Well, I should have. Astonishingly, I wore those boots out in just one October. The leather in the toes completely disintegrated, and the waterproof layer underneath could clearly be seen. I regret to this day I didn’t take pictures, but I was livid as I packed up the box. I just wanted them out of my sight. Ever since then, I’ve been in search of a boot that could stand up to the way I hunt.
What I Need
Now, the way I hunt isn’t extraordinary. But the dry native grasses we encounter while chasing pheasants and prairie grouse are notoriously abrasive. They never fail to wear my dogs’ paws raw if they aren’t wearing dog booties. I’ve also seen those grasses wear grooves in the soles around the toes of hunting boots. That kind of punishment is not for any ordinary boot. As a result, I am particularly interested in any boot whose toe is not exposed leather; I consider that a weakness after that disastrous pair five years ago.
One prominent American boot maker sold me a pair four years ago that has done a good job of taking the abuse. But they are heavy buggers. And if I wear them for days, the left boot doesn’t feel right under the arch of my foot. They just aren’t cutting it anymore.
The 8-inch VaprTrek Boot from Irish Setter was brought to my attention this year and I obtained a pair just before my bird hunting season heated up. I was unsure that a largely synthetic boot could fit my needs. But the way the sole and other layers provide protection to the toe made me think they were worth a shot.
As soon as they arrived, I was impressed by their apparent lightness. From the get-go, I could tell ventilation around my feet was good, and that for once there was a chance of keeping my feet cool and dry. The VaprTreks also felt comfortable to walk in immediately, and although we know to break boots in before heavy use, there was never a time they didn’t feel supremely fitted to my feet. These boots essentially needed no break-in period, and they have always felt as light and comfortable as a pair of slippers. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it is not in the least. Suffice to say, I couldn’t wait to put some miles on them.
My new VaprTrek boots spent much of October and November on my feet, in conditions that ranged from warm and dry to cold and snowy. I wore them at every possible opportunity, in order to put as many miles on them as possible and observe any signs of deterioration. I’m pleased to report today that no defects or significant wear can be found.
Those boots carried me through soggy pastures, dry prairie, thick woodlands, and even swamps. They still feel as good now as they did the first day, and hardly even look dirty (how that’s possible I honestly don’t know). I put my boots through the whole range of conditions I normally encounter during my typical bird hunting season, and then some. But their performance in late November elevated them in my mind to a new level of greatness.
The week of Thanksgiving, I found myself in the Northwoods, able and ready to hunt grouse, with two problems: temperatures in the twenties and thirties, and about three inches of wet snow on the ground. I didn’t want to wear clunky rubber boots for miles on end, so it seemed a good time to test the boundaries of my uninsulated VaprTreks. That snow stuck to all parts of my boots, and the outsides were constantly wet. Despite hours and hours under those conditions, at no time did any water breach the fortress of my boots’ waterproofing. What’s more, on one outing my feet started cold but actually warmed up. This never could have happened if any moisture had been allowed to stay inside the boot. This is a testament to the extreme breathability of my VaprTreks. If the waterproofing or moisture-wicking qualities had been anything short of stellar, the boots would have failed miserably. I am glad to have had the opportunity to test them under those conditions.
I would normally consider uninsulated boots to be a part of only my warm-weather equipment roster. My experiences with the VaprTrek boots over the course of my upland hunting season proved to me this is not necessarily the case. I found them to be cool and well-ventilated on the warm days, and impressively protective on wet and cold days.
Fit and comfort were excellent right from the start, and their waterproofing and featherweight materials kept me comfortable mile after mile and week after week. Based on this test period, I will not hesitate to call upon the strengths of my VaprTrek boots. I look forward to taking them back out again in the spring for turkey hunting and the beginning of the foraging season, because these boots have far more to offer than just a couple months’ service every year.
To learn more about the VaprTrek, visit the Irish Setter website.