Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review

Ultra-warm, ruggedly-built, waterproof, lightweight boots insulated with Aerogel.

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

My rating is based on day trips in cold temperatures. The Tundra is ruggedly built, waterproof, very warm and comfortable, and has a very high warmth to weight ratio. However, for multi-day snow camping trips, I would drop the rating to Recommended because of the boot's tendency to become chilly due to accumulated moisture from sweat and difficulty getting them dried out in the field.

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by Will Rietveld |

Description

Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review - 1
The lightweight Salomon Tundra Boot, insulated with Aerogel, is comfort rated to -40 F. Men's boot on left; women's on right.

The Salomon Tundra Mid WP insulated boot probably has the highest warmth to weight ratio to be found anywhere. It's insulated with Aerogel, which was developed by Aspen Aerogels for NASA, and is claimed to have the highest thermal insulation value of any solid material available. Aerogel is a silicon-based solid with a porous, sponge-like structure in which 99.8% of the volume is empty space. It's one thousand times less dense than glass, which is another silicon-based solid. Aerogel is not like conventional foams, but is a special porous material with extreme microporosity on a micron scale. The individual pores are only a few nanometers in size. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.

Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review - 2
A disc of Aerogel (left) feels weightless. Aspen Aerogels incorporates Aerogel into a fabric called "Spaceloft" (center) for use in footwear and garments. In the Tundra, the Spaceloft fabric surrounds the toebox and the sides of the foot; areas that are most vulnerable to getting cold. The chart (right) shows that Aerogel's insulation value/inch (clo) is about three times that of other synthetic insulations.

This boot was initially introduced in fall 2007 as the Aspen, which was significantly taller (11 inches in back, 12 inches at the side). The Aspen was replaced by the Tundra in fall 2008, and the new boot measures 9.5 inches at the back and 10 inches at the side. In short, the Tundra gets it right (read my comments in the following section).

Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review - 3
The overly tall Aspen boot (left) was replaced by the Tundra (right) one year later.

The Tundra is nicely designed, and is constructed of very durable materials (see specifications table). The uppers are all synthetic, with a very durable molded rubber/fabric (like Hypalon) lower section cemented to the outsole. Both the toe and heel have rugged bumpers for extra durability, and the heel has a notch for snowshoe and crampon straps. The grippy outsole has Contragrip rubber which remains flexible in extreme cold temperatures.

Performance

I tested the Aspen and Tundra on several day trips while snowshoeing and ice fishing, and on four multi-day winter snowshoeing trips where I camped in an igloo (two trips) or a tent (two trips).

My first reaction to the Aspen was that it was way too tall! When I laced the boots all the way up and snowshoed in them, my ankles were very tired at the end of the day. They were like walking in downhill ski boots! The solution I found was to lace them only part-way so my ankles were more free to bend. Salomon apparently recognized the problem early-on, because they replaced the Aspen with the shorter Tundra one year later. By the numbers, the Tundra isn't that much shorter (9.5 inches in back versus 11 inches), but it does, in fact, get it right. I am very satisfied with the height of the Tundra in terms of ankle support and flexibility. Although Salomon calls the Tundra a mid-height boot, it is clearly a full-height boot in my opinion.

Although the Tundra is no featherweight, it is remarkably light for an ultra-warm boot. The measured weight of the Tundra in men's size 12 is 26.8 ounces/boot. To put that into perspective, the popular Keen Growler (insulated with 200 gram KeenDry) weighs 22.5 ounces/boot in size 12, and Baffin Outback (a lightweight pac-type boot with a removable liner) weighs 34 ounces/boot in the same size.

Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review - 4
I tested the Tundra while snowshoeing, winter camping, and ice fishing. Note the boot's durable upper, rubber toe and heel bumpers, notch to hold a snowshoe (or crampon) heel strap, and snug fit around my leg.

I found the Tundra's fit to be slightly on the snug side. A size 12 normally gives me ample room for two pairs of socks, but I found room for only one pair of heavy wool socks without being too tight. I suggest sizing up one size above your hiking shoe size. The width is adequate for my wide feet, but they are not super wide.

