Boot Gloves for Denali?

Post by blogger | March 22, 2010      

I’ve been struggling with making sure my feet don’t come back in pieces from our Alaskan sojourn. The weather can be manageable on Denali in June, but then, your summit day can also involve little party favors such as a 30 below zero Fahrenheit breeze. It’s tough to keep your feet warm in those kinds of temps. Because no matter how much you punch out a ski boot, and no matter how many sock layers it then holds, you’re still talking mere inch fractions of insulation.

Think about it. In those kind of temps you might wear a parka with three puffy inches of loft, and you expect your feet to stay warm with three sixteenths of an inch? That’s why overboots are popular for arctic mountaineering.

Boot Glove by Dry Guy for backcountry skiing.

Boot Glove by Dry Guy is a clever option for colder temperatures. I'll probably bring a pair to Denali, with some modifications for climbing use.

Thing is, overboots such as the well known models from 40-Below are beautifully made but somewhat bulky for something I might only use for a few days up high. They’re also difficult to configure for Dynafit bindings, and thus might require one to use the “climb with ’em on, take ’em off to ski” method of use. That sounds like a hassle to me, but I’ll do it if necessary. Another option are the neoprene boot covers known as Boot Glove by Dry Guy. I’m currently in a dilemma about which to use, 40-Below overboot or Boot Glove, so I figured I’d do my best to configure both options then go do some testing. Today, the Boot Gloves.

Boot Glove is a simple neoprene cover that stretches over the toe area of your boot. The front is held down by a single strap under the sole of the boot, with the rear tensioned and attached by a velcro strap that goes behind your ski boot heel. In similar fashion to the “super gaiter” concept, the weak point of this system is holding down the “glove” over your boot toe. Upside is that when used with crampons such as Black Diamond Switchblade, the crampon strap system holds the glove toe down just fine. In my case, since I usually remove the toe strap system on such crampons, I added a webbing tab on the front of the glove that fits under the crampon bail and provides hold-down attachment.

Tab to hold down toe

This photo shows the webbing tab I added to the Boot Glove toe cap for 100% hold down with crampons on.

Even with my mods, how do you hold down the Boot Glove over your boot toe when not wearing crampons but still doing things like post holing in deep snow or breaking trail while backcountry skiing in deep powder? I’m pretty sure the answer is to use some sort of reversible adhesive, perhaps a dab of skin glue, or to use something with inherent friction such as coating both the boot toe and inside of Boot Glove with urethane seam sealer. Speaking of which, in doing all our gear repairs and mods for Denali, I’ve been going through gallons of Seam Grip and Aqua Seal. The stuff is like duct tape in a bottle. To add durability to the Boot Glove, I’ve slathered urethane all around the rand, and built up a thick coat on the strap that goes under the boot sole. Before we step onto the Kahiltna Glacier, I’ll also use it on numerous other wear points found on our tents, gloves, sleeping bags or wherever. Terrific stuff.

Seam Grip is liquid duct tape.

Aqua Seal and Seam Grip are liquid duct tape. They take a while to dry unless you use the available accelerator. Aqua Seal comes out of the tube as more of a gel, Seam Grip is more liquid. Both versions have their uses. For building up a layer for durability the gel works better, but if you want liquid penetration for strengthening stitching, Seam Grip is the choice. Either way, wear disposable latex gloves and your work clothing.

I don’t envision holding down the Boot Glove toe to be a problem while in skis, only while booting without crampons. Also, duct tape exists, or once up high I could even glue the toe of the Boot Glove to my boot toe with Seam Grip. Yes, I tested and Seam Grip is one of the few things I’ve found on the planet that will stick to pebax ski boot plastic. Thus, I’m thinking I can make the Boot Gloves work for Denali.

Boot Glove backcountry skiing.

Boot Gloves are designed for smooth soled alpine boots. Randonnee sole lugs prevent the cross-strap from riding back to the point of properly tensioning the stretchy neoprene. Nothing a bit of knife work can't cure. For insurance, I'm thinking of adding another strap that goes under the boot instep.

Boot Glove sole strap

Boot Glove sole strap

Boot Glove alu

The Boot Glove kit comes with heat reflective aluminized plastic tape they recommend layering on your boot liner toe. An aluminized insole cover is also included. I'll use the insole, but am not sold on the toe covering for my randonnee boots since you do get some solar heating through thin translucent pebax, and in testing I noticed little if any difference between one liner with the tape and one without.

In closing, note that I’ve made great effort to modify and fit my Denali ski boots so they’re extra warm for backcountry skiing. In other words, I’m not using the Boot Glove or overboots to compensate for a poorly fitted ski boot without enough insulation. Instead, they are an enhancement. Hopefully, even a tropical delight. And yes, the Boot Glove is a proven alpine skiing accessory so if you get cold feet at the resort, try a set.


