Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gear Review: Sorel Men's Caribou -40 Degree Boots

Winter camping in the Rockies can be a recipe for cold and soggy feet if the right footwear isn't chosen. Even during the most frigid weather, snow can melt and refreeze daily in the mountains due to the intensity of the high altitude sun. This creates the perfect condition for wet boots and eventually, a cold and miserable camping experience.

Enter Sorel's -40 Degree Caribou Boots. Classically styled with a heritage dating back to 1972, Caribou boots have been the staple of many outdoor enthusiast's kits for over a generation now. According to Sorel, even Bear Grylls is known to sport a pair of Caribous on occasion during his winter outings. When Sorel offered to send us a pair to rigorously field test and review, we eagerly accepted.

  • Seam-sealed waterproof construction with waterproof nubuck leather upper
  • Removable 9mm ThermoPlus felt InnerBoot
  • Sherpa Pile snow cuff
  • 2.5mm bonded felt frost plug
  • Handcrafted waterproof vulcanized rubber shell with Sorel AeroTrac non-loading outsole
  • Weight- 79.2 ounces per pair (as measured on a postal scale)

The Caribous feature a vulcanized rubber lower shell and a nubuck leather upper that are seam sealed for what Sorel advertises as "complete waterproofness." (We'll find out later in this review if these boots really fit this description with our infamous lake submersion test!):

Sorel calls the style of soles on these boots "AeroTracs" and they are supposed to increase grip during icy, snow-laden conditions. The soles did provide adequate grip on ice, though not quite as good as a pair of North Face Baltoro 400 -40 boots I once owned, for instance:

One really nice feature of the Sorels is the removable Felt Innerboot. These can be removed and kept inside your sleeping bag so that your feet won't freeze when putting on cold boots in the morning. They're also great for keeping your feet cozy when lounging around inside your tent or teepee:

The lacing system is a set of simple metal loops, which according to Sorel are rustproof. It would be nice to have some sort of locking hardware half way up to make it easier to tighten the laces up, but they work decently enough overall:

Field Testing

At almost 5 pounds per pair, the Caribous are certainly not the first choice for backpacking where trimming weight is essential, though I'm sure some ironmen/ironwomen might try it!

With that in mind, we decided to test the Caribou's in a way that we think most people would actually use them -- winter camping. Since our winter gear testing environment is similar to winter camping in that it involves lots of standing around outside in snowy, sometimes harsh conditions, we felt this would be a close match for testing the boots out with our intended focus.

To put the boots through their paces, Dave and I took turns wearing the Caribous for 3 weeks during our winter testing trials. Temps ranged from a frosty -10 F to a more temperate +40 degrees F. During our field testing, neither of us ever had cold feet. Though generally a very comfortable boot, it does lack arch support, and I found that adding a pair of Dr. Scholl's made them much more comfortable for walking longer distances.

Water Submersion Test

We also performed a rigorous submersion test to check for leakage. To see if the Caribous were actually waterproof, we headed off to a local mountain lake which has crystal clear water and a gently sloping, shallow bottom close to the shoreline for easy testing access:

We submerged the boots up to our ankles for 20 minutes in 34 degree F water as measured with our Kestrel 3500 Weather Meter.

No leakage was detected and our feet were generally warm the whole time. Dave, who has naturally "cold" feet felt a bit of coolness inside his boot toward the end of the test but not enough to cause major discomfort. We both felt the overall performance of the Caribous was excellent considering how extreme the test conditions were.


Next time you're in the market for a pair of winter camping boots, definitely consider Sorel Caribous. The time tested design, slipper-like comfort and handy removable liners make them excellent cold weather camping companions.

For more information please visit Sorel's Caribou product page

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)


  1. A very good review, looks like you put those boots through their paces.

    1. Thanks Rick, and yes, we definitely didn't baby these boots!

  2. Thanks for the thorough review! Sounds like these boots would be a solid investment.

  3. Any tips for making the laces tight enough without hurting your fingers? I can't ever seem to get mine tight enough!

  4. I have these boots, they are new. I find they hurt my ankle at times while walking(left boot). Does anyone have this problem?