Courtesy of Sierra Designs
In this post, we’re reviewing the best packable and lightweight down booties available today.
If you’ve never owned a pair of down booties (also known as down socks), just imagine them as super warm, extra fluffy foot coverings that come in weighing less than a pair of wool socks.
They’re a favorite ultralight gear item for winter hikes or for anyone who suffers from cold feet. Keep reading to find out the many benefits of down booties, and why you may want to pick up a pair before your next cold-weather excursion.
What are Down Booties?
What's the benefit of down booties?
Unlike hiking boots, down booties have a soft-shelled design like that of other down items (i.e., jackets, pants, and sleeping bags) that can roughly add upwards of 5-10 degrees of warmth. Many hikers use them in temps that fall below the 40F mark.
What are down booties for?
Because of their delicate fabric, they’re better suited for gentle wear like hanging around the inside of a tent or curling up for a night in a sleeping bag. If you do wish to wear your booties outside while traipsing around camp, you can purchase protective outer shells that slide over the booties for around $30.
Removable outer shell enables these booties to be used for short walks around camp. (Feathered Friends)
How do you wear booties?
You can wear your booties barefoot. Or, to prevent your inside lining from sweat or dirt, with loose-fitting sock liners. It sounds counter-intuitive but you don’t need to wear wool socks with them to stay warm. Wearing a thick sock can actually have the opposite effect by cutting off circulation and reducing heat generation.
|Western Mountaineering Flash||3 oz||XS-XL||850||$75|
|GooseFeet Gear Down Socks||2 oz||XS-XXL||850+||$74|
|Feathered Friends Down Booties||4 oz||XXS-XXL||800+||$109|
|Enlightened Equipment Sidekicks||1.45 oz||XS-XXL||Synthetic||$60|
|Zpacks Goose Socks||1.8 oz||M-L||850||$69|
|Exped Down Socks||2.8 oz||S-L||700+||$69|
|Aegismax Down Booties||2.65 oz||M-XL||650||$25|
|MEC Get Down||9.74 oz||XS-XL||650||$79.95|
|Sierra Designs Down Booties||9.5 oz||S-L||800||$89|
|The North Face Thermoball Insulated Traction Bootie||8 oz||5-12||600 Synthetic||$60|
|Outdoor Research Tundra Aerogel||5.5 oz||XS-XL||Synthetic||$65|
Western Mountaineering Flash
Available in cranberry or black, the Western Mountaineering Flash booties are made with a 1/4’’ foam insole for added comfort, support, and durability. The booties exterior shell is 12 Denier ripstop nylon, and the ankles seal in place by way of an elastic drawstring. These booties are made for indoor use by mountaineers, hikers, or skiers, although the sole allows an added layer of resilience for quick jaunts around camp. When walking in the boots, the sole of the footbed moves around a bit. They’re a unisex bootie, and size-wise they run large.Available at Amazon
Note: Western Mountaineering also offers an “expedition model” bootie with 800 fill, a Toughtek non-slip sole, and a knee-high gaiter design with Gore Windstopper fabric for maximum weather protection. The bootie is $90 and weighs under 8oz.
GooseFeet Gear Down Socks
If you’re wanting high-quality, custom-made down socks that are sure to keep your feet toasty through those long, chilly nights in the mountains, look no further than GooseFeet Gear. Made with lightweight, top-of-the-line fabrics, GooseFeet Gears allow you the opportunity to create your perfect pair by letting you choose the fill level, internal and external fabric colors, and option of either an 8D, ultralight new material or 20D, extra-durable nylon fabric. Each pair comes with elastic ankle cuffs and an included stuff sack. To wear your socks around camp, GooseFeet Gear also carries waterproof over-booties for purchase.Available at Garage Grown Gear
Available at GooseFeet Gear
Feathered Friends Down Booties
At first glance, the Feathered Friends down booties look similar to a pair of snow boots. But their versatility makes them both a comfortable pair of down socks you can wear to bed, and a durable shoe you can wear for walking around camp. The bootie has a two-part system. The first layer is a soft internal liner for sleeping in, with an ankle drawcord and multiple calf snaps to easily adjust fit. The second part of the boot is an easily detachable foam sole and an outer shell that’s made from weather-resistant Pertex Endurance fabric. On this outer shell, there are drawcords at the calf and ankle to keep the boot secure when walking. This style is unisex and runs true to size.Available at Feathered Friends
Enlightened Equipment Sidekicks
Fit for a range of weather conditions, the Enlightened Equipment Sidekicks are made with specially engineered Climashield APEX synthetic fill insulation that offers top performance and quick-drying capabilities in wet conditions. These minimalistic and compressible socks have non sewn-through seams to stop cold spots, and an ultralight DWR treated nylon shell. The ankles have adjustable drawcord lock enclosures, and if you select a ready-made pair of Sidekicks, they can ship within 2 days. Each pair is handmade in Winona, Minnesota, and is customizable, offering the option of either 2, 4, or 6 oz of APEX filling.Available at Enlightened Equipment
Zpacks Goose Socks
