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SOFIC 2015 – AirBoss Defense Extreme Cold Weather Mukluk

  

The current U.S. Issue Vapor Barrier Boot is very labor intensive to produce and can currently only be made by a single factory in Canada.  It so happens that the firm that can produce the VB boot, AirBoss Defense, also makes the Candian Forces Extreme Cold Weather Mukluk.  This Mukluk protects the feet to the same temperature as the VB Boot (0 to -55 Deg C) is lighter weight, features a removable liner and insoles and is also taller.  

www.airbossdefense.com

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26 Responses to “SOFIC 2015 – AirBoss Defense Extreme Cold Weather Mukluk”

  1. Francis says:

    Hmm. Went to the website and downloaded the brochure. Removable liners gives me pause. The VB, while not the most comfortable, is very survivable. You can dunk it, empty it, put on dry socks and your back in business. The brochure for this says the liner is 85% dry in six hours, footbed 90% dry in 10 hours. It doesn’t say at what temperature the dry at, but surely it’s above freezing. Tough to manage for extended operations. Warming tents will be key. Also a pair of VB socks to keep the liners dry even when you don’t dunk them.

    Cool looking boot though. I’m sure our Canadian friends could teach us a few things.

    • SSD says:

      You can do all of those things to the VB boot except get them.

    • SSD says:

      Btw, not much dunking going on at temps that require VB boots.

      • Bob says:

        Dunking does happen at the temperatures that VB boots are worn. Ice breaks and your foot goes in. Snow gets into the boot and melts. It rains and sleets leaving puddles everywhere. Your feet sweat constantly.

        These may look cool but as Francis points out the VB boot is a better boot. These are a step backwards to the old Korean War shoe packs that resulted in the VB boots being made.

        My experience Winter Mountain Warfare School and Norwegian Winter Training. In Norway I wore their equipment and their boots were similar to these, I’ll take the VB’s any day.

        • SSD says:

          Bob, you bring up some good points but you’re talking about a cold wet environment and not the cold dry that the VB or Mukluks were actually created for. When it hits 32 Deg F I don’t think, “oh noes, it’s time for the bunny boots.”

          • Bob says:

            I’m beginning to question your experience in any cold environment. Read up on why the VB boots came into existence. The injuries suffered in Korea were not all because of a wet cold environment. Point of fact the white VB are for more extreme temps than the black VB. The cold injuries that would show up from using these boots in an actual war zone would be catastrophic. A Canadian saying “I’ve never experienced any problems, eh” means zero.

            The VB boot has been combat proven, in Korea. As goofy as they look they work. They have short comings but loosing your foot won’t be one of them.

            These are essentially the same as the shoe packs. The shoe packs were based on the Maine hunting boots. They are good boots but in a war zone, where you have ZERO opportunity to dry out/clean your gear, they can cost you your toes, foot, leg, life. And make no mistake your feet will get wet in these. And in the environment you’re talking about you’ll pay quickly.

            Besides my training I live and hunt in Northern Minnesota, no city life. I’m outside sometimes for sixteen hours never venturing indoors. I’ve had boots like these and they are just okay. I would never use them in a combat zone given the choice.

            • SSD says:

              You do realize that no one in America makes VB boots anymore right? The only company that does is AirBoss and they are in Canada. there is a Berry waiver for the VB boot but DLA doesn’t want to purchase enough pairs to warrant starting up manufacture so as of right now, the VB is off the table except for what is out there.

              • Bob says:

                Strawman argument SSD. The original argument and my points remain the same. VB is a battle proven awesomeness, funny as they look. These mukluks are a battle proven liability. You want them for normal wear or training they’ll probably work pretty good. A war similar to Korea and you’re screwed. How will you dry out the liners in these? How will you dry your socks/feet? It’s a constant process to keep frostbite away when you’re living in those environments, something the VB boots address.

                Why do you feel the need to double down on gear that has a proven track record of producing casualties?

                Also, if faced with an actual war scenario what are the odds of a ramped up production of VB’s? 100% there’s a reason these have been around for over 60 years.

                Things the military got right:
                1) M2
                2) Poncho liner
                3) VB boots

  2. Strike-Hold says:

    Francis – have you done arctic warfare training?

    • Francis says:

      Bridgeport. Winter Mountain Leader and also the unit package. Did Strong Resolve in Norway but never went near the circle so I’ve never been exposed to the deep cold these boots were designed for.

      BUT…troops using this boot will frequent not be exposed to those temps either I’m guessing. They’ll be wearing them well into above zero temps and probably above freezing before they get a chance to swap them out. I just think the VB is more idiot proof. It would be nice if it were a better fit for humping heavy loads up the mountain. Also would be nice if it would fit the NATO ski binding.

      Sweat management is a real concern. Drying out socks on your bod and in the bag is very doable. Drying out the felt liners in these is another program…altogether.

      It’d be nice to hear from the Canadians how they manage those issues.

