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Winter Boots: 200g vs 400g Insulation

Winter Hiking Boots 200g vs 400g Insulation

Winter boots are usually insulated with 200g or 400g synthetic insulation which is very thin but warm. The insulation varies but is usually Thinsulate, Primaloft, or a comparable synthetic fill or fiber. In addition, winter boots are almost always waterproof with waterproof/breathable liners, allowing them to be used in rain and in mud as well as on frozen surfaces.

While it’s confusing, the 200g and 400g measures don’t reflect the weight of the insulation in grams in the boots, but its thickness. For example, a 200g Thinsulate insulated boot doesn’t have 200 grams of insulation (which would make the boots quite heavy) but contains insulation that weighs 200 grams per square meter. A square meter is over 10.7 square feet, which is far larger than the amount of insulation contained in a single boot or a pair of insulated boots.

A 400g insulated winter boot is twice as warm as a 200g boot, meaning that it traps twice as much of the body heat produced by your feet and lower legs. In terms of temperature, a 200g insulated winter boot will keep your feet warm down to about 0-10 degrees (F), while a 400g winter boot will keep them warm down to -20 degrees (F) and possibly lower. Generally speaking, you can wear a pair of 200g winter boots in 20-30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures quite comfortably. This makes them an attractive footwear option for hiking in colder autumn temperatures before the snow has fallen. Note: All winter boot temperature ratings assume you are walking briskly and not standing around.

Another key difference between 200g and 400g winter boots is how high they extend up your leg. Most 200g winter boots are over-the-ankle, so-called”Mid” height, while 400g winter boots extend higher up your leg to mid-calf. This lets them retain more body heat, so your feet stay warmer. There are a few exceptions to this, but that’s the norm.

Recommended 200g and 400g winter boots (2023-2024)

Men'sWomen'sInsulation
Oboz 10" Bridger InsulatedOboz 9" Bridger Insulated400g
Salomon Toundra ProSalomon Toundra Pro400g
KEEN Revel IV High PolarKEEN Revel IV High Polar400g
Vasque Snowburban IIVasque Pow Pow III400g
Oboz Bridger 8" InsulatedOboz Bridger 7" Insulated200g
Columbia Bugaboot III Columbia Bugaboot III 200g
KEEN Revel IV Mid PolarKEEN Revel IV Mid Polar200g
Merrell Thermo Chill MidMerrell Thermo Chill Mid200g

Winter Footwear Systems

If you’re planning on hiking or snowshoeing in winter, it’s important to realize that insulated boots are really just one part of the multi-part winter footwear system. You’ll also want to wear:

  • a pair of warm socks
  • gaiters
  • insulated insoles
  • winter traction devices like microspikes, crampons, or snowshoes

Winter Socks

Different people have different preferences when it comes to winter socks; some like to wear sock liners in addition to a warm sock, while others prefer a single sock. We like Darn Tough’s merino wool hiker boot socks, which are very warm. Whichever you choose, make sure your boots aren’t too tight and that you can still wiggle your toes inside them.  Your feet will stay warmer if you maintain good circulation to your toes. In addition, if you plan on using toe warmers, it goes without saying that you’ll need internal space for them too.

High Gaiters

If you plan to snowshoe or hike in moderately deep snow, a high gaiter that reaches close to your knees is recommended. Gaiters prevent snow from getting your socks wet and they provide some additional insulation for lower legs, trapping warm air and blocking wind. Most insulated winter boots intended for hiking also have a ring at the base of their laces that you can hook a gaiter so it doesn’t ride up your leg. Outdoor Research Crocodiles are by far the most popular high gaiter used by winter hikers and we use them ourselves.

Insulated Insoles

Some winter boot manufacturers like Oboz, include reflective insoles (also sold separately) coated with a mirrored substance that reflects foot warmth back to your feet. Alternatively, you can buy wool-covered insoles which can make your boots feel much warmer and help hide odors. They work well in ski boots too.

See also:

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31 comments

  1. Question: If you’re driving to your destination, do you wear your boots when driving there or do you wear regular shoes and then change when you get to your destination?

