Meindl Boots

By Jeff Johnston, FE Hunting & Shooting Editor

A few years ago I invited a buddy on a DIY Colorado elk hunt because he’d been bugging me for years. He’s a good guy, and tough, so I had no qualms about inviting him despite his complete lack of experience in the mountains and hunting elk in general.

He showed up with those stupid-looking toe sock shoes instead of hunting boots. I thought he was joking at first, as I’d relayed to him the severity of the altitude and country we’d be hunting, but he advised me to worry not; his CrossFit coach—who had also never been elk hunting—said boots just weaken the ankles and hamper the natural flexibility of the foot, and that human feet were made to climb mountains if they’re given the freedom they were intended to have. I countered by reminding him that elk, deer, sheep and mountain goats have hooves, but whatever. I’d still be wearing my Meindls, not only for the rigidity a quality boot offers when side-hilling steep terrain, but also for the protection against trench foot after crossing rivers and frostbite after it snows.

Although I commend him for not complaining, I noticed that two days into the hunt he swapped them for his camp shoes, which luckily were waterproof Solomons. They got him by, but barely. Now he wears Meindls.

Finally, after four seasons in my last pair, I reluctantly had to break down and buy a new pair mainly because I have a bad habit of placing my feet way too close to the fire whenever I get back to camp on a cold night and have a few beers. Leather, rubber and glue, no matter how tough, can’t take direct flame for long. I chose the 300-year-old German bootmaker’s EuroLight Hunter 300 model because they feature the same full-grain waxed leather, a Gore-Tex liner, Gore Air Fiber insulation and air cushioned insoles as do plenty of top-end hunting boots, yet they weigh as much as a pound less per pair as many of them. Seventy-five percent of my hunting is not in the vertical mountains, but just over rough, rocky terrain, so I usually don’t need a full-fledged mountain boot, but rather one versatile, serious boot for most of my hunting.  

It’s always a bit of a risk to try a new model boot for fear that they won’t fit your feet just like another brand or model, but I smiled as I slid the EuroLights on for the first time, knowing instantly that no break-in period of wetting them and walking a few miles would be needed. I don’t mean to sound gay here, but that’s the reality; you’ll know if a boot is for you from the moment you lace it up and take a few steps. The EuroLights felt like a more rigid version of the Reebok hightops I wore when I was young and thinking I was going to the NBA despite my short white legs.

What separates a good hunting boot from a great one is a difficult-to-make blend of toughness, breathability, rigidity in areas that need to be rigid for climbing, all while being flexible in the areas that need to be flexible such as in the Achilles and midfoot where leather bunches during each stride. I also demand a reinforced toe cap because, generally, this is the first area to wear out on my boots. The EuroLight has all of these features and more. Plus I like the fact that its oversized tongue, flexibility and speed laces make it easier to get in and out of than most of the pure mountain boots I’ve tried.

A boot is a personal, specialized piece of gear that fits each foot differently. Arguably it’s the most important piece of equipment you can own in the backcountry, because I’ve seen a grown man weep on the mountain thinking he wouldn’t be able to make it back to camp due to choosing cheap footwear. I’ve tried most of the best brands, from Lowa, Kenetrek, Crispi, Schnees and others, and they’re all very close in terms of quality and performance; it really comes down to what feels best to you. For me, Meindl is at the top of the heap, and that’s without considering that at $300, they are less expensive than the brands I just mentioned. 

The point is, don’t listen to your CrossFit instructor for hunting advice. 

Cost: $315

Pros: great all-around hunting boot; top-quality build

Cons: none 

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