The Tundra is especially suited for snow travel. The uppers are made of durable materials, with a tough toe bumper and molded rubber/fabric (like Hypalon), with no exposed seams, in the lower section to resist abrasion in crusty snow. I also like the snug closure of the gusseted tongue and furry collar around my leg to seal the top of the boot. They lace up quickly with one yank on the laces. Curiously, the laces are extra long, so rather than contend with loose laces, I wrap them around the top of the boot and knot them, as shown in the photo above.

Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review - 5
The Tundra's Contragrip outsole has an aggressive tread and the rubber remains flexible in extreme cold.

For sheer warmth, the Tundra is delightful, especially on day trips in really cold weather. Although it is true that Aerogel provides a lot of warmth with minimal bulk and weight, the -40 F temperature rating of the Tundra an approximate and optimistic claim (as is the case for most insulated boots). Their actual warmth depends on the weather and the user's activity level, fitness, metabolism, foot perspiration, circulation, exposure time, clothing, and sensitivity to cold.

The Tundra is definitely waterproof; I did not have any leakage at all during my testing. However, I did have some moisture buildup inside the boots from sweat, which can compromise their warmth. It was not an issue on day trips in cold temperatures, as long as I kept moving, but it was problematic on multi-day snow camping trips. On one -11 F morning it took several hours for my feet to warm up. I weighed the boots and my socks on several occasions when my feet became chilly, and found that it took only a few tenths of an ounce of moisture to cause cold feet. I found that I could minimize the problem, and keep my feet warm, by changing my socks frequently and drying them in my sleeping bag. But it's very difficult to avoid moisture buildup in a boot with a membrane. Although pac-type boots are heavier, their removable liners are a distinct advantage because you can dry them out in a sleeping bag overnight.

Overall, the Tundra is remarkably rugged, lightweight, comfortable, and warm, and deserves our highest rating for day trips. The moisture buildup issue on multi-day trips depends a lot on the hiker, temperatures, activity level, how much his/her feet sweat, and how much they manage moisture by changing socks.

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Salomon Sports (http:// http://www.salomonsports.com/)

  Year/Model

2008 Tundra Boot

  Insulation

Aerogel incorporated into "Spaceloft" fabric

  Materials

Upper is water-resistant fabric, synthetic leather, and molded rubber/fabric (like Hypalon), midsole is molded EVA, traction rubber outsole

  Features

Winter Contragrip outsole, proprietary waterproof-breathable membrane, molded EVA midsole, gusseted padded tongue, polyester fleece lining, furry top closure, rubber toe cap, rubber heel cap with molded notch for snowshoe or crampon strap, external heel counter, self-locking eyelets

  Weight

Measured weight men's 12 26.8 oz/boot (760 g), manufacturer specification 24 oz (681 g) for men's 9

  MSRP

US$170


Citation

"Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/salomon_tundra_review.html, 2009-02-17 00:10:00-07.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review on 02/17/2009 20:47:20 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Moisture control on 02/17/2009 23:09:51 MST Print View

Will,

Several points:

"However, for multi-day snow camping trips, I would drop the rating to Recommended because of the boot's tendency to become chilly due to accumulated moisture from sweat and difficulty getting them dried out in the field."

It seems to me that it is the user's responsibility to address that problem (i.e. to keep the boot's insulation dry). Is getting the boot wet (in cold/dry conditions) inevitable? I would hope not.

"A size 12 normally gives me ample room for two pairs of socks, but I found room for only one pair of heavy wool socks without being too tight."

Given how warm you say the boot and its aerogel are, how important is having those thick socks? How well would it work to use pretty thin socks, if you could keep the boot's own insulation dry? Say a regime of keeping the boot dry, changing socks from time to time, and drying the damp socks you remove with body heat so you will always have warm dry socks to change into?

1) That photo of your foot in the boot sure looks like the top is an open invitation for snow to gather where the boot meets the leg, or even fall down in a bit, and then melt. Is there any good way of sealing the top of the boot against the leg (to prevent snow melt)? May not matter on a day trip, but I would think it would help on anything longer than that. (Wind pants that come down over / beyond the boot top would help a lot -- perhaps you had those, just pulled out of the way for the photo.)

2) If most of the moisture in the boot is condensed perspiration, as I presume it is, have you tried wearing a vapor barrier sock? You did not say much about the boot breathing (and I doubt it does breathe much in sub-zero weather), so a vb liner should not make your socks and feet any wetter, but should keep the boot's insulation dry -- a pretty important thing to focus on.

