Boot Test 2014: OL Ranks and Reviews 19 Pairs of the Newest Hunting Footwear

Photo by Nick Ferrari

Over the course of a day of hunting, you will walk and stand on a variety of surfaces, many of them uneven, unforgiving, or treacherous. And on particularly exciting days, you might even find yourself on the run.

On top of that, chances are good that the conditions will be cold and wet. That’s why you need to be sure that whatever boots you pull on to your feet when you head into the wild are up to any task.

If you’re in the market for hunting boots this season, you’ll find there’ve been some changes in design and construction. Most notably, nearly all of the new boots we tested offer serious support yet weigh less than a burrito. Even rubber boots are shedding mass, thanks to liquefied molded construction.

In order to help you find the best boot for your style of hunting, this year’s test involved 19 pairs across a wide spectrum of designs and intended uses. Here’s what we found.

Ratings Key:
★ ★ ★ ★ - Excellent
★ ★ ★ - Good
★ ★ - Fair
★ - Poor

General Hunting Boots

Photo by Nick Ferrari

1. Editor's Choice: Wood N' Stream Navigator

After a couple of days of wear, these full-grain-leather throwbacks to another era will feel like you were born with them on. Made in Merrill, Wis., by Weinbrenner Shoe Company, the Navigators will seduce you. During testing, I had to force myself to reach for other pairs as I ventured outside. This exceptionally comfortable boot will pass muster equally on a rocky elk ridge, in tangled upland cover, and on the slippery ladder of a treestand.

The stitched-down construction is completely re-buildable, and the boots could realistically last a decade with care and a resoling (they come with the aggressive, deep-lugged Vibram Sierra). The key to their comfort is a smartly sized last and the luxuriously soft full-grain leather that molds to your foot more and more with every step. With 400 grams of Thinsulate Ultra, they are warmer than expected and should keep most deer hunters on stand, even in sub-freezing temperatures. When you finally do head back inside, you just might decide to leave them on until you venture out again.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: A-
Fit/Comfort: A
Meets Standard of Type: A
Value: A-
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 37
Height (IN.): 9.5
Price: $310; weinbrennerusa.com

2. Great Buy: Columbia Woodburn

The mid-height Woodburn is essentially a light hiker, and a great boot for general use in mild to cool weather—think early-season bowhunting. It’s lightweight, offers ample support, and has generous padding around the heel. It will accommodate heavy socks without feeling tight, and the simple lacing system provides a uniform fit.

They are highly breathable, and passed all the waterproof tests, including slushy snow. The sole performed better than expected on treestand platforms and did well on ice, too. Although not quite supportive enough for the mountains, the boots are a solid choice for lowlands and rolling hills.

If you prefer lightweight footwear and want to climb like a cat without breaking the bank, these boots fit the bill.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½
Materials/Construction:
Fit/Comfort: C+
Meets Standard of Type: A-
Value: A
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 17
Height (IN.): 7
Price: $95; columbia.com

3. Wolverine Ramsey

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction:
Fit/Comfort: A-
Meets Standard of Type: A
Value: A-
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 22
Height (IN.): 9
Price: $170; wolverine.com

4. 5.11 XPRT 2.0 Desert

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: A
Fit/Comfort: B+
Meets Standard of Type: A-
Value: B+
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 25
Height (IN.): 7.5
Price: $195; 511tactical.com

5. Salewa Firetail EVO Mid

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: A
Fit/Comfort: B+
Meets Standard of Type: A-
Value: B+
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 15
Height (IN.): 6.2
Price: $189; salewa.us/

6. Carhartt CMF 1391 EH Wellington

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: A-
Fit/Comfort: B+
Meets Standard of Type: A-
Value: B+
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 33
Height (IN.): 12
Price: $175; carhartt.com

7. Under Armour Wall Hanger GTX

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½
Materials/Construction: B+
Fit/Comfort: B+
Meets Standard of Type: A
Value: B+
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 21
Height (IN.): 8.5
Price: $175; underarmour.com

8. Kenetrek Bridger Ridge High

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: B
Fit/Comfort: A-
Meets Standard of Type: C+
Value: B-
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 19
Height (IN.): 7
Price: $200; kenetrek.com

9. Muck Peak Hardcore

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: B
Fit/Comfort: C
Meets Standard of Type: B
Value: B-
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 27
Height (IN.): 9.5
Price: $200; muckboots.com

Knee-High Boots

Photo by Nick Ferrari

10. Editor's Choice: Rocky Game Changer

Constructed of liquefied molded rubber, which enables the boot maker to create thin, strong uppers, the Game Changer is amazingly light (under 2 pounds), supportive, and one of the better-fitting rubber boots available.

Rocky’s no-bulk reflective heating system performed well enough for a three-hour sit on a treestand in below-freezing weather, yet it’s the walking comfort that makes this boot exceptional. It flexes in all the right places without pinching, has generous calf space, and performs well on everything from mud to crunchy snow.

