Gortex Boots versus Insulated Boots
I took a call once from a former US Marine who was looking for a pair of military boots to use while hunting in northern Illinois. Most people would think that there really is not much to say when it comes to a pair of boots. The reality is, nothing could be further from the truth. As a person who lived in his boots pretty much 24-7 during my time in the Marine Corps, I can tell you that a bad pair of military boots is one of the worst things you can endure in the field. The conversation lasted about twenty minutes and I was not surprised in the least. Call me crazy, but talking "boots" is one of my favorite things when it comes to our business.
Usually, the question I get most often is, "Do i need insulated boots or will waterproof boots keep my feet warm?" My answer to that question is "Well, let's talk a bit. What are you planning to do with your new boots?" It really depends on your activity level. Are you hiking in a short or long distance to your hunting grounds? Once you get to your hunting area, are you going to be sitting in a tree stand or a blind or will you be spotting and stalking your prey? Each of these factors play a big part in the boots you choose.
When I go deer hunting at my typical hunting grounds, I usually arrive well before sunrise so I can get into my stand under the cover of darkness. As I leave my hotel, I dress for the drive to the grounds and not for the trek to the tree stand. The reason for this is that I do not want to build up a layer of sweat and moisture under my clothes before I even get out of the truck. Trapped sweat will cool your body because it can't escape through the layers of your hunting gear. This is a key factor when it comes to Gortex boots. If you are going to be hiking into your stand a long distance, as I do, you will want to consider a spare pair of boots for the walk in and then change into your hunting boots once you are on the hunting grounds. Because I sit in a tree stand all day, I want to put on a nice dry pair of boots the moment I become stationary in that stand. I don't want feet saturated with sweat that is trapped in my boots. This will make your feet cold very quickly no matter how well your boots are insulated.
Waterproof boots are lined with Gortex booties that wick moisture away from your feet and socks and push it into the leather so it can evaporate into the environment. Conversely, the Gortex booties do not allow moisture from the exterior of the boots to seep into the boots and your feet. Think of Gortex as a one way street. Moisture can get out, but it can not get back in. This concept is very important because you have to treat your leather appropriately so that the leather allows the moisture to escape from the boots.
The leather used in military boots and hunting boots obviously comes from animal leather. The tannery spends a lot of time scraping the animal fat from the leather so that the leather can breath and is pliable. Removing all that animal fat preserves the leather. Of course, you want to protect your leather boots from rain, sun, snow and salt. Boots can be a big investment, so you'll want to take care of the leather so they last throughout the years. In my opinion when it comes to Gortex lined boots, you will want to avoid grease, oil, or animal based leather conditioners and waterproofing agents. These products migrate through the leather until they clog all the pores. Because of this, these types of waterproofing products fill the natural spaces in the leather that are supposed to absorb perspiration and allow it to evaporate outside of the boots. The end result is that moisture is trapped in the boots and you've got cold feet.
Gortex boots need to breath to be most effective. One of the best products for waterproofing these types of boots is a beeswax based waterproofing product. Animal fat based waterproofing products weaken and ultimately rot leather. You'll feel warmer and more comfortable in Gortex lined boots that have been treated with beeswax waterproofing products because the Gortex absorbed perspiration will escape out of the leather rather than being trapped in your boots and against your feet. The end result is warmer feet.
Most people will be very pleased with a Gortex lined boot and a good pair of wool socks if they are hunting in a spot and stalk fashion because your on the move and staying warm. Using a pair of insulated boots for this type of hunting will likely end up making your feet sweat and ultimately you end up with cold feet. If you are hiking into a stand or blind and plan on staying stationary, you will want to consider a pair of insulated boots for your stationary time in the stand. Just remember, sweat and moisture create a cooling effect. You want to avoid this and treat your leather so that it allows moisture to escape your boots. At the end of the day, if you follow these guidelines, you'll have happy feet. The result of the hunt though is up to you!