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Baffin Borealis Double Insulated Winter Hiking Boot Review

The Baffin Borealis Boot has a translucent TPU shell and separate insulated liner

Baffin Borealis Winter Boots

Foot Protecton
Traction
Sensitivity
Warmth
Water Resistence
Sizing
Weight
Durability

Innovative

Baffin Borealis Winter Hiking Boot is a lightweight insulated hiking boot rated to -20 degrees with a removable liner, similar to a plastic mountaineering boot, but much more comfortable for hiking in. It's also suitable for winter backpacking, since you can sleep with the liner to prevent it from freezing at night.

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The Baffin Borealis Winter Hiking Boot is a lightweight insulated hiking boot rated to -20 degrees with a removable liner, similar to a plastic mountaineering boot, but much more comfortable for hiking in. It’s also suitable for winter backpacking, since you can sleep with the liner to prevent it from freezing at night.

The main thing that sets the Borealis apart from a stiff Pebax (plastic) boot is the translucent exterior TPU shell which is soft, pliable, and comfortable to wear. Fully waterproof, it has a gussetted tongue to prevent water from seeping into the boot. A unique side-locking lace system that snaps shut on the laces to prevent heel lift and heel blisters. It’s a fantastic feature that should be included on other winter and mountaineering boots.

Side lace locks prevent heel lift and blistering
Side lace-locks prevent heel lift and blistering

While the Borealis sole is more rigid than many single layer winter boots (like the Salomon Toundra, Columbia Bugaboot , or Keen Summit County III), the Borealis is a non-technical winter boot, too soft for kicking steps in hard snow, and lacking a front or rear welt to attach a mountaineering or ice-climbing caliber crampon. However, it can still be worn with properly sized microspikes, and a walking crampon with universal bindings like the CAMP Stalker, making it suitable for non-technical winter hiking, including all of the above-treeline winter peaks I climb in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The outer boot has a reflective liner on the sole, but little arch support
The outer boot has a reflective liner on the sole, but provides little arch support.

The outer shell has a reflective liner on the top of the sole, but provides very little arch support. While the liner has its own removable padded insoles, I’ve found it necessary to replace with a Carbon Superfeet insole for extra arch support. Consider sizing up a 1/2 size to accommodate insoles if required. Otherwise, the boots fit to size with a normal hiking sock.

The Inner boot is reinforced at the heel for greater durability
The insulated inner boot is reinforced at the heel for greater durability.

The inner insulated boot molds to your foot with body heat, personalizing the fit. It’s reinforced at the heel and on the bottom, a nice detail, because this is where insulated liners wear out with heavy use.

The insulated inner boot locks into the rear of the waterproof shell with a velcro strap
The insulated inner boot locks into the rear of the waterproof shell with a velcro strap.

The liner is secured over the forefoot with an elastic band and locked into the TPU shell with a rear velcro strap to lock it in place. In practice, I’ve found it easier to keep the inner boot in the waterproof shell rather than putting it on outside, and then trying to fit the inner boot into the waterproof shell while wearing it. Of course, the shell can still be removed for drying.

The lugs on the sole are fairly modest as winter hiking boots go, but chance are you'll use microspikes anyway if you need more traction.
The lugs on the sole are fairly modest as winter hiking boots go, but chances are you’ll be using microspikes anyway if you need more traction.

The lugs on the Borealis are fairly modest as winter boots go, but sufficient for walking on packed snow. However, when worn, the Borealis Boots are noticeably easier to drive with, even with a standard transmission, than a more rigid and heavier duty mountaineering boot-style sole. The soles have a slight rocker, but are still easy to walk with, in part because the shell isn’t rigid, and because they’re so lightweight.

Recommendation

I’ve been very pleased with the Baffin Borealis Boot and think they’re a real find for winter hiking. They’re quite comfortable and warm, waterproof, and easy to use with traction aids such as snowshoes, microspikes, and crampons with a universal binding. Rated for 20 below zero, the Borealis Boots are also quite lightweight, weighing in at just 3.0 pounds for an US men’s size 11…a full two pounds lighter than the old pair of Scarpa Omega Plastic Mountaineering boots (no longer made), also with a removable liner, that I used to wear.

