The Sorel Caribou first came out in 1962, and it has been an often-imitated top-ranked winter boot ever since. As a typical Pac boot, this model features an inner liner that sits inside a waterproof outer shell. However, like other Pac boots, this system creates a bulky boot that is difficult to lace tightly enough to achieve a snug fit. Traction and durability are average, making these boots great for outdoor chores and tasks where foot precision isn't important. They are also heavy, so they're not great footwear for walking long distances. And yet, they have a devout following, and their look is iconic.Editor's Note: This winter boot review has new sections about choosing the best boot for your needs. This update was done on February 23, 2022.
Sorel Caribou Review
Cons: Very heavy, sloppy fit, potential durability issues
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|Pros||Waterproof, warm, cozy||Great traction, excellent fit, very comfortable, warm, affordable||Extremely durable and weather resistant, excellent traction, easy on and off||Great traction, very comfortable, inexpensive||Stylish, comfortable, relatively warm|
|Cons||Very heavy, sloppy fit, potential durability issues||Other boots are warmer, relatively low water-resistance height||Not that warm or comfortable, baggy fit||Not that warm, fabric eyelets, low height||Low waterproof height, lacks traction|
|Bottom Line||A classic snow boot that is good for errand running and snow shoveling, but not well suited to long walks||These boots are the total package, with warmth, comfort, a great fit, and a fair price||These slip-on work boots are protective, durable, and convenient, making them perfect for outdoor winter chores||This very comfortable and inexpensive winter hiking boot has excellent traction, but won't keep you dry in deep snow||This stylish and cozy boot is built to handle most adverse winter conditions and is very comfortable|
|Rating Categories||Sorel Caribou||The North Face Chil...||Muck Boot Arctic Ic...||Merrell Thermo Chil...||UGG Butte|
|Weather Protection (25%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Sorel Caribou||The North Face Chil...||Muck Boot Arctic Ic...||Merrell Thermo Chil...||UGG Butte|
|Maximum Puddle Depth Before Major Leaking||10.5"||8"||13.5"||6.5"||6.5"|
|Measured Shaft Height (from bottom of sole to top of shaft)||11"||11"||13.5"||7.5"||11.5"|
|Measured Weight (per pair, size 13)||5.26 lbs||4.14 lbs||4.48 lbs||2.74 lbs||3.44 lbs|
|Appropriate Activity||Town, errands||Town, errands, chores||Chores||Hiking, town||Town, errands|
|Fit Details||Roomy||True to size||Roomy||True to size||True to size|
|Lining/Insulation||Removable/washable 9mm recycled felt inner boot with Sherpa Pile snow cuff||400g PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Eco||5mm CR Flex-Foam Neoprene w/ Fleece Lining||200g M Select||Sheepskin wool|
|Upper Material||Waterproof nubuck leather||Full-grain waterproof-leather upper||5 mm CR Flex-Foam Neoprene||Waterproof polyurethane-coated leather and mesh||Waterproof full-grain leather|
|Toe Box||Rubber||Rubber||Spandura rubber||Rubber||Rubber|
|Outsole||Handcrafted waterproof vulcanized rubber shell with Sorel aero-trac non loading outsole||TNF Winter Grip Rubber||Vibram Arctic Grip||Rubber||Vibram|
|Company Claimed Cold Weather Rating||-40 F||-40 F||Not listed||Not listed||-20 F|
|Sizes Available||7 - 17||7 - 14||7 - 15||7 - 15||7 - 18|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sorel Caribou is a classic Pac boot, a winter boot design with both advantages and disadvantages. In general, Pac boots are very comfortable and offer a spacious, sometimes sloppy, fit. They have the benefit of a removable liner that allows you to dry them out quickly should you sweat too much or get moisture inside of them. The Caribou is absolutely warm and waterproof, though it isn't the most comfortable or grippy on slippery surfaces.
The Pac Boot style construction means its warmth comes from the 9mm thick ThermoPlus felt inner boot. Upon first inspection, after removing it from the boot, we were a little disappointed at the thickness and the opening of the tongue of this inner liner. However, we reserved judgment until after testing, figuring that the Caribou wouldn't have been around so long if they hadn't gotten something right. It turns out they are plenty warm, among the warmest in our ice bucket test. These boots are warm enough for all but the worst winter weather, and in that case, a thick wool sock should add enough insulation to get the job done.
The Caribou keeps water, slush, and snow at bay with a very effective molded rubber sole that extends up around the foot, creating a shell. The upper is a treated Nubuck leather that resists water quite well, beading off the water even after our full 8-minute ice bath immersion test. Since there is no inner waterproof membrane like those found on many winter hiking boots, they rely heavily on the outer shell. This means that an annual treatment of the Nubuck material will help them repel water longer. They are waterproof to a submersion depth of 10.5 inches, which is better than average in our review, and plenty for most winter activities like shoveling driveways filled with deep snow.
Comfort and Fit
We hesitate to say that these boots are uncomfortable because their large and spacious fit guarantees a cozy and relaxed experience. However, there is no doubt that the fit could be a lot better. The problem is that they are gigantic, both in the fit and the design of the boot in general. Even with a very thick sock on, there is so much foot slop and movement inside this boot that we would consider sizing down. No amount of cranking the laces down will cinch up this boot to make it feel snug. The room on the inside isn't the only problem, though — the whole boot is just huge. We also can't get over how heavy they are. At 5.25 pounds for a pair of size 13 men's boots, these are over two pounds heavier than the average winter hiking boot. The sloppy fit, large design, and hefty weight guarantee that this is not footwear we want to wear over long distances.
The Caribou features a proprietary rubber compound called Aerotrac, and the sole pattern is made up of small dot-shaped rounded lugs. The low-profile lugs perform best on slippery surfaces like icy sidewalks, where increased surface area makes the boot grippier. However, for most other circumstances, traction is not the best likely because the lugs don't have enough bite.
It's worth mentioning that we are concerned there is a durability issue with the vulcanized rubber that forms the bottom lining of this boot. There are countless reports online from user reviews of this rubber cracking or splitting over time due to drying out or simple material fatigue. Numerous other people, we have talked to directly confirmed that this had happened to them. Most of these reports claim that the issue started after a year. Our test period was not long enough to test these claims, and we experienced no such issues of cracking or splitting in our tests, but this is something to consider, and we will report back if this occurs on one of the test pairs in the future.
Should You Buy the Sorel Caribou?
The Sorel Caribou has been around for the past 50 years and is many people's definition of a snow boot. The design concept is solid, and while we feel that it is not a suitable candidate for long winter hikes, it is an overall good winter boot that provides great warmth and weather resistance and is easy to use. It will fit the needs of many people looking for a quality boot to see them through the winter with a classic style. This boot retails for about average for the contenders in this review. Its versatility is less than some of the other boots at this price, and we have already voiced concerns about the durability of the rubber used in the lowers. However, we didn't encounter that problem ourselves. Still, there are better boots out there for the price.
What Other Winter Boots Should You Consider?
While we get the appeal of this traditional-looking style and brand, it isn't the best for most activities beyond hanging gout in the snow. IF chores are your plan, we prefer the Muck Boot Arctic Ice Mid with a slight bump in price; this boot offers more for your money and will look better for messy chores that could stain the leather on the Sorel. If warmth is the order for the day, the Baffin Impact is better at keeping feet warm than the Sorel, but it comes with a significantly higher price tag. Alternatively, if you want to enjoy the outdoor trekking or snowshoeing, then the The North Face Chilkat 400 II is a great all-around boot for a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
— Jeff Dobronyi and Andy Wellman
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