3) As to overnight trips -- have you tried sleeping with your boots in the sleeping bag with you? From the way you describe things, I sure would. If you would do that, then it should not take the several hours to warm up in the morning that you reported. (Voice of experience -- I used to sleep with my Mickey Mouse boots in my sleeping bag with me -- for just that reason. Their insulation would stay dry regardless, but they could sure be a heat sink at first in the AM.)

4) As you said, changing socks several times a day in real cold weather is good. People might consider pinning the socks they remove inside their clothing, where it is comparatively warm, so the sock could dry out before it is needed again. Light socks would be preferable (because they would dry more quickly), if they can be warm enough with them.

-- MV

Edited by blean on 02/18/2009 13:16:35 MST.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review on 02/18/2009 20:26:42 MST Print View

Will,

It appears to me as if the Tundra boot, below the ankle, is vapor impervious and this caused the moisture build-up that resulted in cold feet on multi-day trips. As with the most vapor barriers, isn't sub-zero F temps, in combination with a low metabolic rate, this boots target niche?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Moisture control on 02/18/2009 21:01:51 MST Print View

> If most of the moisture in the boot is condensed perspiration, as I presume it
> is, have you tried wearing a vapor barrier sock?

My 2c:

In a nut shell, despite the glowing claims of all the boot and membrane vendors, wearing a VBL sock inside any boot under very cold conditions is the only solution for the long term. Otherwise the sweat from your foot WILL condense inside the sock/boot. No, the boot membrane is not good enough. It however very useful for stopping snow melting into the boot and wetting the sock.

Having thick socks inside your boot is also essential, but not just on your foot. Keeping your ankle warm and the lower part of your calf warm is equally as important. Otherwise the blood going into your foot will already be cold.

And finally, to make life really difficult: having your feet too warm will make them sweat too much. Who said humans were meant to live at -40 C/F anyhow? Cool feet OK, hot feet and cold feet NOK.

Cheers

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Moisture control on 02/18/2009 21:28:52 MST Print View

"Having thick socks inside your boot is also essential, but not just on your foot. Keeping your ankle warm and the lower part of your calf warm is equally as important. Otherwise the blood going into your foot will already be cold."

The needed sock depends on the boot. For example, back in the 60's and 70's I spent a lot of time in sub-zero (F) conditions. On snowshoes, I used a U.S. Army surplus "Mickey Mouse" boot (perhaps think of that as a boot with a *really* good vbl). Definitely did not wear thick socks -- just wore whatever it took for my foot to feel comfortable. IIRC it was a synthetic tubular athletic sock. Thinner would not have soaked up enough moisture during the day; thicker not needed for anything.

I am not familiar with the Salomon boot. Judging by the photos, however, it looks as if the lower leg and ankle are nicely insulated. If so, I see no reason for a thick sock (as long as you can keep the boot insulation dry).

-- MV

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Re: Moisture control on 02/21/2009 13:55:11 MST Print View

Hi Bob. You raise some good questions here, and I would like to add my comments in addition to Roger's.

MOISTURE ACCUMULATION: Not a big problem on day trips, but can be a major issue on multi-day winter trips. You make a good point that it's the user's responsibility to avoid moisture accumulation. Most WP/B insulated boots accumulate moisture from sweat in the lining of the boot, and a very small amount of moisture can result in cold feet. Boots with a membrane are not very "breathable", so they don't eliminate the moisture for you. Methods to get the moisture out include swapping socks frequently and wearing your sock inside a VB sock. The latter method keeps the moisture out of the lining of the boot, but VB socks have a tendency to feel clammy. I always wear my socks inside them to avoid that.

SIZING: I was stating my foot size as an illustration; the Tundra is slightly undersized. To get a good fit, with some wiggle room, I recommend going a half to one size larger than your normal hiking boot size.

BOOT TOPS: Yes, I did have my gaiters removed to take the photo. The Tundra has a fuzzy ruff and snug seal around the leg to keep snow out, but a gaiter or snow collar is recommended to keep snow completely out and keep the tops of socks dry.

VB SOCKS: As Andrew Skurka says, VB socks don't do much good for keeping your feet warm unless its really cold. The Tundra is a boot for serious cold, and it will keep your feet very warm when its very cold, but moisture inside will kill its warmth. As I mentioned, wearing a thick sock inside a VB sock inside the Tundra will keep the moisture out of the boot lining, but you will need to change socks when your feet feel clammy or cold. That is more likely to happen in warmer temperatures.

