best bushcraft boots

Best Bushcraft Boots: A Wilderness Guide To Keeping Your Feet Comfortable


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Any serious bushcraft(er) whether new or experienced will tell you the importance of taking care of your feet. When you’re out in the wild your feet carry you everywhere, your general performance and ability to adapt relies on having your feet take you where you need to go and they need taking care of… When it comes to bushcrafting and as well as pretty much any other immersive outdoor hobby where you rely on your feet for getting there and out taking care of your feet is super important.

While there are many different options of footwear for bushcrafting – trail, hiking, running shoes, rubber boots, some even swear by toe-shoes – we believe that for most, high-top boots should be considered first.

The feeling of being secured in boots when your out in the backcountry when it’s all slushy and raining outside is something only you can appreciate if you have been there. When you’re 20km away from civilization the last thing you want is your boots to fail on you. Out of all of the bushcrafting gear that we depend on, there isn’t much worse than when your shoes fall to bits.

There are many top-end models that have been known to last 30 days before the seams break and then there are many budget models that’ll last until the soles are worn through and through. So the question is what to choose?

Luckily there are many good boots out there to sort you out. We’re here to help you with your decision-making to find the best men’s and women’s bushcraft boots to keep your feet high and dry out in the bush.

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Best Bushcraft Boots Available on the Market

  1. Best Overall Boots – 5.11 Tactical ATAC
  2. Best Tactical Boots – Garmont Tactical T8 Extreme GTX
  3. Best Summer Boots – Keen’s Targhee II
  4. Best Hunting Boot – Muck Boot Chore XpressCool
  5. Best Vented Boot – Merrell Moab 2 Mid Vent
  6. Best Pest Control Boot – Muck Boot Wetland Pro Snake
  7. Best Budget Boots – Smith & Wesson Breach Boots
  8. Best Hiking Boot – Timberland White Ledge

1. 5.11 Tactical ATAC

Best Overall Boots

Price: $$

Dimensions: 13.5 x 12.2 x 4.8 inches

Material: 100% Leather

Features: Rubber outsole, Waterproof, Moisture-wicking

Pros: Great waterproofing, Lightweight at 1lb 9oz (700g), Reliable side zipper, The improved achilles flex zone was a great touch, Ortholite insoles and ankle foam, Good leather/ nylon balance, Small “knife” pocket can be handy in a tight situation

Cons: Some potential issues with getting one’s foot out of the SideZip when the laces are done fully tightly, Struggles with frost

In Depth Review of the 5.11 Tactical ATAC

For your average bushcrafter in most environments, we feel going with high-quality tactical boots is a very safe choice. A good tactical boot will keep your foot secured and comfortable while providing the flexibility and mobility that front-line professionals require. Whether you’re ascending rough terrain, wading in streams or climbing trees, tactical boots will provide all-around support for your feet. Tactical boots will also handle most climates but tend to struggle with sub-freezing temperatures.

Our favorite, the highly successful ATAC returns newly redesigned keeping you in your boots for even longer than before at no extra cost. Upgraded for people who spend more time in their boots than outside of them, the ATACs returned lighter, more comfortable & breathable and we consider them a huge success.

The number one factor we recommend these for is their ability to provide adaptable comfort all day as your feet swell without issue. The shock mitigation system combined with the Ortholite padding means that in the best way possible we couldn’t feel our feet. We barely noticed overheating or sweating, and even after numerous jumps off rocks and occasional sprints we didn’t notice any of the usual pressure points aching in the ball, ankle or toes.

For us there was a very low break-in time as well, while others have reported that it can take a couple of weeks. Personally, having wide, flat feet with one foot bigger than the other the wide fit in the half size up gave me that much needed extra space, the fit was impressive right off the bat.

The build quality is excellent, with high-quality leather where it matters and a lightweight, breathable nylon on the top gives it a very sturdy feel. Although originally skeptical about the longevity of the side zipper, upon close examination I saw that it’s built to stand the test of time. Even with the zipper getting the boots off was still a bit of a struggle, the sturdy pull strap on the back does help though. Even with the side zipper, we haven’t heard of any seams prematurely breaking or parts falling off. 

