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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.

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

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33 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?

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