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24 Responses to “Boot Gloves for Denali?”

  1. rod georgiu March 22nd, 2010 9:41 am

    Lou I used these insoles up to 7,000 m and they insulate really well. Made with Aspen Aerogel. Initially, I tried them on on foot, with conventional insole on the other, and what a difference.

  2. sherryb March 22nd, 2010 9:46 am

    I have always wondered how something soft with insulating ability can work on the outside of a hard shell. I have always thought that those things were tourist gimmicks for in-area downhillers. Is the idea that they deflect wind or something? I’m really curious. :wassat:

  3. Lou March 22nd, 2010 9:46 am

    Rod, I’ve been playing around with those as well. Tough to fit in a ski boot along with a footbed. Would like to use on my crampons (between boot sole and crampon) but can’t find one big enough.

  4. Thomas B March 22nd, 2010 11:05 am

    nothing to depend on but…El Nino years tend to be warmer on Denali, but with more snowfall in summer. Just sayin’…….
    40 below overboots are proven on Denali, even though you’ll likely only use them on summit day and need to take them off for ski descent.
    Eat, drink , be warm!

  5. Lou March 22nd, 2010 11:44 am

    Sherry, they fit snug and provide insulation. Adding insulation and a wind break on the outside works fine.

  6. Jonathan L March 22nd, 2010 1:05 pm

    I’ve used Boot Gloves in and out of bounds with and without boot heaters on -20 days. Fairly useless. Inbounds for the weight and annoyance you’re better off with extra batteries and cranking the heat. Out of bounds, worse,

    Boot Gloves slip, and have a tendency to pack snow underneath them. Maybe your mods will help, but I think you’re starting with the wrong product to make changes to. Having been through a number of other gaiters and supergaiters for mountaineering boots, I’d say anything without a sole will eventually get snow and ice under it.

    Especially if you’re going to use this with crampons, I’d start with the Forty Below Purple Haze.

    Joel Attaway, who runs the Forty Below, is knowledgeable and friendly. Their service and attention to detail is impressive . He may even be able to premod stuff for you. I’d give him a call and I wouldn’t trust my toes to Boot Gloves.

    If you’re absolutely convinced you’re on the right track, I’d still dump the Boot Gloves, and start with much heavier neoprene from a cold water wet suit. The Boot Gloves are pretty thin without much insulating factor.

    As usual I am shy with my gear opinions…. 🙂

  7. XXX_er March 22nd, 2010 2:05 pm

    I have used boot gloves & chemical heater packs on my endorphins down to -22C at the local ski hill which would usually be uncomfortable at say -10C and my feet were fine

    I dunno if I would trust em at colder temps but … I look forward to reading about your efforts !

  8. Lou March 22nd, 2010 3:56 pm

    exer, with the radical fit job I did, I think the boots will be super warm with just the boot glove. I’ve blown out the boot toes huge and can fit them with neoprene VBL and wool sock, and a thick insole. And the liner is almost full thickness. But I need to test and will do so soon.

  9. Jordan March 22nd, 2010 6:46 pm

    I’m getting itchy feet watching the countdown day to day….

  10. rhettb March 22nd, 2010 9:04 pm

    I’ve had good success using Barge brand rubber cement to glue on the rubber rand of supergaiters to plastic climbing boots. It’s somewhat easier to undo than Seamgrip/Aquaseal. It also works great for gluing mountain bike tires to their rims for frigid winter use at low psi; glue one side only, so you can still change a flat.

  11. bkopp March 22nd, 2010 9:41 pm

    Thanks Lou, I always enjoy reading about your gear mods.

    I’m a big fan of McNett Aquaseal and SeamGrip too, so I thought I would share a tip. Do yourself a favor and buy Cotol-240 in the 4oz can. Those little glass bottles of Cotol-240 that come in the blister pack are different (and not as good). I’ve noticed and been frustrated by the difference for years, and I finally checked with McNett. The bottled version contains a thickening agent that is added to conform to child safety regulations. The stuff in the can doesn’t contain the thickener, and, in my opinion, performs much much better.

    The biggest difference is that, when mixed with Aquaseal, the canned version of Cotol produces a nice, clear, low-viscosity blend that flows really well and makes a nice repair. The bottled version of Cotol acts fine as an accelerator, but the mixture is thickener, frothy, and doesn’t flow well.

    SeamGrip is a lower viscosity version of the same Aquaseal formula, but I usually just buy Aquaseal and add Cotol at a ratio as dilute as 1:1 .

    Thanks again Lou.

  12. Mark March 22nd, 2010 9:55 pm

    Seam Grip is amazing stuff. Repaired some gear as far back as 14 years, and sealed seams even further back, and it still holds up. As to overboots, I have used a similar product for winter cycling that is fantastic.

