Winter boots for backpacking ?

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Satchel Buddah
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Satchel Buddah » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:27 pm

thank you for the tips! Looked through the sorels and that looks promising, no fluff and affordable! they do seem heavy but... You can't have everything in life :)








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Tom_H
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Tom_H » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:39 am

I used to do winter trips in both Virginia and Colorado, both as a participant and as a group leader for the professional outfitter who employed me. VA trips involved a lot of hiking on glazed ice. CO trips required both nordic mountaineering skiis and high weight snowshoes.

Mountaineering double boots were not suitable for either application as the foot could not rotate adequately. These are better suited for climbing glaciers and ice with crampons. What did work in both environments was a pair of high ankle collar leather boots, fairly flexible leather uppers with gusseted tongue and snow cuffs, with thick wool fleece insulation lining the entirety of the upper. The soles were Vibram lugs and they had a tightly woven wool felt insert in the sole that was a half inch thick. These were replaceable. The toes of the boots were squared off to fit into cable bindings and the heel had a deep centered groove around it for the cable to fit. These worked well with the nordic mountaineering skis as well as the snowshoes. They also worked well for hiking in cold weather with no ice or snow. In VA on the ice, I used microspikes on the same boots. I wore two pair of exceptionally thick wool winter mountaineering socks in all applications. The combination of wool insulation and wool socks kept my feet warm at temps. down to -30. Gaiters were necessary in both environments.
Last edited by Tom_H on Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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jwalliser
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by jwalliser » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:51 am

I did some hiking/snowshoeing and overnight backpacking in Desolation Wilderness last January. Two of us used Keen Summit County and the other wore the North Face Chilkat 400. Everybody was happy with their footwear. I wore the Keens and my feet stayed warm throughout, even when standing in several inches of water over a frozen lake for half the day. For the overnight, my boots were pretty soaked with sweat by the end of a 5 mile hike. I used the technique mentioned of keeping them in a plastic bag at the bottom of my sleeping bag. It didn't effect my comfort the next day be cause we hiked out, but they probably wouldn't have been as warm if I was sitting around camp in them. I'm considering using a vapor liner in the future to avoid soaking them in sweat on longer hikes/overnights. Here is a pretty solid review of some winter boots: https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/s ... nter-boots

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Tom_H
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Tom_H » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:22 pm

The boots I mentioned above were suitable for hiking on cold dry trails, and also for use with micro spikes, snowshoes, and old style mountaineering cable bindings (with no pins). Our skis were oak with wax bottoms, suitable for nordic touring with a heavy pack, but the boots would not have been the best for trying to telemark. Our bindings had hinged swivel toe pieces and the cables were attached to a heavy duty spring. This allowed the toe to swivel in relation to the skis without the boots having to flex severely in the toe.

Today's nordic backcountry boots have either 75 mm 3 pin or nnn bc bindings, neither of which, in my personal estimation) would have been as good for hiking sans the skis as my old boots due to the fact that that the 3 pin extension on the lower or the nnn coupling would interfere with the rotation of the toe at the end of a stride when hiking. I do see that there are some modern backcountry bindings that are a combination of 75 mm 3 pin and cable, but the toe piece does not have the metal hinge swivel the way ours did.

That being said, this boot:

https://www.rei.com/product/124124/alpi ... -ski-boots

https://www.trailspace.com/gear/alpina/alaska-75/

is one that I would consider using today, in spite of the extended toe section of the sole. Even though this does have the toe extension to accommodate the three pin binding, it does appear to have a grooved heel to accommodate a cable. My guess is that this boot might be suitable for hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing, without having to change shoes/boots when you switched from one to the other. It also is insulated, waterproof, has gusseted tongues and Vibram soles. My only concerns are toe extension interfering with end of stride when hiking, and not enough flex in the toe when skiing.

Alternately, If I were going to skipack or snowshoe most of the time, I might also at least try on a pair of these, but I don't think they would be nearly as suitable for also hiking as the pair above:

https://www.trailspace.com/gear/alpina/alaska-nnn-bc/

https://www.rei.com/product/892159/alpi ... ntry-boots

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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Jan 12, 2019 10:31 am

Although the post is about winter boots, my take on the post is that this is a beginner with respect to winter backpacking who has also asked how to get some experience and training. Boots are a tiny part of the equation. I am not sure what kind of winter hiking is planned.

My advice would be do not go solo as a beginner, do not go far, take baby steps with good bail-out options until you really get more experience. Find someone who is more experienced to go with. Read up on winter backpacking. Do not skimp on equipment due to price- good winter gear is expensive but may save your life. Taking an overnight from Glacier Point Road the mile or so to one of the lookout points is entirely different from a week's backcountry ski trip. And, you really need to know avalanche safety.

If you have not grown up in snow country you first simply need to get experience in snow and cold temperatures and you do not necessarily need to backpack to do that. Some of the parks have ranger-lead snowshoe hikes (when the government is open). I think REI also has some group trips. trips. There are plenty of commercial x-c ski areas that are quite safe. Simply car camping in snow is a good starting place.

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Tom_H
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Tom_H » Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:00 am

As always, Wandering Daisy gives very sage advice.

Some resources:
https://sectionhiker.com/sectionhiker-g ... ing-boots/
https://hiconsumption.com/2017/10/best- ... ing-boots/
https://gearjunkie.com/best-winter-boots-review

Some of those are simply for normal wear in cold weather, not really for hiking in snow, much less snow-packing in extreme conditions, so ignore those.