For your average bushcrafting needs we highly recommend the Storm model but for those keen shelter builders the SHIELD model provides a composite toe and puncture-resistant material. A 6” model is also available.


2. Garmont Tactical T8 Extreme GTX

Best Tactical Boots

Price: $$$

Dimensions: 14 x 14 x 5 inches

Material: 1.6 – 1.8 mm suede leather + 600D nylon + nylon webbing

Features: GORE-TEX Insulated Comfort, Vibram Outsole

Pros: Vibram soles, Fully waterproof 220g GoreTex insulation make them able to handle most temperatures, Big 2” heels allowing to carry big load, Very lightweight at 1lb 7oz (660g), Good leather/ nylon balance giving good breathability in the upper sections

Cons: Bit more costly, Insoles are bit thin, The tread appears to be glued and not Welt or Strobel stitched, Some have issues with tongue design

A very close runner-up coming in at a little more expensive is this wonderful tactical boot. Although Garmont Tactical T8 isn’t a particularly well-known brand these boots have built a name for themselves and for good reason, these boots are a keen favorite among military types who live in these boots.

Packing the features you’d expect from a top-tier tactical boot and more including: Full GoreTex insulation, sturdy Vibram soles with big lugs and multi-surface traction, and a high-quality leather design with some lightweight, scratch-resistant nylon assembled with minimal seams.

Like most modern boots the comfort and general fit was good from the beginning, a little tight in and around the heel and ankle area which improved with breaking in. The insulation works very well, trenching through deep mud and standing in streams did not compromise the GoreTex.

Temperature-wise they handle the cold very well and breathe quite well in warm climates. The only downside of this relatively thick insulation is that they make sizing a bit of an issue for many, the wide option is a must unless you have very narrow feet. Order at least half a size up.

Why we like it? The features that set this boot apart: A lacing system featuring a ball bearing loop that made our heels sit really well in the back of the boot, a really big back pull tab to not only help with ease of changing out of/ into the boot but for those that like to wrap their laces around and a sturdy 2” heavy load-bearing heel.


3. Keen’s Targhee II

Best Summer Boots

Price: $$

Dimensions: 12 inches x 8 inches x 4 inches

Material: 100% Waterproof Leather

Features: External Support Shank (ESS), Rubber outsole

Pros: Highly comfortable boots with a very supportive footbed, Very low break-in time needed, Most versatile boot of out the lightweight models at 2.4lbs (1.1kgs), Sturdy boot with good quality materials

Cons: Many seams, many points of failure, Issues with durability and longevity for many, Leather needs a bit more maintenance than other boots

As covered above, your choice of boot for the summer depends a lot on your environment. As long as your bushcrafting region has no ticks or snakes there’s no reason why you can’t opt for a low-to-mid-top boot in the summer.

A keen favorite for many that has stood the test of time for both off and on-trail needs. Known for their comfort from the moment those laces are tied, the Keen Targhee range is one of the most commonly recommended boots in the hiking/ bushcrafting space. We chose the 2nd generation Targhee over the 3rd because the III is a lot more soft and flexible, a bit narrower, and feels more geared towards beginners. 

One key feature that stands out is the lacing on the Targhees is very well thought out. By connecting either side of the middle eyelets round the back of the heel means that when you tie the middle eyelet tight it pushes your foot back into the heel. This adds to the overall supported feel that these boots give. Also, the footbed gives great arch support, not common in this price range.

The thick, impact-absorbing sole combined with the ESS shank means you are able to plow through uneven surfaces off-trail for prolonged periods of time. Despite having an own-brand outsole the traction on these will handle any terrain with relative ease with an aptitude for muddy terrains. Waterproofing is not GoreTex but does the job well while still remaining somewhat breathable.

Why we like it? You can live in these boots day in and day out without your feet complaining all for an affordable price. Our only qualm is the build quality doesn’t seem like it’s up for heavy use prolonged over many months.


