Gear review: Casual footwear options for winter weather

Columbia's Davenport PDX Waterproof Omni-Heat Boot and Vulc Camp 4 Winter Shoe
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Davenport PDX Waterproof Omni-Heat boot

A quick crunch of the numbers (thank you, step-counter obsession), and my conservative estimate is that I walked 500 kilometres in the Columbia Davenport boots in the last three months. What was intended to be a gear test turned into shameless daily reliance.

This is why: the Davenport has a split personality. It treads the line between a rugged, well-cushioned outdoor boot and casual Friday, and it treads it well. Rugged enough for slush pants, the trip out to the ski hill and light hikes, they’re also cleanly simple and stylish enough to pair with jeans or chinos. As one B.C. ski guide I travelled with this spring put it, “Those boots have real curb appeal!”

Design and durability

The Davenport is the most versatile boot I’ve worn. Now, they aren’t for expeditions into Canada’s remote wilds or anything, but they were ideal for a particularly snowy Ottawa winter and a sloppy spring.

No shoe sprays were applied — or required — before wearing, and the boots proved stupendously wear-resistant and weatherproof. Pushed through snow, slush and rain, neither water nor the endless road salt used in the nation’s capital penetrated the oiled leather and well-sealed seams between the natural upper and the sturdy rubber sole.

After three months of regular, hard use, they remain in excellent condition. Salt disappears with a wipe, and the padded red-tartan-knit cuff around the ankle hasn’t frayed or balled up. The moderate tread on the outsole has likewise not worn down, and continues to provide adequate traction. (The only sign of real wear, in fact, are small bare patches through the inner material at the heel, but as this has happened in every pair of shoes I’ve ever owned, let’s chalk it up to bony feet.)

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The Davenports’ padded red-tartan-knit cuff. (Photo: Nick Walker/Can Geo)

Warm, but adaptable

Even on the coldest days, these kept my feet comfortable and dry, in no small part thanks to a combination of sturdy construction and the thin silver layer of proprietary Omni-Heat thermal reflective material that lines the interior. Sure, it sounds like a gimmick, but it works. Even at -25 C. 

And somehow, the Davenports still breathe. I wore them while hiking through an urban park on a warm day in L.A., and they can still pass my regular unscientific smell tests — and, for the record, score better than my dress shoes.

The Davenport adds to a trend that’s surprised me in recent years — something of a Columbia renaissance defined by gear that’s constructed tremendously well and designed with a careful eye to aesthetics.

Columbia Vulc Camp 4 Winter Shoe

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Columbia’s waterproof and warm Vulc Camp 4 Winter Shoe. (Photo: Michela Rosano/Can Geo)

I love the classic styling of Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star shoes. But let’s be honest — the canvas uppers of these iconic shoes are decidedly not winter friendly. The solution to my form-versus-function winter footwear dilemma? Columbia’s Vulc Camp 4 Winter Shoe.


These aren’t made for trodding through deep snow, but if the sidewalks have been plowed and the puddles of slush aren’t too deep, the Vulc Camp 4 is an excellent choice for a casual winter show. Its waterproof suede leather upper kept my feet dry and the non-marking rubber outsole had a surprisingly good grip on winter-slick surfaces. Most important, though, was the upper’s Omni-Heat lining, a breathable warming fabric that uses silver dots to reflect and retain your body heat.  

Style and fit

The Vulc Camp 4s that I tested came in dark grey with black laces, neutral colours that allowed me to pair them with jeans or khakis. And although I only started testing the shoes in December, I feel pretty confident that I’d be comfortable wearing them with shorts in mid to late fall and the early days of spring. As for fit, the pair I sported were a true size 10.5, with just the right amount of space in the forefoot and a comfortably snug heel.  


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