We hunters have skewed priorities. We spend countless hours and disposable income fretting over our rifles. We measure in grains and micrometers to get MOA groups or a few hundred more feet per second.
Yet for every hunt ruined by a poor choice regarding firearms or ammunition, hundreds more are ruined because a hunter made a bad choice of footwear. I enjoy toying with my rifle and loads, but I have a single gun for everything from pronghorns to moose. On the other hand, I have enough high-end boots to stuff a gun safe.
I’ve spent nearly 50 years tromping the northern Rockies. Here’s what is in my present boot collection, and how I choose which to wear on a given hunt.
Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 400
My go-to boots from late October through February, these are lightweight, plenty rigid, offer great ankle support, and include 400 grams of Thinsulate. They’re warm enough to wear when waiting on a Thanksgiving whitetail, yet light enough to be comfortable above the timberline when tracking a muley buck.
White’s SmokeJumpers are a preferred pick for loggers and firefighters who spend their time in steep, rain-slick forests while carrying sharp tools. I wear these when I’m doing heavy woods work like packing elk quarters. They’re ideally suited for rough terrain yet quiet enough that you forgive their industrial-grade weight and lug soles.
White’s Elk Guide
These are what to wear when winter gets serious. Insulated with 9mm felt liners, with rubber bottoms and full-grain leather that goes to the knee, these are magnum boots for cold and deep snow. They are made for frigid, late-season hunts, icefishing, or riding on a snowmobile. A downside is they are heavy, bulky, and so warm that your feet can sweat if you do much walking.
Schnee’s Guide ADV
The “Bean boot” concept—a leather upper stitched to rubber bottoms—is time-tested. They navigate soggy ground and cannot be beat when the stalk demands absolute silence. They can be hosed off after crossing a muddy cornfield. Their downside is that since the boots are uninsulated, my toes suffer when the temperature dips much below freezing. ($260; schnees.com)
Mammut T-Advanced GTX
I wear these light, limber ankle-high boots almost every day: on training climbs in the local hills, on weekend scrambles, and on backpack trips. I lace them on when I need a quiet boot for mild-weather turkey or elk hunting, or for hiking into an alpine fishing lake. These are durable, breathable, and, most important, they are extremely comfortable. ($120; mammut.com)