The best time to hunt usually coincides with breaking out your cold weather boots. Hunters wait for the nasty weather. They know rut-worn
The best time to hunt usually coincides with breaking out your cold weather boots. Hunters wait for the nasty weather. They know rut-worn bucks and bulls will be on a quest to replenish lost fat supplies, which makes food sources top ambush sites. Waterfowl and upland hunters are no different. Greenheads and honkers hit grain fields with vigor on frigid days and fall right into decoy spreads. Upland hunters praise the snow that often accompanies cold weather because it holds birds, and the moisture helps retain scent, which allows dogs to work.
The problem with cold-weather hunting, for many, is staying out in the elements long enough to be successful. Nothing is more miserable than cold feet, and if those feet get wet, things can go from uncomfortable to dangerous in a hurry. According to the American Burn Association, 1,300 people die due to cold exposure per year. Choosing the right pair of cold weather hunting boots is essential, but it’s not easy. You don’t want a combo that’s too tight and cuts off circulation, but at the same time, you want to avoid a duo that lacks insulation and a waterproof build. You want boots with a good sole to keep the heat in, but fitted with a liner that doesn’t promote foot sweat. Make the wrong boot choice, and you’ll be heading for the truck long before the hunting gets good.
Don’t fret. We’ve done the work for you, and lined up some of the best cold weather hunting boot options out there.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Cold Weather Hunting Boot
Not all cold weather hunting boots are created equal and various outside factors will determine your selection. You have to consider things like hunting style, conditions, expected temperature, and insulation to find the perfect boot for you. Remember these considerations before you purchase your next pair of cold weather hunting boots.
Spend time thinking about what you hunt most during cold weather months. For instance, the boot I prefer for sitting in a treestand waiting on a winter whitetail is not the same boot I want when trekking the Rockies looking to fill my late-season elk tag.
You don’t walk much if you’re a sit-and-wait deer hunter or when setting decoys in a field or river for ducks and geese. You sit idle more than you walk. When you sit idle in cold temperatures, blood flow slows to your extremities, which makes it hard to keep your feet warm. For this reason, deer and waterfowl hunters tend to focus on a guaranteed waterproof boot loaded with insulation. Most opt for calf-high rubber boots with no less than 1,200-grams of Thinsulate insulation. More insulation often means more weight and a bulky build, which means less comfort when walking, but the lack of comfort and weight gets forgotten about quickly when temps are in the negative digits and your toes are toasty warm.
Spot-and-stalk hunters, and those that chase upland birds, are on the move. Some spend time on horseback, and others navigate miles of craggy terrain in hopes of finding big-game glory. When you’re on the move, blood is pumping to your extremities, which, as long as your feet remain dry, helps boost warmth. Most on-the-go cold weather hunters prefer boots with 600 to 1,000 grams of Thinsulate insulation. These hunters put a premium on a sole that promotes excellent traction and an upper build that hugs the ankles and doesn’t rub them raw. A waterproof body and a liner that wicks moisture are essential. Walking leads to sweating, and if the feet get wet or the waterproof build is sub-par, frostbite can quickly set in.
As you’re doing your research and narrowing your choices, try on the boots you want to purchase. You can order them online, but testing them in person is always better. Boot selection is highly personal, and many times over the years, I’ve put my feet in a pair of boots, walked a lap or three around the store, and decided they weren’t for me.
As mentioned above, insulation is going to impact the warmth, weight, fit, and feel of your boots. The level of insulation should be based on the condition and temperatures you plan to hunt in. The colder it is, the more insulation you will want. This is where species, style of hunting, and application will all converge to determine the best level of insulation so you stay warm as well as comfortable while hunting.
Best Boots For The Treestand Hunter
Why it Made The Cut
These boots have solid traction, and while they aren’t a Cadillac for the feet, they serve their purpose as a cold-weather hunting boot that will keep you warm, comfortable, and in the stand.
- Rated to -70 below zero Fahrenheit
- 1600g Thinsulate
- Waterproof lining
- Quick-drying comfort liner
- Natural rubber over insulated neoprene
- Nylon shank
- Lack walking comfort
LaCrosse’s Alphaburly Pro hits a reasonable price point at $230, and these rubber boots were built to answer the call season after season. I’ve had mine for three years, and though I’ve put them through the harshest conditions imaginable, they have held up. The 1600g Thinsulate Ultra insulation is warm, and the Comfort Liner wicks moisture away. While the boots aren’t made for walks much over a mile, the neoprene gusset will fit any calf size, which ups the comfort factor, and I’ve yet to get a blister in these bad boys. The feel is limited due to the thickness of the boots.