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Harlen
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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Harlen » Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:22 pm

WD wrote:
I will date myself with this ... We used a lot of Army surplus skis, 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.
We were still wearing some of the same stuff in the early 80's up in Alaska. Could be just a variation in local names, but what we called "Bunny Boots" sound like your "Micky Mouse Boots?" They were also called "VB Boots" for Vapor-Barrier Boots. I was told they were an army invention, just in case we ever needed to fight up in Siberia. They are huge and heavy, right Daisy? (Although my friends used them to summit McKinley.)

Those would be overkill for almost any Sierra weather, but north of Fairbanks they were great for extreme cold days. On the other days, most of us would work in Sorels, and like TahoeJeff, I have enjoyed them for mid-winter Sierra excursions. While they are bomb-proof for rough weather trips, it is anathema to have to pack their weight along on a ski tour. So if you will primarily be skiing during the days, you can probably get by around camp with lightweight Kamiks, or a cheaper, lighter version of the same insulated boots- WD's "moon boots" perhaps. For a lighter option some skiers use oversize running shoes that can hold large woolen socks. Lighter still are down booties with nylon soles, but I find they always get wet and I like the option of wearing the runners on the trails in and out.

For spring mountaineering trips with snow shoes and crampons, me and The Dude swear by Italian brand- "La Sportiva." Any good quality mountaineering boot can do, but be sure to buy them a size or more big to accommodate extra socks. Good luck!

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Since you didn't mention skiing, I will make another pitch for the La Sportiva boots. They are seen in the center here, and one of the reasons for taking them is seen above, that is, the delamination of my old leather ski boots. This has happened to me 3 times, and would have been a real problem had I been counting on them for the sometimes 10 mile hike out. With gaitors and luck with the weather, oversize La Sportiva boots can work all winter long. They are great for crampons use, and for kicking steps in snowfields, and for basic rock climbing.

But they do weigh a lot more than my partner's footgear. Check out Bearzy's boots! :nod:


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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by alpinemike » Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:49 am

I highly vouch for the La Sportiva Mountaineering boots. They will be very stiff at first but they will break in and feel reasonably comfortable. I say this because I have hiked several days in them and they are no trail runner or nice flexible boot... but they're not supposed to be! They must be semi-rigid to work with crampons which is their real purpose. And to be honest if you're going into the snow in the Sierra crampons and at the very least microspikes are almost always going to accompany you because it's challenging to predict snow conditions during all parts of the day. This is obviously less true if you plan on never going uphill or downhill something moderately steep... but let's face it the likelihood of you doing that once you gain enough experience is high because that's where all the true High Sierra Grandeur is!

I've been using mine for several years and once I figured out I needed a thinner sock to not cut off my circulation I love them. They keep my feet very dry and have all the functionality I need for non ideal snow conditions. Another positive benefit is their weight.. considerably lighter than most other options. Now, naturally that needs to be taken into account for their ability to keep your feet warm. And no, the light version is not suitable for extreme cold but for most of the Sierra they will work as long as you keep them dry.

Very important to keep WD's advice in mind! Gain experience and start with baby steps. That's exactly what I did years ago.
Never put off a backpacking trip for tomorrow, if you can do it today...
Alpine Mike-

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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:14 am

Only if we also had built-in claws! :D Those rubber boots, whatever you call them, were really heavy! In Wyoming we mostly used the felt boots because even daytime temperatures rarely got above 10F. They are lighter but still bulky and hard to pack. The Sierra is more variable with day temperatures that can melt the surface of snow and then it refreezes at night. Even though you will not likely get -40F temperatures in the Sierra, the melt-freeze temperature zone is actually harder to deal with than very cold-dry conditions.

What I found interesting is that even at sub-zeroF, we would ski in wool union suits with only wind pants/shirt, and wool stocking cap with a nylon liner. I tend to have warm hands, so I often would not even use gloves. Once in camp, after stomping down a tent platform with the skis, we immediately changed put on felt boots, insulating layers, balaclava, mittens and huge over-mitts and then a HUGE park with a tunnel hood with fox fur. If you do not capture that heat you created while skiing you could never get warmed up adequately again. Not much sitting around time- cook dinner, eat and get inside the tent. Much easier daily living when we once dug a huge base-camp snow cave. Although beautiful, I never really liked such winter backpacking because it was a lot of work and so unforgiving. The longest trip out was 3 weeks and three others 2-weeks. Packs were hideously heavy.

Dry socks are essential, so do not skimp on spare socks- another pair weighs very little. And be sure your socks are relatively loose fitting. If the sock makes a mark on your ankles, it is too tight. If you layer socks, the outer should be bigger. It is really important to keep the circulation going. If you plan to use down booties outside the tent, be sure to get them large, cut out an insole from the blue foam pads, and you may even have to sew on or glue on a skid-proof bottom. I personally do not wear down booties in snow because all I do is fall down.

If you plan to snowshoe, mountaineering snowshoes, like MSR's, have built in spikes so you do not need crampons. If not on steep slopes, "climbing skins" on skis also work. They used to be made of real seal skins; most now are synthetic.

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Re: Winter boots for backpacking ?

Post by CAMERONM » Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:07 pm

I get by just fine with an inexpensive lightweight all-synthetic Salomon insulated waterproof ankle-high boot. Many others like Merrell have similar offerings. Fine for short trips and snowshoes, comfortable out of the gate, warm and should not cost more than $110 on sale. Works fine for early-Spring wet ground backpacking as well. Until you are experienced and know exactly what kinds of trips you will take, I would not advise a more expensive or heavier option.

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