7 Components to the Ultimate Mountain Hunting Boot
Through our years of discovery of what works and what doesn’t, we’ve identified attributes every mountain hunting boot should have. The first time we sat down with Scarpa, we gave them a punch-list of what we wanted—though we’ve made refinements to the original line-up, the focus remains the same—build the best mountain hunting boot.
1. Advantages of Full-Synthetic Boots
Though the utility of leather has done more than prove itself, synthetic materials are king on the mountain top. While dealing with wet weather on an extended pack-in hunt, all-leather uppers will eventually get soaked, stretch out, and take on water weight. Once wet, leather is slow to dry, and once they dry, shrinkage normally occurs—causing an inconsistent fit.
Synthetic materials absorb less moisture, they’re quick-drying, and don’t shrink while they dry. Lightweight hunting boots built from synthetic materials also require less maintenance.
The weight savings alone with a full synthetic boot make it a simple choice. The lighter the boot, the less energy you’ll burn on every step of the climb. The old backpacking rule-of-thumb is one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back.
“Since switching to the KUIU-Scarpa full synthetic system, I’ll never go back to a leather boot. They’re lighter, more consistent in fit, and even if they do get wet, they dry faster and won't stretch on me. There’s not a better technical boot system on the market." -Brady Lough, Guide with Ravens Throat Outfitters.
2. Advantages of Sock-Fit
Traditional folded tongue designs add unnecessary weight, uncomfortably bunch and pinch at the flex point, and restrict mobility. Your ability to comfortably and consistently lace your boots is also quite finicky with a folded tongue design. If you don’t get them laced up perfectly, you’ll feel it, and pay for it.
The innovative Sock-Fit system by Scarpa incorporates high-tech stretch materials and streamlined construction methods, to eliminate tongue folds. This delivers a system that decreases weight, enhances fit, and promotes agility. You get consistent fit and feel every time you lace them up. Once you try Sock-Fit, you’ll never go back.
“I wear my Scarpa mountaineering boots all season long, from Spring to Winter and from the Desert Cliffs in Mexico to the mountains of Northern Canada. The full synthetic design, paired with the Sock-Fit tongue, these boots have yet to fail me. The comfort is unmatched with literally no break in time it goes from the box to the mountain with ease.” Nathan Olmstead, Guide with Prophet Muskwa Outfitters.
3. Not All Waterproof Membranes are Created Equal
If you’ve ever had waterproof boot membranes fail, here’s why: normal waterproof boot liners are built as a loose hanging bootie and layered over the inner liner, separate from the boot’s outer shell. This allows water to seep through the gap between the outer shell and the waterproof membrane, resulting in a loss of breathability, added water weight, and slow-drying boots.
Once the boot is water-logged, moisture is forced through the membrane while you hike, wetting out your feet. Building a boot with this type of waterproof membrane placement is like wearing your rain jacket under your insulating layers.
KUIU-Scarpa boots utilize HDry Technology. HDRY creates a one-piece waterproof and breathable barrier by laminating the waterproof membrane to the inside of the boot’s outer shell, leaving no seams to penetrate or gaps for water to collect. This barrier prevents moisture from penetrating and adds durability to the waterproof membrane.
The results are improved breathability, no added water weight, and dry, comfortable feet. HDry ensures protection from creek crossings, wet vegetation, saturated ground, and precipitation.
“Making the switch from a leather hunting boot to a full synthetic hunting boot has been a game changer for me. My feet stay cooler and dryer especially with the HDry membrane. The combination of Scarpa's shank system and Vibram soles make its rock gripping capabilities untouchable.” Andy Moeckel Guide and Legion DIY Podcast Host.
4. Semi-Rigid Versus Flexible Boots
Boots with a mountaineering stiffness, like our Rebel K 8 HD and our first insulated hunting boot, the Rebel K 10 Insulated HD, mirror the natural movements of your feet by pivoting at the ankle and only flexing at the toe. This structure improves control and support while front-point climbing, side-hilling, and gaining purchase on steep terrain, like what you would find hunting sheep, mountain goat, and on some deer hunts.
If you’re new to a mountaineering-type boot, they take some getting used to, but once you’ve experienced the stability, comfort, and added traction in vertical terrain, there’s no going back to a traditional hiker or hunting boot.
We asked Allen Bolen, with Bolen and Lewis Guiding Co. his take on boots with a semi-rigid platform: “The advantage of a semi-rigid, mountain climbing type boot is that you can edge into the side of the mountain. This is critical in steep, wet, and vegetated terrain, like what you find in BC, AK, YT, and NWT. While I’m in terrain like this, I keep the bottom of my boot parallel to gravity, not the mountainside, and I use the edge of the boot to cut through the ground and vegetation—essentially forming a step for me to climb. With a rigid mountaineering boot this can be done while climbing with toe or inside edge. While descending, I use the heel to cut steps down the mountain. Learning to trust your edges takes time and high-quality boots.”