Best Cold Weather Elk Hunting Boot
Why it Made The Cut
There is no better cold-weather mountain hunting boot. I’ve tested a pile of boots during my hunting tenure, and this reinforced rubber sole guard pair takes the cake. They are comfortable, lightweight for their insulation, and have never given me a single blister or hot spot.
- 10-inches tall
- 7mm nylon midsoles
- 1,000g Thinsulate
- Durable leather uppers
- Windtex waterproof
- Sole is a tad too aggressive
- Price over $500
Yes, these boots are expensive, but I’ve walked hundreds of miles in them across the Rockies and have used them when riding horseback. Despite the thick sole and heavy insulation, the boots feel light on the feet and provide a good feel on the ground. I appreciate the 7mm nylon midsoles, which provide exceptional support when toting a heavy pack, and the sole guard protects the lower leather from abrasion. The K-Talon outsole is a bit too aggressive for me, but I do like the traction I get. My only quarrel with the sole is when I’m tired and dragging my feet, I often catch the sole on the ground. This is the best cold weather elk boot I’ve ever used. I’ve had my pair for four years, and if you take the time to apply Kenetrek boot care products, these stomps will last you a very long time.
Best Cold Weather Upland Hunting Boot
Why it Made The Cut
The comfortable leather build married with Irish Setter’s UltraDry waterproofing system keeps me on the heels of my retrievers when chasing pheasant and quail. The boots are super comfortable, and I like the 9-inch height.
- Full-grain leather upper
- Steel shank
- Nylon moisture-wicking liner
- Not ultra warm
- Outsole could offer more traction
I’ve walked many cornfields and weeded ditch banks in this pair of full-grain leather boots, and I love them. I’ve had problems with lesser leather boots succumbing to days of trudging through the snow, but these UltraDry bad boys hold up. The seams of the boots are sewn tightly, and the build for a boot in this price range is super durable. I’ve had mine going on three years, and though they’re beaten up, they still keep moisture out if I apply waterproofing boot wax once or twice a year. The boots feel great on the feet and lace up tightly to the ankle to provide additional comfort and support. I would like to see Irish Setter make the sole a tad more aggressive, and while traction isn’t bad on dry ground, things can get a little slippery in the snow.
Best Cold Weather Waterfowl Hunting Boot
Why it Made The Cut
Though they lack a traditional cold-weather, waterfowl look, these boots promise excellent traction and a zip-up feature that keeps heat in and cold out.
- Footbeds enhance warmth
- Waterproof build
- Excellent traction on wet surfaces
- BOA system
- Secure ankle fit
- Cordura-Kevlar upper
- Brightly colored
The coldest I’ve ever been was in a goose pit, and I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure I’m never that cold again. Two of the best cold weather waterfowlers I know have used these boots and both rave about the integrated Kevlar gaiters and the ease of BOA Fit technology. The 3031s have been slugged as lightweight and comfortable, and the waterproof Riri zippers were added via their success on Zamberlan’s mountaineering line. Another feature my duck and goose-killing amigos noted is the ZWL Wide build, which allows for sock layering, including a liner sock under a wool option. The innovation of the boot also deserves attention. The inner boot has been integrated into a Kevlar gaiter to provide a system that ensures the ideal bond of the outsole, boot, and gaiter.
Best Cold Weather All-Around Hunting Boot
Why it Made The Cut
This innovative boot blends brains with brawn and is an extreme cold-weather hunting boot that will perform in any terrain. Synthetic boots require less maintenance, and at 3.74 pounds, the KUIU Rebel Ks are waterproof, windproof, and extremely warm.
- Excellent support
- Full synthetic
- Easy to care for
- Great fit and feel
- Not the best on flat land
- Longer break-in period
Though easier to care for than full-grain leather boots, I’ve never been a fan of synthetic builds. I’ve had severe issues with durability, and the internal stiffness often requires a super-extended break-in period compared to leather models. However, my feeling toward synthetic boots changed when I started putting miles on KUIU’s Scarpa Rebel K Insulated 10 HD. These 10-inch boots hug the ankles tightly and felt remarkable when trekking up and down steep inclines while wearing weight on my back. The break-in period was extensive. The first time you put them on your feet should not be on the opening morning of elk season. These boots have an ultra-stiff feel, but they will serve you well for virtually any hunting pursuit once you get used to them. I’ve used them in the elk mountains, goose pit, and while walking for upland birds. The boots are extremely warm, don’t promote foot sweat, and I appreciate the sole, which is aggressive but not too aggressive. The Sock-Fit XT tongue adds a touch of comfort, and the inner sole feels great when covering the ground. When ordering these boots, be sure to order a half-size bigger than you usually wear.
Best Cold Weather Women’s Hunting Boot
Why it Made The Cut
My wife hates wearing men’s boots, and I don’t blame her. She finds a custom fit, comfort, warmth, and waterproof nature in her Women’s Wayfinder. The boot is lightweight, and the 800g Thinsulate insulation is, as she puts it, “just right.”