SLEEP WITH BOOTS: I guess that's a personal decision, but I wouldn't do it. For one thing, its hard to get the boots completely clean and dry, for another it's really hard to dry out the inside of the boots inside a sleeping bag. I find that I need to use a boot dryer at home to get them dried out inside. It would help a lot to warm up the boots before putting them, and wearing warm socks when you put them on helps a lot too. My ski boots don't have removable liners, and the hardest part of winter camping is putting on those frozen boots!

Best wishes, Will

Edited by WilliWabbit on 02/21/2009 15:14:42 MST.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Moisture control on 02/21/2009 15:51:52 MST Print View

Hi Will,

Nice to hear from you. There is, however, a point or two that I was evidently not clear enough on. I'll combine clarifying with a reply to your message.

For those who may be less used to the cold than you are, we should point out that there is "cold-wet" and "cold-dry". The difference is in whether you expect your boots to be able to get wet from the outside (e.g. temperatures in the 20's and wet snow vs sub-zero(F) and dry snow that will not be melting on your boots).

When you think of the boots you are going to wear in the cold, and how you are going to use them, you need to distinguish between those two kinds of cold. What is at issue is *how* you are going to have the dry insulation you need -- either way, you need to understand how you are going to keep the insulation for your feet dry for the trip you plan. If you cannot do that, then the boot is unsuitable -- you will risk freezing your feet.

There are three basic kinds of insulation: encased in something securely waterproof (e.g. Mickey Mouse boots), removable (e.g. felt liners) and none-of-the-above (i.e. non-removable insulation that is exposed to water either from the outside or from perspiration.

Mickey Mouse boots are an example of cold-wet footwear, and mukluks are an example of cold-dry footwear. Will reports that "The Tundra is a boot for serious cold" -- i.e. cold-dry.

MOISTURE ACCUMULATION: I agree with you that there is no such thing as a non-waterproof lining that will keep the insulation dry if you are out for an extended length of time. A WPB liner is false security -- all that will happen is that the vapor that gets through it will condense within the insulation when it gets to insulation that is at the dew point -- resulting in wet insulation.

The fact is that you must either (a) keep the moisture from the insulation or else (b) be able to dry the insulation (which probably means removing it if you are camped out).

Since the Salomon has non-removable insulation, you (probably) won't be able to dry it on on a multi-day trip, so you must keep it dry to begin with. The only way I know to do that is vapor barrier socks. As you have noted, no socks are needed for warmth inside the VB, but most people agree they are definitely needed for comfort. IMHO you should go with the thinnest ones you can that will still allow you to feel comfortable -- the reason is that thinner socks are easier to dry, and if you are out for an extended period you will probably want/have to dry them. Warmth is not an issue -- that is being provided by the boot's insulation.

VB SOCKS: I am not thinking of them as keeping you warm -- I am thinking of them as keeping the boot's insulation dry, so that the insulation will continue to keep you warm. They are good in any degree of cold that would result in condensing perspiration inside your insulation. For example, I would not consider upper 20's to be "really cold", but I sure do want to keep my insulation dry at that temperature.

As to changing inner socks, the main thing is foot health (it is not good for the feet to be permanently wet). Wet inner socks should not be making your feet cold, at least as long as the boot's insulation stays dry. If the wetness makes you uncomfortable, though, then change them.

My own experience (both personal, and those I traveled with) is that wet socks inside a VBL were not a problem all day long, so long as feet were dry and warm all night long. See my further comments below.

SLEEP WITH BOOTS ON: I never intended to suggest that! Sorry I was not clear enough. The only folks I know of who need to do that are soldiers in cold weather.

What I *did* mean to say is that in serious cold weather, your boots belong in your sleeping bag with you at night -- in a waterproof stuff sack if needed to keep the sleeping bag dry. The intent is to keep them from getting cold-soaked and (if they are at all damp) frozen stiff. I hear your objections to boots inside the sleeping bag -- all I can say is that I have spent a *lot* of nights with Mickey Mouse boots inside my sleeping bag (but not on my feet).

