Boots and wellies

What you put on your feet is another critical element of the bushcraft mix, and is highly dependent on what you are doing.  If you are travelling any distance then good strong walking or army boots are a must, but for general work around a campsite a pair of strong wellington boots will work just fine. With footwear especially, the novice adventurer can get lost in a bewildering range of options and features.  If in doubt go for good army-style boots which tend to be robust, reliable and well priced.

Beware of second-hand leather boots: they tend to shape themselves to the original wearers foot over time, and can be very uncomfortable, and take ages to reform to your foot.  Best get new if you’re considering leather.

 

Features to look for:

  • Strong ankle support
  • Easy to maintain
  • Heat-proof – you may need to dry them near a fire
  • A size bigger than your normal shoe

Features to avoid:

  • Brightly coloured
  • Trainers or cross-country shoes
  • Low-ankles

Wellington

For
  • Low cost
  • Waterproof
  • Good in deeper water
  • Toe protection – (Safety wellingtons)
Against
  • Average ankle support
  • Can get uncomfortable without good wool insoles
Stockists and Price
Groundwork wellies have steel toe-caps and are very hard wearing.  You can spend around £12 on a pair online or from a builders merchants.  More expensive brands like Hunter offer no real benefits over their cheaper cousins, in-fact the groundwork boots have better ankle stability, but they tend to have a harder sole as a result wich can make them uncomfortable after a while.  You shouldn’t consider these if you are walking any distance at-all.

Walking

For
  • Good value
  • Good ankle support
  • Lightweight
  • Weatherproof
  • Excellent for long distance walking
Against
  • Not good in water above ankle height or deep mud
  • Not great for really uneven surfaces
Stockists and Price
There are a bewildering variety of makes and types of walking boot.  Prices for a quality pair will start at £40 and go up well above £200.  The best thing to do with boots – more than any other type of clothing – is to seek professional advice from an expert company like Go Outdoors or Blacks, and put aside an afternoon to try as many types as possible.  Don’t just try them on but try walking over obstacles (the shop should have ‘off road’ courses to try out).

Army

For
  • Last a lifetime
  • Excellent ankle support
  • Great for walking long distances
  • Great for all sorts of exploring, and  adventuring
  • Keep feet warm and dry well above the ankle
Against
  • Can be heavy and tiring on legs that aren’t used to the weight
  • Leather boots need to be maintained regularly to preserve the waterproofing and supple qualities.
Stockists and Price
A good army surplus shop is an excellent source of army boots, as you would expect.  A good outdoor stockist should be able to give you excellent advice and the chance to try a wide range.  Prices for army boots can range from £40 to well over £200 depending on durability and comfort.  For most adventurers a £50 pair of army boots will last them comfortably for several years.

Terry’s favourite

“I’ve tried several types over the years and settled on army boots for their sheer ruggedness and comfort.  With a good foot care routine and maintenance when back at home, a pair will last a lifetime and give you no problems with blisters or rubs.”

Adrian’s favourite

“I’m a relatively recent conversion from walking boots to army boots.  The walking boots didn’t give me the ankle support and water protection that I wanted, and – after an initial period of adjustment to heavier footwear – I now wouldn’t go back.  I spent £170 on proper Norwegian army boots which are amazing and feel comfortable even after 12 hours of full-on bushcraft and walking.”