Bunny Boots and Negative Temperatures
I recently read about one major factor in Vilhjalmur Stefansson's pre-requisites for an expedition leader in the far north: “must have good circulation”.
I don't know if my physiology would fit the bill; within 20 minutes hiking in -15 to -30 degree weather, my toes and fingers would start to freeze under layers of socks and gloves and liners, etc. Even with a light glove with heavy, waterproof mittens on top, my fingers would not make their own warmth, so pockets and buttcrack use was a must to regain feeling.
However, I solved the foot issue. When I arrived to the area in December, the weather was holding out at minimum -10 degrees, many times cracking 0 by mid-day. During that period of relative “warmth”, my work boots—the fire-ready Lowa Baffin Pros—would start to freeze over in 30 to 40 minutes, which was acceptable. After working out on the trails for hours at a time, my toes got painfully cold to the point of cutting short excursions outside.
The utilitarian, unfashionable crowds of Alaska have concluded on two types of boots for weather below -10: Mukluks and Mickey Mouse boots. Mukluks appear to be a favorite for women seeking a mix of Ugg aesthetics and high insulation against negative temperatures.
The Mickey Mouse boots, or bunny boots, appear to be a staple among men that know they'll be in the cold for long periods of time. I've seen them on mechanics and dog racers and Wal-Mart shoppers. Bunny boots are military-style insulated boots and can be called Mickey Mouse boots because they are comically rounded and huge-looking for the wearer. The more authentic variants of bunny boots will have some odd airborne-optimized nozzle for air on the outer side of each boot.
The bunny boots were lent by a friend, and they were a lifesaver. I have never gotten cold feed with bunny boots. At worst, the lack of breathability for the boot can cause foot sweat to cool a bit, leaving lightly damp feet. At -33, I was still able to do a bit of work outside for two hours. My hands and face still got cold, but feet were unaffected. Another huge plus is that as a wide-footed person, I have troubles with foot cramps due to narrow constructions. Their rounded features help make the boot feel comfortable in any circumstance; I double-sock, so that might help cushion excess room I might have in the boot.
When I get back down to CONUS, I'll surely keep an eye out on a pair of bunny boots. They're probably the cheapest way to feel comfortable in sub zero temperatures. I think I've seen them in military surplus shops, but be sure to see if they are authentic.