      • Bruce says:

        Sweat management with mukluks isn’t a major issue as they are designed to breath well and not build up moisture like VB boots do (better change those socks regularly). Having used both for more than three decades in actual extreme cold conditions, I won’t bother with VB boots unless there is a good chance of being near water (like flowing rivers where water never totally freezes in spots).

      • Pro Patria says:

        Francis,

        Is there realy still a “NATO ski binding”? There may used to have been a NATO ski binding but I doubt you can drop a requsition for one and get them from new production OR depot stocks.

        • SSD says:

          Agreed

        • Francis says:

          There used to be…or at least that’s what I was told. The side plates had a little inward lip that I think was intended to help secure the a reinforced boot toe to the binding. The binding was not meant for the VB boot. So the problem became that we were jamming the #$%@&%% VB boots into the binding. The lip would start digging in to the rubber outer which of course would eventually rupture, exposing the felt insulation to moisture. Before long you would have a nice frozen felt liner to refrigerate your feet.

          The Marine Corps is not strong in cold weather ops, Bridgeport notwithstanding. Since most Marine are stationed on the shore of North Carolina, sunny southern California, Okinawa, and…oh yeah…Hawaii, you could hardly expect otherwise. Even during the Cold War when the Corps was obligated to NATO’s northern flank in Norway, what expertise there was resided in 2d Marines.

          So with respect to the VB vs mukluk debate, though I have still have doubts about the muks, I’ll give a nod to the experience of those who’ve used and liked them. But I suspect effective use of mukluks resides with those troops who spend a regular and significant part of the year and get proper training – along with their officers who must plan and support their efforts.

          For units stationed in temperate climes who must suddenly deploy to the north, the VB, as I said earlier, is more idiot proof. Change your socks and drive on hard charger.

          Interesting reading:
          http://olive-drab.com/od_soldiers_clothing_combat_ww2_shoepacs.php

          http://olive-drab.com/od_soldiers_clothing_mm_boots.php

  3. Jacob says:

    Vapor Barrier boots are great but these look cool too. Never seen them with that camo pattern before.

  4. Pro Patria says:

    Bob,

    Lots of issues to discuss when it comes to military cold weather boots. I spent most of my Army life stationed in cold weather. Most of what you are describing is a gap between the VB Boot’s 0 degree to -50 wear and the Intermediate Cold Weather Boots 14 degree rating. This used to be the place for the black VB Boots which I think went out of the system over 20 years ago.

    Before I retired the VB was the boot of last choice in the winter. When we did wear them it seems like we spent most of our time static and did very little actual movements in them. When we moved we would change out to a more walk freindly boot. So alot of your discussion points to examining your TTP’s in the cold.

    Our biggest issue was transitional weather, ie, its 40 degrees now and -10 in the morning followed by 32 in the afternoon. Those with a true requirement for a VB boot are preety small group and even for them the VB boot is not the best choice and causes other issues besides having to change your socks more often.

    In short its a great discussion to have, but not an easy one to do in response to a blog.

    Thanks Eric and all other contributers

  5. Francis says:

    I can’t seem to let this go. Copied below from online discussion.

    CanadianGuy:
    When I was with the LSSR we would conduct the usual w/e winter ex’s and often invited up 20ish US National Guard troops from St.Paul-Minneapolis who would come wearing their issue winter gear including the white rubber “Mickey Mouse” winter boots. We would offer to issue them our CF Mukluks for the w/e which sometimes they went for but the one time I remember they did not swearing they would be fine in their high tech boots. Well it was fairly cold out (mid -40’s at best!) and with many moves pulling toboggans and pitching/striking tents they in one day used all their socks up as they would be soaked in a very short period of time from sweating in rubber! If not for our troops lending out wool socks and extra mukluk liner socks the National Guard troops would have been forced to stand down and dry out socks for a day or suffer cold injuries if they did not. Those Mickey Mouse boots are awful for extreme cold and could easily lead to cold injuries to your feet in a short period of time. They actually may be useful in wet cold where standing in slush and water would be occurring. I have not seen such problems with our CF Mukluks but even they require maintenance in the field (e.g.-drying liners) or problems could occur.

    • Pro Patria says:

      And that’s our point. But we are not the deciding factor in this discussion.

    • freesolo says:

