Boots for winter canoeing?

I do an annual 3 day canoe float with family when we are in the midwest (Missouri) for the holidays. Last year it was hovering around -5F with sleet and freezing rain. I was wearing synthetic liners, with one pair of thick Thorlos, or a pair of thick Darn Tough socks. My boots were regular goretex hiking boots that usually work just fine for shorter trips.

I’m looking at some insulated boots, but I wanted to see what everyone else is using? I’ve heard that Mukluks are a great choice, but I’d like to have a little more versatility in the boot that I choose. I’d like to be able to use them for winter hiking as well.

Would anything with some insulation help? In the winter, I typically have cold feet. Last year, if we stopped for a break, I just wanted around the whole time, which warmed my feet up nicely.

Here are a few things I’ve been looking at:

Cabelas 3/4 Shell Dry-Plus Insulated boot:

Columbia Bugalite:,1746K_Columbia-Footwear-Bugalite-Winter-Boots-Waterproof-Insulated-For-Men.html

Or some type of Sorel boot.

Thoughts, suggestions?

Wiggy’s Pack Boots

– Last Updated: Nov-12-09 7:44 PM EST –

I like these boots for winter camping and snowshoing. Pretty warm and waterproof. No frozen feet in morning when putting on - you can keep the inserts in your sleeping bag so they are toasty in the morning.

I picked up an extra pair of the inserts so i had something dry to change into after setting up camp after a day of snowshoing.

oops! nevermind....

i wouldn't use these boots for paddling, just snowshoing or standing around camp...

For paddling, i use oversized NRS ATB Boots

I use them because of the zippered side, it makes it easy to fit my foot in when wearing a drysuit with heavier socks....

In summer I prefer the NRS Workboots as mentioned above. Those are great - I get great ankle support with them for portaging and they keep my feet warm (but wet) into early november.

I was always afraid of ripping the booties on my drysuit by cramming them into the workboots, hence the oversized ATB boots. They almost have as much ankle support as the NRS Workboots...

The “bride” and I use NRS boundary
shoes, and we also used them in Ak when we were hiking in the taundra.

Use a pair of smart wool socks in them, and you are good to go.

Broke them out a few weeks ago for entering and exiting our yaks here in the NC mountains in Lake James



A completely contrary suggestion
Get the mukluks and be warm paddling. They are no good for hiking of course but if you fall out…you can actually swim with them. Swimming in hiking boots is akin to swimming with a concrete block on each foot. If you stand in water that overtops your hiking boots, even if they are insulated you are done. It doesnt take much depth with hikers though I am sure you know that.

Feet differ but have you actually been cold in your hiking boots on winter hikes? Insualted boots get very warm…warm enough that I dont use them at all till its below zero when snowshoeing in the White Mountains of NH. The rest of the time gaiters do add a level of warmth when hiking and you can sometimes cross streams without getting wet with them.

I dont know what kind of Sorels you are thinking of but mine are so warm and heavy to be of use only when ice fishing or snowmobiling.

A Completely Correct Suggestion

– Last Updated: Nov-12-09 9:31 PM EST –

Chota Quicklace Mukluck and smart wool socks, combined with a Kokatat Gortex dry suit, with attached booties, the combo will keep you both warm AND dry.,821.html

Should your ever feel the need to paddle a 21 inch wide kayak on the Canadian border just before freeze up, and have size 11 EE feet, I would suggest Chota Mukluk Lite:,4179.html

The boots you have described are VERY warm, and I use similar boots when snowblowing my driveway in - 30 degree Fahrenheit temps we get in winter up here in the North Country.