4. Muck Boot Chore XpressCool

Best Hunting Boot

Price: $$

Dimensions: Shaft 14.75″; Heel 1.25″; Boot opening 15″ around

Material: 100% Rubber

Features: Triple toe and quadruple rubber heel reinforcements

Pros: Excellent traction Vibram soles with load bearing steel shank, Unbeatable waterproof coverage, Big wicking and temperature improvements over other rubber boots, Decent shock absorbing soles that are softer than most other hunting boots, Steel toe, Thinner 4mm neoprene upper which is foldable for extra breathing, Reinforced heels

Cons: Quite costly for a rubber boot, Insects, such as ticks, will be able to climb on the neoprene part of the boot, Coming in heavier than other options here 4.75lb size 9 (2.15kgs)

One reason we recommend Mucks Boot Chore \ is that despite the price tag they are built to last and to be lived in pure comfort. I have very rarely come across or heard of some form of premature failure from one of their products. These are premium work boots that, provided you get the right fit, will keep you operating performantly and comfortably throughout the day.

After the huge success of their regular Chore boot, Muck listened to the common feedback they were receiving which was that no matter what you tried, your feet were sweating in summer. Sometime later, the XpressCool model came out, skeptical that a primary rubber boot could surmount the breathability problem, we have been pleasantly surprised. 

Why we like it? This boot sets out to do what was loved with the regular Chore but cooler, and it does just that. Gives you that soft padded comfort, the excellent Muck traction with multi-terrain lugs & feels considerably cooler than the previous model on longer periods of wearing. No more needing to let your piggies out of their blankets every hour or two on a hot summer’s day!


5. Merrell Moab 2 Mid Vent

Best Vented Boot

Price: $$

Dimensions: 10 x 15 x 6 n; 15.3oz

Material: 100% Suede leather and mesh, Vibram rubber sole

Features: Protective toe cap, mesh lining, Molded nylon shank, Merrell air cushion in the heel, blended EVA contoured

Pros: Durable Vibram outsoles with excellent multi-terrain tread, Good impact absorption through the mid & insoles, Very comfortable, great fit out of the box, Most breathable shoe on our list by far, Mean looking design

Cons: The outsole is glued but can be repaired fairly easily if it starts to fail, Weighing 2lbs 2ox (964g) for a full vent boot they’re not the lightest.

As we mentioned above, there are many valid situations where a fully vented boot can be exactly what you need. If this is the case for you then we recommend to look no further than Merrell’s Mother Of All Boots (Moab) 2. Although Merrell has been developing a bit of a reputation to have dropped standards in the last few years (same with many companies sadly), it appears they have managed to achieve an excellent price to quality ratio with this superb boot.

The 2nd generation of the Moab, the Merrel Moab 2 builds on an already successful design but with some minor issues. We felt that the original boot felt “overly comfortable”, some parts were more padded than they needed to be (probably aimed at entry-level hikers), and thus lost a lot of the firmness you look for in a heavy-duty boot. The new model has a better closed-cell foam tongue, a much-appreciated arch shank and a completely redesigned footbed.

Living up to the Moab reputation, the first impression was comfort right out of the box. The fit, true to size, felt spacious but secure; yet without any of the toes bashing the tip of the boot when going down steep hills that you get with some spacious boots. On top of that the Vibram TC5+ grip on these boots is unreal; slippery moss on an angle, wet grass on a misstep, wet rocks, not a problem… these will glue your feet to the surface you want.. 

Why we like it? If you’re looking to be out in the bush with the protection of a boot but with the ventilation of sandals, the Moab is most likely the boot for you.


6. Muck Boot Wetland Pro Snake

Best Pest Control Boot

Price: $$$

Dimensions: Shaft measures approx knee high from arch, 17″ around

Material: 100% Rubber

Features: Waterproof, lined w/ 5mm neoprene for flexibility, Air mesh lining, Nzyme antimicrobial treatment for odour control

Pros: Excellent traction Vibram soles, Super high waterproof coverage, Full confidence snake bite proof, Great shock absorption and footbed, Good all year round

Cons: Costly, Full rubber makes them quite heavy. 5.65lbs (2.5kgs) for a size 9, Brand new and so hard to find from certain retailers or on offer, No women’s model just yet

If you’re like us and decide you don’t want to cake every part of your gear in pretty nasty pest control chemicals then your only option to handle the onslaught of ticks in continental climates is a knee height rubber boot. Luckily Muck’s latest model, the Wetland Pro is exactly that and much more.