      You might let this go. I’d let it go too except it pisses me off every time someone conflates arctic and mountain ops. The VB is outdated, unavailable and serves as one of many embarrassing reminders of DOD-wide (yes, SOF too) training and equipment shortfalls when it comes to operating in the cold. In our equatorial fob-centric insert-on-the-X age as leaders contemplate capabilities in polar regions, the VB boot and standard 1-3week “mtn fam” courses historically relied upon in CA, VT and CO should not be held up as the standards of a valid arctic capability. Similarly, 6-7 weeks at Pickel Meadows in the hands of the capable red-hat cadre is time well spent but can only be tangentially applied to the polar environment. I like tried and true as much as the next guy but VB boots don’t make the cut and are barelysuited to untrained troops/civilians thrust into weeklong winter training/adventure trips for which they are neither trained nor equipped. They have never integrated well with skis or snowshoes and break down quickly in terrain covered by anything but snow. Relying on the VB boot (or any piece of cold wx gear) as a remedy for inadequate training and discipline is a catch-22. Korea and numerous combat (study India/Siachen and footwear lessons-learned) training events since have proven that trench/immersion foot more than the “arctic” temps are the real concerns with vapor barrier footwear esp. when used by troops who don’t know any better. Before we get lost in a boot liner vs sock drying time/weight/bulk/warmth/appearance screed, I’d reiterate the blog editor’s point that since DOD has no currently available boot for true arctic (as opposed to mtn, and that is another unruly can of worms) ops, this boot is worth a look and maybe tip the hat to the rare individual (SSD) who, though blissfully unaware of the presence of liquid water in the arctic winter, isn’t afraid to highlight this deficiency and offer a possible solution that several decades of “gurus” at the schoolhouses as well as the equipment PM’s, not to mention the whole of the tactical footwear industry, have either failed to devise or chosen to ignore.

      • SSD says:

        ^ this!

        • Bob says:

          It wasn’t the VB boots that caused the foot injuries. They were built to combat those injuries, which they do well. It was the shoe packs which were a rubber, leather/rubber canvas boot with felt liners. They were impossible to dry in the environment they were in. This lead to the foot injuries.

  6. Strike-Hold says:

    I’ve never used the Canadian Forces Mukluk boots – but I used similar civilian boots all the time for winter outdoor recreational activities as a kid growing up in B.C.

    Later on when I served as an 11B in the 82nd Abn. Div. I went through both the company and battalion level Arctic Warfare Courses at Ft. Wainright and Ft. Greeley in Alaska – and my impressions of the “Mickey Mouse” boots echo those of ‘CanadianGuy’ in the post Francis quoted. There really must be a better way to make an extreme cold weather combat boot….

    I can’t say whether this new Muk for the Canadian Forces is the ‘be all and end all’, but I’d be willing to bet that it must be better than rubber boots first issued over 50 years ago…

  7. m5 says:

    1. In winter, you don’t walk, you ski. That is, if you move on foot off ploughed roads or positions. Generally, snow shoes seriously compromise mobility as compared to skis, and should not be used except in special circumstances, such as clearing or laying mines, etc. (Glaciers and very hard packed snow in the mountains are a different matter, requiring e.g. crampons, on boots or on the skis).

    2. A winter boot that doesn’t fit (your) ski bindings is next to useless.

    3. Typical military ski bindings, such as Norwegian (‘NATO’) bindings, or Swedish or Finnish (M/56) ski bindings require using boots designed for generic cable bindings. The ‘Mickey Mouse’ VB boots are not compatible with the abovementioned ski bindings. Neither are the Candadian mucklucks. Hence I have serious concerns about the on-foot mobility of North American troops in winter conditions. The Finnish military also uses a new universal binding, that is designed to be compatible, at least to some extent, with any boot. (However, if the boot is not designed for the binding, it is probably not strong enough at the contact points, and might get damaged from abrasion and ‘forced’ flexpoints quickly).

    4. The Finnish military transitioned from leather boots (essentially m/36, compatible with cable bindings, over-sized for cold temperatures) to rubber winter boots in the 1980’s. This resulted in a dramatic reduction in the cold-injuries suffered by conscripts. Severe cold injuries of feet essentially vanished. The Finnish mil winter rubber boots have been exported to eg the Swedish military, but the Swedes also use boxy leather winter footwear of their own design.

    5. The Finnish military winter boots are designed for military usage (especially skiing) in arctic conditions. They are boxy to accomodate thick insulation. They have evolved since their introduction, and similar boots are available for civilians, winter backpackers and the like.

    6. The Arctic winter climate in Fin, Swe and Nor is significantly less severe than in North America or Siberia, in terms of lowest temperatures. Otoh, weather can change quickly from cold-wet to extreme cold, which can be very challenging.

    7. Being rubber, the Finnish military boots don’t ‘breathe’ at all. Breathable exterior materials don’t offer much benefit at cold temperatures, because the dew point (temperature/humidity where condensation starts) is reached already within the boot insulation.

    8. The Finnish mil winter boots come with changeable felt liners. The liners are however not protected at all from moisture from within the boot (evaporative perspiration and sweat). Hence the boot liners and socks need to be changed and dried regularly. This is a big shortcoming, but separate vapor liner socks can be used (but typically are not) to avoid moisture accumulation within the insulation. Snow and especially water ingress via the top of the boots will wetten the insulation, requiring (at least) spare socks and lineres, although wool requires some of its insulative capability when wet. Nevertheless, this is a huge drawback as compared to ‘Mickey Mouse’ boots, where the insulation of the boot is hermetically sealed.

    • SSD says:

      As the U.S. Military does not ski, you should have grave concerns about winter mobility. No equipment is going to fix that shortcoming. It’s a training issue and not easily fixed.