A little off topic - boot weight

– Last Updated: Nov-12-09 10:03 PM EST –

Warm winter boots need not be heavy. I have a pair of Sorel's new incarnation of the old "Premium" model, a boot design I have been searching for since Sorel first discontinued the very practical boots they made 30 or so years ago. These new boots aren't as well-made as the old made-in-Canada "Premium" boots, but just like the old style "Premiums" and unlike most OTHER modern shoe-packs, they have a light and flexible sole, a felt liner but NO built-in insulation, and the foot section is streamlined enough to fit nicely into standard snowshoe bindings as well as being able to pivot "all the way" through a snowshoe's toe hole (unlike most modern winter boats which can only "just slightly" reach through the toe hole). Anyway, I just put them on the scale, and one boot weighs about 900 grams. Then I weighed my old Red Wing boots, an "all-purpose" all-leather design that's basically a work boat except for the lugged sole and the lack of a steel toe cap, and one boot weighs 1020 grams (that's a difference that would be immediately apparent to anybody as soon as they picked up the boot). So to anyone who misses the old-time "shoe-packs", check out the new Sorel "Premium" boots.

By the way, I envy you that you "can't use" Sorels for hiking in above-zero temperatures because they are too warm. My feet won't stay warm when hiking in winter UNLESS I wear something with felt liners, though as I mentioned, I don't really care for all those super-bulky modern designs, SOME of which add insult to injury by not even having enough lace eyelets to let them conform snugly around the ankle (the old-timer's trick for making standard winter boots fit well around the ankle is to tie them really tight at about the third eyelet (right where the ankle flexes) and finish-off with a square knot, then continue lacing normally the rest of the way up to the top. That makes the lower part of the boot fit just about as nicely as low-top hikers).

…IF you are blessed with “warm” feet!

– Last Updated: Nov-12-09 10:29 PM EST –

I wear Chota neoprene lace-up boots with Smart Wool socks (though I don't care what the brand is as long as they are good quality AND made of wool) and polypro liners, and they are "okay" (there's not nearly enough room inside paddling boots for THICK socks). However, my feet won't stay warm for more than a few hours of paddling if the air temperature is about 30 degrees or so, and won't stay warm for more than about an hour if it's as cold as 10 or 15 degrees (after that, I don't stop, I just endure cold feet or pull ashore to move around enough to get warm again!). As I posted on the glove topic a week or so ago, many of the gloves that people say are the cat's meow are truly worse than useless for me, and I know I'm not the only one with that experience. Count your blessings if your hands and feet are always warm inside the best paddling clothing, but it's smart to not "tell" others how warm they will be when wearing the same stuff. The original poster has already said he typically has cold feet in the winter, a situation I know quite well, so I seriously doubt that Chotas of any kind will actually keep his feet warm, since they don't do much to keep my feet warm either. That said, I DO also recommend "Quick Lace" neoprene Chotas, or anything similar, since paddling almost always requires you to step in the water once in a while, and "semi-warm" feet that are dry are better then "used-to-be-warm" feet that are soaking wet because you stepped in water too deep for hiking boots.

From a fellow cold-feet sufferer:

– Last Updated: Nov-12-09 10:25 PM EST –

I'd suggest that you skip the waterproof hiking boots and get the warmest paddling boots you can get. As I posted in response to another recommendation, the Chota Quick-Lace boots are probably as good as anything you will find for this purpose, and better than most, for paddling. I like them because I can kneel in the canoe with my feet under the seat, and they are high enough to keep my feet dry during "walk-the-boat" scenarios or difficult launches/landings that required wading. The Quick-Lace boots are also remarkably good for "some" amount of hiking, and I've often walked a mile or so in them with no discomfort at all (the non-lacing versions of paddling boots aren't good at all for walking far). Bottom line, prepare for "boating", not hiking, and then put some nice winter shoe-packs in a dry bag so they are ready for you once you are done paddling (or even during a rest stop).

Dry boots for scuba purposes
I picked up a pair for winter paddling at a local scuba shop. Same or slightly lower price point than the paddling mukluks from NRS or Chota, very similar design, and 5 mills thick rather than the 3 of the paddling boots. If you have a scuba shop near you, it’s worth a look.

Boundary Boots.

