On keeping feet warm
Keeping the extremities warm in the cold weather, especially when stationary, is a challenge.
The body wants to maintain the core and head warm. The feet and hands are secondary.
But what about when still? Hands are easy. Some bomber down mittens does the trick. Or some boiled wool mittens or even leather glove/liner glove combo if doing some tasks where down mittens are too delicate.
But feet when stationary? Ah. That is the rub.
What to do?
Variety of footwear shown for snowshoers and skiers on a full moon jaunt.
When snowshoeing, skiing, hiking or mountaineering, there are some popular choices once in camp:
- Double plastic boots for mountaineering. Plastic backcountry ski boots essentially fall into in this category as well
- The popular winter hiking boots or very similar insulated hunting boots without a removable liner for hiking and snowshoeing.
- Pac boots with Sorels being the most well known.
- And if you use leather touring boots like myself, or switch to different footwear at night when using winter hiking boots, down booties are popular.
There are other options, of course, but the footwear choices above are some of the most popular choices for most backcountry users.
But there is another choice if you find you are doing more basecamp type activities in the heart of winter: Extreme Cold Vapor Barrier Boots (Type II) aka Bunny Boots.
So what are these Bunny Boots?
Virtually unchanged since the Korean War, the Bunny Boots are about the warmest boot you can find.
They are durable, waterproof, not expensive if you find them and time it well, and perfect when kicking back somewhere very cold.
To quote the link above:
The insulated white boot, called the white Mickey Mouse or “Bunny Boot,” is designed for wear in cold-dry conditions and will protect the feet in temperatures as low as –60° F. The boots have a seamless inner and outer carcass, direct molded sole, sealed insulation…
(Much like sleeping bags, I believe that quoted temperature is a survivability rating vs. comfort rating! Esp. when stationary.)
In essence? They are one ginormous and warm VBL boot.
Of course, the boots are not optimal in all conditions.
Some cons to Bunny Boots
Some downsides to Bunny Boots include:
- Bulky and relatively heavy. Would not want to trek far in them.
- Chafe too much on the calf or shin after extended walking.
- If you walk around a lot, your feet will sweat. Only an issue you do not dry out your feet and socks at night.
- If you like your backcountry wear to be more fashionable, these ain’t it!
Since I backpack with skis or will basecamp in winter, I do not need real winter hiking or snowshoeing boots. I do like warm feet, however! I do use a pair of Kamiks for around town, driving to the trailhead, and my relatively short commute now that it is winter. I suspect that the temperature rating listed for these suede boots may be optimistic compared to the Bunny Boots.
So when to use Bunny Boots?
- Base camped somewhere at night in the winter
- Not hiking or snowshoeing in far. Note that your snowshoes will need large and very adjustable bindings to use Bunny Boots!
- You are hauling in gear by sled when skiing or snowshoeing and spending a fair amount of time in camp. Change into these boots when you reach camp.
The bunny boots are just the bomb for keeping the feet warm and dry in adverse conditions.
My feet are always cold. Where can I buy them ?!?!
Where to get? Bunny Boots may be found at your local surplus store. eBay surplus stores may have them in stock as well. Amazon has them available, too. Bata made them originally. Other companies make them now. These boots go for about $75 +/- when available in your size. Quite the bargain considering how warm they are of a boot. Be sure to get the military issue ones and not the knock-offs.
Don’t need something quite as warm? The Type I aka Mickey Mouse Boots found on eBay and similar are more in fashionable (!?) black, are more likely available in your size and about $50. They are rated to -20F vs. the -60F for the Bunny Boots.
Obviously, you are more apt to find the boots in your size when it is not winter. 🙂
If you want the absolute warmest boots and will be using them in certain conditions, consider getting a pair of Bunny Boots.
For a great write up on Bunny Boots and other cold-weather options, read this write up on Bunny Boots at Bull Moose Patrol. Some excellent winter advice at this website in general!
Disclosure: I purchased these ugly, worn looking but uber-warm boots with the funds I make from working in a beige box.