Jan 06 2009
When I first pulled my new NEOS Explorer® overboots from the shipping box, my first thought was that they were huge. The soles were wide, the lowers boxy—I was reminded of the abominable snowman, or yeti. Ever since, I have thought of them as my yeti boots.
I was skeptical when I first saw fabric overboots advertised about 10 years ago. As a hardnosed devotee of the tall rubber boots known as wellingtons (or wellies), fabric overboots seemed like a flimsy modern heresy. But as my last pair of old faithfuls began to show signs of cracking which would lead to leaks, I gritted my teeth and ordered a pair of NEOS (the acronym stands for New England Overshoe Company) Explorer® overshoes from Campmor.
I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve worn them over running shoes on trips to town, and I’ve worn them over fleece mukluks (aka boot liners) on trail hikes and snowshoe treks through the hilly woods and thickets. They’ve proven themselves to be rugged and thoughtfully designed. Here’s a picture of them in use and worn over mukluks:
Explorer Overboot Overview Explorers are 10 inches high and the uppers are insulated with 10 mm foam sandwiched between layers of nylon which the manufacturer claims adds 40 degrees Fahrenheit warmth to everyday footwear. An optional 10 mm EVA foam insole insulates and improves fit when you wear fleece mukluks over socks inside the overboots. A comfortable padded upper edge helps keep snow outside where it belongs. The gusset is generously wide, the hook-and-loop closure is robust, the upper tab is wide and beefy, and a barrel adjuster on elastic cord fine-tunes the fit at the top. And though they look bulky and awkward, they’re easy to walk in and aren’t clumsy. Think they’re heavy? Nope. At about three pounds, they weigh a lot less than my old felt-lined leather-and-rubber pack boots, and that’s important when slogging through heavy snow.
Exploring Explorer’s Finer Points Let’s step in now and check out the Explorer’s main features, including the padded upper, the boxy reinforced toe and heel cups, the rugged mount for the strap which wraps over the foot, and the aggressive welt. Note the wide gusset and generous hook-and-loop strip in the photo above. Slipping a pair of running shoes or even light hiking boots into the overshoe should be easy—except that it isn’t always. If your running shoe or hiking boot has a heavy rubber welt, rubber toes, or wide extended sole at the rear it might take a bit of sweat to seat the shoe inside the overboot. The size of my running shoes falls smack in the middle of the NEOS size chart, but I have trouble wedging their soles into the Explorers and their cousins, the NEOS Trekkers, an uninsulated overboot. If the size of your everyday shoes or light hikers falls at the upper end of an overboot range, consider buying the next size larger, and be sure you can return the overshoes if you buy them through mail order.
Though it’s not as simple to pull the Explorers over running shoes as you might think, there’s no trouble sliding the optional NEOS insoles into position and putting the boots on over the high polyester-acrylic fleece mukluks I bought from Campmor. Here’s a picture of the insoles and boot liners waiting to go on a hike:
Wearing thick wool socks, the mukluks, and Arctic wool military surplus trousers creates a bulky package to tuck into the Explorers, but the boots are up to the job. The picture below shows the wide hook-and-loop strip and top tab:
The front gusset contributes very little to the overall bulk around your leg, and the wide top tab is easy to adjust with gloved hands. The hook-and-loop strip closes securely and has yet to fray or open up in use.
Other pluses are the barrel adjuster (which can be used with gloved hands to fine-tune the fit), the generously sized strap that wraps over the top of your foot (also easy to adjust with gloved hands), the large buckle (ditto), and the reinforced toe and heel cups. A sliding clip on the strap corrals excess webbing, which has a reinforced plastic tip to guard against fraying. I like to make a double loop of the end and tuck it into the clip so that the excess doesn’t flap. The photo panel above highlights these features:
Explorers and snowshoes go together. The overboots’ reinforced heel and toe grip snowshoe bindings, and don’t compress when the bindings are tightened. And when the time comes to remove ‘shoes and hike, the aggressive tread provides sure footing. But what about ice? I’ve found that the Explorers manage patchy ice on the level, but I prefer not to risk falls, so I just slip on a pair of Yaktrax®. Here’s a picture of what it takes to get a grip on ice:
With Yaktrax it’s possible to hike in confidence over icy trails, and if you should happen to break through into a puddle or stream, the Explorers are waterproof. Of course you can work up a sweat in waterproof boots, but my Explorers have never felt uncomfortable due to condensation. When you get home after a hike, the handy reflective tabs on the back of the boots let you hang the boots to air.
The Bottom Line Except for the frustration of finding the right size of NEOS overboots to fit my shoes, I’ve been happy with the Explorers. They’re warm, light, waterproof, versatile, and ruggedly made. They can be folded into a smaller package, tucked into a zippered plastic bag to avoid soiling my pack, and carried along in the rucksack—just in case. They’re a bit pricey, but the price compares to other winter boots. So, would I buy them again? You bet I would!