Boot dryers are useful, but they’ve never really impressed me as a piece of gear. The first ones I had consistent access to were in Beaver Creek’s ski school locker room. They were fan-powered — and very basic. They’d dry footwear if you left it there all night — but that locker room stank of feet with upward of 50 dryers blowing lukewarm air into ski instructors’ work boots.
I later owned a similar dryer that I kept by my front door and only used on the weekends during ski season. I’ve also used dryers that use radiant heat instead of fans, which are quieter and don’t blow stinky air around. Those are great. But, generally, I find they take longer to dry out a truly damp ski boot.
Then, one day a package arrived at the GearJunkie office from a company called Hedgehog. Our editorial director opened it up to find six octopus-shaped Norwegian boot dryers inside. I got one of the Hedgehog Buddy Black Ionic i3 boot and glove dryers, but I didn’t set it up until late December when ski season was finally building momentum.
I expected to use it infrequently. But almost immediately, I found myself using it to heat up and dry, not only my ski boots before and after the slopes, but also my shoes before walking the dog, my hat before going to the grocery store, and my glove liners and even base layers after sweating through them on backcountry tours.
The Buddy Black i3 took me by surprise. It’s more functional than I imagined a boot dryer could be. I’ve been genuinely impressed by this piece of gear.
In short: The Hedgehog Buddy Black Ionic i3 boot and glove dryer blows its competitors away. It can be hung or wall-mounted and saves space over larger free-standing boot dryers. It has three heat settings, five fan speed settings, an odor-fighting ionic mode, and a timer that runs from 15 minutes up to 10 hours — and it works fast. This is by far the techiest and most efficient boot dryer I’ve ever used.
- Power 35-650W
- Air volume 3,700 cu. ft./hr.
- Speed 4,500 rpm
- Pressure 300 Pa
- Voltage 110V
- Quickly dries/heats boots, gloves, hats, socks, and more
- Saves space compared to freestanding alternatives
- Ionic odor fighting capability
- Multiple heat and fan speed modes
- Is loud at higher speeds
- Could warp molded boots if left at high heat for too long
- Is awkwardly shaped
Hedgehog Buddy Black i3 Boot Dryer: Review
We included the Buddy Black i3 in our roundup of GearJunkie’s 10 Standout Products From the Outdoor Retailer 2023 Winter Show. And we didn’t throw it in there frivolously. Hedgehog is a relatively new brand — especially in the U.S. — and its boot dryers have already won the Red Dot Award for Product Design, MUSE Design Award, and NY Product Design Award.
Inventor Bjørn Holte started fundraising for the Buddy i3 on Kickstarter in 2022 with the goal of raising $10,000. The campaign promised a dryer that could produce enough cubic feet of air per hour to heat a small house — a dryer for everyone from skiers to runners, military, hunters, hikers, families, and outdoor workers. It promised a boot dryer that removed odor and bacteria and even saved energy. The campaign raised almost four times its goal, closing out at $39,148.
What Makes a Boot Dryer So Special?
Better design and technology sets Hedgehog’s boot dryers apart, plain and simple. Holte worked with German engineers at the Waterpower Laboratory at NTNU to perfect the design of the impeller and fan house, building the system from scratch. The brand claims it utilizes “turbo technology” to generate a high flow of hot air at high pressure.
Many boot dryers allow users to adjust the heat or airflow. My basic freestanding dryer had a dial for the fan speed, and two heat options: “Heat” and “No Heat.” Other models offer more nuanced control over the temperature as well.
But no boot dryer I’ve come across offers the variety of control that the Hedgehog Buddy i3 does. It has five levels of fan speed, the highest of which is called “Tornado Mode.” And it allows you to select between three heat settings. Hedgehog claims the Buddy i3 will dry most items in just 15 minutes at full fan speed and heat.
But, my favorite design element is the ionic odor-fighting technology. As someone whose ski boots can stink up a car, this bonus function really sets the Hedgehog boot dryer apart for me. All of this comes in a sleek package that can be wall-mounted to save space. And it’s energy-saving to boot.
The Hedgehog Buddy i3: ‘In the Field’ (My Mudroom)
My Hedgehog Buddy i3 has been working overtime since I set it up. I have been using it before and after skiing. In the morning, I throw my snow boots, gloves, and hat on the Hedgehog just to put toasty warm things on before I walk my dog.
