Our verdict

Once you get to experience winter in the Bugaboot III, chances are, you won't settle for anything less moving forward. Indeed, from its cosy confines to its enduring winter-specific performance, we found that this piece from Columbia has "incredible" written all over its proverbial face. A couple of its workable misfires aside, the Bugaboot III ensures our safety and enjoyment in the winter season.

Pros

  • Jaw-dropping comfort
  • Remarkable insulation
  • Watertight upper
  • Excellent durability
  • Plenty of cushioning
  • High level of support
  • Reliable grip
  • Affordable for its kind

Cons

  • Restrictive toebox
  • Heavier than average

Audience verdict

85
Great!

Who should buy

Based on our field tests and lab findings, the Columbia Bugaboot III is a great option to consider if you need:

  • a winter boot to tackle snow, slush, mud, and ice
  • an insulated and waterproof hiker for moderate winters
  • a pair of budget-friendly winter boots
  • a hiking boot that will last you several winters

Columbia Bugaboot III review

Who should NOT buy

We didn't find anything ultimately wrong with this Columbia winter boot. However, we can see how one can be turned off by the boot's burly design and hefty weight. A fantastic alternative to that would be another 200g-insulated Columbia boot - the Fairbanks Omni-Heat.

And if you're after a roomier toebox in your winter boots, check out the KEEN Targhee II Waterproof Mid.

Columbia Bugaboot III lab test

Breathability

A mere glance at the boot should be enough to understand that breathability is non-existent here. With its waterproof leather upper, 200-gramme insulation, and 7-inch shaft height, the Bugaboot III is 100% airtight.

We still performed our smoke-pumping test to demonstrate how much this winter boot differs from its breathable counterparts. Obviously, we gave the Bugaboot the lowest breathability score of 1 out of 5.

What this Columbia boot is meant to do is keep your feet dry and warm even when the temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C).

Columbia Bugaboot III waterproof 3

Test results
Bugaboot III 1
Average 1.6
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

Investing in the Bugaboot III means that you get a pair of boots for more than one winter. Its heavily layered upper is prepared to withstand some serious wear and tear.

We challenged the boot's toebox to a duel with our Dremel and it came out barely damaged. Based on the dent left by the tool, we rated its durability with the highest score - 5 out of 5!

Test results
Bugaboot III 5
Average 4.4
Compared to 21 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Outsole hardness

Using a durometer, we measured the boot's rubber for hardness. The reading of 84.9 HC was pretty reassuring to us as it means that there is enough hardness in the outsole to resist abrasion.

The fact that it's slightly softer than the average isn't as concerning to us. Because it is a winter boot, that softness makes the outsole a little bit tackier on slippery surfaces.

Columbia Bugaboot III Outsole hardness
Test results
Bugaboot III 84.9 HC
Average 87.7 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
81.0 HC
Outsole hardness
92.1 HC

Outsole thickness

As expected, the amount of rubber is thicker on the Bugaboot. Our calliper shows 3.3 mm of rubber excluding the lugs.

Columbia Bugaboot III Outsole thickness
Test results
Bugaboot III 3.3 mm
Average 3.0 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1.8 mm
Outsole thickness
5.6 mm

Weight

The Bugaboot III is a hefty one. Weighing it in a men's US size 9, we got a whopping 26 oz (737g)!

Not only is it significantly heavier than hiking boots on average, but it also weighs more than similar winter boots. The average weight of 200-gramme insulated boots in our catalogue is 19.4 oz (550g) - a whole 6.6 oz lighter than the Columbia Bugaboot!

Test results
Bugaboot III 26.00 oz (737g)
Average 18.48 oz (524g)
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
11.71 oz (332g)
Weight
28.29 oz (802g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Cutting the boot in half, we found exactly how abundant the cushioning is in the Columbia Bugaboot III. A huge helping of foam is there to guard your feet from the freezingly cold ground while keeping them comfortably supported how hours on end.

Measuring the heel stack height, the calliper returned an insane number - 46.9 mm! That's a whole centimetre thicker than our lab-tested hiking boots on average.

Columbia Bugaboot III Heel stack
Test results
Bugaboot III 46.9 mm
Average 36.3 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
26.2 mm
Heel stack
46.9 mm

Forefoot stack

We measured the Bugaboot's stack height in the forefoot at 30.7 mm. Some hiking boots don't even reach the same stack height in the heel!

That's a lot of cushioning for many hours on the trail.

Columbia Bugaboot III Forefoot stack
Test results
Bugaboot III 30.7 mm
Average 22.5 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
17.0 mm
Forefoot stack
30.7 mm

Drop

The difference in stack heights gives this Columbia boot a very high drop of 16.2 mm. It is about 5 mm taller than the average.

Columbia Bugaboot III Drop

The elevated heel makes sure that you get enough impact protection upon landing.

Test results
Bugaboot III 16.2 mm
Average 13.8 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
2.6 mm
Drop
20.9 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

With the help of a durometer, we measured the boot's cushioning softness at 26.8 HA. This is a little bit softer than average but only by 5%.

Columbia Bugaboot III Midsole softness

However, that's the softness we got at regular room temperature. Keeping in mind that it's a winter-ready boot, we had to re-create cold weather conditions as well.