  2. Hi Philip,
    I am going to get a new pair of winter boots and will try on Oboz first on your recommendation. I have had the Keen highs in the past and liked them. I saw that REI has Keen boots discounted…just wondering if there is a problem there or just a sale?

    Hope all is well. Thanks for this and other research.

    • They’re just having a big sale on Keens. If REI doesn’t have what you’re looking for Keen is also having the same sale. But I like those Oboz 10″ Bridger boots the best, by far. I even got a replacement pair for my current pair which is pretty worn out.

  3. Hi Philip,

    If you were starting off on equipping yourself with winter gear, would you start by getting 200g or 400g insulated boots for the whites? If you have any specific recommendations I’d appreciate that as well! I run fairly warm, have very wide feet, and have a set of MSR Lightning Ascents on order if that changes anything.

    Trying to follow your advice from the “Winter Backpacking on a Budget” article and starting with equipping myself for winter day hikes this year. Proper winter hiking boots are next on the list!

    Thanks,

    AK

  4. From the Rocky boot brand website: “The insulation in our boots is measured in grams, the actual weight of the insulating material they contain. You may see a pair of boots with 400 grams of insulation and assume that they will be twice as warm as boots with 200 grams, but that is not the case. While they will certainly be warmer, insulation does not exactly work this way.”

    Not trying to stir something up here! But as this is in direct contradiction to the statement by the seemingly well informed and intelligent Mr. Werner HERE….I thought it was worth pointing out. It’s just unfortunate there is not a consensus on such things. It makes it confusing for the unwitting customers, as it is difficult to know who to trust in such circumstances.

    • What they’ve written there is ambiguous. If you go to the 3M website which makes thinsulate, you’ll see that the 200g and 400g labels refer to the weight of the insulation PER SQUARE METER. You don’t have a square meter of insulation in your boots and you certainly don’t have 400 grams of it in each boot (28.3 grams per oz – do the math). The marketing maggots at Rocky are either being deliberately deceptive (“the actual weight”…they seem to have deliberately left out the PER SQUARE METER) or they’re just ignorant of how the boots are actually manufactured. (Marketing people are like that) We’ve researched this up the yin-yang, believe me.

  5. Was not expecting such a fast response….thanks, Philip. To be fair, I am adding this last part of the paragraph I posted here…..that they posted on their site on this matter. The sentence below is followed by a comprehensive breakdown of each 200 gram interval and their respective best applications…..without any reference to temps.

    “Providing specific temperatures for each insulation weight is not possible due to the variety of factors you need to consider, but the guide below will help you decide which insulated boots are right for you.”

    I understand the variables, but I would prefer a range of temps….just to get a better sense of how that applies to each insulation number. In their descriptions for each, they use nebulous terms like “fairly cold” and “low to moderate activity levels”. Those are subjective words. I need something more tangible, as in your write up here. Perhaps those temps are subjective as well, but it gives me a better idea than “fairly cold”.

    That said, I don’t know why they would be deceptive in that regard. Why would you leave out something that could be beneficial to someone making a decision….on boots you have at your own site?

    • I read and respond to comments in pretty much real-time unless I’m out hiking/backpacking. :-) That’s what makes this site different. We want to actually help hikers and not just get you to buy shit.

      The biggest variable in boot temperature ratings is activity level. Other manufacturers will state in the fine print that a winter boot with 400g insulation will keep you warm if you’re exercising vigorously. The reason they do this is that there is no way to measure the warmth analytically (no test), and there are huge individual differences and gender differences. It’s the same reason no one gives temps rating for down or synthetic jackets – knowing the fill power (for boots it’s insulation thickness) isn’t the same as knowing the fill/insulation weight. On top of that, the design of a boot can have a huge impact on warmth. My advice – buy at REI, which lets you return used boots that don’t work out.

  6. Andres Serritiello

    I have been visiting/reading your site for a little while. Just awesome work. Thank you for sharing all the knowledge (that took you years to obtain) with everyone. You cover pretty much all the topics anyone could think of.

    KEEP IT UP!