  13. XXX_er March 22nd, 2010 11:57 pm

    I have used liquid ureathane be it seamgrip/freesole/aquaseal to fix many dozens of dry suits which got me many dozens of cases of beer ,on the inside of gortex shells with a little backing to fix rips ,to hem pants ,to re-stick velcro ,to fix holes and wearspots in all kinds of gloves and it certainly does stick to a pebex tele boot where I used it to make bellows guards …liquid ureathane is good stuff

  14. alex March 23rd, 2010 2:27 am

    using a berghaus yeti extreme gaiter might be a good idea.
    i’ve seen these gaiters glued with seam grip on la sportiva spantik, aimed to be used on aconcagua.

    only problem, its an euro product

  15. blondin March 23rd, 2010 7:58 am

    Awesome – just another great post Lou, much appreciated for those suffering from cold feet in extreme temps. Well documented and explained as usual.

  16. Nick L March 23rd, 2010 10:03 am

    Hey Lou, when we use the Purple Haze with Dynafits, we just cut out two small quarter-size sections at the toes and a bigger section at the heel, bind the edges of the holes and then seam seal. With Intuitions and blown-out toes, this has worked fine in the -40F temps we get up high in the Ellsworths. Although it’s worth asking Joel whether he could modify, it does depend on boot size and type and thus probably something that is best done DIY. The total coverage of the Purple Haze will be a lot warmer than the Boot Glove.

  17. Lou March 23rd, 2010 10:06 am

    Nick, I have some here and did that, and it didn’t work for me. The sole material rubs like crazy on the binding, and they are hard to get into the binding due to the thickness of the sole material. My opinion is they’d probably work great with thinner sole material and the holes cut. Perhaps my boots have different clearance than yours, or something.

  18. Nick L March 24th, 2010 6:49 am

    Mmmm, that’s an interesting one Lou. We’ve done this with Garmonts and Scarpas and no real issue, though people do have to vary the size of the cuts. I guess it will also depend on the boot shell type/size and how tight the neoprene overboot is. A tighter fit will obviously tend to make the neo thinner. It may also be that ours were thinner neoprene in the first place. I’ll check next time we use them.

  19. Zoran March 24th, 2010 4:21 pm

    I have Purple Haze overboots and Joel Attaway from 40below in 2008, spent some time with all of us discussing individual issues. He is really amazing!

    I used Purple Haze over my Vasque ICE900 double-boots then. This coming May I will for the first time alter my Purple Haze to fit my Dynafit ST bindings and Zzero4 boots for Logan ski trip. Joel created written instruction (HOWTO file) so his response will be very quick.

    Give him a call …


  20. Gregg C March 28th, 2010 9:41 am

    Boot gloves are outstanding!! I couple of winter climbs in the Canadian Rockies ruined my toes for staying warm. I would always get cold feet on my annual Fairy Meadows trip until this past year when I tried out the boot gloves. Problem solved. I used them on a pair of Garmont AT boots with no problems or mods. They fit and worked fine.

  21. Jim Dockery April 9th, 2010 3:57 pm

    Lou, I climbed and (wanted to ski) Denali a few years ago (as a 50th b-day gift to myself). We summited without skis on an aclimatization day when we went to 17 and condiitons were so good we couldn’t pass em up. The wind picked up after that and we never made it back up for our ski descent of The Orient Express, but we got some good runs from around 16,000.

    I used Fourty below overboots and they worked perfectly. What I found was that when skinning I did’nt need the overboots (lower on the mountain and moving more). Cramponing up higher was when I wanted them, and then I wanted the insulation from my crampons (which the boot gloves don’t provide), so they worked well. I also was very happy to have them to cover my tent booties when I went out into deep snow around camp – I just kept the overboots hanging in the vestibule.

  22. Phil January 13th, 2017 5:33 pm

    Lou, any final thoughts/conclusions about using Boot Gloves?

    Did you end up using them on Denali and have your (or others you know) used them in general cold-skiing conditions? Considering them for my wife’s boots (Atomic Backlands)

  23. Lou Dawson 2 January 13th, 2017 6:20 pm

    Hi Phil, I’ve used them a bunch and did use them on Denali. I modify them by running a small chunk of string or webbing from the front down to the strap that goes under the boot sole, to keep the Glove front from flipping up. This can also be done by using some rolled up duct tape stuck to the toe box of the boot. Mainly, they do add noticeable warmth. So, conclusion is they work, but could be improved. Oh, and they they don’t work that well for the downhill, especially in powder as you can imagine.

  24. Phil January 13th, 2017 6:50 pm

    I took a look at your other links… thanks.

    They didn’t really answer why they didn’t work well on the downhill/in powder?
    Do you mean the problem with them staying down over the toe?
    Or is it that fit is really important to prevent snow from building up underneath the neoprene?

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