November 22, 2023
For many years, I was one of the lucky few that rarely suffered from cold feet. With the right combination of moisture-managing liners and insulating wool socks, I was able to hunt in below-zero conditions wearing either uninsulated or lightly insulated boots. Yeah, sometimes my toes got cold, but I was young enough, or maybe dumb enough, to tolerate it. Then I got older. Each hunting season, I notice my ability to tolerate cold temperatures diminishes. I’m still able to hunt most of the fall with midseason boots, but in extreme cold I now lace up insulated boots that are a little more substantial to keep my feet protected. Most recently, the cold-weather hunting boots I’ve been reaching for are the Meindl Kibo GTX Hunters, which keep my feet warm during late-season hunts.
Most hunters should be familiar with the Meindl boots, which were the leading hunting footwear sold by Cabela’s for many years. Over the course of 300 years, the Meindl family built their reputation on European-made quality. Today, the family blends that Old World craftsmanship with leading materials and technology to create some of the best footwear for hunters and hikers around the globe. After the Cabela’s-Bass Pro Shops merger, the company dropped the brand, but a former Cabela’s executive who led the footwear department re-launched it under the Meindl USA banner and have made Meindl boots available to American hunters once again.
I’ve worn Meindl boots for close to two decades, and have always been impressed with the durability, comfort and performance. So, when I need an insulated pair of hunting boots to wear on a trip to Tajikistan for mid-Asian ibex, naturally I reached out to the experts at Meindl USA. For an extreme mountain hunt in the middle of winter, they recommended their Kibo GTX Hunter 600 insulated boots, which are purpose-built for just such an adventure.
At the heart of the Kibo’s ability to keep feet protected from the cold is a lining made from advanced high-bulk fleece called Gore Air Fibre 600. Any material designed to insulate does so by trapping and holding warm air—think of it like a home insulation’s R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the ability to insulate by trapping more warm air as a protective layer against the cold. Gore Air Fibre is a mass of hollow, synthetic fibers that trap more of that air than other comparable insulations, but does so with up to 15% less weight.
That means a lighter boot with heavier protection from the elements. And don’t let the “high-bulk” term fool you—the Meindl Kibo GTX boots are relatively slim compared to many other winter hunting boots that have you looking and walking like Mickey Mouse. Their profile is one of the first things I noticed when I laced them up for a test run. For added protection from the cold, Meindl fits the Kibo’s with their Air Active Winter insoles, which are made from fleece and polyurethane to both insulate and cushion the feet.
Inside the boots, a Gore-Tex membrane also creates a waterproof/breathable barrier against the rain and snow. Truth be told, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of the claim that waterproof linings are truly breathable. One of the key components to keeping feet warm in cold conditions is managing moisture, both from outside the boot in the form of rain and snow and inside the boot when feet sweat. Wet feet are cold feet. So, admittedly, I was surprised when my feet stayed dry during high-exertion climbs in Tajikistan, where temperatures weren’t as cold as I anticipated. They also stayed dry and warm while post-holing through waist-deep snow during a difficult stalk on a band of ibex.
Like all Meindl hunting boots, the Kibos are made to last. Nubuck leather uppers, which measure 10 inches high for full ankle protection, are guarded by a 360-degree rubber rand. This durable layer keeps sharp rocks and heavy talus from prematurely compromising the leather in the areas that see the most wear. The insole and shaft lace up securely via a combination of eyelets on the upper and speed hooks on the shaft. High-wear, reinforced fabric eyelets at the ankle keep the laces from loosening around the foot, though if there is one spot I’d expect the boots to fail, it’s here. They didn’t on my hunt, and show no wear after two years of use, but I’d rather see metal hooks used here.
Even the outsoles are innovative, combining an aggressive rubber tread with molded in pieces of aluminum that help grip on wet or icy surfaces. During my ibex hunt, I encountered everything from slopes of loose rock, knife-edge ridges and ice-crusted crags, yet never felt like my boots weren’t providing adequate traction. (My worn-out legs, however, did threaten to fail me a few times.)
These boots are made for mountain hunting, whether that’s in a far-away land for exotic species, on an Alaska ridge for sheep or mountain goats or closer to home during a winter expedition to fill a late-season elk tag. I also wouldn’t hesitate to wear them in the treestand when sitting over a corn field in December, though there are better options for that. But, if you want one pair of cold-weather insulated boots for all your winter hunts, Meindl’s Kibo Hunter 600s are a great choice.