Winter boots usually fall into two categories: lightweight and comfortable or heavy-duty for trekking in ice and snow. There aren’t many options that offer the benefits of both, but Columbia’s newest boot, the Powderhouse Titanium Omni-Heat 3D OutDry Boot ($170), is a rare instance that does just that.
At first glance the Powderhouse might seem more like a boot made for Arctic conditions — and it is, having been field tested by Iditarod mushers and Icelandic guides. It only weighs 26.8 ounces though, making it lighter than just about any other boot on the market built to withstand the conditions it can (it’s temperature rated down to -65°F), as well as most casual winter boots.
The Powderhouse’s lightweight quality doesn’t keep it from packing superior warmth thanks to Columbia’s newly launched reflective insulation technology, Omni-Heat 3D.
Temperature Rating: -65°F
Cold Temperature firm grip: -22°F
Boot Shaft Height: 7.28 inches
Weight: 26.8 oz
“Omni-Heat 3D has been going on as research since 2010 when we launched the first [Omni-Heat],” Columbia’s V.P. of Innovation and Design Woody Blackford recently told Gear Patrol. “We finally conceived the idea of adding the fiber pods about three years ago and then kicked it into the high gear of commercialization development.”
The other advancements in the Powderhouse like the Michelin traction and OutDry waterproofing were also multi-year projects, making the Powderhouse a boot that has been in development for nearly a decade.
All of that research and knowledge shines through in Columbia’s bid at keeping feet warm in frigid environments. But it also offers world-class traction in a variety of terrains and a superior waterproofing that does not utilize an interior bootie system. All of this is in a package that is protective of your foot without being heavy.
Insider Note: “It [Omni-Heat 3D] is reflecting the infrared that comes off your body. That’s a really nice feeling that happens at the speed of light as opposed to insulation which takes time to warm up. The other thing that’s neat about it is it works whether it’s wet or dry — the heat reflection is happening no matter what the moisture situation is.” — Woody Blackford
Columbia’s initial Omni-Heat material used a reflective space blanket foil as an insulation lining. While it was groundbreaking for warmth, it had one area Columbia sought to improve: The metallic foil’s insulating properties can be reduced when it comes into contact with anything. So the new Omni-Heat 3D utilizes that same instant infrared warmth and combines it with soft, vertical fibers to create a 2mm air gap between you and the foil to mimic a micro-climate. These fibers have a fuzzy, tactile feel and keep the reflective foil from ever coming in touch with anything.
Omni-Heat 3D can easily be applied to any product for use in cold conditions to achieve head-to-toe coverage: base layers, mid-layers, footwear, gloves, hats and outerwear. The Powderhouse was the ideal product to launch this new iteration — if you spend time outside on snow and ice and your feet are cold, you’re going to struggle. That is not a worry with the Powderhouse packing the benefits of Omni-Heat 3D.
World-Class Grip and Traction
Insider Note: “The number one thing is being able to formulate a rubber that is soft and tacky in really cold temperatures. That means it has an extremely low glass transition temperature. A lot of rubbers, their Tg (which is glass transition) happen right around freezing — so they go from soft to hard. But once they go to hard and you get on ice, you lost a lot of the properties.” — Woody Blackford
The Michelin Ice Control feature provides the Powderhouse with rubber that has a low Tg for world-class grip in cold conditions. This traction is enhanced by a sole that maximizes surface contact to spread the overall load helping to avoid pressure points. It also evacuates water to ensure it is in direct contact with the surface at all times. Finally, it sports secure lugs that don’t move and can dig in for support in any conditions.
The Powderhouse offers a stable grip and versatile tread pattern across various terrains and the elements. Whether you’re on wet rocks, black ice, slushy snow or even deep snow, it’s a very well-performing sole.
Insider Note: “We put it in a centrifuge with water that spins it at super high speeds which makes the water pressure high. We’ll weigh it before and after, and this boot will have maybe two or three percent weight gain — which is just like shoelaces and stuff like that. Where a boot with a bootie system can have as much as double the weight.” — Woody Blackford
Most serious winter boots are made waterproof by inserting a bootie that’s like a sock around your foot. This causes a void between that insert and the outer layers of the boot and allows water to get in through all the seams and harbor between the sock and the shell. And in very cold weather, that water can freeze.
The OutDry construction creates an entire upper with a single piece of waterproof, breathable membrane 3D lamination system. It forms a seal against the outer shell that closes all seams with breathable tape. The result is zero water ingress that still breathes in the wettest conditions the planet can conjure up.
Lightweight and Protective
Insider Note: “The Techlite [shell] uses a block copolymer foam that’s designed to give you quite a bit of energy return. It feels lively under your foot.” — Woody Blackford
Energy return is just one benefit of the Techlite shell and midsole. It’s also lightweight and offers an excellent barrier. As mentioned earlier, the Powderhouse is lighter than even casual winter boots. Protection is evident in places like the toe box that isn’t a steel toe but is dense and provides a shield.
When you’re moving around in winter conditions, you end up putting a lot of impact on your foot. The Powderhouse has first-rate safeguarding and the light attribute that make it maneuverable and comfortable to wear from city sidewalks to mushing dogs in Alaska.
The Powderhouse stands alone in a winter boot market by solving common issues by providing long-lasting warmth, traction that still performs in extreme conditions and full waterproof capabilities — all presented in a lightweight boot that’s constructed to breathe and protect your foot while still offering dexterity and comfort.