White’s Dri-Foot Outdoorsman Boots – Long Term Review
by Matt Cashell, Rokslide Prostaff
Backcountry hunters need good boots. Period. They put nearly unreasonable demands on their feet. Twenty or more miles a day and a hundred or more pounds of meat, cape, and antlers tends to pop seams and separate soles in short order. There are boots available to hunters that are tough enough for this kind of use, but those boots tend to grind feet into hamburger after a day in the field.
Personally, I have had a couple of go-to boots for the last decade or so of backcountry hunting. The Salomon Quest 4D light hiker is based on running shoe technology. It is supportive for such a light shoe (1 lb. 8 Oz. per shoe, size 8.5), has excellent traction, and is the most comfortable–by far–backcountry shoe I have used. The downsides? It’s lighter construction and many seams lead to leaking in relatively short order, and the comfy EVA midsole and soft outsole wear out in about a season. (Brock Akers reviewed these, read it here.)
When the snow piles up, I switch to Danner Canadians. This is a stitch-down leather insulated boot with Danner’s excellent air bob outsole. Once broken in, however, they are pretty comfortable with only an occasional hot spot, and the construction allows for rebuilding. Mine have gone several years without rebuilding, and they are starting to look pretty tired.
Nearly twenty years ago, I started fighting forest fires in the summer to pay the college tuition bill in the fall. I got some advice from an experienced fire fighter to pony up the money for some White’s Smokejumper packs. I took the advice, and used them hard for four fire seasons. I continue to use them to this day for working outside and clearing trail in the woods. I have never rebuilt them and only resoled them twice since the initial purchase. A few years ago I added some Hathorn packers from Whites and was similarly impressed with the quality of materials and sturdy craftsmanship.
In perusing the White’s catalog, I found the White’s Dri-foot Outdoorsman boot: a stitch-down constructed, waterproof/breathable lined, all-leather boot. After enlisting the help of my wife in measuring out my feet for a custom build using White’s boot measuring kit, an order was placed. Five weeks later, a beautiful set of Outdoorsmans was delivered.
A variety of leather finishes and soles are available. The Vibram Sierra sole option I chose turned out to be an excellent all-around performer. Firm enough to stand up to the sharp rocks of the Bitterroot Mountains, but soft enough to get a purchase on moderately wet logs and rocks. The brown pebble finish I chose provided a classic mountain boot look and accepted the recommended Obenaufs leather treatments well.
I have nearly 400 miles on the boots at the time of this writing, as tracked with my phone. Many of those miles were acquired through hard scouting after I somehow drew one of the very few bull moose tags given in Montana.
As all-leather boots tend to be, the Outdoorsmans were pretty heavy at a measured 2 lbs. 12 oz. per boot and required a dedicated break-in period. During the first 75 miles, (especially the 20 or so of those miles that were off trail in steep, rocky terrain) I did get a couple of hot spots on my left heel from some minor heel slip. On two occasions, these hot spots generated minor blisters. Since around 120 miles though, the hot spots have been totally eliminated, and the subsequent comfort is the best I have ever had in an all-leather boot.
Durability is outstanding. The fit, finish, and quality of materials on the Whites are a clear step up from the Danners. The only appearance of wear on the boots are minor scrapes and scratches on the exterior leather. These are not concerning to me, but some hunters that opt for these boots and hunt in extremely rocky terrain may want to extend the wear by adding after market rands around the heel and toe.
I have had zero issues with waterproofing. Together, the properly oiled all-leather construction and the “Dri-foot” waterproof/breathable lining add up great water protection. Scouting for moose includes hanging cameras in some pretty swampy areas, and I treated the Outdoorsmans like short waders for these tasks without so much as a single leak.
Ankle support with heavy loads is more than sufficient. The leather uppers can be laced tight to the leg. White’s includes both traditional leather laces as well as nylon laces. The boot maintains firm support with the tall upper, while keeping ankle flexibility. The feel is sturdier than a hiker, but much more forgiving than a mountaineering boot. I love the secure knot tying properties of the leather laces, but the left boot lace snapped near the end of the general hunting season, and I resorted to installing the nylon laces. The Vibram Sierra soles show excellent resistance to wear, especially given the terrain and use they saw.
Regardless of boot, my feet generally get pretty warm during the early season when I am hiking hard. I can’t say that the White’s were any better or worse than other boots in this regard. I can say that in the late season they seemed to keep my feet a little warmer than other non-insulated boots. I didn’t feel the need to switch over to the insulated Danners even in temperatures near zero degrees in deep snow, as long as I was moving frequently during the hunt. The Outdoorsman is available in an insulated version, which would be a good choice for hunters taking long horseback rides or extended glassing in the cold.
The White’s Dri-foot Outdoorsman is a great boot. Custom fitting options make it available to fit just about any foot shape. High quality leathers and top-notch construction inspire confidence in durability. The stitch-down construction offers custom break-in and solid, but forgiving support. The sole options can be chosen for target use. Fully rebuildable construction extends their useful life even longer. The quality of workmanship in the leather cutting and stitching is obvious. While the initial cost is high at around $420, the cost is spread out over the long expected life of the boot.
Backcountry hunters who can deal with a bit of weight penalty, and make it through the break-in period, are rewarded with a workhorse boot that offers the rare combination of comfort and durability. The White’s Dri-foot Outdoorsmans was a key piece of kit in making my once-in-a-lifetime Montana moose hunt a success.
You can discuss this article or ask Matt questions here.