On top of resisting almost every pest these boots double up as snake boots while staying much comfier than your average snake boot. While we haven’t had the luxury of testing them against snakes in the field, we know that when Muck claims something as important as “this can save your life”, it’s not a false promise.

In many regions, going out in the bush means being on high alert for rattlesnakes or copperheads, equipped with these boots you can rest more at ease knowing your tootsies are protected, but don’t start daydreaming completely!

Why we like it? On top of this you get the usual Muck benefits. Top quality, fully waterproof rubber, these boots are excellent all rounders and can be used almost all year round keeping your feet dry, warm and protected. The outsole comes with the reliable Vibram traction with big lugs while the build quality remains superb. Sadly, despite popular demand, a women’s model hasn’t been released yet.


7. Smith & Wesson Breach Boots

Best Budget Boots

Price: $

Dimensions: 16 x 10 x 4 inches; 3 Pounds

Material: 100% Rubber sole, Leather/nylon upper

Features: EVA Midsole, Steel shank, Slip-resistant

Pros: Sturdy construction, Top notch support, with steel shank, Very breathable, Great price to quality ratio, Versatile boot, Lightweight 21oz (600g)

Cons: Takes a while to break in, Insoles are very thin, Not very water-resistant, the tongue is a bit spongy

Smith & Wesson take their reliable firearm-making skills and apply them to the world of tactical boots (no secret firearm pocket sadly). They make the Breach in 3 flavors: regular, side zip and waterproof with side zip. Due to issues with the waterproofing model, we’ve opted for the regular as you get the most bang for your buck. You can always spray this boot for added water resistance if need be.

Overall the Smith & Wesson Breach Boots are extremely good value for money. It’s common to find a comfortable budget boot but it’s not common to find a robust budget boot. This boot falls into the latter category which builds comfort over time.

They aren’t very cushioned but due to their sturdy steel shank and midsole combo you are getting a lot of the support you need out in the bush. The boot is lightweight and breathable, featuring a durable, good traction sole, allowing for many consecutive hours of wear.

I personally found the wide (EEE) fit to be excellent with enough room to get a thick pair of socks on for winter if need be. For those requiring pronounced arch support you may need to get some custom insoles as the native ones are very thin, this is also why we don’t think this boot will be ideal for most women’s feet.

Why we like it? Overall, if you’re a bushcrafter on a budget then we firmly believe the boots are the way to go.


8. Timberland White Ledge

Best Hiking Boot

Price: $

Dimensions: 12 x 9 x 6 inches; 1.1 Pounds

Material: 100% Leather, Rubber sole

Features: Padded collar, Fully gusseted tongue. EVA midsole. Dual-density EVA footbed

Pros: Fully durable leather, Comfortable during casual use, Affordable, No waterproof liner, But breaths quite well as result, Good traction, Quite versatile

Cons: Some issues with sole delamination, Sole wears faster than Vibram soles

Timberland has been setting the standard for premium quality work boots since 1973. The Timberland White Ledge line is a great example of this, providing you with high-quality waterproof leather uppers, seam-sealed construction, and rustproof hardware.

These boots are also extremely comfortable to wear thanks to their EVA footbeds and midsole as well as their solid rubber outsoles which have multi-directional lugs for an exceptional grip on slippery surfaces.

The White Ledge is a classic lace-up boot for men. This waterproof boot features a leather upper and a rubber lug outsole that provides great traction on wet surfaces. The Timberland White Ledge is available in whole sizes from 7 to 14, including half sizes.

Why we like it? They’re sure to keep your feet dry during wet conditions so you can focus on what matters most – getting the job done. Let be honest, what more do you really need than that!

Do you need some more Boot options? Check out our article on: The Best Survival Boots Money can Buy

Buyers Guide: What to Consider when Buying Bushcraft Boots

There is no one pair of boots that will do everything we need. Especially in temperate & continental climates where your environment gives you the full taste of what nature has to offer.

