare ice than anything I’ve tried, short of spikes.

    Sizing and fit: I used to buy them in Wide width – and that’s another plus for the Arctic sole (they come in Wide) – but changed strategy this time. I am a 9 E US men on a Brannock Device. I used to get 10 Wide in the Arctic sole. My current pair is 11 Regular width.

    Steger used to make both right and left mukluks identical. A couple years ago they made them asymmetrical. So instead of being round/pointed in the toe they are now a little oblique. Only a little, though, they are still pretty round in the toe, rather than square like a foot. I like oblique-toed shoes – like Altra – so I took some insoles from a pair of 9.5 Altras into the Steger shop. Stegers come now with a rather thick disco-elastic insole that is removable, and apparently an alternative to the second wool felt footbed that used to come with the boots (and that you can still buy). I found that my Altra insole fit into the 11 Regular better than the 10 Wide, so that’s what I bought.

    Now, Steger encourage you to buy a little tight, anticipating the moosehide stretching to fit. I don’t do that, because it will stretch around the girth of your foot, but not around the toes. Getting ample toe box space, for me, required doing what I did. But the result is a looser, sloppier fit than they recommend. But I then cut a pair of those thick wool felt insoles to match the Altra insoles and put them into the 11s, taking up the extra space. The result, with a midnight sock, is a pretty snug fit that does not restrict anywhere. I usually, however, wear a light, liner-weight, sock in tempts above 10F or so. I think this provides additional breathability – some air, I think, flows down the boot cuff (which I only tighten in deep snow) around the foot and back out again. Worn like this, with thin socks, I can wear mukluks into the 40s for casual walking. By spring, my feet are so used to the comfort of these boots that I will often wear them after the snow has all melted.

    The latex soles will be destroyed by any contact with gasoline, probably also motor oil. I never wear them in the city, and if I need to get gas on my way back to town I’ll change into a pair of sneakers before getting out at the gas station. Even a little gas will start degrading the latex, resulting in a progressively stickier and sticker sole. My wife’s last pair is currently in the attic, stuck to the floor where she last set them. They are ruined.

    I try to avoid abrasive surfaces. The latex will survive indefinitely on snow and ice, but is also pretty hardy when it comes to stones and rock. It’s concrete and other textured human-made substrates that will sand the latex down. I wore my first pair around town a lot and they wore through at the heel.

    Steger used to make an “Apache” model of unlined mid-height moosehide moccasins that were like miniature Mukluks. Their latex soles did surprisingly well on natural surfaces during three-season wear. The toes on mine eventually developed holes – I wore them in town too much.

    One last thing about Yukon model – the black cordura is stiff enough that after three seasons it still stands up just right without any tendency to collapse and gather around the ankle.

    #3747849
    Atif K
    BPL Member

    @atifethica-institute-2

    I really appreciate the time and care you’ve both taken in responding. This is really helpful, and confirms that Steger Mukluks are exactly what I need. It will be a relief after so many winters spent tolerating discomfort. I can hardly imagine ending a day of hiking with warm feet!

    Good to hear that the bread bag backup worked to keep things warm, though if most of the hike is above freezing my system would be different. I will take care to store them somewhere cool and stay clear of caustic and corrosive substances.

    Stumphges, like you I also have Altra’s for regular use in 11 (my foot is 11.2 long and 4.6 wide, or double wide). Steger recommends a 13 double wide. Do you think I should jump to a 12 double wide or a 13 double wide?

    #3747852
    AK Granola
    BPL Member

    @granolagirlak

    Most of the folks i know wear Steger mukluks in winter here for remote travel (Fairbanks). But in my opinion they’re not really for above zero F; they’re just too warm and feet get wet from sweat at that temperature. You can carry extra liners and switch them out though. I have Salomon Toundras for hiking where I’m likely to get wet feet (overflow, etc.). Above zero on trails I just use summer hiking boots, currently Keens, and bring extra socks.

    It’s hard to have one pair of footwear do multiple tasks. Every arctic entry in Alaska pretty much has an Imelda-like closet full of shoes and boots. Breakup boots for mud season (now), sandals for boating, garden clogs, ski boots – sometimes multiple for different kinds of skiing, running shoes, biking shoes.

