For the casual outdoor enthusiast, there probably isn’t a real distinction between hunting vs. hiking boots. They’re both heavy-duty footwear that’s built for rough terrain.
But any hiker knows that there’s no way you’ll be getting very far wearing hunting boots, especially if you’re on a long weekend trip in the Rocky Mountains.
In this article, we’ll break down how hunting boots and hiking boots are different, and how in many ways they’re similar.
Hunting vs Hiking Boots: Primary Differences
Looking at hunting vs. hiking boots, there are a few immediate things that stick out. First and foremost is weight, followed up by the insulation and material of the boots.
When thinking about how the two kinds of footwear compared, we broke our analysis down by purpose. What’s the real purpose of a hiking boot?
Hiking, obviously, but the real purposes are to:
- Support your ankles, knees, and back
- Protect your feet from briars, snakes, water, mud, etc
- Hold for a long time under rough conditions
While hunting boots do most of the same things, they have a few additional purposes that really set them apart from tactical or hiking boots:
- Keep your feet warm for prolonged periods of time
- Remain low profile, AKA, camouflage
The biggest difference when it comes to hiking boots vs hunting boots is weight.
Hiking boots are meant to be worn for extended periods of activity, so they are often much lighter than hunting boots. If you think about hiking on a long strip of rocky trail, you’d much rather have light boots, because heavy hunting boots are going to wear you out quicker.
Hiking in hunting boots is kind of like running with ankle weights. It’s great training, but not practical.
Hunting boots are much heavier than hiking boots because they usually have a thicker sole and the added insulation increases the weight. Not to mention that most hunting boots have an above ankle construction, which also adds to the overall weight.
After doing some research, I found that one of the most popular hiking boots on the market is the Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX Boots, which clocks in at around 2 lbs.
Conversely, the Guide Gear Men’s Monolithic Hunting Boots are about 6 lbs, namely because of the Thinsulate, 8mm frost barrier, and mid-calf construction.
When thinking about insulation, there are a few things to understand. The way insulated boots are described is in grams. How many grams of insulation is there spread out throughout the boot?
Hunting boots come in all denominations of insulation. At one end of the spectrum, you have 200-gram insulated hunting boots, which are ideal for cool, early autumn days. On the flip side, boots with 2000+ grams of insulation are best for super cold climates and are capable of keeping your feet warm in negative degree weather.
Hiking boots, on the other hand, are normally on the lower end of the insulation spectrum. Just think about when you use your hiking boots. Spring? Summer? Fall? Rarely will you opt to take your hiking boots out in the snow, which is why the insulation count is much lower.
There are, however, winter hiking boots that have higher grades of insulation. The breathability of winter hiking boots makes them great for long snowy walks. When your feet sweat, it’s important the moisture evaporates. Otherwise, your feet will stay wet, and possibly become colder, since water gets colder faster than your feet will.
Aside from weight, the material is probably the first thing people will notice when assessing hunting vs hiking boots.
Because the goal of a hiking boot is to be light but durable, they’re often made with a combination of synthetic materials.
Nylon, split-grain leather, and suede are popular materials for hiking boots. Gore-tex is also a prime component of hiking boots.
Gore-tex was actually invented by accident back in the 1960s and has since become a go-to for clothing because it’s waterproof and breathable. Traditional hiking shoes or rain jackets had two layers to make them waterproof: the outer layer was nylon, while the inner layer was constructed of polyurethane. This design succeeded in making the clothing waterproof, but the polyurethane layer restricted airflow, which often led to accumulated water vapor within the shoes.
But Gore-tex provides a waterproof covering that still allows for water vapor to escape from inside the shoes. Most hiking boots today have some kind of Gore-tex or equivalent material to make them breathable.
Hunting boots, on the other hand, are often made with full-grain leather, which adds to the weight. Wetland boots are almost made entirely of rubber, making them unquestionably waterproof, but without the added breathability of Gore-Tex.
