- XCD Guide
- Posts: 1237
- Joined: Fri Aug 22, 2014 9:31 am
- Ski style: Nordic backcountry touring with lots of turns
- Favorite Skis: Fisher E99, Åsnes Ingstad & Cecilie, K2 Wayback 88
- Favorite boots: Crispi Sydpolen, Alico Teletour & Alfa Polar
Rated to -70C, it was designed for long and extremely cold ski trips to the poles. Still, it's a fun boot to own for any outdoorsman or cross-country skier living where winters are properly cold. The Guide-Pro is an updated version of the Expedition 3-pin which first came out in 2013. I remember being extremely surprised when I tried out a pair in the months preceding our 2014 ski crossing of Laponia. By then, I had already committed to an NNN-BC setup with oversized Alpina Alaska boots and glued on Bergans Yeti gaiters. The Expedition 3-pin’s warmth was reassuring but the yet untested soft duckbilled sole and the lack of heel retention left me wanting more. Fortunately, others, including the president and founder of Baffin, Paul Hubner, did wear these boots on their polar expeditions. Their experiences triggered a series of upgrades, including a reinforced 3-pin toe piece and a buckled instep strap, and its rebranding as the 3PIN Guide-Pro. The boot in detail
Fundamentally, the Guide-Pro is a top of the line Baffin winter boot with added duckbill. If you happen to be Canadian, you’ve surely seen a Baffin winter boot before…and you surely have some expectations: comfort and warmth! The Guide-Pro uses a multi-layer inner boot system. Basically, its composed of a synthetic removable liner that is secured with lacing (and Velcro) inside the boot. Unlike Baffin’s’ other boots using the multi-layer system, the Guide-Pro’s burly outer shell is fully zippered (with extra backup Velcro), just like the Alfa Polar. A zippered outer is great because it gives access to the lacing system, allowing for a more secure fit. The removable tongued liner is quite an impressive piece of work. It appears (I’d have to slash the liner open to be sure) to be mainly composed of stitched fiber-filled (could this be the gel-based thermal insulation mentioned on their site?) open-celled and closed-cell foam panels of varying thicknesses while the toe-cap and sole panels are closed foam panels covered with a tougher liner. The outer heel is reinforced with nylon Cordura and both sides of the back foot are lined on either side with a thick synthetic leather. All these details combine to provide a very secure and comfortable heel cup. The inside of the liner is covered with a comfortable black velour. The Guide-Pro comes with a removable inner sole that provides some extra stability due to its solid construction. The liner it topped with two sturdy pull loops and a Velcro patch behind the calf does a fantastic job of securing the liner inside the boot. A double aluminum insole resides between the removable liner and the molded Arctic Rubber Shell (a waterproof rubber shell covering the entire foot like a rain boot). Great effort is required to pull the liner out or back in of its integrated inner boot but this is a good thing because the fit between them is tight. You can tell this is not Baffin’s first attempt at a multi-layer inner boot system. Both the inner boot and the outer shell are triple sewn (with heavy gauge thread) around the top perimeter of the Arctic Rubber shell. The inner boot is made of “Waterproof Diamond-Lite insulated nylon” and is reinforced with thick genuine leather in strategic locations (eyelet attachment points, tongue area). The inner boot is meant to be fastened with a lace and toggle lock combined with a row of 4 pairs of eyelets above the ankle. In practice, I found the toggle lock system clumsy and inefficient and it does not tighten the boot lower down on the foot where it would be most useful for cross-country skiing. Luckily that is where the instep buckle comes in and given the design, it would be a piece of cake for any cobbler to replace the eyelet with hooks, allowing for a traditional lacing if like me, that is what you prefer. The inner boots also come with a well-designed snow collar that can be synched with a simple non-stretch lace and toggle lock. When it comes to snow, it's a little redundant given the outer shell also comes with one (albeit non-adjustable like this one), but synched tight, this snow collar with also keep much of the warmth inside when it gets SERIOUSLY cold.
The outer shell is superbly designed. It’s made of super tough waterproof Cordura fabric, its roomy and it goes high up the leg. You can access the inner boot via a heavy-duty zipper at the front that is protected by a full-length Velcro flap and top collar push-button. The front and back are reinforced with heavy leather patches. The massive instep-buckle is retained by the rear leather patch and when properly synched does a good job of keeping your heel in place.