    #3747862
    Stumphges
    BPL Member

    @stumphges

    Atif, you wear 11 in Altra and Steger is recommending 13 Double Wide? Interesting.

    As I mentioned, I wear 9 or 9,5 in Altra (9 Wide in the current Lone Peak); when I was in the Steger shop, the fitter actually recommended I try the 9, saying that they would stretch out. But the big toe region would never stretch out to be “straight” like an oblique toe box shoe like Altras, so I sized up. She also said that some people like em loose, some like em tight.

    So I tried a bunch of sizes and ended up with 11 Regular, so 2 sizes up from my Brannock 9 E measurement. This size was chosen partially because I tend to like really thin socks, and have found in the past that Steger Mukluks will keep me warm while walking down -10F or so with just thin liner socks on. Given that most of my hiking days are above -10F, I sized them for this. Had I sized them to wear with heavy socks, I probably would have gone 11 Wide.

    Actually, I just put them on with heavy socks and new wool felt insoles, and they are snug, but not tight. I prefer them a little looser than this. I actually think they are warmer when a little bit loose, but some might find them sloppy the way I like them. So if you’re going to be consistently well below zero, and wearing heavy socks most of the time, I might go 13 Wide. 13 will give you the length you need for your big toe not to be pushed over, and Wide should give you enough overall girth to accommodate thick socks, and a wool felt insoles. (BTW, it appears to me that Steger still do include a pair of wool felt insoles with each pair.) A note on sizing up two sizes: This will give your big toes enough length, but the rest of the toe box will be too long. So your feet will look big. But apart from the aesthetics of it, the extra length doesn’t bother me – because the boots are so flexible, the extra length just flexes out of the way when stepping.

    I hope that helps.

    Finally, unlike AK Granola, I don’t find Stegers to be too warm when above 0F. Maybe this is because I wear thin socks, which allows a bit of an air gap that might improve breathability. I don’t know. But I’ve always been impressed with the great range of comfortable temps I experience with them. But like AK, I also have a mid-warmth waterproof boot (200gram insulation class) for 35-25F and wet. I used to wear these boots more often, as they will keep me warm down to about 10F while active, but the past two years I’ve ended up wearing my Mukluks almost every day in winter, unless it’s wet or there is gasoline on the ground:)

     

    #3747888
    Atif K
    BPL Member

    @atifethica-institute-2

    Stumphges,

    In that case, I will do what you do and size up 2. So a 13 double wide.

    You make good points and confirm my sense that I should err on the side of conservatism. My splaying Hobbit toes actually like the roomy toe box and loose feel of the Altras and after a couple of days of hiking my feet expand anyway. Moreover, ever since skiing Lake Louise with inadequate footwear all day in -30 C weather over 25 years ago, my toes have never been quite the same, so would like the option of a thicker sock just in case.

    I really appreciate your advice. It has been very helpful. God bless.

    #3748746
    Tjaard Breeuwer
    BPL Member

    @tjaard

    Locale: Minnesota, USA

    I owned the Camuk Extremes for several years. When they wore through the ankle from rubbing on my bike crank, I did not replace them with Steger Mukluks. I found they were not the best option for most winter use.

    Here are my thoughts. They are not to say that the Steger Mukluks are bad per se, but definitely have a think about how and where you will use your footwear, and whether the Mukluks are your best option.

    The number one drawback was the soft sole, lack of a sturdy toe and lack of a grippy tread design.
    This makes walking on many (winter) surfaces less comfortable and secure. I am not advocating for fully rigid mountaineering boot soles, but a bit of stiffness at the toe, to dig in as you push of at the end of your stride, and especially when climbing firm snow slopes, is really beneficial.

    The tread design is not very grippy. Look at any other mud, dirt and snow footwear and you get independent ‘lugs’ that can truly penetrate the soft surface for grip, as well a clean pretty well. Instead the mukluk sole has continuous ridges.

    The super soft sole also precludes the use of screw in carbide studs, which I have in my other footwear, for walking on ice.

