The Hoodster’s impressive heel cushioning, aggressive outsole, and women-specific fit make it an admirable winter light hiker. The price ($160) is low enough to make this a good value for those looking for a durable, versatile all-around winter boot for snowshoeing or winter hikes, and enough comfort to double as a town boot.
The Hoodster can easily fool you into thinking it is a traditional light-duty hiking boot, so I was somewhat surprised at its capabilities in deep winter conditions. When compared to other boots I’ve tested in the same category, the standout features of the Hoodster are an aggressive outsole (good for terrain that is slippery or rocky underfoot) and the overall comfort (a boot that actually hugs a female foot).
Columbia uses Omni-Heat, their proprietary insulation material designed to reflect your own body heat to seal in warmth. They claim the material is 20% warmer than traditional insulation; I don’t know if this is technically true, but the boot was pretty warm walking around in freezing temperatures and deep snow. The snug fit helps here as well, as it keeps out any dead air that will quickly cool off.
The materials are a bit lower in quality than the top boots in this category (a little more of a plasticy feel), but they get the job done. The upper is a combination of leather, plastic and mesh that work together to provide scratch protection and breathability. The plastic overlays are marketed as added protection for snowshoe straps: although I have never found that snowshoe straps had a particularly destructive effect on my boots (except maybe nylon on nylon), the more delicate mesh material here may actually benefit from the reinforcement and add to the life of the boot.
Columbia uses Outdry waterproofing in all of their waterproof winter wear, including their boots. How’s it work? The breathable membrane is sealed directly to the inside of the boot’s upper material, putting the insulation on the dry side of the membrane, instead of a kind of waterproof bootie that’s inserted into the boot walls with the insulation on the exterior side of the material (like Gore-Tex and all others). Why you should care: With Outdry, moisture is blocked before it ever reaches the inner, insulating layers, theoretically keeping your foot dryer and warmer if the boot ever does soak through. We haven’t gotten to that stage in testing these boots yet, but the concept makes sense.
While some winter boots are only waterproof up to the base of the tongue, the Hoodster is waterproof up to the gusset (where the tongue connects near the top of the laces), which makes a difference in deep wet snow or spring conditions. After 30 seconds under running water, there was no leakage, although the mesh did start to soak (this simply means the outer materials are untreated, but this will not affect the waterproofing). Note: this is a mid length boot, so gaiters will be necessary for full protection in deep snow.
Overall, this boot will perform at its best on moderate snow hikes/snowshoe outings, or simply as a winter town boot. It is not as stiff as more technical hikers (such as the Lowa Trident), which will increase the likelihood of foot fatigue on extended or extreme outings, but it will perform perfectly well for most winter activities. The light weight, knobby lugs, comfort and weatherproofing make this a good choice for those looking for a catch-all winter activity boot.
How We Tested It
For the field test, we took them on a snow hike in steep, snowy terrain in 40-degree weather, plus a lot of walking around town in about 4 inches of fresh snow. For waterproof testing, we did a dunk test for 30 seconds in water up to the gusset.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.