Finding the Right Hunting Boots: Cabelas to the Rescue

In desperate need for new warm weather hunting boots last year, I settled on a some Cabelas Outfitter Series specimens, after a months long, frustration filled search.  It's no secret I am a slavish Cabelas customer, have been for decades, but I had mixed thoughts about the boots when they arrived.  I've seldom been disappointed by Cabelas branded hunting equipment, but with a price well below what name brand competitors charge for similar products, I had reservations these new boots could run with the big dogs and keep my tender dogs happy day after day in the field.

First Impressions

The boots were well finished with no overt cosmetic flaws.  The supple leather had a consistent, deep russet-brown with smooth stitching all around.  The Vibram soles looked as though they would provide stability and traction on varied, unpredictable surfaces.

I have a theory: a good boot should feel at least 95% right when you first put it on, and these did.  Test number one passed.  I wore them a few hours each evening in the house for a week or so, and with each session, the boots settled in better and better.  No sharp gouges around the tongue--a big problem for me with most boots.  No hot spots or chafing which didn't portend to loosen up with wear.  The future looked bright.

The Not So Good

The one thing which nagged came from the thick padding at the collars.  While it looked soft and inviting, it jabbed and rubbed my Achilles tendons as though it were made from leather covered steel.  At first I thought this would cause me to return them for a refund, but after further study, I decided to tie the laces just below the offensive area and it stopped the problem for the moment.
The offending collar

I also need to say the collar had a pronounced cut out at the back, which in high-end boots is supposed to allow freer movement to the ankle.  It appears the boots' designer sought to emulate this feature, but like so many other low priced products which ape their expensive competition, the execution lacked the development time and better materials.  In the Outfitter boot's case, the cut out just lowered the collars' impact point so it bore directly on the tendon, not on the much better protected calf muscle above.

I don't like this trend in boot design.  Even premium boots with the feature allow the sock to slip down into the upper.  Just give me a nice, even collar, thank you.  I suspect the real reason for the "feature" is to reduce the material required for each pair by the slightest fraction which could save a boot maker millions in production costs across a product line.  There's smart manufacturing, and then there's just plain cheap to make a buck at the customer's expense.
Dear boot makers, loose the cut down collars

On the Go

To my satisfaction, the boots were broken in after only a month--test number two passed.  After a few more months, the collars even loosened up enough so I could lace the boots all the way up.  I wore the boots on many hunts from mid-August through late November.  The boots did the best one could ask from any foot gear--I never thought a thing about them while they were on my feet.

More Goodness

The Gore-Tex lining kept my feet dry even in driving rain and transported perspiration away from my foot.  The soles were great on rock, talus, dirt, mud, and snow.  The leather shrugged off rock scuffs, and--most important for a hunting boot--did not creak or squeak when I walked.  They also surprised me with their comfort in temperatures well below what most uninsulated boots will endure.  If  I stayed on the move, they worked to around 30F.  When still hunting from a blind or in thick cover, they were comfortable to around 50F.  However I did pay for this warmth on days above 75F--the all leather construction held a bit too much heat in at times.  If you're looking for a boot to use in true tropical or desert conditions, these are not those boots.
Excellent Vibram soles

Bottom Line

Price independent, I give these boots a seven out of ten rating.  When their affordable price is taken into consideration, my rating jumps to a nine out of ten.  Good boots.

-- LJ Bonham


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