This article originally appeared in Elk Hunter Magazine. Click here to subscribe and be the first to read new reviews!
By Ryan Hatfield
As I kept examining, comparing, contrasting, and critiquing all of these pairs of high-end hunting boots, one odd thought kept coming to my mind. I kept thinking back to the article in this same magazine that I had written on George Custer and the elk he killed in 1873. I thought of what the boots must have looked like that he was hunting in, and how poorly they would compare to the sea of boots I had in front of me. Wow, hunting boots have come a LONG way!
I’ll tell you right up front; if you’re looking for a “this boot is better than that boot” review, this probably isn’t going to be it. Simply put, there isn’t a bad boot in this review. Every boot featured here is an exceptional, top-of-the-line product, hand-crafted with the best materials and cutting edge engineering. It’s akin to trying to decide if you’d rather shoot this 400-inch bull or the one standing next to him. Every boot mentioned here is a dependable, well-made, serious product for hunters who will be venturing into rough and dangerous territory, and all of them are worthy of consideration.
It is said that most German boots are built on wider lasts than Italian boots. Depending on the structure of your foot, this could be something to consider in your purchase.
All of these boots have many similarities in design – full rubber rands, sturdy Vibram outsoles, 2.5-3.0mm nubuck or full-grain leather uppers, and some sort of waterproof barrier. Each of these items is a key component for hunters who will push these boots to their limits.
That being said, there are some notable differences between them in materials and construction, as well as in specifics of design and intended use. And for most western hunters, this is the information you need to know. Without further delay, let’s tear into these bad boys (in alphabetical order).
This boot, despite the good Meindl name, comes in at just $320, the least expensive boot in the review. By far the stiffest outsole in the review, this boot is definitely geared toward tackling extreme terrain. The front of the outsole, rather than continuing to curve up like most boots for a smoother stride, actually straightens out and almost appears to curve back down – an aggressive position meant to dig into the earth when hiking steep slopes. This boot is well-made and will last a long time, but is not the most comfortable boot to wear in more average terrain, and in fact seems to inhibit an easy stride. That’s not knocking the boot; it’s built for purpose.
Highlights: Aggressive design for technical and extreme terrain, with excellent support, torsional rigidity, and stiffness for hardcore hunts. Tallest rubber rand of all boots in review; good tread for avoiding slipping on rock; Cabela’s 60-day guarantee; priced right.
Potential drawbacks: Oversized outsole designed to affix a crampon, but seems bulky and sometimes clumsy. Not easy for striding on normal ground, and not the boot for casual hunting.[hr]
Crispi may sound like a new name due to their recent push into American markets, but they aren’t new to boot-making. Any time on their website will show you that this is one of the best-engineered boots around. With their patented CCF (Crispi Crossbow Frame) incorporated into the PU midsole, this boot is dreamy. The tallest boot in the review at 11 inches, it managed to also be exceptionally light, doing a great job of beefing up where need be and trimming down in other places. The outsole on this boot was one of the most flexible, meaning it would be excellent for varying terrain use.
Highlights: Great engineering; lightweight; soft and pliable around the upper for a comfortable boot; PU midsole; double and triple-stitched in key areas; stealthy; comfortable, versatile boot that will last.
Potential drawbacks: The material used on the creases of the tongue seem like it might make the boot more susceptible to water seepage than something like the Kenetrek, which has a solid leather tongue with no seams; price ($479) is highest in review. [hr]
Crispi Nevada HTG GTX
The Nevada, for all intents and purposes, is simply a shorter version of the Hunter. With the same basic make-up, materials, and sole, the Nevada is a great alternative for those who will gladly sacrifice three inches of boot height for half a pound of weight savings. Our Backcountry Editor, Nate Simmons, is using these boots right now and loves them.
Additional highlights over the Crispi Hunter: $80 less; a half-pound lighter.
Additional drawbacks over the Crispi Hunter: Slightly less ankle support and sturdiness. [hr]
I’ve had the pleasure of using these boots on some very steep, high country hunts including mountain goat and mule deer, as well as 20-mile hikes in summer, and they perform admirably. They have a very sturdy build, both in leather thickness and sole stiffness and would serve a rough country hunter very well. While still very comfortable, I’d say that to me personally, they were very slightly less comfortable than the Lowa and Kenetrek, but that’s splitting some fine hairs. These boots had some great side-hilling abilities with some aggressive tread. While slightly stiffer than some, I didn’t notice this as a drawback when hunting easier ground. I love the lower lacing with the ball-bearing eyelets, which allow for good cinching, but the upper eyelets seem a little less user-friendly.
