The Pakem Cortina’s ($80) are the cold-weather flip flop—the end-of-the day podiatry receptacle to soothe swollen, tired and sore feet. Except that Pakems are snow boots, they’re insulated and they take up the same amount of space in your pack as a pair of Chaco ZX-1 Classics.
That sounds suspiciously like a trifecta.
What I liked
Packability. This is the “Duh” heard ‘round the world. I’ll start with the obvious. My wheelie. In February I did a Nordic skiing trip to Telluride and spent most of the trip skiing in the Lizard Head Pass wilderness–as I do every February because my mom lives just outside Telluride and lodging at in her sewing room is free. Up until this year I had always worn my Sorel Joan of Arctic boots on the plane because I needed snow boots at some point at the destination. Joan of Arctic boots, while great, are not wheelie-friendly and I’m too cheap to check a bag.
Living in Minneapolis at the elevation of 500 feet above sea level and then traveling to an elevation of 10,800 feet means a full day of skiing will be painfully slow, with all the frequent stops to rest, hydrate, catch a breath, puke, etc. The Pakem Cortinas, with their convenient stuff sack, took up very little space and weight in my pack, leaving enough room for other necessities needed for a full day of skiing. On rest or lunch breaks, they were convenient to slip on for warmth at the longer rest stops because all I had to do was slip them on my feet and tighten the bungee cord laces. The not-so-convenient part is getting out of (and back into) my ski boots.
Traction. For such slight and petit boots, the Pakems to have a substantial patterned tread and provide decent traction when walking on packed snow. Much better traction in the snow, than, say, my ski boots.
Water-resistance. The waterproof membrane allows you to slog through inch-deep water or slush without getting soggy feet. However, these are not your Wellingtons. You will get wet feet if you walk through deep puddles or wade through streams.
Fit. If you’re a half-size, Pakems advises you to order down to the next full size. I’m a 7.5-ish and went with the sizes 7 and it was the right size. They accommodate everything from thick wool socks to no socks, thanks to the bungee cord lace’s wide range of adjustability.
Warm. If Gear Gals had a legal team they would advise me to say this: “While the Pakem Cortina’s are lined with a delightfully soft and supple faux-shearling fleece, and easily accommodate thick wool socks, they should not replace your Sorel Joan of Arctic boots (or Steger Mukluks).”
We don’t have a legal team but common sense dictates I should say it anyway. Warmth is subjective because we all have differing tolerance levels. Personally, I found them to plenty warm for what I used them for. I wasn’t slipping them on my feet after a day of skiing across Antarctica in sub-zero temperatures or strolling the outdoor Farmer’s Markets of Oymyaken. The temperatures in Colorado (and at home in Minnesota when I used them) ranged from single digits to high-teens and the time I had them on my feet was limited to a couple hours or less.
Functionality. After wearing these boots for a few months this winter, I found that they have some great urban uses, such as commuting and stashing in your car as part of your winter emergency kit. If you live in the mountains, or drive icy roads in the winter, there is always the risk of ending up in a ditch and having to walk to get help or whatever. For commuting, they’re strangely useful. I don’t work downtown but I did have to take the train downtown once for a conference. Snow was in the forecast in the afternoon and I threw the Pakem’s into my tote bag just in case the forecast was correct. The forecast and the Pakems did not disappoint. Instead of walking through filthy downtown Minneapolis snow and slush in my Dansko’s I did it in the Pakems, which were warmer, had better traction, and were basically waterproof.
What I didn’t like What they aren’t
What I didn’t like about the Pakems—lack of support and structure for longer hikes—I realized I couldn’t blame them for that. They aren’t hiking boots and Pakems is clear about that on their website. Pakems are “A lightweight, packable boot designed to take with you after sports, to sit back and be comfortable.
So I’m just going to reiterate what they aren’t: They are not designed, nor intended, to be winter hiking boots. They are pack boots (they also are not snowing boots either because I tried that and it didn’t work so great). They are for packing into your pack to be a source of comfort to your feet after a day of skiing or hiking in cold weather.
After testing a pair for six weeks this winter in a variety of venues and conditions—urban, backcountry and travel and in snow, slush and single-digit temperatures—I have to say that they lived up to their purpose: “A lightweight, packable boot designed to take with you after sports, to sit back and be comfortable.
The Pakem Cortinas are a Gear Gals Piece of Recommended Gear.