Winter boots for backpacking ?

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Satchel Buddah
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Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Satchel Buddah » Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:12 pm

Hi folks,
I am slowly creeping towards the idea of backpacking in winter. There's a bunch of skills and gear I need to work on before I proceed, I guess one of the big items is boots.

While I have done day hikes in deep snow with either big leather zamberlan boots, or north face trail runners (surprisingly good and dry with tall gaiters), all of these ended with a warm indoor night.

From early reading it appears sleeping with your boots in your sleeping bag so they do not freeze overnight is a good idea, and having boots with a separate liner that you can slip out of the shoe seems like it would make this more comfortable... But I do not see much of that apart in high end mountaineering gear which might look a bit overkill...

What are you using if you are going multiday in the snow and cold ?








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bobby49
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by bobby49 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 1:33 pm

I used to lead snow camping trips for beginners, either on X-C skis or snowshoes. We were mostly using some serious boots while moving during the day. Then we would typically dig a snow cave, since that is much warmer than a tent. Once we got situated inside, we would pull off the serious boots and put on down booties. Once the sleeping bag is out of its stuff sack, then the stuff sack is turned inside out. The snowy wet boots would be placed inside the stuff sack (so the wetness is contained on the outer surface of the stuff sack). Then that is placed inside the sleeping bag down in the bottom. Alternatively, if you have two people with their sleeping bags snugged up next to each other, then the boot bag can be placed between the two sleeping bags. If you are forced to leave the boots outside of the sleeping bag, then bury them in a snow hole to keep the wind off.

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neil d
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by neil d » Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:16 pm

I finally got out of leather boots for snowtime a few years ago...picked up a pair of insulated Merrells for pretty cheap at REI (not on the website as of now). They are LIGHT, which I love, and just insulated enough. I find they work great paired with full-coverage gaiters. Have not had a problem with them freezing at night, but I am generally pretty low, below 7,000 feet.

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bobby49
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by bobby49 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:44 pm

I've camped as high as 19,500 feet in the snow. There, you have to do everything perfectly or else you have frostbite and similar problems. When at normal elevations in snow, it isn't nearly so bad.

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Satchel Buddah
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Satchel Buddah » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:11 pm

Thank you for the tips Bobby! Very helpful.
I had been looking indeed at snow caves. That’s a skill I certainly want to acquire.
I am going to start nice and slow and low :) no 19ks on the horizon for me yet until I become much wiser, I will make sure indeed that I hike safe ( I am solo most of the time, So I need to make sure that I know what I am doing).
Been looking around for winter hiking classes, or maybe a beginner mountaineering class that would give me some basics and better risk assessment. I see there is stuff available in the eastern Sierra, but I need to figure a basic gear setup before I go there.

Neil, I used a pair of these several years ago, but I was a bit disappointed- wet toes at the end of the day, and the micro spikes did a number on the rubber shell that came out in pieces a little later. These were not the fanciest Merrell, I might need to revisit.

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bobby49
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by bobby49 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:41 pm

Here is the rule: If you can keep yourself and your gear absolutely 100% dry, then it is not that hard to keep warm. As soon as your gear starts getting wet (from rain, snow, or sweat), then you are headed toward a hard time.

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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:00 pm

Depends on where you "winter" backpack. High altitude and serious cold need serious winter foot gear. And the boots must not be too tight so that circulation is cut off. Having appropriate stuff is important for all equipment; four season tent, stoves, clothing. Snow caves are great in the right conditions; if it gets too warm inside they drip like crazy. Lots of safety issues with selecting the proper spot and digging them and maintaining ventilation. Serious winter conditions are nothing to play with- you really need some training. Small mistakes can become deadly quickly.

I will date myself with this! I did several NOLS winter mountaineering courses 1969-74 in Wyoming and our clothing was specially made. We used a lot of Army surplus skiis, skins, boots. We also had thick felt "mukluks" for camp (called them bunny boots) when day temperatures stayed well below freezing. In wetter conditions we used "Micky Mouse" boots- a rubberized version. Huge big toe boxes. Down booties for inside the sleeping bag.

If on the other hand, you backpack in spring snow conditions in the Sierra, at lower elevations, you will not likely need serious high altitude winter boots. In the wet-snow conditions, you will likely get your feet wet regardless, so be sure to have something warm and dry to wear when done snowshoeing or skiing. When my kids were little we always got them "moon boots", very light weight waterproof insulated boots. Not sure if they even make these any more. Down booties (or synthetic booties) are great.

Anything you do not want frozen and stiff by morning, put in a dry-bag inside your sleeping bag. I got to the point where I would just open the laces on my boots wide open and let them freeze, then they would thaw out on my feet while skiing, re-tightening laces as the day wore on. They actually seemed to stay drier that way then inside a waterproof sack in the sleeping bag.

You may look into double boots, if they still make those.

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ironmike
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by ironmike » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:20 pm

Double boots are still a thing. Many brands available but they are heavy, expensive, and likely overkill unless you are in serious winter mountaineering environments (I have only used them in Antarctica, the Himalaya, Andes, and the Alaska Range) for extended trips. They do have some practicality in terms of being able to extract the inner boot and use it around camp or in the tent. For winter trips in CONUS, I would prefer a single boot, somewhat rigid (consider plastic) to facilitate use with crampons or skis on extreme terrain, and perhaps with an integrated gaiter to save weight.

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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by mrphil » Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:50 am

If you want something basic, time-tested, and that are almost invariably warm and dry, with a removable liner, why not just look into a good old pair of Sorels? They're also going to give you the biggest bang for the buck at about $150 and will also work with snowshoes, some ski bindings, and most strap-on crampons. Beyond that, you can start looking at what the military is currently using/testing for troops like the 10th Mountain ("Bunny boots"/ECWBs are being phased out). And then well beyond that, you have high-altitude, extreme weather plastic mountaineering boots with a removable inner like Koflachs, but anything worth it is going to run you a big chunk of change and come with their own sets of problems.

IMO, Sorels kick butt for just about everything in the winter.

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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by TahoeJeff » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:05 am

mrphil wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:50 am
Sorels kick butt for just about everything in the winter.
I've lived, worked and played in the snow for 30+ years, and Sorels have never let me down.
(Kamik boots are a good bet too)
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