If you prefer the feel of a traditional hiker, or mountain hiking boot that flexes throughout the shank, but you want the technology and features of a lightweight synthetic mountaineering boot, the R-Evolution K 8 HD is the best of both worlds. The R-Evolution is a fantastic elk and deer hunting boot choice for the lower-48 states.
5. Choosing the Right Size
KUIU-Scarpa hunting boots are sized with a mountaineering boot fit, or very true-to-size fit, which positions your toes at the end of the toe box. Most mountaineers and climbers prefer their climbing boots with a snug fit, though it’s not as ideal for hiking and hunting.
For a sure fit, we recommend ordering a half size larger than your normal shoe size. If you’re between sizes, go up one full size. For example, if you measure size 9, order 9.5. If you measure 9.25, order size 10.
All our hunting boots for men fit an average foot width. If you have wide feet, we recommend looking to another brand that offers wide sizes and share the same attributes as ours.
6. Insoles: Good, Better, and Best
The insoles that come in the boots may be all you need. They’re quick drying and lightweight, and work well for the average wearer.
Aftermarket insoles like the SuperFeet Carbon offer more arch support than the original insoles. They combine a carbon fiber-reinforced stabilizer cap with a durable, ultralight foam layer, providing a high level of support and comfort.
Going with a custom orthotic insole is the best way because everyone’s feet are different. By changing out the generic footbed in a hunting boot and replacing it with custom hunting orthotics, you tailor your hunting boots to the exact shape of your foot. You also get a custom corrective fit to aid your body function, improve balance, and help prevent soreness and injury.
You can consult a podiatrist for custom orthotics, or Sheepfeet , who specializes in building custom orthotics for hunting boots. Each pair of orthotics they make is different and 100% custom to each person's feet. Their process works off a precise replica of your foot, which allows them to make a high-quality orthotic specifically for you.
Once you have ordered your pair of SheepFeet custom orthotics, they will mail you an impression kit. You take the impression and mail it back with the prepaid label. They will then make your custom orthotics and send them to you.
7. The Complementary Accessories
Even though our boots are 100% waterproof, like all boots, they will act as a funnel if not worn properly. By pairing them with a waterproof gaiter, like our Kutana or Yukon, your lower legs stay dry, so water isn’t wicked inside the boot. If you only need to keep debris and light moisture from collecting in your boots, the Scree gaiter is a fantastic ultralight choice.
Maintenance and Dry Time:
All you need is to regularly apply a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) so water beads off and the boots remain breathable.
Whenever you’re not hiking or wearing your boots, loosen the laces and remove the insoles so any moisture collected in the boot can evaporate. Implementing this practice while you’re glassing or resting will also give your feet time to air out.
Your high-performance choice of boots should also reflect your choice of socks. Your feet can produce over one pint of perspiration per day, and we’ve developed the StrongWool Hybrid Sock that does something about it. This hybrid design leverages the inherent properties of wool and synthetic polypropylene and positions them so capillary action draws moisture away from your feet and out the top of the sock.
We’ve positioned 100% wool padding in the areas your feet sweat the most—the toe box, heel, top of foot, and ankle. Since these sections are knit with 100% wool and not blended materials, absorption is not inhibited.
The midfoot and upper are built from synthetic polypropylene to wick and move the moisture away from the wool padding, and evaporate it through the upper.
StrongWool limits foot slippage within the boot, keeping blisters from forming and foot movement to a minimum. The result is a durable, hard wearing sock with enhanced dry times. Ideal for sweaty feet or hunting in wet conditions.
The ULTRA Merino Crew Sock is ideal for colder weather, and is designed for high-stress outdoor activity where additional technical support of the feet is required. The style and shape compliment a wide range of footwear while adding protection to your feet. Highly breathable and moisture wicking, this sock molds to your feet, ensuring shear friction is reduced and skin integrity is kept optimal.
Each sock is strategically knitted so that there is only Merino wool next to the skin, allowing all its natural moisture wicking and odor reducing properties to stay in effect. Additional yarn thickness in high wear areas helps protect the feet with cushioning and adds longevity to the life of the sock. Elastic fibers are knitted through the middle of the sock to maintain a strong grip around the arch and ankle, allowing for minimal friction and blister-free wear. Strong nylon fibers are then blended through the outer face of the sock for added durability.