The exterior is puncture-resistant and will keep sharp slash and sticks at bay. And since the boot is made of molded rubber, you won’t have to worry about seam or lamination failures. The interior anti-microbial treatment means not having to leave the boots on the porch back at camp.

Is this boot a game changer? We’ll see. But with its lack of bulk and tennis-shoe-like fit, this boot will certainly make long days in the turkey woods or whitetail bottom more pleasurable.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½
Materials/Construction: B+
Fit/Comfort: A-
Meets Standard of Type: B+
Value: B
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 31
Height (IN.): 16
Price: $185; rockyboots.com

11. Great Buy: RedHead Deer Trax

At more than 3 pounds, the Deer Trax isn’t light, but its fit is precise, and it offers excellent support and protection from briars and sharp sticks. There’s enough room in the toe box for a thick pair of socks, and they kept my toes toasty during a four-hour sit in 20-degree temps.

The adjustable upper can accommodate large calves or heavy pant legs, and the close fit around the ankles makes for easy walking from the truck to the stand. A smooth interior allows them to be kicked off easily, even if there’s no one in camp to help you. The classic, durable, hand-laid rubber construction should last longer than the camo finish.

If you’re looking for flash or the latest technology, keep looking. But if you want excellent value in a comfortable rubber boot, give the Deer Trax a long look.

Overall: ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: C+
Fit/Comfort: B
Meets Standard of Type: B
Value: B+
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 49
Height (IN.): 16
Price: $100; basspro.com

12. Cabela's Accelerator 9MM

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½
Materials/Construction: B
Fit/Comfort: B+
Meets Standard of Type: A-
Value: B+
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 36
Height (IN.): 17
Price: $150; cabelas.com

13. Lacrosse Alphaburly Pro 18

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: C+
Fit/Comfort: C
Meets Standard of Type: B+
Value: B
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 43
Height (IN.): 17.5
Price: $140; lacrossefootwear.com

14. Irish Setter Rutmaster RPM

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ½
Materials/Construction: B+
Fit/Comfort: C-
Meets Standard of Type: C+
Value: C
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 27
Height (IN.): 17
Price: $185; irishsetterboots.com

Mountain Boots

Photo by Nick Ferrari

15. Editor's Choice:AKU Superalp GTX

AKU has been well established in the European mountaineering community for more than 30 years, and as such the brand has developed a strong reputation for above-the-tree-line performance. With a relatively easy break-in for a high-altitude boot, the Superalp’s Italian construction lends exceptional support on unstable shale and sharp rocks. The upper’s glove-like feel and the excellent lacing control provide a proper fit with either heavy or lightweight socks.

The boot features carbon fiber woven into the midsole, which adds strength while reducing weight, and a rigid nylon lasting board. The two-part sole combines a very stout Vibram Fourà tread and a double-density polyurethane midsole for shock absorption. The upper is top-grade Nubuck leather, fully wrapped with a durable rubber rand for extra protection.

The Superalp’s greatest attribute, though, is that it is lightweight (less than 2 pounds) yet super supportive, allowing for a comfortable pace and sure footing when traversing the unpredictable terrain of the high country.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: A+
Fit/Comfort: A
Meets Standard of Type: A
Value: B+
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 27
Height (IN.): 8.5
Price: $360; aku.it/us

16. Great Buy: Danner East Ridge

This traditionally styled, 8-inch boot is built from scratch in Portland, Ore., with a stitched-down, replaceable sole. The East Ridge, relatively light for its type at just over 2 pounds, is designed for mountain mule deer and elk hunts, but going above the tree line for sheep and goats is not an unrealistic expectation. They did better than expected on sharp rock and shale, proving that full-grain leather, even without a rand, can effectively protect your feet.

The firm leather-and-Cordura upper, combined with a cushioning polyurethane footbed and a grippy Vibram Hunter tread, offers outstanding support over terrain that would chew up lesser boots. Built on the new 851 last, an update to Danner’s popular 850 last (and lined with 400 grams of Thinsulate Ultra), the shoe offers an athletic fit with ample sock room in the toe. Sizing goes all the way up to 16D and 14EE.

The East Ridge requires multiple days of breaking in, but the end result is a boot that should be with you for many seasons.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: A-
Fit/Comfort: B+
Meets Standard of Type: A
Value: A+
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 35
Height (IN.): 10.5
Price: $200; danner.com

17. Haix Mission

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: A-
Fit/Comfort: A
Meets Standard of Type: A-
Value: A-
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 25
Height (IN.): 8.5
Price: $237; haixusa.com

18. Hanwag Yellowstone II GTX

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: A
Fit/Comfort: A
Meets Standard of Type: A-
Value: A-
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 27
Height (IN.): 8.2
Price: $280; hanwag.com

19. Ariat Tracker 8" H2O Insulated

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Materials/Construction: B+
Fit/Comfort: A-
Meets Standard of Type: B+
Value: A
Weight (OZ.; 1 size 9D boot): 30
Height (IN.): 10
Price: $190; ariat.com