A number of recurring gear discussions happen in the Women in Wood (WIW) Facebook group. A very “hot” topic in the WIW group in recent months has been WINTER BOOTS. There are some key questions for you to consider in your choice.
Can you find men’s boots that will fit you? If so, your opportunities are vast and your quest will be easier. Popular choices seem to be Baffin, Muck and Dunlop cold weather rubber boots. They’ll keep you dry in shoulder season, and bulk up those calf muscles over the winter months! Many folks also recommend a bama sock to go inside these types of boots for a better fit, to wick away moisture, and provide extra warmth.
What are your safety requirements? If you don’t need steel toe, there are some great winter hiker options available, made by companies like KEEN. If you need safety boots, and composite toe is acceptable, you may wish to steer toward this option as steel toes get cold quick in the winter.
What kind of work will you be doing? If you’ll be doing a lot of standing still, you should go for maximum warmth, and weight will matter less. If you’ll be walking, your toes will stay warmer on their own so you can sacrifice some warmth for lighter weight and more comfort. If snowshoes are part of your winter wardrobe, you’ll need a little flexibility in the sole, but also a good fit and ridged upper to protect tendons.
Some other specific suggestions from WIW included Bekina, Sorels, and Dakota. Someone also highlighted a website called Rate my Treads that tests grip on winter boots. A really great point that was made is that it’s a best practice to change into the socks and boots you’re going to wear for the day in the woods WHEN you get to the area. That way, they are nice and dry when you put them on. Even better if you can have them nice and toasty by blasting the floor heater in your truck on the way there.
As a small-footed woman who’s never had success fitting into men’s boots, finding winter safety boots has been an ongoing saga for me. This year after freezing my toes off early in the season, armed with all the recommendations from WIW, I headed to my local workwear store, ready to improve my quality of life. So many choices! But… all men’s. Not one pair of women’s winter safety boots. I have written a few emails to the companies that provide these options, assuring them that indeed, there are at least 1,900 women who work in the woods and they are missing out on an important demographic. Alas, I headed online and blew the annual boot allowance and more on the Dakota Women's Thermalectric Composite Toe Composite Plate Winter Safety Boot. I have graduated to a new level of gearhead with heated boots. Mock me if you wish, but these are going to be life changing. I have only been wearing them a couple of months, but here’s my early review:
The heater option has 3 levels and you can easily get a whole day or more on the low or medium level.
They are fairly light and haven’t caused me any problems, even after 6km of walking.
If done up tightly, they offer good ankle support and are bendy enough in the sole that they should be good in snowshoes (but haven’t had to use them yet this year!).
The best scenario I see for these boots is those full days of walking with lots of stops to collect data or make notes: being able to avoid that inevitable icy toe feeling with the press of a button. Also, they’d be great in a situation when you don’t get the opportunity to move around a lot to warm up.
The rechargable battery packs seemed bulky to me at first, and I’m not sure how well-protected they will be from snow by the Velcro slot they go in.
The grips aren’t great so wouldn’t be ideal on ice or hills.
They don’t come in half sizes. I sized up and they are a bit loose.
Although the leather is rated waterproof, they won’t provide that waterproofness that you’d get from a rubber boot.
If you want to take full advantage of the heated option, you must actually remember to charge the battery. A truck charging adapter would be wise for forgetful folks like myself.
Cost. They are pricey but you could be lucky enough to catch them on sale like I did.