Gear Guy

How can I make my boots warmer?

G'day Gear Guy, I off to Peru in June for some high altitude climbing and I love all my toes. I currently have Salomon Mountain Guide 8's leather boots. I not a fan of plastics and looking to see how I can upgrade the warmth of my Salomons. What would be your recommendation for gaiters/overboots? Would this be enough? Cheers, Greg Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

It really is up to you. You don’t mention specifically what peaks, so I can’t say “yes” or “no.” Certainly, there are plenty of big, cold South American mountains where, like ’em or not, plastics are the way to go. But you can do several things to your Salomons to make them more cold resistant. First, make sure you’ve got good socks -— wicking liners, of course, with a heavy wool sock such as Smartwool Expedition ($16 U.S.). You also could add some vapor barrier liner socks (Climb High’s are $25) which are thin, waterproof nylon oversocks that keep your feet warmer by reducing evaporative cooling. They go in between the liners and the oversocks. But take extra liners—VBL socks will make your feet sweat.

The next thing you can do is replace the stock insoles with insulated insoles. Here in the U.S. we can get what are called Insolator insoles ($8), which are three-layer devices that include Thermolite and neoprene and that help prevent cold from coming through the bottom of your boot. Depending on how much room you have in your boots (keep in mind your feet will swell at high altitude), they may simply fit inside over your regular insoles.

Lastly, of course, are overboots. The very best, in my view, are Outdoor Research Brooks Ranger Overboots ($125). These are full overboots that completely enclose the boot. Gore-Tex uppers, foam insulation, very, very warm.

Take these preceding steps and your Salomon boots will be very warm indeed. But if your route guides advise you to prepare for extended bouts of sub-zero (F) weather, then plan on taking plastics.