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Top tips to choose the right hunting boots

SAIL

July 26, 2022

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Hunter climbing a rock with hunting boots

Hunting boots are one of the most important pieces of equipment for a hunter, but choosing the right ones can be extremely confusing. Insulated or not? Waterproof or breathable? Light or heavy? Above the ankle or short? Rubber or Gore-Tex? Fortunately, Martin Leonard, SAIL hunting expert, is here to help you narrow it down.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know to pick the right hunting boots, including:

Shop hunting boots

Shop hunting clothing

The most important factors to consider when choosing hunting boots

Your chosen hunting season

Your chosen hunting season will determine your insulation needs, as those hunting wild turkey in the early spring will require warmer boots than those hunting deer in early September. When it comes to hunting boots, insulation is measured in grams of Thinsulate, which can range from 200g up to 2000g (from 0.4 pounds up to 4.4 pounds). A pair of boots between 600g and 800g (between 1.3 pounds up to 1.8 pounds) can work for most seasons, as long as they are combined with a pair of warm socks on colder days. Models made for women are often designed to provide additional insulation.

It’s worth noting that while it’s tempting to go for something on the warmer side (just in case), your feet are likely to sweat if too warm, which will result in colder feet. Getting this just right is crucial.

Your hunting strategy

Comfort is a key consideration factor, both for hunters opting to bait animals while remaining still or hiding in a blind, as well as those who remain mobile while calling animals to lure them to a designated spot.“If you’re not comfortable and your feet hurt, you’ll hate hunting,” says Martin Leonard.

Those planning to cover a lot of ground should look for a hiking boot that properly supports the arch of their foot. Consider adding custom soles to make sure they fit the shape of your foot even better. If spending the day in a blind, comfort should be less of an issue as you can always remove your boots, but you’ll still have to walk to and from your hunting spot.

The terrain

Your hunting location will determine the type of material you’ll need. Swamps and wet or muddy terrain will require fully waterproof boots. These could be rubber boots, or hiking boots with a waterproof lining. Typical options (like those offered by brand Browning) will include a leather or Cordura upper boot, a waterproof membrane as well as insulation inside the boot. Bear in mind that leather can take a while to fully dry.

If walking on wet terrain, ensure your boots are high enough above your ankles to ensure water doesn’t go over the top if you step into a puddle. If you are unlikely to go out in the rain or to go through mud, focus on breathability as opposed to waterproofing. However this can be a risky approach as any change in weather could leave you stranded with wet feet, so plan for all eventualities.

The various types of hunting boots available

Camouflage boots

Men's camouflage hunting boots

Are camouflage (or camo) boots really necessary? According to Martin Leonard, it’s more of a nice-to-have than a must-have as your boots are unlikely to be in an animal’s line of sight. Which means you don’t have to go out and purchase different pairs of boots, each with a specific camouflage pattern, for every type of hunt you might go on. Go for a generic pattern or natural colours such as browns, beiges and dark greens. Irish Setter is a classic brand when it comes to camo hunting boots.

Waders

Waders are a combination of boots and overalls and extend all the way to your waist. They are 100% waterproof and made of neoprene (just like wetsuits), so you can venture quite far into the water when hunting waterfowl on a lake shore or in a swamp. Waders can be quite expensive, so unless you know you’ll need them, a good pair of rubber boots will do the trick. Brands LaCrosse and SAIL both offer camouflage waders.

Tactical boots

Men's tactical hunting boots

Quite a few people ask in store if their military style tactical boots can be used for hunting. While this could potentially save having to buy a pair of boots specifically for hunting, Martin Leonard is adamant that this is not the best idea. Tactical boots are often heavy, not very breathable and are not really designed for walking over long distances. Investing in a good pair of hunting boots is preferable.

Rubber boots

Men's rubber hunting boots

Most hunters will have a pair of rubber boots (or muck boots) in their arsenal, ready to face muddy or wet terrain. Some are insulated, some aren’t, but either way rubber boots are a hunter’s best friend. Make sure that they are high enough (as you may have to cross a creek or two or walk through some deep puddles) and comfortable to walk in. Have a look at LaCrosse for some good rubber boots options.

Trying on your hunting boots

Trying your boots on before purchase is essential. Make sure you take the socks you’re going to wear with you so you can test how tight they are with your socks on. What about breaking them in before your outing? Not necessary these days, according to Martin Leonard. As materials, design and waterproofing technology have all evolved, boots are now much lighter and more flexible than they used to be and walking around in the store should give you a good enough indication of how comfortable they will be once you step out into the woods.

Cleaning your hunting boots

Martin’s best advice? Make sure you let them dry properly after a day out. Many hunters use a boot dryer to speed up the process and make sure their feet are nice and dry when putting their boots on again the next day.

Clean your boots between each outing, and do so more thoroughly before putting them in storage at the end of the season. Boots made of leather, Gore-Tex or any other material (other than rubber) are likely to require a waterproofing treatment once a year, although you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions before doing so. Bear in mind that waterproofing membranes such as Gore-Tex have a limited shelf like, and your boots are likely to start letting water through over the years.

For additional tips on maintaining your hiking boots, read the article here.

What about socks?

Focus on natural fabrics, like merino wool, as they will keep your feet warm even when wet. “Avoid cotton at all costs,” says Martin Léonard, as it traps humidity and your feet will get damp and cold. Always carry a spare pair of socks with you in your backpack and switch as soon as your feet are wet. Read more on how to dress for a hunting outing.

A few pro-tips

  • If you are looking for added warmth but don’t want to splash out on a second pair of boots with higher grams of Thinsulate, add an insulated sole. You can even stretch to heated soles for that little bit of luxury!
  • A pair of hunting boots will likely last you a fair few years, so you are guaranteed to step into a puddle at some point. Focus on waterproofing, even if you don’t think you need much protection from the rain and mud.
  • If you choose to purchase rubber boots, invest in a good pair. The black rubber boots with a traditional red sole we all have in our closets won’t cut it as they are made of PVC and will crack as soon as it’s cold.
     

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