The only folks I knew who did not sleep with (not in) their boots just about froze their feet in the morning when they had to wear cold-soaked boots. It was also very hard to put such boots on -- you had a damp sock trying to slide along a cold-soaked surface -- the socks tended to freeze to the surface, and act very sticky as you put the boots on. I have seen people ram their toes through the toe of the sock trying to force it into a cold boot! People who did that once tended to sleep with their boots thereafter.

HOW THE ARMY DID IT: when I was in college, I knew a guy who had been an officer in the Korean conflict (which gave birth to Mickey Mouse boots as the solution to an unacceptable rate of frostbitten feet among the soldiers). They, of course, had to wear their boots 24x7. The problem with that is avoiding trench foot, since your feet are constantly wet.

What they did was to stop every so often (I think it was every 4-6 hours), take their boots off, wipe out the boots, dry their feet, use foot powder if so inclined, put on dry socks, and put their boots back on. They fastened the socks they had just removed inside their clothing, so the socks would have a chance to (pretty much) dry out.

My own (civilian) experience with Mickey Mouse boots is that my feet being dry overnight prevented any problems. I wore the boots continuously from getting up (at daylight or before) to going to bed (at dark or after). I did not find the need to change socks during the day. I did dry the socks overnight (but not on my feet).

--MV

Edited by blean on 02/21/2009 15:56:21 MST.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Moisture control on 02/22/2009 15:54:57 MST Print View

Hi Bob. You make a lot of excellent points, and there is little to add. I agree with you, its important to keep the inside of your boots dry on a multi-day trip. I would use thin socks too, or the thickest socks that will fit in my boots with a VB sock and not be too tight. Boots in the bag are a good practice. With my ski boots, the problem is getting all the snow and ice off of them before I put them in my bag, even in a WP stuff sack.

It should be noted that the surplus "micky mouse boots" are very bulky and heavy. I have a pair; they are totally warm, but very klutzy.

Best,
Will

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Re: Re: Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review on 02/22/2009 16:14:13 MST Print View

Richard, these boots are actually comfortable across a fairly broad temperature range, from about 25 F on down to below zero. As the discussion has pointed out, the warmer it is and the more active you are, the more perspiration inside the boot. And these boots, while waterproof, are not breathable and won't expel the moisture. Under very cold and inactive conditions, there won't be much accumulated perspiration inside, so no problem. But, if your are going to be hiking actively in these boots (or any insulated boot)on a multi-day trip, its a good idea to wear a VB sock inside to contain the perspiration and keep it from soaking into the boot lining. As has been mentioned, wear a thin sock inside the VB sock to avoid the clammy feeling.

Best,
Will

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Re: Re: Moisture control on 02/22/2009 16:47:00 MST Print View

"It should be noted that the surplus "micky mouse boots" are very bulky and heavy. I have a pair; they are totally warm, but very klutzy."

Yes, they sure are. I had the black ones -- the later white ones were even bulkier, so I never "upgraded" to them. I have no idea what came after that -- I lost track.

The only reason I cited them is that one could think of them as having the ultimate VB -- the inside of the boot is rubber, keeping all perspiration away from the insulation.

Regards,
Bob

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Low temperature rating? on 02/22/2009 17:12:27 MST Print View

Will,

Speaking of Mickey Mouse boots, how cold would you expect the Salomons to go?

-- Bob

P.S. FWIW: black Mickey Mouse boots were rated to -20F. I have worn mine at -35F -- pretty marginal. White ones were rated to -40F.

James Schipper
(monospot) - MLife
Mickey Mouse boots on 02/28/2009 10:22:17 MST Print View

Bob,

What is the valve on the outside ankle of the mickey mouse boots used for?

tkkn c
(tkknc) - MLife

Locale: Desert Rat in the Southwest
Salomon Tundra Mid WP Insulated Boot Review on 02/28/2009 10:35:07 MST Print View

The valve on the boot is to compensate for air pressure when you are flying in an unpressurized cabin (cargo plane).

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
tundra on 02/17/2010 07:16:58 MST Print View

I used this boot for 2 days/2 nights snow camping last weekend. Not very cold temps, but wet snow. My feet stayed completely dry and warm even while still around camp at night. They seemed a great fit for snowshoes. I didn't even change into different shoes when we got back to the car; they stayed comfortable, dry, light, even good for the drive home.