Boot Review: Best New Hunting Boots 2012

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A quick glance at this year's crop of new hunting footwear reveals that although manufacturers aren't slashing prices while at the same time improving the quality of their goods--as makers of fishing tackle and firearms have done in 2012--they have taken strides to make their boots lighter, more waterproof, and easier to break in than the offerings of recent years. In order to help you draw a bead on your next pair of boots, we tested a dozen pairs in three categories in Alaska in early March. We wore the boots in snow, waded them through icy marshes, and used them to climb slick, rocky ground. See the results here. - General hunting boots
-Rubber/Neoprene boots
-Mountain Hunting Boots
GENERAL HUNTING
Editor's Choice: Rocky Max protect l3
Price: $195 Wearing these boots is like hunting in high-top moccasins. Outstanding for on-the-move Western bowhunting, the Max Protect makes your foot feel connected with the ground yet still delivers substantial support, and the soft construction makes them super quiet. They're equally at home in a late-season whitetail stand, thanks to a scent-­suppressing barrier and up to 1,000 grams of PrimaLoft. The innovative lacing system prevents laces from catching on brush, and when cinched tightly the boot molds to the shape of your foot. SCORE
Overall: * * * *
Construction/Materials: A-
Fit: A
Meets Intended Use: A
Innovation: A
Price/Value: A-
Weight (per boot): 1 lb. 10.2 oz. Website: rockyboots.com
Irish Setter Havoc
Price: $199 Though it's billed as a big-game boot, we found the Havoc to be agile enough for grouse and supportive enough for elk. The boot is available uninsulated or with 800 grams of Thinsulate. Boasting a short break-in period, these boots are an excellent all-around option this fall. SCORE
Overall: * * * *
Construction/Materials: A-
Fit: A-
Meets Intended Use: A
Innovation: B
Price/Value: B+
Weight (per boot): 1 lb. 14.9 oz. Website: irishsetterboots.com
L.L. Bean Technical Big Game Boot
Price: $199 Full of quality amenities--400 grams of PrimaLoft, a Gore-Tex layer, an antimicrobial lining--the most innovative feature of these boots is the Boa lacing system, which tightens with the twist of a dial. A reinforced toe-cap increases the boot's lifespan. SCORE
Overall: * * * 1/2
Construction/Materials: A-
Fit: C+
Meets Intended Use: A-
Innovation: A
Price/Value: A-
Weight (per boot): 1 lb. 14.9 oz. website: llbean.com
Wolverine Scout II
Price: $140 These boots are dependable, comfortable, and will do a great job in the early season or regions where the weather doesn't get overly cold. The best thing about the Scout II is Wolverine's new molded, angled track sole, which provided sure-footedness on snow, ice, rocks, and fallen logs. SCORE
Overall: * * * 1/2
Construction/Materials: B+
Fit: B+
Meets Intended Use: A-
Innovation: B-
Price/Value: B+
Weight (per boot): 1 lb. 5.2 oz. Website: wolverine.com
RUBBER/NEOPRENE
Editor's Choice: Muck Terrain
Price: $240 Brought to you by the original neoprene bootmaker, the 18-inch Terrain is rimmed with an adjustable neoprene dirt/snow skirt, and the upper features textured rubber guards that offer protection in places that get poked, jabbed, and scuffed the most. Made from 4-millimeter neoprene, the boots are generously sized around the calf, allowing pants to be tucked in. It's a stout boot, yet it's still comfortable during longer walks. The soles stayed glued to treestands and the footboards of ATVs and snow machines. SCORE
Overall: * * * *
Construction/Materials: A
Fit: A-
Meets Intended Use: A
Innovation: A
Price/Value: A-
Weight (per boot): 2lb. 8.8 oz. website: muckbootcompany.com
Bushnell Archer
Price: $170 A familiar name in an unfamiliar category, the legendary optics maker's new Archer boot (one of eight hunting boot models for 2012) has a drawstring closure, a handsome suede finish, and a sole that practically adheres to treestand platforms. The warm, 3.5-
millimeter neoprene features a nice fleece lining. SCORE
Overall: * * * 1/2
Construction/Materials: A-
Fit: B+
Meets Intended Use: A-
Innovation: B+
Price/Value: A-
Weight (per boot): 2 lb. 10.6 oz. Website: Bushnellfootwear.com
LaCrosse 4x Burly
Price: $120 These throwback rubber boots are stable on rocky ground and feature lots of room to accommodate large calves or thick pant legs. With 800 grams of insulation and a much-improved molded sole, the boots are quite warm. The sizing is classic Burly--snug around the ankles--so you might need help pulling them off. SCORE
Overall: * * * 1/2
Construction/Materials: B
Fit: B
Meets Intended Use: A-
Innovation: C+
Price/Value: B+
Weight (per boot): 2 lb. 15.2 oz. Website: lacrossefootwear.com
Bogs Bowman
Price: $191 The ingenious side handles make pulling on the Bowmans a snap. Overall, the boots are reasonably durable, and the sole gripped both metal and snowy surfaces equally well. While there was not a lot of built-in structure to protect the top of the foot, these boots were comfortable to wear over long distances. SCORE
Overall: * * *
Construction/Materials: B+
Fit: B
Meets Intended Use: A-
Innovation: B-
Price/Value: B-
Weight (per boot): 2 lb. 9.9 oz. Website: bogsfootwear.com
MOUNTAIN HUNTING
Editor's Choice: Kenetrek Mountain Guide
Price: $425 A one-piece 3.4-millimeter leather upper and excellent lacing control combine to produce an accurate and highly adjustable fit. The interior is lined with luxurious, soft leather. The aggressive (nearly sharp) Vibram soles accommodate crampons. The boot's support is second to none, and the build quality is extraordinary. The Mountain Guides will likely be the last pair of mountain hunting boots you'll buy for a decade. SCORE
Overall: * * * *
Construction/Materials: A+
Fit: A+
Meets Intended Use: A+
Innovation: B+
Price/Value: A-
Weight (per boot): 2lb. 6.6 oz Website: kenetrek.com
Lowa bighorn Hunter GTX
Price: $450 This boot utilizes a proprietary outsole that incorporates a layer of textile in the rubber lugs to increase grip. A great choice for elk and sheep hunters alike, the Hunter GTX was easy to break in and displaced sweat like a dry sponge. SCORE
Overall: * * * *
Construction/Materials: A
Fit: A
Meets Intended Use: A+
Innovation: A
Price/Value: B+
Weight (per boot): 2lb. 0.7 oz. Website: lowa.com
Schnee's Beartooth
Price: $339 A soft leather collar and tongue combine to deliver incredible comfort. Using a compound exclusive to Schnee's, the Vibram sole holds tight even on slick rocks. The 2.6-millimeter upper is triple-stitched, making this a killer value at under $350. SCORE
Overall: * * * *
Construction/Materials: A
Fit: A
Meets Intended Use: A
Innovation: B
Price/Value: A
Weight (per boot): 1lb. 14 oz. Website: schnees.com
Columbia Hell's Peak
Price: $190 The Hell's Peak provides impressive lacing control and a decent amount of protection, given its ultralight weight (26.4 ounces). They're perfect for stalking elk or mule deer, but you likely won't get more than two seasons of aggressive use out of these boots. SCORE
Overall: * * * 1/2
Construction/Materials: B+
Fit: B+
Meets Intended Use: B
Innovation: A-
Price/Value: B
Weight (per boot): 1lb. 10.4 oz. Website: columbia.com

In order to help you draw a bead on your next pair of boots, we tested a dozen pairs in three categories in Alaska in early March. See the results here.