The sole is relatively soft and super grippy in cold conditions. This unique Baffin duckbilled sole appears to be glued to the Arctic Rubber shell. As its rubber on rubber, I am assuming the bond is very strong and durable (fortunately never read of delamination in this boot). Besides, feeling around inside of the shell, you can tell that the Arctic Rubber shell completes surround the foot, so If the soles were to delaminate, the barrier between your liner and the exterior remains intact: great design! Binding pairing recommendation
Given that sole delamination is generally one of the most common failures I have seen on non-welted 3-pin cross-country boots, I would recommend combining this boot with the classic Rottefella Super Telemark binding. This simple binding is optimized for kick and glide and most importantly comes with slots on either side of the sidewall. If delamination were to occur, these slots will accept a basic Voile Strap, solidly compress the boot into its sole: a perfect bomber on-the-go repair!
How’d they go?
I’ve used these to ski around the flats and low lying hills at temperature of around -20C. The boots are super comfortable and the instep-buckle really does a surprisingly good job of keeping your foot where it should inside the boot. You really get the feel of skiing with a classic soft mukluk boot, which is perfectly fine for what this boot is designed for (no chance of blisters IMO). Actually, as the boot is not tight fitting, it does not restrict blood flow or reduce the insulating power of the lining!
The Guide-Pros are super warm. I do not doubt they would keep me warm in the coldest environments on earth. At -20C without wind, I ski them with the outer layer unzipped and the snow collar un-synched. Moisture management in polar environments
If you are considering the Guide-Pro for a long trek involving multiple nights out, I suggest you get acquainted with the three key strategies for happy feet I wrote of in the Alfa Polar boot review thread.
While at first glance, The Guide-Pro and the Alfa Polar look quite similar, their takes on moisture management is quite different. Both the outer and inner layers of the Guide-Pro are waterproof. You could certainly step in glacial puddles without fuss with these but if ever you do get its composite liner wet, from seepage or sweat, you are going to have quite a hard time drying it out. One solution here is to wear a tall vapor barrier sock over a thin liner sock inside the boot liner. The boot is so warm, you will find no need for a thicker wool sock anyways. As you ski, keep the snow collar open, which should help evacuate most of your foot humidity through the top, like a chimney. A safer solution here would be to replace the Baffin boot liner with a thermomoldable Intuition Mukluk tongue liner. These hi-tech liners are made of a special closed cell foam that will not absorb water. At first, this may seem like a major bummer, but at the Guide-Pro’s price point, this will still come out to less $ than the alternative (Alfa Polar + Polar liner). Plus, you get to keep the original liner as backup in your pulka (sled).
How about sizing?
The sizing of these boots appears to be based mostly on the basic Baffin sole size. Given that the liners are massive and well padded, I have found they feel quite small for their size lengthwise when new. For a reference, my feet measure 263mm and I usually wear a ski boot in size 42EU (9US or so). I tried out the Guide-Pro in a few sizes before committing to the size 10 (EU43 or 280m). I have found this size works great with the original liner and only a thin sock liner. If it ever packs out significantly, I can either swap the foot bed for a thicker one or wear a thicker sock.
If, however I was planning on using the Guide-Pro with an Intuition liner, I would size differently. I have an Intuition Mukluk liker (size 9US, 27cm) and tried it in the Guide-Pro. The Intuition liner is the right size for me but it floats around in the relatively massive Rubber shell of the Guide-Pro. So, I recommend sticking with your normal foot size (not sizing up) if you plan on using the Guide-Pro with an Intuition liner.
How much to they weigh?
My size 10s weigh: 1225g (boot) + 300g (liner) + 50g (foot sole) = 1575g. Yup, you are going to feel those grams in your legs as you click through the kms. But your mind and toes will be at peace as the temperature drops. You should be able to shave about 200g off using a thermoformed Intuition Mukluk liner without a foot sole. Now that is quite decent for a -70C ski boot.
A 3-pin winter boot for kicking around the homestead?
Sure! This is one of the things that I find so great about this boot. Every Canadian requires a hefty winter boot to keep their smile all the way though winter. Well then, why not choose a boot that you can ski with too? This Baffin boot is super nice to walk in and the duckbill does not get in the way. Plus, for daily outings, the original liner works supreme, so the price is reasonable. I would prefer if the boot was not bright red though as it seems I make quite a statement when I walk into the grocery store with these on. Basic black would be better. DISCLAIMER: The reviewed pair was graciously provided by Baffin for the purpose of this review. However, I have not received payment from Baffin or any other third-party for this review.
-Will Lange (quoting Inuit chieftan)
- XCD Guide
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