Sewn by Ben Smith over at GooseFeet Gear, the Zpacks' simple and ultralight design uses a 7 denier, ripstop nylon fabric that’s water, wind, and mosquito resistant. Though the socks only come offered in two sizing options, they are made to fit a large range of shoe sizes. The socks are warm, comfortable, and best for indoor use only. At the ankles, they secure in place by a non-restrictive elastic enclosure. Each pair of Zpacks is unisex and comes with a stuff sack and a two-year limited warranty.Available at Zpacks
Exped Down Socks
Exped’s down socks offer ultimate level protection from the cold. When not packed away, they may appear a bit fluffier than most socks. This is because of their five separated down-filled baffle design, and the toe box that keeps the down from moving around and prevents cold spots. To secure the sock in place, there’s a thick external ankle band and an internal rubber heel band. The entire bootie is made from 30D environmentally-friendly nylon, and Exped also carries a Bivy Booty that can pair with the socks for outdoor use. Each pair comes with a 5-year warranty.Available at Amazon
Aegismax Down Booties
Booties at a bargain. Aegismax offers a unisex ankle design that compresses down to under 10 x 10 cm. The booties are simplistic in their make, with minimal loft, no bottom grips, and no cord cinches around the ankles. They’re meant for wear while sleeping and can get quite slippery if worn while walking. Even though the Aegismax down booties appear straightforward in appearance, they still do an impressive job at providing warmth in temperatures that hit below freezing. Each pair comes with a storage bag. The booties have a roomy fit—you may want to size down.Available at Amazon
MEC Get Down
MEC’s Get Down unisex booties have gripped, anti-slip soles with a protective rand, EVA foam insoles, and are lined with synthetic polyester insulation for added protection in wet climates. The interior and exterior of the boots are made with Pertex Quantum, water-resistant nylon. The sides and top are stuffed with down that stretches clear up to the calf and seals in place by a drawstring enclosure. For additional comfort, the sole features a polyester footbed. Built more like a pair of boots, the MEC’s thick sole does impact its packability.
Sierra Designs Down Booties
Sierra Designs carefully constructed booties have a tricot lining and a recycled DWR treated polyester taffeta shell. The booties are stuffed with Sierra’s special DriDown, which is a finish that helps it stay dry. If the down does get wet, it dries faster than non-treated down while still retaining its loft. The bootie also has anti-slip silicone soles, cinching ankle cords, and a sturdy, weatherproof foam cushioning foot sole that allows you to mosey around camp without worries. Made for tough conditions and winter camping, these down booties are soft, warm, durable, and incredibly comfortable.Available at Sierra Designs
The North Face Thermoball Insulated Traction Bootie
Fill: 600 Synthetic
A slip-on ankle bootie that you can wear in and outdoors, this high traction design feels like a slipper that’s warm, comfortable, and extra-durable. Its outsole is made from well-constructed 40% recycled slip-resistant high-traction rubber, and the outer shell’s quilted design is water-resistant and created by 100% ripstop recycled materials. The booties easy slip-on/off design makes it a favorite for those looking to switch between their daytime boots to a pair of cozy camp shoes with ease. The Thermoballs are available in men’s or women’s; they run true to size.Available at The North Face
Outdoor Research Tundra Aerogel
With a modest micro-suede anti-slip sole that allows in or outdoor wear, these booties are compressible while remaining durable. The shell is wind and water-resistant polyester, and inside there’s an ultra-soft tricot lining. The insulation throughout the boot is OR’s specially designed Vertical X polyester for breathability, moisture management, and trusted warmth performance—even in wet conditions. For added measure, the sole is made with an ultralight, water-resistant Primaloft Aerogel insert which offers continuous insulation even if compressed. The booties close around the ankle with a cinched drawstring. They’re available in men’s or women’s. Fit wise, they run snug.Available at Outdoor Research
FILL: DOWN OR SYNTHETIC?
Other than being cheaper than goose, there are certain climates where synthetic just holds up a lot better. Since it’s no secret that moisture is goose downs kryptonite, synthetic’s quick-drying, heat-retaining properties (yes, even when wet) make it the preferred fill if hiking long spans where wet conditions are prevalent.
DOWN FILL POWER: AIM FOR 600+
Down items are often rated with a fill power between 600-900. This number is a measurement of the inches of loft produced per ounce, and it can vary depending on the item's price, brand, and what it’s designed for (i.e., an everyday winter jacket vs. a specially designed mountaineering jacket will have different ratings.)
The higher the rating, the higher quality, and the “loftier” the down used in the item is. However, this number doesn’t directly relate to the item’s warmth, but rather how bulky it is. For example, a lower-rated jacket can still be just as warm, or warmer than a higher rated jacket, however, it will also be heavier and less packable because of the amount of down used to make it so.
