The previous post lays out a few options for hand protection while on a boat plying northern waters. Now, on to feet.
And I must admit up front that I didn’t quite solve the riddle of keeping feet warm and dry. I knew I wasn’t alone. Take, for example, Mike Johnson. Mike is an explorer who has sailed his large schooner, Gitana, to most places a boat can go on this globe, including Cambridge Bay, where she overwintered on the hard last year. During a visit to our house prior to this year’s Northwest Passage, Mike laconically summarized his polar gear’s successes and failures with one sentence: “It’s all ok, except I get cold feet.”
And no wonder. On a high latitude boat making stops in the Arctic, one’s feet must be prepared for three environments: the extreme cold and wet on deck, the relative comfort of life below, and tromps ashore in mud and ice.
It may be that one boot could handle all this, but I didn’t find that one boot. Instead I chose three very different solutions:
1. Xtratuf Insulated boots for on deck.
2. The Ugg Classic Short for below.
3. Columbia Bugaboot for trekking ashore.
Here I’ll review the Xtratuf boot, and move on to the others in subsequent posts.
Xtratufs for On Deck
These brown rubber boots are the de rigeur footwear in Southeast Alaska. Developed in the 1960s for west coast commercial fishermen, they are the brand-standard for anyone on the water in a region where everyone is on the water. Loyalty to this boot is such that Xtratufs have gone beyond that of work boot and can now be found at weddings, donning the feet of toddlers too young to walk, and hanging as ornaments from the boughs of Christmas trees.
Compare these two images to get a sense of how this boot’s popularity has radiated:
Pretty photos (and an outsourcing problem that has been remedied, according to locals) to one side, these boots just work. Several styles are available, but for this year’s Northwest Passage I chose the Xtratuf Legacy Insulated boot for maximum protection. The shell of this boot is made from a tripple-dipped, seamless neoprene that is both strong and flexible down to subfreezing temperatures. The high cut helps keep water out even in the sloshiest of environments, and the chevron-patterned sole provides ample traction on a wide range of surfaces. For heat retention, a layer of foam insulation surrounds the foot of the boot (top and bottom, but not the calf). Note: much like the Atlas gloves in the previous post, this boot is designed to take inserts in the form of warming insoles and “Sokkets.” I used the Servus 3/8ths inch felt insole (see “Layering Options” below).
Cost: Boot-$120.00. Insole-$7.00
What I Opted Against
Though the Xtratuf Legacy Insulated boot failed to keep my feet toasty-warm, the boot’s durable, seamless, high-top construction, its good grip, and options for layering in extra warmth make it a superior boot for high latitude deck work.
Up next: boots for inside the boat…