Gear Guide: Alaskan essential – Bunny Boots

When folks ask me how I made it through four winters just below the Arctic Circle in the Alaskan Bush, I usually make some crude quip about keeping warm with a combination of women and alcohol.  But now that I’m married and consistently toasty here in my new Taos home, it’s time to let the truth be known: No Alaskan man worth his salt goes anywhere past December without a pair of bunnies.

This isn’t blowing smoke up your bum about some snowshoe hares or Hugh Hefner’s harem, I’m talking about the vintage military-issued cold weather boots commonly referred to as “bunny boots” or  “mickey mouse boots” for their certifiably outlandish bulk. But don’t be fooled by the absurd heft of these rubber platforms, (and believe me, with my size 15s, I could tear Ronald McDonald or any other clown to pieces in a kickboxing contest, provided I could muster enough energy to lift the weighty clodhoppers) their wool and air insulating layers have saved countless tootsies at temperatures down to 60 below.

Bunnies can go where more expensive and fashionable footwear would only dream of, uh, setting foot.

I still recall one February snowmobile trip along the Iditarod trail section of the Yukon River with one of the aforementioned women who would become my aforementioned wife. The two of us were a bit heavy for my one-man rig, and we soon sank into a section of overflow (warmer water that has risen through fissures in river ice and is kept just above 32 degrees by an insulating layer of snow) atop the frozen river. Standing in 8 inches of 34-degree water with gusting winds accentuating the splendid 30-below day, my feet continued to sweat in the localized pocket of tropical humidity below my shins. When I stepped into a deep spot and water rushed into my bunnies, my heart certainly skipped a beat, but less than a minute later the unwelcome deluge was warmed up to a familiar 98.6 or so and we continued with a successful extrication process.

If you prefer a case of hypothermia in the latest hard-core haute couture, then head on down to the mall and shell out a few hundred bucks for some waterproof ugs for your next trip to Denali. Otherwise, I recommend grabbing a few Andrew Jacksons, heading to your local army / navy surplus and demanding, the biggest, ugliest, whitest boots in the store.

One note of caution:  Be sure to open the air pressure valve on the side of the boots before going airborne.  Rumor is a high-altitude flight can occasionally cause pressurized bunnies to explode, taking a foot or two with them.  Hopefully someone has advised the TSA.