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Hands-on Gear Review
Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat Review
Cons: A bit clunky, stiff upper
Bottom line: A good insulated winter hiking boot for less money than the competition.
The Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat is a tall, insulated winter hiking boot that is light and waterproof. While it only has 200g of synthetic insulation to help keep your feet warm, it also uses an Omni-Heat reflective liner that does a great job of trapping warmth without adding any weight, and indeed this boot outperforms other winter hikers with the same amount of insulation. In many ways, this boot is similar to our Best Overall Winter Boot award winner, The North Face Chilkat 400, although there is no doubt that it has more room in the forefoot and toes for adding an extra sock or wiggling the toes around to keep the blood flowing. We have very little that's negative to say about this boot, but it ranked near the middle of our comparison tests. At only $130 retail, this model presents a bit of a better bargain than some of the other winter hiking boots, without compromising on the quality or performance.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Boots for Men of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat is an all-purpose winter hiking boot that provides competitive performance throughout our review metrics. While it doesn't win any awards or top the charts in any one category, this boot does well across the board and is a budget option for those looking for a decent winter hiking boot that doesn't break the bank.
By using the Omni-Heat thermal reflective fabric to line the interior of the boot, Columbia covers up for using only 200 grams of synthetic insulation, making this one of the warmest boots for its weight in this review. This boot offered enough warmth to stand around in the snow on snowshoe hikes and while doing outdoor chores, though it wasn't too warm to go out and run errands someplace where we might be indoors for a bit. In our icy water bath test, we did experience a slight amount of cold seeping into our feet after eight minutes of soaking, and this result was very similar to what we felt with both the Sorel Caribou and the Kamik NationPlus Pac boots. We gave this contender 7 out of 10 points for warmth.
This updated model has built upon the previous Bugaboot by adding a Techlite shell membrane to enhance waterproofness - should the outer leather and nylon fabrics wet out. Our real-world testing in deep snow conditions did not find any failures in this boot's waterproofness, and even when we took them to the ice bath for testing, we were able to get cold water to enter along the top of the foot. On deep immersion, water got in through the top of the tongue gussets, which were eight inches above the ground.
With a high cuff and solid waterproofing on the tongue, we can confidently recommend this contender to people who need to trudge through snow, mud or slush, or even shallow streams. Frankly, considering the number of different materials used on the upper and the number of seams between these various materials, we were pleasantly surprised that this model was waterproof like it was. It ranked up there with our Editors' Choice, Chilkat 400 as the second most water resistant boot in the review, and we gave it 9 out of 10 points.
Fit and Comfort
This model fits our reviewer slightly larger than others; consumers might want to consider ordering their street shoe size unless they plan on wearing thick socks. We found this to be the exact opposite of what user reviews online claimed — that the boot tended to be narrow and short. If anything, we observed this contender was adequately spacious for an insulated winter hiking boots, behind the Keen Summit County and Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry. Getting in and out of this boot is a breeze, and the speed lacing eyelets and hooks allow for a quick and secure fit. The inside of the boot is roomy, and without an aftermarket insole, felt a bit sloppy for an average volume/width foot. Those with wider or flat feet will likely find this boot to be a much better fit.
Designed as a winter hiking model, we took this boot on snowshoe walks and jaunts around town on packed snow trails. While this competitor was more comfortable than a Pac boot over long distances, the stiffness and relative tightness of the high upper shaft bit into our shins and calves a bit, rubbing and chafing to some degree, even with tall socks. The Bugaboot's sole is quite rigid, making it suitable for use with a pair of snowshoes. Its light weight will also make your legs happier on the uphill. We gave it 6 out of 10 points for fit and comfort, feeling that it was a bit below average in this regard.
Ease of Use
We had no complaints after using the Bugaboot for several months - they are simple to put on and take off thanks to a quick lacing system, and putting the boot on with heavyweight socks is made easier with the large opening. Columbia includes a metal D-ring for securing a gaiter hook to, a welcome feature if you are going out into the deep snow. We read complaints online about the fabric lacing eyelets wearing out and tearing very quickly, but did not experience this with our test model.
We should clarify that while the eyelets are made of fabric, the fabric is simply a flexible attachment for metal grommets that the laces run through, so there is no actual friction between the laces and the fabric material itself. While the lacing system is simple and very similar to The North Face Chilkat 400, there is no arguing that it is still more intensive than slip-on or Pac boot models, and received the relatively low score of 6 out of 10.
Columbia's Omni-Grip rubber compound, comprised of two rubber types and a mildly aggressive lug pattern, had an average amount of traction. It gripped ice and steep hardpacked snow roughly the same as the Snowburban and outperformed both the Timberland Shazzberg Mid and the Sorel Caribou. 7 out of 10 points.
This model is a reliable choice for those looking for a solid winter boot that they can hike, work, and tromp around in the snow and cold temperatures. We liked it particularly on snowshoe hikes thanks to its lightweight, rigid sole and decent warmth to weight ratio.
For $130, these boots are a decent value. They are a reliable winter hiking boot and scored average marks across the board. While they are a decent price, better contenders are out there. For a better winter hiker that costs slightly more, look at the Vasque Snowburban II UltraDry, or our best overall winter hiking boot, The North Face Chilkat 400.
This boot performed well in all of our scoring categories, and we would not hesitate to recommend it to most consumers looking for a warm, waterproof boot that will provide good value. Its best attributes were its light weight, affordability, and waterproofness. It wasn't quite as warm or as comfortable as the highest scoring insulated winter hiking boots.
— Ryan Huetter and Andy Wellman
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