- Leather and Nylon mix
- 40 ounces
- Lace-to-toe design
- Waterproof should be water-resistant
- Traction is limited
This boot has served my wife well on multiple hunts. She raves about the comfort and protection these boots provide for her feet. She says that the break-in period is short, and she doesn’t get blisters as long as she makes the proper sock selection (Smart Wool). If the boots are cared for, they will keep water out, but the leather needs to be treated regularly, and the outsole isn’t great for ascents and descents in rugged country when hauling a heavy pack. Overall, though, performance is good, and the boots last her a couple of years before she has to purchase a new pair. She does love the open-cell polyurethane footbed, and it provides decent shock absorption and boosts air circulation to prevent foot sweat.
These six boot choices aren’t the end-all-be-all of cold weather boots. There are lots of options out there. However, these boots have proved tried and true in the categories listed and were tested under actual hunting conditions in a variety of landscapes and temperatures. Throughout those seasons, I took special note of comfort, durability, waterproof nature, warmth, and boot build. I made extensive notes on the positive and negative features of each boot and kept track of those in a journal. For the boot I didn’t personally test, Zamberlan’s 3031 Polar Hunter GTX, I picked the brains of accomplished waterfowl hunters who raved about the boot’s performance.
Q: How Much Do Cold Weather Hunting Boots Cost?
This is a tough question, but the bottom line is that you get what you pay for. The best hunting boot —cold weather, warm weather, whatever—are usually right at or just under $500. However, rubber boots, typically used for whitetail and some waterfowl pursuits, will usually be less than $300.
Q: What Are The Warmest Cold Weather Hunting Boots?
I’ve yet to find a boot warmer than LaCrosse’s AlphaBurly Pro if you’re looking for sheer warmth. The boots are a tad clunky and don’t promote a great foot-to-ground feel, but during one particular goose hunt, temperatures, with the wind chill, dipped to -24 Farenheight, and my feet were toasty. The boots have great width, which allows you to use a liner sick and heavyweight over-the-calf sock.
Q: How Warm Are 400-Gram Boots?
Don’t be deceived, and don’t talk yourself into a boot with less than 600-grams of Thinsulate insulation if you want a cold-weather hunting boot. Yes, even if you are an active walking hunter that spends very little time sitting and waiting on the game. Cold weather is too much for 400-gram Thinsulate boots to handle, and if you stop walking for just a few minutes, you’ll quickly realize it.
Q: Can Hunting Boots Be Used In The Snow?
The short answer is: Yes. If you’re doing your boot research and the answer seems to be no, find another cold weather hunting boot. Snow and cold weather hunting often go hand in hand, and you’ll need a good waterproof boot. I also prefer a boot that’s at least 8-inches tall when hunting in the snow, and I still add gaiters to ensure snow and ice don’t get into the upper part of my boots. Often, especially with full-leather boots, you’ll need to treat the boots once a year with a waterproofing boot wax.
Q: How Do I Keep My Feet Warm While Hunting?
Of course, having great cold weather boots is a prerequisite to warm feet, but there are other things you can do to keep your feet warm. I like to wear a thin sock liner and then put a pair of Smartwool Hunt Extra Cushion Over the Calf Socks over the liner. Another tip, but only one I would recommend for sit-and-wait hunters, is to take some Hot Hands Body Warmers—the Foot Warmers are terrible—and toss them in the bottom of your boots.
Q: How Long Will A Pair Of Cold Weather Hunting Boots Last?
As with any product category, longevity depends significantly on the product’s construction. For example, I’ve been wearing my Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 1000s for half a decade. The soles need replacing, and before this season starts, I’ll send them off and have the company put new bottoms on the boots. Side of that, the rubber rand has protected the boot, and the leather build seems bulletproof. However, I am a bit OCD about boot care, and I’m sure my yearly waxing, leather cleaner, and the like have kept the life in these boots.
My wife’s go-to boots, Danner’s Women’s Wayfinders, have proved to be less durable and haven’t lasted quite as long. Why? Again, it’s the build. Though these boots are solid, they are a mixture of nylon and leather.
Q: What Is The Best Insulation For Hunting Boots?
You can’t beat Gore-Tex with Thinsulate Ultra insulation in my book. The insulation is warm and holds up well in the boots over the years.
When it comes to finding the proper cold weather hunting boot, the most important thing to consider is how you hunt. Match your boot to your hunting style, and you’ll have a great in-the-field partner that will keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable. Also, don’t be afraid to be picky. Try on multiple pairs of boots, walk around the story, and ask lots of questions. You’ll be dropping some greenbacks, and nothing will help you make a more informed decision than doing some in-the-store testing.