As Winter settles in, trying some new Winter boots sounded like a great idea. And I got a pair of Columbia’s Omni-Heat Electric Bugathermo Winter Boots.
These boots are heavily insulated and even include a small electric heater that runs on batteries! They are breathable, water-proof, well constructed and the tread provides good traction. And they’re designed to keep your feet warm in Winter conditions. Oh, and they come from Columbia, a brand I happen to be fond of.
The batteries are rechargeable, and the box includes everything you need to easily charge both boots from a regular outlet. You can also plug the boots into a computer’s USB port, if that’s the most convenient source of electricity.
Out of the box, the boots were very stiff. In fact, they felt exactly like I was wearing downhill-ski boots. I do not recommend trying to be active in these boots when they are new. In addition, they have a high top, which caused some pain against my shins. After about a week, they loosened up and became more comfortable.
The built-in heater seemed like a really great idea. There’s a large button on the side of each boot that can easily be pressed while wearing gloves or mittens. You must hold the button down for a few seconds to prevent the boots from being turned on accidentally. Pressing them again toggles through high, medium, and low settings, and holding the button again turns them off. They even have small lights that indicate when the heater is turned on and the current setting.
For me, even after the batteries were fully charged, the heat from the heater was very subtle. Even on the highest setting, I could only just detect they were producing heat. My feet generally don’t get too cold, especially when I’m active. And the boots heavy insulation and water-proof design helped to keep my feet warm. But if, for some reason, my feet were getting particularly cold, I’m not sure the heater would be enough to make me comfortable.
Something that really bothered me is what you need to do when the batteries need replacing. The batteries can be recharged hundreds of times but eventually do wear out. According to the booklet that came with the boots, I’m supposed to cut the seam in order to remove the batteries. It says something about there being a Velcro strip to close the boot or something after I put new batteries in. But the boots seem very well made and I likely would never change the batteries if it meant having to cut the seams.
In the end, I had to question the market for this type of boot. It seemed to be advertised as a sport boot for hiking and such. I’m not sure I can recommend it for that use.
I own some Sorel boots, which I sometimes wear in the snow but would never wear hiking–they’re just too loose. Compared to the Sorels, the Bugathermo boots are much better for hiking and probably keep my feet even warmer. However, the Bugathermo just can’t compare to my regular hiking boots for comfort, mobility, and performance during vigorous activity. They’re just a little too large and stiff. I had hoped I might be able to use them snowshoeing but they are too big. I am able to fit my snowshoes over the boots, but the snowshoes are not able to articulate because the boot is touching the snowshoe around my feet. I also tried wearing my MICROspikes over them but, after trying to stretch them over the boots, I decided the boots were probably too big for them as well.
Still, I doubt I’ll be wearing my Sorels any more. As a work boot or just sludging around in the snow, water, and mud, you might want to check these boots out. Just plan on wearing them in for a week or so before you put them to real work for.
1. Well constructed boot.
2. Good insulation.
3. Electric heater built in!
1. A bit too stiff and large for hiking or snowshoeing.
2. Heaters generate a very subtle amount of heat.
3. Must cut the boots’ seams to replace the batteries.
I was fortunate enough to have been given a free pair of these boots from Columbia with no strings attached because of my involvement in hiking-related websites. The only thing requested of me was that I’d offer my honest opinion about them, which I’ve done.