These lands require adaptation above all else, something that our species has evolved to do with excellence. In order to get to where we are now our ancestors developed intimate knowledge with the land around them and worked with the environmental changes rather than against them. There is evidence they were protecting their feet with basic wraps over 100,000 years ago and shoes several thousand years go.

Nowadays, you could say we have slightly more improved ways of protecting our feet. More importantly, we have the opportunity to find what works perfectly for us but in order to do so we have to know what to look for.

Comfort & Fit

Comfort and the ability to wear your boots without hindrance is the most important factor with any shoe in any activity so that it can do what it was designed to do. Most boots are designed to be as comfortable as possible for most people. The issue is that our feet all have a slightly different shape and structure, meaning what works for Jim (or Jimette) down the road might not for you. 

Break your boots in

Although this is improving with modern technologies, boots have break-in times. There comes a point however where that little rubbing or biting will keep wearing you down with each passing day. Depending on your bushcrafting ambition and desired capacity to stay outdoors continuously, you want to know that your boots fit you well.

This all starts with knowing your foot and adapting. Are your feet flatter? wider? narrower? more arched? is one longer than the other? Luckily, with the choices available today, there are boots to suit every foot. Reputable boot brands now offer Regular and Wide models. We have met a few women who buy men’s model boots because women’s boots tend to have a more pronounced arch and narrower heel.

If ever you do end up with a boot that doesn’t feel like walking on clouds, not all is lost. We will cover this case in more detail in another article but for now consider after-market footbed inserts and good quality socks to match your heat climate. 

A small practical tip when buying online, buy large. Remember that feet swell during long hikes. It’s much easier to take off an extra pair of socks than to stop every hour because of blisters or pain.

Environment

Sadly, there is no boot that will suit your every need and yet many claim to do so. Every feature that solves one problem will create a downside that makes it a hindrance in another situation. As we keep mentioning on this blog, you have to adapt to your surroundings, learn your environment and know what it demands of you, only then can you truly come out on top.

A good rule of thumb is if you live in a temperate climate and have the possibility of having multiple boots, do so! You won’t use the same boots wading through snow and ice in winter as you would in the heat of summer, no matter how breathable the boot claims to be.

You wouldn’t want heavy duty waterproof boots if you know rain won’t come for a few days and you won’t encounter water (although we do generally recommend some waterproofness for bushcrafting). All these factors depend on your environment. I personally have 3 pairs of boots that I alternate throughout the year depending on the occasion.

Need more gear? Check out Best Bushcrafting Gear

Construction materials

When investing in a quality piece of kit, you want to know your boot is going to last. The easiest way to get an idea is to know what construction materials and practices lead to a more quality item with greater longevity.

Uppers

In our experience we find that for longevity & durability a boot that is primarily full-grain leather with some breathable parts where possible is the way to go. Leather due to its toughness is a must on high wear areas like the sides of the boot.

Full-grain leather is less light than synthetic counterparts and will require more time to break in but once broken-in will provide flexibility while still maintaining very good water and abrasive resistance. Like full-grain leather, Nubuck leather has the same properties but is made to give a suede look and feel however if not properly maintained it can fade and scuff easily.

Many cheaper, lighter boots will use either a split-grain leather or just full synthetics which will be initially comfier but as time goes on will be less resistant to abrasion and more prone to wearing due to more outside stitching needed. More stitches means more points of failure.

Soles

If GoreTex is the go-to for waterproofing then Vibram is the go-to for dependable sole rubber. There are however many lesser-known alternatives than Vibram that will do just as good, if not better, of a job.

For bushcrafting, you’re primarily looking for something that can handle steep slopes while slippery, although as usual this is environment dependent. Even the best of soles can get worn down fast if you’re doubling up as a shoe to use in urban areas.

Depending on your pack size you may want a shallower or deeper heel with the capacity to assist with bigger loads and shock absorption.

There are countless lug designs however in our experience the deeper, thicker lugs stand the test of time, although you may sacrifice some of the insane traction that smaller lugs give. A mix is an ideal compromise. Lastly, considering as bushcrafter you’re going to live in your boots for hours/ days on end, a high quality shank insert will really help to even out some of the uneven terrain.