    The lack of structure in the Mukluk, combined with the lack of lacing across the foot, means that on more challenging terrain, it really hampers your control and ability to move well.

    The soft foot means snowshoes, or skis with universal bindings, dig into the foot, creating pressure points (and making it harder to take the snowshoes on and off).

    The other part is moisture management.
    Two things here. The first is internal moisture from your foot. The idea is that unlike other footwear, they are breathable. I’d say, when you look at test results for jackets and such as done by Stephen Seeber and others, we see that any kind of thick material has poor breathability. And most insulation and shells tested for jackets are way more breathable than felt and leather. This is made worse by the fact that you would be using these in extreme cold, where the dew point would almost certainly be inside the leather shell.
    I don’t doubt that on day hikes they will move more moisture  away from your foot than most other systems, but overnight I am sure there is a lot trapped in the wool felt liner.

    If you are hot camping, or on day trips, this might still work out well, as you then dry the liner out at night.

    For me, I found that my feet got cold at camp in the evening, so I switched to vapor barrier socks, and or vapor barrier mukluk liners. Obviously negating the benefit of a breathable shell.

    The other issue is water from the outside. Yes, if it is very cold, you won’t have rain, but you can’t always predict the weather that well for a trip.

    And, one of my favorite places for winter travel is the rivers and creeks of the Northshore of Lake Superior. Even in the coldest times, there is still a chance of punching through some thin ice (it forms in layers) and getting a wet foot.
    So for that (admittedly more limited use case, although I believe Alaskans travel on rivers a lot, and I have seen open water or overflow there too) Mukluks, being both not waterproof, and extremely absorbing, are a very poor choice.

     

    Curently I am using a pair of unlined Neos boots, with closed cell foam (ski boot style) liners. This provided me a waterproof boot up to the top, no gaiters needed.

    Dunking a foot deeper than that is unpleasant, but if I quickly pour the water out and put it back on, it is quite survivable, since neither shell nor liner hold any water.

    For the same reason, my feet are warm even when I stop moving in the evening (as long as I wear thin socks, or vapor barrier socks underneath warmer socks).

    The sole is strong enough to take gripstuds for ice traction, and has better grip than  the Mukluks, and is more comfortable to walk in.

    However, they are not ideal:

    Like the Mukluks they lack lacing over the foot, and are soft over the instep. Also even more than the mukluks, they have a overly wide mid and rear sole (wide toe box is good for warmth, and high instep for the same, but a more normal sole  is better for walking, and fatbiking)

    Also, the material and construction is pretty low end (but so is the price, and so far they have held up).

    Ideally I would want a fairly lightweight tall, waterproof  outer boot, with laces and a real sole, to use with the closed cell foam boot liners

    #3748769
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Dunking a foot deeper than that is unpleasant, but if I quickly pour the water out and put it back on, it is quite survivable,
    Yes, but standing on one foot in the snow on the bank of a river is not all that easy. Putting bare foot on the snow horrible too!

    Cheers

    #3748895
    Tjaard Breeuwer
    BPL Member

    @tjaard

    Locale: Minnesota, USA

    Roger, fortunately this has been a rare occurrence, but when it has happened, I sit down ;-)

    #3749756
    Atif K
    BPL Member

    @atifethica-institute-2

    Thank you Tjaard.

    I contacted Steger and they confirm that their mukluks can be used with microspikes and snowshoes.

    For the breathability, I have not heard of moisture collection in the Stegers. But should some moisture still remain in the liners, I face the choice of either, 1) removing the slightly damp liners and putting them under or inside my bag and wearing the one spare wool sock that I plan to bring inside the boot; or 2) wearing heavier boots. Given that the likelihood of 1 is minimal to none, and the likelihood of 2 is an every-step-of-the-way certainty, I would prefer 1.

    For breaking through ice, this has only happened to me once in decades and, while the experience was unpleasant (never thought heart rate could accelerate so quickly just standing idle), I plan some redundancy by carrying a VBL anyway, which I would don along with the spare wool sock. Again, a small chance with a mukluk vs. the continuous weight of a conventional boot system.

    I hope to report back in the winter.

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