I just counted 26 pairs of boots in my closet and shop. Most were sent by manufacturers hoping I’d wear them on TV, and some I did. Others are special purpose and serve their function well.
But I actually buy my Meindl “Perfekt” boots from Cabela’s. Why?
They fit my goofy feet perfectly. Snug enough to prevent slipping and blisters, wide enough for the inevitable swelling after a long day afield. They are engineered for rough terrain in the European Alps, and perform the same protective job on the lava rock that harbors chukars out here. Stiff enough, padded enough, with a sole that yields a bit for easy walking but rugged enough you don’t feel the stones you step on.
They are tall enough so that many stream crossings are minor inconveniences, feet still dry on the other side. The leather is hefty enough to actually provide ankle support on squirelly terrain. They lace quickly and because the laces reach almost to your toes, this Digafix system allows fine-tuning the fit – helpful when you have a “surfer’s bump” on one of your insteps. Why anyone needs 400 grams of Thinsulate is beyond me, but if you’re sitting still in a treestand, I guess that will come in handy.
Some of the mundane details: cork footbed, which explains the fit – it molds to my feet; Poron heel insert cushions your footfalls; GoreTex membrane ensures waterproof construction and relatively good breathability; the lug sole is not so deep it retains mud and stones like many, yet is grippy enough to keep you upright in all but the hinkiest situations.
I have one gripe: on the larger sizes, there is a band of black rubber encircling the sole, attached to the upper. It cracks and separates from the upper quite easily but doesn’t seem to hamper performance. A little Shoe Goo or Barge Cement puts it back where it belongs.
I buy them like I buy puppies – bringing a new pair into the rotation so they are well broken in when the old pair is relegated to the yard, deserving a well-earned retirement. They are that good. If only Herr Meindl would send me a couple pair.
DARN TOUGH MOUNTAINEERING EXTRA CUSHION SOCKS
These days it seems company and product names are conjured up out of thin air, with macho-sounding verbs or adjectives that ultimately are supposed to make up for the actual product’s failings. Not Darn Tough.
I have a lot of pet peeves, including socks that sag, lose elasticity, and wear out at the toes. You can imagine, I’m often disappointed. Or at least, I used to be. These socks hug your calf all day, over hundreds of washings. They stand up as tall as your boot, and stay there whether you’re sauntering through the grouse woods or crunching up a scree slope after chukars.
Terry loop cushioning provides just enough warmth (I wear them throughout the season in all types of weather). Darn Tough says they manufacture their goods differently, and I agree. From more knit stitches per inch to form fitting toe boxes, to sculpted heel pockets, these socks rock.
They stay where they’re supposed to stay, too, thanks to elastic at the arch. No heel scrunching down toward your toe as the day turns into night. They are a blend of shrink-treated Merino wool, Nylon and Lycra Spandex that is machine washable and – take my word for it – they won’t shrink. Have you ever seen a lifetime guarantee on a sock? Darn Tough offers one. I doubt if you’ll ever have to take them up on it though.
PEET SHOE DRYER
I’m writing this while wearing warm, toasty boots … even though I’m on the edge of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada at chukar camp.
This seemingly-minor creature comfort is thanks to a propane-fueled Peet shoe dryer. One of a growing family of dryers from this venerable company, it might be the handiest of the lot. No voltage required with this model, just one of those ubiquitous green propane canisters. Simply attach the cylinder, light the pilot, and a small flame wafts warm (not hot) air up and into each boot from top to toe. Not too hot, and no fan needed – warm air rises, right?
And learn this the easy way, unlike yours truly: don’t dry your boots at the edge of a campfire unless you want crumbling, brittle boots in the morning that fall off when you tighten the laces. Pungle up a few bucks ($49-$69 depending on where you buy) and get a Peet dryer and protect your footwear investment.
Peet makes dryers for gloves, waders and even motorcycle helmets but for me, it’s all about the feet. They sweat a glassful of water per day, and most of that is trapped in your boots, eagerly awaiting your feets’ return in the morning. If you’re lucky, your tootsies only encounter cold, cruel moisture. On a bad day, your boots froze. Or the sweat cultures up a primordial soup of bacteria and mold … the principal ingredients of toe jam and funky foot smell. Yuk.
Practice first, as lighting the dryer requires a little familiarity. The package is a bit bulky, what with a base, tubes and the patented “Dry Ports” that support each boot, but it all bundles neatly in a padded soft nylon travel case. Pack carefully, as the tubes can become detached from the base if they’re bumped at the right angle. The metal parts in the base where the flame is generated are a little delicate; with rough treatment the mounting wire can jiggle apart, so handle with some care to ensure years of dry boots and happy feet.
The Peet dryer comes with a one-year warranty, and it works on all materials, from leather to neoprene. One propane canister dries for 60 hours.
World peace, economic parity, a Republican president … all mere dreams, possibly attainable. Dry, warm boots? Eminently accessible with a Peet dryer.
Okay, so I’m lazy. Well, not indolent or slothful … just careful about doing extra work or carrying too much on those all-day chukar hunts.
That’s why I like my Bushnell Backtrack. Just enough GPS to keep you out of trouble, but no bells, whistles or gewgaws. At just a few ounces, even I am willing to pack this little treasure if it will help me find the truck at the end of the day.
If you’re old enough to remember pocket watches, Backtrack is about the same size and shape. A lanyard is included (everything I take must stay attached to me or my vest). A basic one-color screen has a few icons for the three (yep, at this price you only get three) waypoints, battery status, a self-calibrating digital compass with bearing and distance to your waypoint, and a fundamental direction-of-travel arrow.
You won’t get latitude and longitude, breadcrumb trails, maps or well, anything else. And opening the dang thing to replace the two AAA batteries is a bit of a challenge the first couple times. You’ll also need a few practice rounds to remember what the two buttons do, and in what order. But for $60 or $70 who cares? Nobody should be away from their truck without GPS and this little unit trumps all excuses for not owning one.