Highlights: Built tough, with no shortcuts; good aggressive build for steeper ground with a great feel; polyurethane midsole; good price; good room in the toe box; good aggressive edge tread for side-hilling; good pronounced heal for digging into the slope when descending; Air Pulse system is excellent for helping to rid the boot of excess heat; available up to a size 15.
Potential drawbacks: Uninsulated; only 8” high if you’re concerned with extra ankle support. This boot has also tended to squeak a bit, something that some TLC could probably fix. [hr]
A taller, insulated version of the Alaska, the Trapper gives hunters another great option from Hanwag. With a Vibram Breithorn outsole, a taller upper, and an aggressive heel for digging in while descending steep slopes, this boot will provide excellent ankle support, an aggressive outsole, and some extra warmth for late-season or colder high country hunts.
Highlights: Aggressive heel; insulated; extra thick 3.0mm upper; crampon compatible; triple stitched in key areas.
Potential drawbacks: At $55 more than the Hanwag Alaska and bulkier, it’s a decision of preference on which boot is more suited to your needs and style of hunting.[hr]
I’ve had the pleasure of using Kenetreks for about six years now, and I’ve always been impressed with them. They’re perhaps the single-most “instantly comfortable” high-end boots I’ve ever had and after using them on everything from high mountain mule deer hunts to cactus country antelope, they are also exceptionally versatile. I like the feel of the K-Talon outsole, the boots cinch up tight, and I’ve never had a blister despite heavy use.
Highlights: Available in 0, 400, and 100-gram Thinsulate insulation; exceptionally comfortable; K-Talon outsole feels slightly more pliable than some, and is good on rocky ground; very versatile. One-piece upper on front and sides of boot (no seams) ensures no seam failure or water seepage into the lacing area of the boot; double and triple-stitched in key areas. Available up to a size 16; the larger Kenetreks, at least to me, feel slightly larger than the same size in some other boots and can be an option for those having trouble find a size to fit.
Potential drawbacks: EVA is considered an inferior overall product for a midsole and shorter lived. Technically this is true. However, I’ve used mine significantly and haven’t experienced a noticeable drop-off in performance. [hr]
Lowa has been a trusted brand by serious hardcore hikers and hunters for ages. After finally getting my first pair, I can see why. The boots are right there with the most comfortable boots in the entire review. No shortcuts taken on this boot; it’s a great all-around boot with great versatility. This boot is as well-served on sheep hunts as it is on moderate or light terrain. Note: Lowa’s website says the Tibet Pro comes with the Vibram Masai outsole, but mine came with a Tsavo, which I actually prefer.
Highlights: High rubber rand; solid polyurethane midsole; exceptionally comfortable; decent price; functional for all types of hunting; roomy toe box; great ankle eyelets for snug lacing.
Potential drawbacks: No insulation for those that like having that built into the boot. No triple stitching, but double-stitched throughout. [hr]
Similar in design to the Tibet Pro, the Hunter is a sturdy, taller version with 200 grams of PrimaLoft for high country and late-season hunts. The super dependable Vibram Tsavo gives a great grip and the boot is as comfortable and dependable as the Tibet Pro.
Highlights: Vibram Tsavo for great, gripping tread; polyurethane midsole; PrimaLoft insulation; high rubber rand.
Potential Drawbacks: Second-heaviest boot in review; slightly slimmer leather upper.[hr]
This boot is as sturdy as they come. It has a stiffer than average sole, good for technical terrain, but was still pliable enough to hike fairly comfortably in milder ground. It was also surprisingly comfortable – probably the second or third most comfortable of all boots tested for me personally. The lacing system allowed me to cinch it up surprisingly snug, and this boot felt like an extension of my own leg. It had zero slop and gave me great confidence on steep and rocky terrain. I’d gladly take this boot on my toughest treks without any concern.
Highlights: Vibram Tsavo outsole is great for Western terrain; 200 grams of PrimaLoft insulation; polyurethane midsole; double and triple-stitched in key areas; cinches exceptionally well; good balance between stiffness and comfort.
Potential drawbacks: It was the heaviest boot in the review; stiffer sole means a little more laborious walking on milder ground, but this is minor.[hr]