The new (fall 2009) Western Mountaineering Expedition Down Bootie (available in red or black as tested) is well insulated with 800 fill-power down and has a knee-high Gore Windstopper gaiter top with drawcord closure.
For those who like to hike and camp in the snow, a lightweight footwear system that keeps feet dry and warm is essential, as explained in our three-part article: Lightweight Footwear Systems for Snow Travel. A pair of lightweight/warm down booties is an essential component of a winter camping kit to keep feet warm in camp and in a sleeping bag. Down booties abound, but most of them are just not warm enough, or don’t keep snow out well enough, by themselves for snow camping. I have tried several and find that I need to wear extra layers inside of them and overboots over them to keep my feet warm, which adds up the weight. The newly introduced (fall 2009) Western Mountaineering Expedition Down Bootie makes other down booties look like cabin slippers. These lightweight booties (8 ounces for size Medium) seem to be capable of shedding snow and keeping feet warm by themselves, without all the added layers, so are they the ultimate booties for snow camping?
Western Mountaineering has two versions of this new bootie: a shorter Standard Bootie and a taller Expedition Bootie. The Standard version is a “regular” height (to about the bottom of the calf), and the Expedition version, which is insulated to about the same height and has a gaiter top that is almost knee high. The height of the size XL Expedition Booties I tested is 21 inches. The outer shell is different between the two versions: the Standard Bootie has a lightweight downproof nylon outer shell with DWR, and the Expedition Bootie has a Gore Windstopper outer shell for extra weather protection. Both booties have a 2-inch-high coated packcloth rand above the sole for extra abrasion resistance in this high wear area.
The lower 10.5 inches of the Expedition Bootie are insulated with 800 fill-power down, 1 ounce of down per bootie, which is actually quite a bit. The upper part is an incorporated gaiter that overlaps a pair of down pants to seal in the warmth and keep snow out (see top and bottom photos). There is a foam insole (about 0.5-inch thick) at the bottom of the bootie that is not removable. Also, there is a foam insert sewn in behind the heel. A really nice feature is an internal elastic cord around the ankle that holds the bootie in place and helps to seal in warmth.
Note that there are right and left booties, but they are not marked as such, so you have to look at the sole shape to determine which is which (see center photo below). WM plans to label them in the next production run.
The Expedition Down Booties will sandwich down to about 2 inches thick for packing (left). The Toughtek rubber sole (center) is very durable, does not slip on snow or ice, and snow does not readily stick to it. The right photo is a close-up of the sole material.
I tested the WM Expedition Down Booties several times while camping in my igloo and on one snow camping trip using a floorless GoLite Hex 3 tent. I put them on when we stopped traveling and wore them continuously in camp and in my sleeping bag. Nighttime temperatures ranged from +14 to 0 F (-10 to -18 C).
I really liked the WM Expedition Down Booties from the first time I put them on. Cold feet are normally a problem for me while snow camping, so I have always worn several layers on my feet (heavy wool socks, Integral Designs Hot Socks, down booties, 40 Below Overboots) to keep my feet warm and dry, which adds up to quite a bit of weight and bulk. I found these booties to be surprisingly warm by themselves, wearing only a pair of thick dry socks inside. I got the booties in size XL so I would have room for extra layers inside, which I would likely need for sub-zero temperatures.
I also really like the booties’ Gore Windstopper shell fabric, which is lightweight, durable, and waterproof. The gaiter tops are also a real plus because they overlap my down pants (or eVENT pants that I often wear over down pants) very well, so I can wade through deep snow without getting any snow into the booties. Finally, the Toughtec rubber soles are truly non-slip as claimed; I did not slip on snow or bare ice at all (but watch out for smooth ice with a little fresh snow on it!).
Stability-wise, the booties stayed in place very well. In other booties I have tried, my feet slide off to the side, but that was not a problem with these. The sewn-in foam insole, elastic ankle band, and drawcord closure on the gaiter tops above the calf all help to hold them in place.
Another nice thing is snow does not stick to the Toughtec soles or Windstopper outer shell, so it is easy to exit my igloo or tent, walk in the snow outside, and then re-enter my sleeping bag with dry booties. All it takes is minimal wiping of the bottoms to make sure they are completely dry.
Wearing the booties inside my sleeping bag works out very well. Of course that depends on the size of the bag’s footbox, but wearing the booties inside my bag is really good insurance against cold feet.
To be candid, there are few pieces of gear that I have reviewed that are perfect, with no flaws, and I have reviewed a lot of gear. This is one of the rare, perfect gems. I could not find anything not to like about the WM Expedition Down Booties. They may be overkill for three-season camping, but they really excel for winter camping when I want warm feet. Also, the design and construction of these booties allow me to take just one item to keep my feet warm instead of several layers. In camp I simply put on dry socks and put the booties on over them. In really frigid temperatures, an extra layer or two inside the booties would be needed.
Specifications and Features
|Manufacturer||Western Mountaineering (http://www.westernmountaineering.com/)|
|Year/Model||2010 Expedition Down Bootie|
|Style||Down insulated bootie with knee-high gaiter top|
|Insulation||800 fill-power down, 1 oz down/bootie|
|Stuffed Size||6 in wide x 12.5 in long x 2 in thick (15 x 32 x 5 cm), size XL|
|Weight||Measured weight 10.3 oz/pair (292 g) size XL; manufacturer specification 8 oz/pair (227 g) size M|
|Sizes||XS, S, M, L, XL|
|Fabrics||Shell is 2.1 oz/yd2 (71 g/m2) Gore Windstopper|
|Features||Non-slip Toughtek sole, insulating foam insole, internal elastic cord around ankle, insulated foam heel cup, durable rand around bottom, Gore Windstopper shell, knee-high gaiter top with drawcord closure|