Test results
Bugaboot III 26.8 HA
Average 27.1 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
15.4 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
53.3 HA
Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

Difference in midsole softness in cold

Our freezer helped to put the Columbia Bugaboot III in "winter mode." After keeping the boot in it for 20 minutes, we repeated the durometer measurement and got 32.5 HA instead of the initial 26.8 HA.

That's about as firm as most hiking boots get in low temperatures.

It doesn't mean that the boot is going to feel like a brick though. Its cushioning will break in a little as it warms up from your body temperature.

The Bugaboot III doesn't get critically harder. Based on our measurements, the difference is fairly average - 21.5%.

Columbia Bugaboot III Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Bugaboot III 21.5%
Average 19.3%
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Insole thickness

To keep you even warmer and cosier, this Columbia boot features an exceptionally thick insole. Measuring it in the heel with a calliper, we got 10.7 mm - about 4 mm thicker than average!

Columbia Bugaboot III Insole thickness
Test results
Bugaboot III 10.7 mm
Average 6.1 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
3.7 mm
Insole thickness
10.7 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

There is so much support packed into the Columbia Bugaboot III that our feet (and legs!) were practically confined. In a good way.

We believe that the boot will prevent us from feeling wobbly and unstable once the colder months start to kick in.

Torsional rigidity

The structure of the Bugaboot III is rock-solid! We could barely get a little twist out of it in our manual assessment. For that reason, we gave this boot the highest score on torsional rigidity - 5 out of 5.

You would have to try really hard to twist the ankle in this boot.

Test results
Bugaboot III 5
Average 4.3
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The bottom of the heel counter is very rigid. It did a fantastic job of keeping our heels in place throughout the test hike.

However, we rated it as 4 out of 5 instead of 5 on the stiffness test because it has a little give around the Achilles. Without that give, the boot would feel like a cast!

Test results
Bugaboot III 4
Average 3.5
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The platform width is MASSIVE on this Columbia boot.

We measured the widest part of the boot's forefoot at 124.6 mm which is over a centimetre wider than average!

Having such a wide landing surface certainly makes your steps more confident on those slushy trails.

Columbia Bugaboot III Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Bugaboot III 124.6 mm
Average 111.6 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
96.3 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
124.6 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The sole width is also quite impressive in the heel. In its widest part, we got 97.5 mm which is about half a centimetre wider than average.

Columbia Bugaboot III Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Bugaboot III 97.5 mm
Average 87.9 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
71.7 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.1 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

There is not much foot flexion happening in the Columbia Bugaboot III. The boot's huge platform and sturdy build make you roll from heel to toe as opposed to naturally flexing your foot's way to the next step.

Our force gauge shows that it required 47N to bend this boot to a 90-degree angle. That's 14% more than what it takes hiking boots on average.

Test results
Bugaboot III 47.0N
Average 44.9N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
16.6N
Stiffness
84.7N

Difference in stiffness in cold

We repeated the flexibility test after the boot's 20-minute excursion to the freezer. And the result was mind-blowing.

It went from 47N to a stunning 84.9N!! The Bugaboot III practically froze to the point where you can't even bend it at all! For reference, other hiking boots got to about 59N after the same test.

The boot went through a drastic 80.5% change in stiffness when exposed to low temperatures. Do keep this in mind as the boot will take some good breaking-in in the cold.

Test results
Bugaboot III 80.5%
Average 25.4%
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
100%

Grip / Traction

Lug depth

This Columbia boot is equipped with really deep lugs to bite those slippery slopes.

Columbia Bugaboot III Lug depth

Measuring them with a calliper shows 5.7 mm. That's over a milimeter toothier than the average we see in hiking boots.

Columbia Bugaboot III outsole

Test results
Bugaboot III 5.7 mm
Average 4.2 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
3.0 mm
Lug depth
5.8 mm

Size and fit

Toebox feel

Trying the Bugaboot III in our regular hiking boot size, we found that it fits tight. It seems like all those protective overlays hold the upper much firmer than usual. And we weren't even wearing our thickest winter socks yet!

We definitely recommend going at least half a size up in this Columbia boot. Perhaps even a full size up if you need more room for the toes.

Columbia Bugaboot III fit

Test results
Bugaboot III Narrow

Tongue: gusset type

The boot's tongue is fully attached on both sides. That's the design we would expect from a waterproof insulated winter boot. It protects the interiors from outdoor elements, keeping the feet safe and warm.

Columbia Bugaboot III Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Bugaboot III Both sides (full)

Comfort

Tongue padding

Insulation aside, there is a generous amount of padding stuffed into the tongue. We measured its thickness at 14.2 mm, a little puffier than the average.

From our experience, it buffered the lace pressure quite successfully.

Columbia Bugaboot III Tongue padding
Test results
Bugaboot III 14.2 mm
Average 11.0 mm
Compared to 25 hiking boots
Number of shoes
5.9 mm
Tongue padding
22.3 mm

Heel tab

Columbia added a small finger loop at the top of the collar. Even though it's meant to assist with getting the boot on, the latter still requires some effort. The attached tongue narrows the boot's opening quite a bit.

Columbia Bugaboot III Heel tab
Test results
Bugaboot III Finger loop

Removable insole

The Bugaboot's insole is removable. However, if you want to add an orthotic or a warmer insert, make sure that it's not thicker than the boot's default insole (11 mm). Because it can make the boot's already tight interiors even more cramped.

Columbia Bugaboot III Removable insole
Test results
Bugaboot III Yes