After several backcountry tours, I left sweat-soaked base layers in my car overnight, which froze solid. I thawed and dried them the next morning before I left to hit the resort.
One weekend, when I had several friends up to ski, I managed to finagle three pairs of boots onto the Buddy i3 — which took some balancing skills. But it worked effectively once I got them all situated.
So far this season, I’ve used the Hedgehog almost every day I’ve gone skiing — and many in between. This isn’t just a tool for skiing, like my previous boot dryer had been. This is a tool for winter living.
Fan and Heat Settings
The fan power of the Buddy i3 is impressive. And combined with the different heat settings (98, 113, and 140 degrees), I never had to wait too long for my gear to dry. If I got boots, gloves, and socks out of the car and onto the Hedgehog before coffee, by the time my mug was empty and all else loaded in the car, my stuff was dry and even warm.
The highest fan speed setting, Tornado Mode, sounds like a tornado. And it makes fast work of damp footwear and clothing.
While it’s tempting to always set the heat to 140 degrees, Hedgehog warns against using that high heat setting for too long in molded ski boots. If left for hours, it could affect the shape of a boot or liner. I’ll only set it to 140 degrees for ski boots if I’m in a real rush. Usually, in the mornings, I keep it set at 115 degrees. I use the 98-degree setting most when I’m drying something overnight.
Ionic Odor Setting
Ski boots stink (mine especially). I spend hours on end skiing in them and hiking in them on multi-mile, sometimes multiday, backcountry tours. My mom once put Gold Bond in my ski boots when I wasn’t looking because they smelled so bad.
So naturally, when I saw that the Hedgehog not only dries equipment but kills odor as well, I got excited. I turn the ionic odor setting on every single time I use the hedgehog.
I still don’t understand how it works. When I asked Hedgehog at Outdoor Retailer how it fights odor, the Norwegian rep replied simply, “Ions.” The Hedgehog Kickstarter page claims, “We have tested it on the most common bacteria and it has a killing rate between 91 to 99% over 2 hours with max heat.”
Whatever science is happening seems to be effective. My boots smelled notably less bad after using this dryer. It hasn’t eliminated the odor, nor is it permanent (the stink builds up again after use). But the difference right off the dryer is real. When I stick my face in my ski boot after pulling it from the Hedgehog, I don’t gag at the stench any longer.
Power and Operation
This is a pretty basic function, but I think it’s cool enough to mention. The Buddy i3 has toggles for each of the three pairs of dryer arms/legs it has. If you’re just drying boots, you can toggle both glove arms to “Off” and the air and heat will be directed only to your boots. The same is possible for both pairs of glove-drying arms.
It’s not a super-techy design element. But it’s thoughtful and allows users to direct the heat and air, and use energy most efficiently.
All of these cool features and design innovations would be moot if this thing sucked power and made your electrical bill spike. But that is far from the case. Because of the way the fan was designed with the Hedgehog’s ceramic heating element, these dryers are highly energy efficient.
According to Hedgehog, a standard hair dryer uses ~1,300-1,500W in operation. The Hedgehog by contrast, on its highest setting, will only use 650-750W.
Room for Improvement
The Hedgehog dryer is loud and there’s no two ways around that. When the fan speed is set anywhere between 3 and Tornado Mode the Buddy i3 will fill the room with white noise. It’s easy to tune out, and the problem is significantly mitigated if you wall mount your Hedgehog in a closet with a closing door.
The arms are also pretty awkward and it’s easy to snag or bump into them. It wouldn’t take much to break one of them off. But Hedgehog was designed for this. The brand sells replacement parts for the Buddy i3 on its website, keeping in line with the sustainability mindset of the brand.
Hedgehog Buddy i3 Boot Dryer: The Final Word
I have never used a boot dryer as much as I use the Buddy i3 from Hedgehog. My ski boots have been dry all winter. My gloves, shoes, socks, and hats are warm on cold mornings like I stuck them in a toaster. This techy dryer has integrated into my life effortlessly.
If you spend time outside in the winter, you’ll get a lot of use out of the Buddy i3. I don’t want to say I rely on mine — but I’d be bummed not to own one now that I’ve used it.