If you already own single layer winter hiking boots for day hiking, I don’t think you need to upgrade to the Baffin Borealis boots. But if you’re looking for a double insulated boot so you can backpack in winter and sleep with your liners, I’d give the Borealis Boots serious consideration. If you can get by with a walking crampon, there’s simply no need to cripple yourself with a hard plastic mountaineering boot like a Scarpa Inverno or Koflach Arctis Expe when the Borealis provides the same benefits at a fraction of the weight and a lower price.

Written 2017.

Disclosure: Baffin provided the author with a sample pair of boots for this review. 

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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48 comments

  1. These sound perfect for the described purpose! Fantastic find, Phil! I believe the only missing data I would like is the exact weight…

  2. Very cool boots — hopefully they will make a women’s version at some point.

    BTW, La Sportiva utilizes the lace locking mechanism for some of their mountaineering boots — it’s awesome, especially when lacing up with gloves. Much easier to get optimal tension. I think it should be standard on all hiking boots.

    • Wouldn’t count on it. Baffin’s women’s line isn’t that strong. You might have to do with the men’s – I honestly can’t think why they aren’t unisex. It’s a double boot – the liner molds to your foot.

      • The problem for a lot of women is that we have narrower heels than men — I’ve tried unisex liner boots before & am always swimming in the heel. Also, small foot sizes — the smallest size in these boots is a Men’s 7, too big for a lot of us.

      • Good to know. I asked the manufacturer what their plans are for a women’s model after your first comment. We’ll see what they say.

  3. Would you say that the thermo liner makes them warmer than the Toundra? The Toundra is rated lower but ratings are arbitrary.

    • Impossible to say. I think the bigger issue is what the external temperature is. Do you really hike in anything under 10 below?

      There are very few true mountaineering boots that have liners that will take you below 20 or 30 below. If you need more insulation, wear a thicker sock, vapor barrier, or you put on neoprene overboots which is what people do in nepal. See FortyBelow.com. That’s what people use.

      If you’re out in weather below 20 below….well let’s just say, you’re out of your mind. It’s so unpleasant that you’d be better off staying home or going bowling. Remember….wind chill is different from temperature.

      • I ask because my feet run cold, even when moving. I’ve no plans to be in -20 absolute. Bowling, though, that’s cruel. You must be trying to bore me to tears. ;)

      • “Impossible to say.”

        Why is it impossible to say?

        You’ve worn both boots in the snow and cold of New Hampshire. How can you have no opinion on which boot is warmer in similar temps/conditions?

        Also, the OP never asked if the boots were good to -20 or -30 below. So the lecture about thicker socks and Nepal was unnecessary.

        There are plenty of people in the Netherlands, Canada’s far North, the Yukon, Alaska, Siberia, et al, who routinely venture out in -20 below for sport and recreation. Are they kooks, cranks, and crazies?

      • I don’t go outside in 20 below weather often. The last time I did it was dangerously cold, stupid actually, and I was wearing double lined plastic mountaineering boots. That was probably five years ago.

  4. It’s been 70 degrees for the past week down here in Texas, so I haven’t had to use any traction aids on my Crocs.

  5. “If you’re out in weather below 20 below….well let’s just say, you’re out of your mind. It’s so unpleasant that you’d be better off staying home or going bowling.”

    Hilarious!!

    I have Baffin Booties for use around the house and for wearing around camp, especially when sleeping. They are very toasty…..

    http://www.baffin.com/product-p/61300000.htm

  6. Great find. Thanks!

    Re: -20 F

    I have found the difficulty in doing camp chores to be very nonlinear, maybe exponential, with respect to temperature.
    20 deg F. Ideal.
    10 deg F. Still fun.
    0 deg F. Better have everything dialed in.
    -5 deg F. Why am I doing this?
    -10 deg F This was a mistake.
    Below that, no real experience since I aborted those trips each time

  7. Well I’m convinced! My only question is what the fit is like? I have rather narrow and low-volume feet, not always accommodated well by foam inner boots.

