December 12, 2022
I don't often use the words budget and cold weather in the same sentence, and I believe you get what you pay for when it comes to staying comfortable outdoors. The more comfortable you are when Mother Nature is nasty, the longer you can withstand the elements and punch that tag.
However, outdoor gear has improved by leaps and bounds since I first got a dose of frostbite at the age of 15 after purchasing an "insulated" pair of rubber boots from Walmart and sitting for seven hours in a goose pit. After that hunt, I promised myself my feet would never get cold again. For years, I purchased the best boots I could find — leather and rubber — to keep the feet and toes warm. I still do, to a degree.
In recent years, I've tinkered and tested some budget-friendly boots; some were awesome, and others were horrible. If you're looking to go the budget-boot route this winter, here are my top 5 picks.
An everyday winter boot that will work as well for shoveling the driveway as it does for busting through the snow on your way to the deer stand for just a tick over $100 is hard to find. Enter The Nation Pro Winter Boot from Kamik ($109.99). Seam-sealed waterproof construction blended with Heat-MX insulation keeps the feet warm, and the leather upper provides excellent comfort and support.
The boots are rated to -40-below Fahrenheit, and the moisture-wicking inner liner helps keep your feet dry. I like the SnowTread outsole with deep lugs for boosted traction. These aren't the type of boots you want for a late-season pack trip, but they do a great job when the walking distance is short and the sitting time is extensive.
- -40-degree F comfort
- Tannery-rated gold leather
- 3.6 pounds per pair
- Not available in 1/2 sizes</strong
I'm a longtime LaCrosse lover, and if you're looking to go the budget route and keep your feet warm and dry during the late season, the 12-inch tall Air Grip Foam Insulated Burly ($130) will do it. Rated for temps down to -20, this plain toe boot features LaCrosse's popular secure and comfortable Ankle Fit, and the Air-Grip Outsole provides solid traction in the mud and snow.
Wear a quality pair of wool socks, and these boots will keep you out in the elements longer. My biggest complaint with these boots, and it's not a complaint but instead how they're designed, is the 12-inch tall build. If stream and water crossings are part of your daily late-season deer routine, spend the extra money and get the 18-inch pair of Alphaburly Pros.
- 4.9 pounds per pair
- Best for mud and snow
- Fiberglass Shank
- Wool Felt Midsole
- Durable ZXT rubber
In today's market, I consider anything under $200 a budget boot, and ladies, I promise you, you're getting a hell of a boot when you slide into Danner's Women's Wayfinder ($190). Filled with 800G of Thinsulate Ultra, these 40-ounce boots, when blended with a quality Merino mid- to a heavy-weight sock, keep the feet warm, dry, and comfortable.
The Danner Dry waterproof barrier allows moisture to crawl out without letting water in, which is a plus. The polyurethane footbed promises outstanding shock absorption via an extra layer of open-cell construction for improved air circulation. These boots work well for pack trips, riding horseback, and walking to and from the deer stand.
- 800G Thinsulate Ultra
- 40-ounces per pair
- Danner Wayfinder Outsole
- More water-resistant than waterproof
- 8 inches tall
With 1,200 grams of insulation, Irish Setter's Terrain ($179.99) boots aren't the ideal choice for wandering miles across the mountains, but they are a tremendous late-season choice when chasing deer from a treestand, shooting house, or ground blind, or waterfowl in a cut-grain field. The boots stand 10-inches tall, which is solid for a pair of leather boots.
ScentBan Technology has been applied to various boot materials — from leathers to linings to footbeds — to help you fly under a deer's olfactory system. I rarely trust a pair of leather-style boots in the deer woods, but ScentBan isn't snake oil, and I've found it to work exceptionally well. In addition to keeping you warm, the multi-directional lug pattern on the outsole ensures ankle support and stability, and the Mossy Oak Country DNA pattern gives these stomps an excellent finish.
- 1200G Thinsulate Ultra
Sorel is an iconic name in the winter boot world, and I will gladly drop $200 on a pair of its legendary Caribou Winter Boots ($200). Right on the brink of being a budget boot, these tough-as-nails boots will last you for several seasons, and in my opinion, you don't get a warmer winter boot. The 9mm washable felt inner boot with Sherpa pile snow cuff is removable, and the midsole features a 2.5 mm bonded felt frost plug.
After a hunt, especially one where you're feet sweated, remove the liner and get it dry. I've hunted geese numerous times, wearing these boots in deep heavy snow when the mercury was well into the negative, and my feet never get cold. I like the Caribou lug traction, which ensures excellent traction in various terrain, and the upper is a waterproof nubuck upper that is seam-sealed and waterproof.
- Handcrafted waterproof rubber shell
- Bulletproof build
- Great in heavy snow
- Removable 9mm liner
- Hats off to you if you can find a pair
Boot Pro Tips
During my outdoor tenure, I've hunted from the Rockies to the sage-dappled plains to the ancient Cyprus swamps and most everywhere in between. Few things are more important than a quality set of boots; if you treat your boots well, they will reciprocate the favor for seasons to come. Here are some excellent winter boot tips.
- Treat any leather with a waterproofing boot wax and leather treatment creme.
- Snow and salt stains are common, and a salt/snow stain remover works wonders.
- If boots get wet on the inside, remove the laces, open the boots up, and allow them time to dry. I like a boot dryer, but time in front of a wood stove or heater vent will do. My dryer of choice is the Original Peet Boot Dryer.
- Replace the laces when they are showing signs of wear.
- Wear a quality pair of wool or merino wool socks with your boots. My late-season go-to is Kenetrek's Glacier Heavy Weight Boot Socks.
- Keep an eye on boot heels. Boot heels can be replaced for around $40 if you don't wait too long.
Boots are a must-have winter item, and depending on your needs, the stomps mentioned above will provide warmth, durability, and a level of comfort that will keep you in the field and on the hunt.