-40 Pac Boots
s-day trip, temps to -5 F amd tending to cold feet - no way would I use anything less warm than a Pac-boot rated to at least -40. those temp ratings are for someone with warm feet who is being really active - not for someone sitting in a canoe for several hours and hanging around camp in the winter. Bring a second pair of lighter boots- then if the weather is warmer and the pac-boots are too warm, you have an option. But I’d plan for the coldest weather, and would rather be warm than miserable. Swimming in them would be hard, but if you dump in -5 temps, you got bigger problems - the pac-boots, with a lot of insulation would keep your feet warmer if you do wind up in the water. That’s the way I’d go.

Because I mostly kneel when canoeing
there is no hiking boot that will work. In winter I wear my Chota side zip neoprene booties with felt soles, and I wear polypropelene or wool socks inside if I need extra insulation.

We don’t have many rivers in Georgia where it is safe to sit in a canoe in hiking boots. I can portage canoes pretty well in neoprene booties, and when we were in Quetico, I kept a pair of hiking boots in the boat for difficult portages.

other warm feet options
I have Deep See Manta 6.5 mm Neoprene booties that I like for cold water kayaking and canoeing. They are about 8" high, zip up and have a molded wraparound lug sole. I was surprised to find that the sole and insole were sturdy and supportive enough that I could also comfortably use them for portaging and even light hiking. I now carry them on backpacking/hiking trips for stream crossings and camp slippers and have even worn them to shovel snow. They’re extremely warm (I got them a half size big to accommodate wool blend socks)and not as “frogman” looking as other neo booties. And at less than $50 they are pretty reasonable (I got mine for $35).

For folks with chronically cold feet there are some other non-shoe options that can help (I sold hiking, skiing and mountaineering boots for a while and have also advised construction workers who have to dress for severe weather conditions.) If you can find them, silk liners and also the “silver lining” stretch aluminized nylon liner socks can be very helpful worn under your regular socks. You can often find the silver liners in hunting goods and army-navy surplus stores – I also recommend the matching silver liner gloves for adding warmth and enabling grip and dexterity in cold conditions. These silver socks and gloves are cheap – around $3 a pair. (The gloves can be a lifesaver when you have to make a fussy repair of any kind in wind-chill or frostbite conditions.)

Cold feet in many people is due to excessive sweating – some folks just have damper feet than others. If that’s the case, stick with the fluffiest mostly wool socks or wool/acrylic blend you can find, preferably with the sort of loopy terry-cloth like inner texture rather than a smooth knit – that will help move moisture away from your skin and maintain an air-pocket layer.

Another old and cheap remedy is a complete vapor barrier – grab a few extra of those sturdy plastic bags off the roll dispensers in the produce department of the grocery store next time you shop. Pull them over your feet UNDER your socks and shoes when you hike or paddle. It’s surprising how much warmer this can keep your feet.

Another thing that people forget is keeping their legs warm – the blood has to travel through those leg arteries to get to your feet. Wearing windstopper pants helps. I’ve also added a pair of home-made leg warmers to my cold weather wardrobe – I cut off the legs of a pair of stretch Polartec running tights and can roll them up my legs under or over my outer pants to add insulation that is easily rolled down or removed if I get overheated without having to take off my pants. They double as arm warmers – again, handy in that you can add on some insulation to extremities when the weather changes without having to struggle out of a PFD and/or spray skirt.

Plus you have that 80’s “Flashdance” fashion statement goin’ on. :slight_smile:

If you go…
…the neoprene mukluks route (and I, as many here before have mentioned, am quite warm and happy wearing my Chota Quik-Lace Mukluks, I with a pair of SmartWool socks encased in SealSkinz socks beneath, on paddled outings when the temperature nears zero fahrenheit), you may wish to supplement, as I have done, with a pair of NEOS - New England Over Shoe. These, one of their taller waterproof models (Voyager, I think), are light of weight, pack down quite nicely, will additionally work to go over other footwear (boots, trail shoes, athletic shoes, hell, even a pair of Manuel Bystanko crocodile pumps, should you be so flamboyant) you might bring, and provide additional warmth, and, for your hikes and soirees into thorny underbrush, neoprene protection and a sturdy sole and heel. The heel is something I also desire when standing for long spells poling, and, sadly, has now gone missing from Chotas, save perhaps with their heavier Marsh Boot style.