    • Fit to size and feels like a regular hiking boot, but you can always shim them out with socks.

      • My feet are a bit wide, and I had to go a size up

      • “….feels like a regular hiking boot.”

        Out of all the regular hiking boots, what brand fits your foot best?

        With that information someone can determine if that brand is more high, mid, or low volume. And knowing that, they’ll have an idea of how the Borealis will fit their own foot.

        Thank you.

      • I don’t wear regular hiking boots, but back in the day nine years ago I preferred Asolo boots. Does that really help? Can’t imagine how…

  8. Hi Philip,

    This is exactly the type of boot I have been looking for Michigan winters.

    Just ordered size 13 and 14 from Zappos on free 1 day shipping to try and free returns.

    Will report back.

  9. One more question, Philip. I am wondering how these would handle a misstep with crampons on compared to leather boots… Once in a while, clumsy me, it happens. Any observations?

  10. Thanks for featuring these boots.

  11. Hi again,

    So I got the boots yesterday, and they are fantastic. Really like them. But I have a question about gaiters. The sole doesn’t have the indentation between the heel and the rest of the sole where the instep strap typically goes. Sorry, I do not know the technical terms. I know you have switched gaiters, but I still use my OR Crocodiles, and I am worried my gaiter strap will wear prematurely with these. Have you found this to be a problem? Thank you!

    • The center strap on a croc and most gaiters is incredibly tough and easy to replace. Just use it on snow if it’s a concern.

      You can also replace it with a nylon cord (better clearance) yourself now…or try using them without the center strap. They are so heavy that the lace hook should be sufficient to keep them in place.

  12. Thank you for the great review.

    I’m thinking about purchasing a pair, but looking at Amazon as well as the Baffin web site it looks like they removed the “lace lock”, which was one of the main features I was buying them for! They didn’t even replace it with another eyelet to lock your heel in…they just skipped it completely.

    I sent Baffin an email asking about this and I will post their reply.

    Thanks again.

    • That would suck. I will reach out to them too.

      • Any word back from Baffin on the potential lacing change? Hopefully, the boot used for press / PR purposes in the pictures we have seen was just an incomplete mock-up and the boots being shipped still utilize the “lace lock” mechanism or, if done away with, hopefully it has been replaced by adding another “regular” eyelet… I am trying to decide on whether to purchase a pair of these Baffins or the Keen Summit Countys or the Salomon Toundras. If there is now a large gap in the lacing system of the Baffins, that may take them out of consideration.

  13. Anders Alexandersson

    Good news, it seems! I emailed [email protected] on November 4:
    Did you remove the lace locks? The topic is actively discussed on a popular website:
    https://sectionhiker.com/baffin-borealis-double-insulated-winter-hiking-boot/#comment-152047

    Karen Poole responded:
    No we have not removed the lace lock :)

    —–

    I also have a question: I wear size 8 on most shoes. Since there is no size 8.5 for this model, do you recommend same size again or moving up a full size to 9?

  14. Hi Philip!
    I’ve got a pair of the Baffin Borealis at home to try out. When I’m walking uphill and I’m up on my toes, I find the crease in the boot over my toes and arches to be really uncomfortable. The material on the upper of the boot really digs into my toes and arches. Did you find this with these boots as well? If so, did that crease in the boot become more comfortable as you wore the boots more? They feel great when I’m walking on level ground, but once I start going uphill, it really hurts. This seems to be a common problem for me when I wear boots. Is this a problem a lot of people have as well? It’s very rare for me to find boots that don’t have that uncomfortable crease over the toes when I’m walking uphill. In fact, I’ve only founda few pairs of winter hiking boots that don’t do this for me – the Salomon Quest Winter GTX boot and the Oboz bridger 8″ and 10″ insulated winter hiking boot. If you have a chance to try these boots out, I would definitely highly recommend them. The Salomon Quest Winter GTX has a similar cold rating as the Salomon X Ultra Winter and weighs about the same. It’s got a stiffer sole than the latter and it seems narrower in the midfoot, which really fits my foot. I’ve never felt my foot to be so secure in a winter hiking boot. I really love the Oboz as well, especially the 10″ Bridger insulated b dry boot. It weights a bit more than the Salomon Toundra. It’s got 400 grams of Thinsulate and the way the boots flex over the toes and arches when walking uphill is unbelievably comfortable to me.

