Cold Weather Boot Insulation

If you ask 10 people about cold weather boot insulation, you will no doubt get 11 different responses.

There are a few major players in the world of boot insulation. I’ll be discussing the different ways help you keep your feet warm when it’s cold.

Common Insulation Brands

  • 3M Thinsulate is one of the best-known brands in insulation. Their insulation is known to be lightweight, warm, moisture-resistant, and breathable. This is because the insulation is designed to resist compression while maintaining overall warmth. The individual fibers absorb less than 1% by weight of water, which means that it can retain its insulating capabilities, even under the dampest of conditions. As a plus, Thinsulate is also hypoallergenic.
  • PrimaLoft is another branded company making synthetic insulation. The insulation material in their boots protects again all sorts of extreme weather. This is due to the millions of air pockets within the insulation that form a sort of thermal blockage. Regardless of the situation you are in (such as hiking or working on a construction site), the PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Aerogel will maintain high performance and sustained compression. Boots made with PrimaLoft insulation are waterproof, flexible, and lightweight.
  • The third major brand used for boot insulation is Polartec. Most know this company for inventing everyone’s favorite blanket materials, “Polar Fleece.” More commonly recognized for clothing insulation, Polartec is also used in some boots.

Understanding Boot Insulation

Synthetic insulation is the norm for today’s cold weather boots. Many are familiar with standard weights of insulation (200g, 400g, 600g, 800g, etc.). Generally, synthetic insulations come in rolls that are combined to increase the given weight in grams (so the math here is three sheets of 200g insulation will give you 600g overall). As the amount or grams go up, so does the amount of provided insulation.

Many boots also provide a temperature rating. However, in most cases, this is purely subjective and rarely scientific. You see this type of rating in hunting boots when a given manufacturer will say “Good to -100℉ .” Please do let me know if anyone has been hunting in -100 ℉ as I tend to chuckle at many extreme cold boot temperature ratings.

Waterproof Membrane

Most, if not all, cold weather boots are paired with some sort of branded waterproof membrane. Consumers know these as Gore-tex, Sympatex, Event, or OutDry. There are also many non-branded membranes that work perfectly well if engineered and manufactured correctly.

All of the membrane companies claim their products are breathable. Under laboratory conditions, this is true. However, one’s foot does not pump out water vapor under pressure as is done in laboratory settings. Thus at the end of the day, your socks tend to be wet, which is not a good thing in cold weather environments. In the rain or wet snow, your feet should always remain dry. The secret to this lies in the sock you wear.

Socks Matter

Ultimately, one of the most important footwear items worn in a cold environment is your sock, almost more than the boot. For me, there is only one type of sock that should be used and that is a good quality mid-to-heavyweight wool sock. There is just no better material to keep one’s feet warm. It pairs well with an insulated boot. You should never wear a cotton sock as this will stay wet day after day.

If you are out in the field for days on end (as well as sleeping in the elements), you must put on a new dry pair of socks prior to sleeping. Even if you have not had any strenuous activity, there is a high probability that your sock will become moist due to the lack of breathability in most membrane boots. Simply putting your recently worn socks in your sleeping bag will dry them, and you can sleep well with a dry pair on your feet.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Dan Ellis

Dan has a wealth of footwear product development experience dating back to 1986 where he began his career with Saucony in their athletic shoes division. Following that, he worked as a Product Engineer for Adidas, and was recruited to Reebok where he was the Director of Product Development and the Sr. Director of Marketing Operations.

In 2005, his focus shifted from athletic footwear to tactical, after being asked by Natick Soldier Systems to work on a suite of footwear for the US Navy SEALs. It was also at this time he developed Blackhawk’s range of tactical footwear, most of which are still being sold today. Working with the Navy SEALs led to the ground-breaking Abyss water shoe, and OTB Boots was born.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Dan continued working in product development outside of OTB Boots. He helped develop the AKU Pilgrim boot for the Army’s Green Berets. This boot continues to be used by SF groups worldwide. He also helped the militaries of Switzerland and Jordan to redesign their combat boots, and in 2017, he developed all of Altama’s new tactical footwear, which was launched at the SHOT Show.

2018 sees a new path for Dan and OTB Boots, as he joins forces with US Patriot Tactical to bring the brand back to the forefront in tactical footwear. He will be focusing his efforts on adding dealers worldwide, along with continuing to develop unique tactical boots with the superior features that set OTB Boots apart from the competition.
Dan Ellis

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