My first test of these booties came on winter solstice in Alaska, on the west summit of McHugh Peak. The thermometer read -10 degrees, not factoring in the wind pouring over our exposed campsite. After warming up in my sleeping bag, I pulled the Feathered Friends down booties over a single pair of Costco wool socks, and stepped outside. To my surprise, I felt.. nothing. The shells blocked the entire force of the wind and my feet were as warm as if they were kicked up on the couch at home. 4 or 5 hours of northern-lights-watching later, I was sold.
Materials and Design
The Feathered Friends down booties are really two products in one: a floofy, lightweight 800-fill-power down sock paired with a waterproof-breathable Pertex shell and removable insulated sole. Two draw cords cinch the shell down around the down sock, and when the draw cords are released the shell easily slides off. This allows you to wear the sock alone in your tent or sleeping bag, and then quickly slip on the shell for excursions outside.
Limitations and Concerns
After a little experience, stepping around mountain terrain in the Feathered Friends down booties becomes second nature. Still, they are definitely not intended for hiking or traveling outside of camp. The soles offer excellent insulation against cold but almost no support, and the down sock shell slides against the outer shell, making footing a little slippery at first. The Pertex outer shells are probably not designed for repeated bashing on sharp branches or rocks.
My only concern with this product is the longevity of the down under your foot, which is compressed with your full body weight every time you take a step. To some extent, this suggests a little contradiction at the heart of this product’s design philosophy: just because you can walk around outside in these down booties, should you? I e-mailed Feathered Friends to ask about the longevity of the down underfoot. They wrote back quickly that “…they will be totally fine! I think if you take care of them they can last for years :).” For now, I’ll take them at their word.
A small waterproof compression sack would have been welcome, since these highly compressible boots naturally inflate to full size in your backpack.
Price and Availability
As of this writing, Feathered Friends products are only available online via their website and in-person at their Seattle, Washington store. At $99, these down booties could be seen as either a fantastically expensive sock or very affordable piece of innovative cold-weather footwear. I see them as the latter, and think that $99 is a very good price for this creative, high-performance, USA-made technical gear.