    • Me, too- been reading and watched from the days when there was “entertaining” editing, as the site gradually matured and Philip’s nod over time has become like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. I still do a lot of my own “homework”, and see that more and more sites post Section Hiker’s awards and ratings as cred for their products. I still browse the “archives” here as I am on a budget outfitting the wife and kids as well. Have a pair of Keene Revels I’ve used for years for your more temperate winter days’ forecasts and just got a sweet deal on like new Keen Summit County’s for more frigid temps. I look for Philip’s review first and foremost.

  7. Do you sell and have in stock Salomon Toundra boots , size 9.5 ? Thank You

  8. Hail Mary question here: how does one prevent toe-jamming on descents? I’ve added extra socks thinking that would keep my feet more stationary but to no avail. Am I correct in assuming that maybe my boots are too wide and are not holding my feet adequately in-place on these long descents? The boots are Keen winter variety if that matters.

    • It usually boils down to fit. try a thicker insole and see if that reduces the interior volume. I’m assuming you’ve tried lacing the lowers tighter already. Otherwise (assuming you bought these from REI within the past year), return them and get different boots.

    • I’ve had the same issue and while I’ve yet to solve it 100%. A thicker sock definitely helps some but most often it comes down to really cranking down on the laces of the boots. I usually tie them “comfortable” for the ascent and when I’m going down give them a good tightening. I love the boots otherwise. Should also say that it depends on the terrain descending. If it’s a step then never a problem. If it’s a slope is when the jamming happens.

  9. Love your articles Phillip.

    I’ve had a pair of Garmont Momentum Snow GTX boots (the 400g insulation version) for nearly ten years that are now starting to become very worn. I love everything about the boots and use them for winter hiking, backpacking, and snowshoeing.

    If Garmont still made that model I’d buy it again in a heartbeat, but unfortunately they don’t. What’s the most similar boot on the market now? The Salomon Toundra?

    Thanks!

  10. The detailed analysis of various winter boot options and their respective insulation levels is incredibly helpful. It’s not just about staying warm, but also about maintaining comfort and avoiding excessive perspiration, which can lead to cold feet in the long run.

  11. Meister neoprene toe sleeves work wonders in the winter for cold toes. They can be worn over liner socks and under heavier wool socks.

    https://meisterelite.com/products/meister-neoprene-toe-warmer-booties-pair-black

    • Patrick, thanks for pointing these out I will give these a try. My toes get too cold even in the 400g when it is 20f or bellow to the point of damaging the nerves not frostbite but still not good. I am sure I have Raynauds or something. I have tried the Bridger and Keen both nice boots but my toes are still cold. Phillip in any of your research have you figured out where the heat loss in the boots typically is? I am just wandering if it is typically through the sole
      or the top or maybe airflow from flexing. I have seen some winter boots in the store with extremely thick foam insoles. Also do you find your boot’s getting colder with use as maybe the insulation loses its loft. I haven’t found any companies making the vapor barrier socks lately but I will try the oven bags soon.

      • The cold comes in from all over but especially fresh m below. Try buying wool covered insoles and using toe warmers

        • I tried the powerstep wool insoles and they seem fine but still cold toes. The toe warmers seem to “go out” on me. Not sure if they don’t get enough air. I know everyone is different and I will just keep trying. Thank you

  12. Hey Phil as always really informative post. Surprised not to see any La Sportiva models on your list, they seem to be a regular on your recommendations. Are you souring on them?

  13. I find toe warmers to be a great addition to my boots in either 200 or 400 insulation. If there’s any snow on the ground, I definitely use them and may at other times. My preferred winter boots are by Meindl.

  14. Hi Phil,
    Great article. My toes get cold when I stop hiking and set up camp for the night so “during hiking” temperature ratings have been painful lessons when winter backpacking. From a heat transfer point of view, conductive heat transfer (through sole of boot to snow) is more efficient than convective or radiative transfer=heat flow through sides and top of boot mostly touching cold air. Some manufacturers I have talked to use the same soles for multiple insulation rating boots. Some boots don’t wrap the insulation around the bottom of the foot. Anyway, I bought expensive, heavy 6000M mountaineering boots (Boreal) that do solve the problem, they are 2 full sizes bigger than my normal hiking boots. I notice these boots have about 2″ of sole material between my toes and the ground (tread not included). I have been with others that use lower cost, heavy Pac Boots with thick removable boot liners also. Hopefully my 2 cents helps somebody.

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