by Justin Sparks – The Gear Junkie
There is nothing worse than not having the right gear on a hunt.
That right (or wrong) piece of gear can make or break your hunting experience. I have a check list of gear I never leave home without, and a good proven pair of boots ranks right there at the top. Stomping through the woods with cold achy feet that are forming blisters with each step is an experience I will avoid like a shopping mall at Christmas time.
Boots have evolved, so I’ve been researching and in 2011 I was introduced to Kenetrek boots… I think I’ve found the perfect boot. I settled on two pairs of the Mountain Extreme series, non-insulated and the insulated boots with 400 grams of Thinsulate. Here is a Kenetrek Boot Review of the Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Non-Insulated boot:
Breaking in Your Boots
There is a theory that a good pair of boots has a break in period. During this period your best friend becomes the “moleskin blister kit”! Some boots take longer and some shorter depending on how they are made. I once had an old cobbler tell me “the longer they are meant to last the longer they take to break in.” The recommended break in period for Kenetrek boots by the manufacturer is around 50 miles. I decided to test this theory for the upcoming archery elk season. I knew I had multiple trips planned in some pretty rugged terrain. It was time to see if the Kenetrek Mountain Extreme non-insulated boots would pass my test. I purposely waited to the last minute to try and break these in right at the recommended 50 mile mark.
The first week in August came and I broke out my new pair of boots. The first thing I did was hand apply them with the Kenetrek Boot Wax. Don’t be afraid to apply a generous amount, this not only helps break in the leather, it adds a little more protection to aid in the performance of the Wind-Tex waterproof and breathable membrane. The next thing I did was insert my old heel and arch support insole right over the Kenetrek insole. I have a very high arch and I have done this as a standard for every pair boots I use. This is a personal preference and there are many different kinds to use. During the break in period I recommend trying a couple different types of insoles including what they come with as they may work just fine. If you do decide to replace the stock insoles I recommend “Superfeet” insoles as they have performed very well in the past.
I finally put them on for the first time during a family wood splitting event. Just as I have experienced in the past with new boots after about 10 min I wanted to take them off, but to my surprise after a few minutes I was very impressed at how quick they started to feel good. In fact I didn’t take them off all day. Over the next 3 weeks I wore them almost every day scouting, during my preseason hunt workouts, doing yard work, even to the grocery store and ended up logging pretty close to the recommended 50 miles break in. I was really surprised at how good they felt during this break in period. I found myself not forcing myself to wear them but to wear them because they were comfortable. I felt so comfortable with these boots I didn’t bring along an extra proven pair on my upcoming adventures.
Over the next month I ended up wearing my Kenetrek boots for 21 days and logged over 100 miles from Colorado in the rugged elevations of 9,600’- 12,000’ to the Rocky Mountains of Idaho and Wyoming chasing, harvesting and packing out big game.
My boots were comfortable the entire time. I walked some ROUGH terrain, side-hilled for hours, spent lots of time in the saddle, and a few full days in heavy rain and returned to camp with dry feet (the additional wax I applied in the beginning helped keep the mud from sticking to the sides of the boots.) I did feel hot spots on both of my heels, which was to be expected with any new pair of boots, and this is where the moleskin comes in handy. I carry plenty of moleskin no matter if I’m breaking in a new pair of boots or not. Tough terrain and long days can wear blisters. I always try to error on the side of caution when I recognize “hot spots”. Even though I’m sure it was a pain for the other hunters to wait for me to put on the moleskin an hour after leaving camp it was the best thing to do and save me from sore feet.
One other important factor in staying blister free is good socks and changing socks mid-way through the day. I recommend merino wool socks. Kenetrek has a merino line of socks specifically designed for their boots. Merino has great whicking ability and is non-microbial which reduces odor. They also carry a liner socks which is another good method to helping reduce blisters. I did get 2 blisters on 2 separate days, which I attribute to wearing the wrong socks. The socks I took were too heavy. Both days were really hot and it was at the end of the day, so I didn’t stop and adjust my boots. Both blisters came on my right foot, second toe in, on the tip of my toe. A place I have never had blisters before.
After getting home I pulled my boots out of my bag and took this picture of how they looked after the first 21 days if use. They definitely do not look like they have been put through that much abuse and that many miles already.
Kenetrek Mountain Extreme will now be my go to boot. I look forward to using them the rest of the fall season.
I recommending treating your boots with the Kenetrek wax a couple times during the season and at the end of the season. How often should all depend on how much you use them. This will only help in prolonging the life of your boot. After hard use I will use a brush to knock off any dirt, and then wash well and let air dry for 24 hrs. Then I apply another Kenetrek wax treatment. If you take proper care of your boots you can extend the life of your boots drastically. Protecting your investment is worth a little maintenance.
I found the Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Boots to run very true to size with the Brannock sizing device. You may want to choose to go up a half size from your street shoe size to allow for a little extra toe room depending on your choice in socks – this is vital for going downhill especially while using a backpack and heavy loads.
The Kenetrek Mountain Extreme series is loaded with a ton of features.