What avid outdoor enthusiast is not always looking for some gear to enhance his time in the mountains? Often this comes down to the bare essentials that allow you to enjoy and pursue what you love, day after day. This process starts at the ground with your feet and your chosen boots. I was given the opportunity to review a pair of the 8″ Hoffman Explorer boots for Rokslide, fall of 2019. More info here.
The Explorers come in both 8 and 6-inch versions. Prior to the beginning of elk season 2019, I drove to Kellogg Idaho where this 4th generation boot manufacturer is located. I met with Jim Hoffman to tour their boot manufacturing facility and observed how they make a full line of Logging, Lineman, Pac, and Hunting Boots. Their line of boots is designed and created by men who hunt North Idaho.
Though I am familiar with the downfalls of not breaking in a pair of boots before actually hunting in them, their fit right out of the box left me feeling positive that I would suffer no ill consequences by simply lacing them up and hitting the mountains. I wore them around the house a few times to verify the size was accurate. Yes, they run true to size. I gave them no break-in before hitting the mountains.
The first day out, I took them for a casual North Idaho stroll to check trail cameras a week before the season. Per the norm, the day included plenty of ascents, descents, wet brush and side-hilling. First impressions of the boot: The sole is very stiff with limited flexion at the base of the boot. The stiffness of the sole allows you to bite into the hillside as you are side-hilling, trusting you will stay upright. Though stiff, you are still able to feel the ground beneath your feet and without feeling clunky or cumbersome as you navigate through the day.
The stiffer sole can absorb much of the punishment your feet would as you navigate over jagged rocks, uneven terrain and other obstacles through the day, allowing your feet to be fresher day after day, without added punishment.
The chosen insoles complete the boots nicely and did not need to be replaced with a custom, providing sufficient cushioning and comfort. I have found it odd that in many high-end boots the insoles have to be replaced.
The boot fits very secure and solid around your ankle providing sufficient ankle support. When hunting in terrain that is seldom if ever flat and through long days both in the daylight and at night, ankle support is an item that is important to most and I felt comfortable the boot provided ample support for my 56-year-old ankles. Never did I feel the support was lacking.
The boot makeup:
- One-piece vamp construction eliminates seams that can cause discomfort.
- Sympatex waterproof liner keeps moisture out while allowing the boot to breathe.
- Vibram 1212 Masai high-traction outsole for excellent traction and heel bite.
- 2.8-3.0 mm Amphibious waterproof leather–simply the best quality leather available.
- Heavy nylon midsole provides the support needed on uneven terrains
- Heavy-duty rubber rand adds protection and support to the upper
- Non-Insulated designed for mild conditions
After wearing the uninsulated Explorers throughout September, I wondered how they would do in colder weather. The early October forecast was for extremely cold temperatures and snow. I felt an insulated pair of Explorers would be beneficial and ordered a pair. In checking with Jim Hoffman, the insulated Explorers are the exact same boot, with the exception of the sole makeup and the insulating properties.
Insulation And Outsole
The insulation is Windtherm and equivalent to approximately 400 grams of Thinsulate. The sole is composed of three high-tech materials, advertised to provide 20% more grip on snow and ice. The balance of my time hunting through November was in this boot. Over the next 60 days, I logged over 200 miles in Idaho and Montana hunting elk and deer. As with the uninsulated pair, I gave them no break-in period and soon was off hunting elk in zero degree temperatures.
Protection Against Wet Feet
They are highly water-resistant. I found in short stream crossings with gaiters, my feet remained dry. I did notice after extended days in the snow that was melting some moisture on my socks that likely was a combination of sweat and a small amount of leakage through the boot. After a further application of Obenhaufs and continued reapplication, any leakage has been minimal on long snow and rain days. Jim advised you can use Obenhaufs, Nikwax and they also sell Hoffman’s Premium Boot Dressing.
Insulated Boot Observations
My feet tend to run cold and the temperatures for many of the days I hunted ran from zero to thirty degrees in varying amounts of snow. For the majority of the days, I found the boot sufficient while moving in keeping my feet warm. But when sitting and with the wind blowing in the high country there were times my feet did get cold. Much of this I would attribute to the conditions and myself, not the boot. Jim did say they are working on a boot that will provide more insulating properties, having both Windtherm, and 600 grams of Thinsulate in the ten-inch height.
- Sizing: Both pairs of boots ran true to size for my feet wearing a 10 inch for both the insulated and uninsulated. There is ample room in the toe box to prevent the dreaded black and blue toes. I have found no toe-jamming issues on several thousand feet of descents in the boots.
- Durability: It’s been excellent, having worn the insulated boots throughout the winter with no signs of unusual wear and hundreds of miles on them. The laces and provided insoles are wearing very well and are comfortable, they likely will not need replacing before the boot would wear out.
- Traction: Very good. I can’t say the specialized sole on the insulated version made me feel like spiderman on snow and ice, but I did remain upright on most days in varying terrain.
- Comfort: The boots are comfortable right out of the box and I did not find an extended break-in was required.
The combination of the solid ankle support and the stiff sole will allow your feet to remain fresh day after day covering many miles in the mountains. If you’re looking for a boot that will meet the demands of the high country, keeping your feet comfortable and that will last several seasons, check out the full line of Hoffman Boots made in Kellogg Idaho. Order yours here.
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