    • I don’t think most people experience the same problem that you have apparently. I certainly didn’t/don’t or I would have said something.
      Sorry, they didn’t work for you, but it seems like you have somewhat challenging feet.

  15. It sounds like you have narrow feet. You might try a woman’s size. With many boots you cannot tell by looking which are men’s and which are women’s. Alternatively, you might try European brands, which sometimes run narrower than American ones. I also find that Salomon boots tend to run a bit narrow. No matter what, buy boots from an outfit with a good return policy.

  16. I found I have the issue Paul described (crease in boot digs/pinches toes and/or top of foot) with the Salomon Toundras. Liking the idea of a removable liner in a flexible winter hiking boot, I still gave the Baffins a try – surprisingly enough I found they don’t have the same problem for me but flex comfortably with my foot. I’m not sure if this is a difference in individual samples of the boot or just variances in fit.

    Just comparing them in the house I felt the Toundras were a bit warmer and less flexible (upper and sole).

    Also the boots have the lace locks – at first I thought the laces were stuck but then figured out what was going on. I really like the way these work.

    Thanks for the review, Philip; I wouldn’t have found these otherwise.

  17. Philip, Thank you for sharing the Borealis. It’s not easy finding a winter boot with removable liner that’s light and hikes comfortably. How have yours held up? Are you still wearing them? Do they hike and snowshoe as comfortably as your Salomon Toundras?

    • I mainly use them for winter backpacking overnights during the two months of a year when they’re fun (March, April). At the moment, I’m doing a lot of day hikes and snowshoeing in my Toundras until we get more sunlight again. The Borealis are the only double boots I own. They hike fine with the superfeet insoles I wear in the Toundras. Not as comfortable as my Toundras, but way more comfortable than the alternative – plastic mountaineering boots!

  18. I just got some. I’m impressed overall. Couple of observations. The boot is a bit more awkward and bulky than single layer boots. Traction is very good even on wet surfaces. The right boot was rubbing against the back of my foot in the Achilles area. Left is fine. Weird. There is a seam in the liner there. Maybe I’ll try some duct tape.

  19. I have to agree with Philip’s assessment of the Borealis. I get him saying the soles are somewhat low profile but 1 more mm of lug length isn’t going to make a huge difference.

    These are boots that are primarily designed for snow. They don’t need 3-4mm lugs to be effective.

    I have used the boots a lot and I believe they are one of the best kept secrets out there as far as boots go for winter death marches when the snow is deep.

    They really are a phenomenal boot as long as not utilized for something other than what they are designed for.

    Much more comfortable than a true hardshell dbl boot.

    On a side note mine have true eyelets for the laces. Not just cutout as seen in the review photos.

    Maybe an updated variation. I dunno.

    But for snowshoeing, and trail crampons use(I use Hillsound TC pros and G10s) you will be hard pressed to find a better option that will still provide a bit of ankle support for when you have a pack on your back.

    Nice review Phil.

  20. Hey, just wanted to post a fyi on this feed in regards to using Grivel New Classic crampons on this boot.

    Due to the kick on the back of the boot which it great for snowshoe straps I have found that on Grivels New Classic(strap) crampon the rear cradle will not lay on the back if the boot.

    It actually lines up perfectly so it makes contact with the very tip of this ridge on the boot.

    That is worrisome to me for a multitude of self explanatory reasons.

    If you are buying crampons to use with this boot take your boots with you.

    This isnt really a big deal for me as the crampons I use are semiauto.

    Just wanted to throw this little tidbit out there as a heads up.

    Also, if you find a crampon for this boot use flex bars. The Borealis isnt a rigid boot(my Nepal Cubes are) and using a stiff bar crampon on a flexible boot will result in your destroying your crampons due to the lack of rigidity in the boot and the stress it causes on the crampon.

    It’s not a matter of if the crampon will grenade.

    Its simply a matter of when.

    Hope you all are getting out there and creating memories.

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