Down booties aren’t necessarily waterproof, although many pairs come already treated with a water repellent coating that makes them ‘water-resistant.’ As with many down products, you’ll have to re-apply this treatment every so often to maintain it.
If you’re looking to wear your booties beyond just the inside of your tent, like, in the snow for example, then it’s best to purchase a waterproof shell to wear as a protective, external layer.
Bonus tip: You can also make a pair of knock-off shells with some produce bags, rubber bands, and a little creativity.
SIZING: FITS VARY
Booties come offered in a size range from XS-XXL, and each brand will have a chart based on shoe size to help steer buyers towards picking the right fit. However, all sizes are not created equal, and depending on the brand, the booties may run big or small. Because of this, it’s helpful to take a quick read through the product reviews to see what people are saying fit-wise.
SOLE GRIP: FOAM VS RUBBER
Foam: If you want a little more structure to your down booties, then look for a pair with a foam sole. Although the foam won’t do much in the way of ground protection, it will make the booties sturdier.
Rubber: If durability is your major concern, and you want to wear your booties more like camp shoes, then go for a pair with a waterproof rubber outsole for an added protective barrier.
Note: You can also buy booties with non-slip soles for better traction—a nice feature if you plan to do some walking around in the snow or icy conditions.
Foam sole (Feathered Friends)
SHELL FABRIC: DOWN BOOTIES ARE FRAGILE
Down bootie shells are made from lightweight, breathable nylon or polyester that’s typically been treated with a DWR agent to protect the insulation from moisture exposure. It’s good to look for a higher-rated denier shell fabric that’s labeled as wind and tear-resistant, although, down booties should still always be handled delicately. They’re not designed to be worn through long periods of snow, rugged terrain, or in rough conditions.
WEIGHT: KEEP IT UNDER 2 OZ FOR A BASIC, MINIMAL PAIR
As with any ultralight gear, the lighter it is, the less extra features it’s going to have. If you’re after a soleless, minimalistic pair of booties for wearing to bed or while relaxing in your tent, then you can get a pair that weighs in under two ounces. The more extra features you choose (like rubber traction soles, drawstring ankle enclosures, and additional down that goes way past your ankles), the heavier the booties become.
PACKABILITY: DOWN TO THE SIZE OF A FIST
Like with weight, packability is going to depend on the type of booties you buy. If they don’t have a foam or rubber sole (or if they do but the soles are removable) then they can compress down to about the size of a fist.
Many brands pass out a free stuff sack with their booties. Using it is a preference thing. Although the sack is not a necessity, it can help compact the booties and keep them protected from light moisture or dirt when not in use.
Most down booties come with a stuff sack and are extremely packable.
DOWN SOURCE: ETHICALLY-SOURCED WHEN POSSIBLE
When shopping down items, you may notice certain products have a blue RDS Logo on them. This stands for “Responsible Down Standard,” which is a global certification meaning the down came from a farm and supplier that’s been audited and complies with RDS standards for sourcing the down humanely and ethically.
CINCH CUFF: TRAPPING THE HEAT
The booties won’t be much for warmth if there’s no way to trap in the heat they're producing. Therefore, many pairs come with enclosures around the ankles like elastic cuffs or cinch draw-strings. Either works and deciding which feels or fits best is the user's call. Just ensure the cuffs fit comfortably yet securely to keep warm air in and stop cold air from getting in.
Cinch cuffs trap the heat and increase comfort (Goosefeet Gear)
Can you wash down booties?
Washing your booties is no problem if the proper precautions are taken.Here are 10 steps to wash and dry your booties with ease:
If there’s an area that’s stained or especially dirty, dab at it with a touch of mild soap and a sponge before washing.
If the stain is fairly large, you can use a special down cleaning agent or a non-detergent soap and soak the item for around an hour.
Make sure all enclosures are fastened or tucked prior to washing.
Read through the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid any surprises.
Use a front-load washer and a specially made downwash or non-detergent soap. You can also hand wash your booties in a bathtub or sink.
Turn the booties inside out and use a delicate, cool/warm water cycle.
Make sure all the soap is out when switching the booties to the dryer. If it’s not, run them through a second wash cycle without soap.
Use a front-load dryer on a low heat setting.
Throw some tennis balls in to protect the loft
Check the booties every 10 minutes until dry
Only store down products when they’re completely dry.
Don’t dry a down item in the sun as it can harm the fabric.
Air drying is possible, though not always the best method because it can take quite a while and it’s hard to prevent the down from clumping.
Don’t “wring out” your item as this can be damaging.
Don’t store your booties in a compression bag when kept at home. Give them room to breathe to help retain loft.
Don’t dry-clean them unless it’s through a specialized down cleaning service. Dry cleaning voids the warranty and can strip the product of its natural oils.
Read more on washing down gear items here.