Oboz Bridger Insulated Boots Review

11th Dec 2019

Oboz Bridger Insulated Boots

As we approach winter, and if your preferences fall towards getting out in the cold stuff (why wouldn’t they?!), a pair of insulated boots might be on the shopping list.  There are a few manufacturers on the market, but it pays to look for a company specialising in outdoor footwear manufacture and one who hails from a place where their bread and butter is cold and very snowy winters.  

Oboz ticks all these box.  They are a small and passionate outdoor footwear brand from Bozeman, Montana.  So, having previously tested out some of their approach shoes and found them to be extremely capable performers, it was time to put some of their new Bridger 8” boots to the test.

Features

What I had previously learnt about Oboz is that attention to design detail reflects their pedigree as a company focussed purely on outdoor footwear.  They are, at heart, a bunch of active mountain folk who started a footwear company.  You need to use your products to know what works.

To that end, the Bridger is full of intelligent design details.  At their heart is Oboz’s proprietary O-fit insole.  Infact, in this case it is their O-fit thermal version. These are moulded individually to match the size and shape of each model.  This is very important for good fit and is something that, in my experience, many footwear manufacturers neglect.  In this case the thermal insoles are also made with an insulated top sheet and Mylar bottom sheet designed to reflect back heat to your feet and toes.

Next up is the second heart of any performance footwear.  The midsole offers a footwear’s lateral stability and is also a key factor in a boot’s stiffness. For the Bridger Oboz have used their Granite Peak Unit which combines a TPU skeleton with single density EVA to offer cushioning and comfort.  This combination, say Oboz, offers a combination great for day hiking and yet burly enough for a multi day hiking trip. 

Finally, the Bridger features a winterised version of the Oboz Granite Peak outsole.  This is based on their popular Granite Peak sole but with a special rubber compound to offer grip in winter conditions.

The upper of the Bridger is made totally from waterproof Nubuck leather with substantial toe protection offered by a PU toe box.  At the back heel area Oboz have added a moulded heel kick which,  as well as offering additional protection, is designed to easily allow you to kick one boot off with the other - perfect if your boots are muddy or snow covered.

Inside the Bridgers there is a layer of 200gm 3M Thinsulate insulation. Thinsulate is a high performance synthetic insulation that works well even when wet or damp.  Having said that, one of Oboz’s B-DRY waterproof/breathable layers is the final line of defence and so these boots should stay dry inside at all times anyway.

Finally, the lacing system incorporates D loops and hooks to offer the combination of good fine tuning and security.

The Test

These boots arrived in early October and so, as much as I see these being a boot I would personally use primarily in snow, the testing so far has had to take part in the cold wet conditions of a British late autumn and early winter.  I could have waited to complete the review after my first ski trip in December, but I was keen to get the info out there as soon as possible.  If anything comes to light after further testing I will amend the review.

So, I have used the Bridger’s for many walks in what has proved to be a very wet autumn.  This has been a great testing ground as I’ve been able to wade through a lot of puddles, test the grip on muddy slopes and wet grass and, while the temperatures haven’t yet been extremely low, it has certainly got below freezing on several occasions. 

I have previously used or tested snow/cold conditions boots from Sorell, The North Face and HiTech - my previous experiences became my benchmark for testing. 

In Use

Firstly, I think Oboz have done a great job with the Bridger’s styling.  They are not of a flashy or radical appearance, but they look subtly stylish in their dark brown NuBuck skin with the black toe cup and heel plate with the Oboz logo subtly displayed.  They really look like they mean business, just in a cool and understated way.

The next thing to consider with any footwear is fit.  As a review pair I don’t normally have the luxury of trying on several sizes and so plumped for my normal shoe size.  Oboz say these boots fit true go size and they are right - they were bang on.  The boots are designed to cater for a thicker winter sock and that is the case too.  The width is also great for my medium to broad foot.  

They fit well and also feel great to wear.  They were comfortable right out of the box and continue to be so.  When you tighten up the laces and have a stomp around you’ll immediately feel a medium hardness sole unit that offers both good support and yet has an appropriate amount of lateral stiffness.  If you are crossing a steep snowy slope you’ll want the boot to allow good edging capabilities and yet, for walking up or down slopes, the flex in the sole is welcome.  Oboz have hit a sweet spot that will suit a broad range of users.

The sole has a deeply lugged tread pattern designed around their Granite Peak outsole.  This has horizontal edges ideal for gripping on mud, loose terrain and, of course, snow.  It is a confidence inspiring design.  As mentioned in the features, Oboz say that the rubber is winterised and, although I couldn’t find more information on this, I took this to mean that the rubber is designed to stay flexible, and therefore offer better grip, in cold weather.  This is a similar principal to the way winter tyres work.

The Bridger sits high on the ankle (the higher the better in deeper snow) but still strikes a good balance that would allow these to be used as a trekking boot.  I have used these comfortably for walks up to 10kms without any grumbles from my feet, although they have got pretty warm once or twice.

Which leads on nicely to the cold weather performance.  As mentioned at the start, I am yet to use these in really low temperatures, but I have used other cold weather boots with the same insulation and can confidently believe these boots will keep your feet comfortable in some seriously low temps.  

I have also used boots with a reflective layer in the insoles before and think this is very important (along with other elements of the insole/ midsole/ outsole combo) in cold weather footwear - especially if you are stood still for any length of time.  Heat is lost faster into the ground than into the air and so this barrier is key.

I’ve certainly tested the waterproofness of the Bridger.  On one round of our local hills recently they were splashing through ankle deep puddles and squelchy bog and not a drop of water was evident inside.  I had taken the time to proof the outers with Nikwax waterproofer and so that and the Nubuck outer offers a great barrier, but having the Oboz B-DRY liner is also reassuring.

Lastly, the tough PU rand is doing its thing well and the boots have stood up to some abrasive gritstone without issue. That, and that all leather construction should give a boot that lasts and lasts (remember to look after that leather with a good leather treatment like Nikwax though).  Oh, and that heel kick is genius, getting one mucky boot off using the other is simple, but I must admit I’ve often used the heel kick against the edge of a step instead.  Either way, great idea Oboz.

Summary

Having used a batch of cold weather boots over many years, the Oboz Bridger is undoubtedly my favourite.  The boot is packed with intelligent design features to cope with extremely cold, wet and snowy conditions and is beautifully constructed to offer a long and dependable life.  It is the same great attention to detail and quality I saw in the Oboz approach shoes I tested and I’m delighted these follow suit.  If you work or play outside in the winter months, do give these a shot.  I am confident you won’t be disappointed. The Bridger boots cost £175 and you can find more details on the Oboz website here.  

Posted by Paul