Monday, January 10, 2011

Brian's Columbia Omniheat Review

Recently I received a pair of Men's Bugathermo Omniheat Boots from Columbia to test out. When I first opened the box, it was hard not to notice that these boots were impressive and built well. They have a great design and come with impressive features.

The boots are completely water proof  and have an innovative 3 temperature heating system. The heating system delivers 8 hours of heat on its lowest setting, 6 hours of heat on the middle setting and 4 hours of heat on its highest setting. To charge the system the boots are plugged into a USB port (A wall socket adapter is provided). When I charged the boots they were ready to go only in a couple hours. The insulation alone is rated down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. The look of the traction was impressive right out of the box. But the question was how would they hold up? As it turns out they would hold up and perform very well.

I first broke in the boots in the mountain town of Julian California, during a very stormy weak in Southern California. This was the week where most of Southern California got around 9 - 10 inches of rain with much of the local mountains receiving snow. The boots were very comfortable and kept me extremely warm. I did not try the heating system at this point, but the grip of the boots performed extremely well in the rainy cold conditions. The boots were completely water proof, as they were put to the test multiple times while in town. I had no worries about water getting inside the shoe. Outside temperatures ranged from 29 - 49 degrees Fahrenheit.

I tried the boots on a hike to the top of Cuyamaca Peak in San Diego County. Cuyamaca Peak sits at an elevation of 6,512 feet and is the second tallest peak in San Diego County. The roundtrip mileage on the trail was 7 miles. The boots performed great while on this hike. One of the biggest things I noticed was the comfort of the boot. They did not provided too much resistance to my natural walking stride as they moved very well while giving great support to my ankles. They were more comfortable than the pair of boots that I would have used in that normal situation. The boots were very comfortable with a thick pair of merino wool socks.

The traction the boots provided was great, even when confronted with snow and ice on the trail.  The grip dug into the snow and some of the ice and didn't have much of a problem with snow clumping on the bottoms. The boots are compatible with crampons or micro spikes. The biggest plus of the Omniheat Boots was they kept my feet amazingly warm. The batteries provided more than enough energy to give me as much heat as I wanted on the hike. There were a couple of inches of snow on the trail as well as 20mph winds at the top of the mountain. Temperatures were cold, but my feet were very warm. In fact I did turn off the heating function for a little while, but it was great to use the heating feature while sitting on top of the peak taking in the view and accomplishment of reaching the summit of Cuyamaca Peak.

I did have a couple people ask me about the boots I was wearing and I told them what they were Omniheat Boots and that they were great. These boots will keep your feet warm and they will perform great on a rugged trail. They have many features that enable comfort, such as the insulation and padding of the shoe combined with the traction which cushions your step. They also have clips which allow for placement of gaiters. One downside is that they are expensive, but in my opinion, they are worth the money if you are going into a very cold environment and want to have shoes that perform well, while keeping your feet warm. The pictures for this review are from the Cuyamaca Peak hike, I also provided pictures of the snow as well as the rime ice on the peak. For more information about the products Columbia offers click Here.

- Update, May 2011: I also had the chance to use these boots in Yellowstone National Park on the following hikes: Ice Lake, Trout Lake, & the Beaver Ponds Trail.  They held up great and helped keep me warm in the deep snow on these hikes.

- Update, January 2013: These are still my snow hiking boots of choice and truthfully still one of the best winter hiking boots on the market.

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