The guru says: Plastic boots usually are double boots, with an insulating, removable liner and a hard plastic shell. Thats one reason why theyre so great. The plastic shell provides fantastic protection from moisture (frozen boots being the bane of any cold-weather mountaineer who has worn leather), while the removable liners make it easy to keep them warm and dry (moisture from sweat and a little snow is inevitable) by sleeping with them in your sleeping bag at night.
Scarpas Inverno ($279; scarpa.com) has been around a while but remains a classic plastic boot. And its available in womens 5. You might want to order up as feet swell a little at elevation. Theyre very warm by themselves, and although Scarpa makes a cold weather" liner, I dont think its worth the shockingly high price of $198. Good wool socks and full overboots, such as Outdoor Researchs Brooks Rangers ($135; outdoorresearch.com) will ensure your feet stay warm. Scarpas Omega ($350) is a little lighter and designed for more technical climbing than the bulkier Inverno, but also is an excellent cold-weather, expedition-style boot. Sizing may be a problem with the Omega.
That said, its also true that advances in boot technology and leatherwork have made leather boots a worthwhile option. Theyre generally more comfortable than plastics, too. La Sportivas Nepal Evo GTX ($450; sportiva.com) combines Gore-Tex liners with silicon-impregnated leather and an insulating insole for a boot that can take cold, icy conditions. And it comes in a womens model, built on a womens last. So Id give it a look along with the more traditional plastics.
The 2008 Winter Outside Buyers Guide is now online. From snow sports to trail-running to camping, get reviews of more than 300 new gear must-haves.