So, you may wish to look into NEOS. After a wintry heel-entrapment-meets-strainer-in-tippy-whitewater-canoe moment I experienced several years back, I loathe, nay, shrink in more ways than one, at the notion of wearing heavy-n-heeled insulated boots whilst needing to kneel. If I’m gonna kneel, the Chotas stay on, the NEOS quickly and easily come off.


This post didn’t make my head hurt!

– Last Updated: Nov-13-09 12:57 PM EST –

Don't get me wrong though. I enjoy the challenge of deciphering all the inuendos and whatnot contained in your posts that make my head hurt.

By the way, I've never heard of "Manuel Bystanko crocodile pumps", but I believe that may be a good thing.

I'm going to check out those NEOS. I've seen various "over-boots" like that and haven't thought I had a need for them, but strangely, I never thought of adding warmth to my paddling boots that way. Good idea!

NEOS are nice, but lightweight
I’ve seen a lot of backpackers carrying NEOS to slip over lightweight trail shoes or boots when crossing creeks or marshy muddy areas.

They do pack down to almost nothing and from what I’ve heard, really are water proof.

I never would have thought of adding those for extra warmth though. I could see them adding a few degrees of warmth due to trapped air though.

Well, once again it’s…
…a field conditions discovery of useful gear I owe to my friend Topher.

Another friend, Don, on a windy and cool winter Assateague backcountry paddle-in and camp several years back, had only his neoprene booties and a pair of tennis shoes. Topher loaned him his pair of NEOS to slip over the tennies, and trudging through marshy seeps and muckholes searching out errant bocce balls, Don’s feet stayed dry and, as Don proclaimed, “much, much warmer!”

I believe, as you conjecture in your Gloaming, that additional warmth is likely gained per blocking wind transference/trapped air adding minimal therms, but then even a mere 10-degrees can be a blessing to the ice-footed sufferer. NEOS now has insulated models.

I was mostly impressed with the seam-sealed, water-proofed protection, allowing Don to wade-in to same depth as I in my (at the time) MEC Swellies.

Not long after that trip, seeking an alternative for the expense providing my young daughters with Chotas (for a few winter paddling day trips) might cause me, I remembered NEOS. Kids feet growing as fast as they do, the fact that NEOS overshoes had about a 3-size accomodation range enthralled me. And, searching Ebay, I found a place selling old-stock NEOS badged by Orvis in kids sizes. To be had at auction for about 15 bucks!

Three years later, my oldest daughter, now 14, has outgrown her pair. But her younger sister, now 12, has her sister’s former pair to likely wear for 2 more seasons. And they’ve used theirs on hikes in rain, snow and mud, too, as well as lending them to visiting friends to wear in sloppy conditions, as they could switch to their snowboots.

For myself, I’ve used my pair, also Orvis models won at auction, only twice, as I’m usually just paddling in day situations where my Chotas provide enough warmth and support. But I plan on making more use of the NEOS. For poling, as my heels have been crying out for some additional lift on several of my last 3-plus hour excursions taken. And for protecting my neoprene boots on some of the Assateague backcountry walkabouts I take, where greenbriars pounce ya like prickly pythons.

Well, here’s hoping all warm, dry feet. And maybe, just maybe, a tad fewer headaches.


"Both warm AND dry"
and your more detailed explanation of why a person might feel more dry with mukluks designed for paddling rather than boots full of a couple of quarts of water is spot on.

I wear my chota quick lace for paddling and camping. the wool socks part people talk about is right on.

a pair of cheap doller inserts is not a bad idea either.

Muck Boots

– Last Updated: Nov-14-09 6:13 AM EST –

I have been using my Muck Boots for several years now in the cold weather up here in NH. They are knee high, have a good sole and are flexible enough that I can kneel with them. They are rated to -20 and believe me they are good for that. A bit pricey @ 80$ but I have had them for almost 8 years now and they are still going strong. I also use them while snowshoeing and have done day hikes wearing them. They fill the ticket for me.

I did have a pair of Chota's but some damn river up in Maine ate them this past summer!