Waterproofing

When it comes to bushcrafting and other outdoor specialist boots your waterproofing requirements are one of two options, don’t go for anything in between: 

  • Fully waterproof – unless it’s coming over the top of the boot, an easy mistake to make (as water tends to look shallower than it is), it’s not getting in.
  • Completely vented – a design used commonly in the military so when squaddies get submerged completely in water their boot will start draining and drying the minute they are out of it.

If you opt for the waterproofing go for membrane based waterproofing over sprays. GoreTex has the lion’s share of waterproof insulating membranes and for good reason, their unique design utilises the unique properties of water and allows for sweat to escape while resisting water.

GoreTex has come a long way since its inception and now has different variations to suit different temperatures. Despite this they are known to take many days to dry out when they do get wet, even when propped up to the evening fire. This is not something that everyone can afford and walking with wet boots can cause harm to your feet.

That being said in bushcrafting you’re not often wading neck deep in water and your biggest water obstacle will be streams and other bodies of water, dew on plants and rain. It can be a real pain to start the day with wet feet just because you’re traipsing through grass.

As you’ll see in this article, this is one of the main reasons we favour fully waterproof boots over vented ones. For those that want to overcome the wet feet while still having vented boots, GoreTex socks do exist.

As usual, know your environment and adapt.

Boot Height

This generally boils down to personal preference, in our experience we prefer going for the 8” as we feel that the extra ankle bracing and contact with the lower shin is great for comfort. Done incorrectly though that can be 2” of more fabric to rub.

It’s also happened to me a few times where my boot got flooded when trekking in 6” boots that wouldn’t have happened in 8”ers. It can be a similar situation with snow and unwanted invaders too, more height equals more protection.

Invaders

This is a topic that we feel doesn’t get enough exposure in the general bushcrafting community, possibly because it doesn’t affect everyone, that is ticks. These crafty parasitic blighters are almost impossible to avoid in the warmer months of most temperate and continental climates.

Sadly, they are able to crawl up any material that is not rubber meaning that after an afternoon of hiking through grasslands, even with a top quality 8” trekking boot, you’ll be the tick candyman.

Other issues, also regional, are snakes & scorpions which, for the most part don’t interfere much with hikers due to escaping when they feel our vibrations on the soil.

One exception to this in the US is the (luckily non-fatal) Copperhead who has a tendency to stay put when approached, get trodden on and then bite. While the thick rubber of most soles will handle bites and stings well, leather won’t, which is why we’ve included our favorite bushcrafting snake resistant boot in our selection.

Protective Toe

The most common danger to bushcrafter’s feet is surprisingly not nature, it’s ourselves, with axes and the inevitability of off target chops. Sadly the reality is that most people get hit on the side of the foot where the protective toes don’t cover, this and the added weight could be why many bushcrafters opt out of protective toes.

For those who are into heavy duty shelter building, working with heavy logs that can do damage, these might be a must. 

One should note that there have been numerous reports of steel toe (rather than composite toe) boots can cause frost damage without appropriate socks in very cold environments.


Conclusion

Like with all things in life, perfection doesn’t exist in one thing but in the combination of many things working together. We apply this principle to our best bushcrafting boot recommendations too, where there is no one boot to rule them all but rather having a selection of boots to match the climate is where one’s feet can truly flourish out in the wild, no matter the conditions.

After your feet are taken care of, your imagination, knowledge and skill is your only limit.

To put this in practice we generally recommend a selection of 2-3 boots: one all purpose boot (in this case the 5.11 Atac 2.0 8” Storm), one heavy duty winter boot and one optional lighter summer boot. 

It’s very easy to get pulled into thinking that the more you will spend the more you will get, in our experience that’s far from the case. The boots we’ve recommended here are a testament to that. It can be tough to find the right item out of so much to choose but with our guidelines you have an idea of what to look for, as well as the best models available in late 2020.

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Bram Johnson
Hi, My Name is Bram, the Editor of Survival Artist. Here you will find all things Wilderness, Survival, & Primitive Living. I grew up in the backcountry and got hooked on the simple chop wood carry water lifestyle. If you know anything about me then you know you can find me either running up mountain trails or sipping coffee over a book of philosophy.