Hiking Boots vs Hunting Boots: Similarities
Now, boots are boots, whether they’re meant for hiking or hunting. There are a few fundamental similarities between the two footwear types, and they come as no-brainers but are worth mentioning.
If you’re looking for the best-in-class hiking or hunting boot, you’re going to pay for it. On average, a good pair of hiking boots from Merrell or Timberland will run you about $100.
Hunting boots are only a bit more expensive, depending on the level of insulation that you need. Typically, you’ll spend between $100 and $150 on hunting boots.
Because both hiking and hunting boots are meant to be used in rugged terrain, they have equally as good treads.
Regardless, it’s important to choose the right tread for the right terrain. Hiking boots with thick lucks are great for muddy footpaths but fall short on smooth or slick rocky surfaces. For mountain climbers, boots with smaller, finer treads work best.
Hunting boots adhere to the same principle. Heavy-duty winter hunting boots usually have thicker soles with unique treads to reduce the amount of snow clinging to them.
Types of Hunting Boots
Field Boots– These boots are meant to be worn for short periods of time, supporting the wearer only during the most strenuous activities. By nature, field boots aren’t usually waterproof, but they are lightweight and comfortable, making them perfect for hunting deer or turkey in warm weather when you don’t need to spend long hours on your feet.
Rubber Boots – Rubber boots are ideal for rainy weather, allowing you to move quietly through wet foliage without spooking deer. They’re also great for creeks and swamps because they’ll keep your feet dry even if the water is above your ankle. We don’t suggest wading into a stream, but they’re more than capable of repelling mud, water, and blood. Rubber boots aren’t designed to be worn for extended periods of time, as the simple rubber construction isn’t great for support or comfort.
Winter Boots – When people think of hunting boots, they’re really thinking of winter hunting boots. These bad boys are waterproof, insulated, and durable. Ideal for cold weather hunts, winter boots are usually worn with insulated hunting socks. Like rubber boots, they’re designed to be worn for short periods of time.
Snake Boots – Snake boots are a little different than conventional hunting boots. Built with the intention of keeping your toes protected from snake bites, they often have reinforced tips, as well as a higher, tighter collar. These boots are best for summer-autumn hunting because they’re a bit lighter than other hunting boots, and are well equipped for trudging through dense undergrowth.
Are Tactical Boots Good For Hiking?
Tactical boots, what’s up with them?
A lot of people nowadays are turning to tactical boots as their all-in-one go-to shoe. They’re light, durable, and great for working, hunting, and sometimes, even hiking.
One feature of tactical boots that makes them particularly good for hiking is their slightly extended heel sole. You’ll notice that on a high-quality pair of tactical boots, the heel is a bit chunkier, and that’s to help slow you down in the event you trip or slid backwards.
Designed to be used in all kinds of terrain, tactical boots provide good support and great grip on rocky and uneven terrain.
Plus, almost all tactical boots are made with EVA or polyurethane, which make them waterproof and protects the wearer from sharp objects.
But what’s it like wearing tactical boots on a long hike? Well, most tactical boots take the hunting boot design, so they have a high collar, which might make navigating extreme vertical inclines a bit of a stretch. They are also heavier than hiking boots, but overall, they’ll last longer and keep your feet safe.
A good pair of tactical boots will run you anywhere from $100 to $150, but a lot of the time you’re paying for the brand. Compared to hiking boots, which range about $70-$100 on average, you’re putting in a bit more money, but you’re getting some added benefits for tactical boots.
Hunting vs Hiking Boots FAQS
Should I buy hiking sneakers?
Hiking sneakers usually have many of the same features as hiking boots, minus that high-top design. Some people like low-cut hiking shoes because they improve mobility a little bit and are lighter. In our opinion, that extra mobility doesn’t weigh up against the added ankle protection and support from high-top hiking boots.
Are there any all-in-one hunting boots out there?
Sure! Bolderton Ridge make great leather hunting boots in a range of insulation levels, as does Guide Gear. It’s worth noting that at the very least, you should have two pairs of hunting boots—a normal pair, and a rubber pair. Even the most waterproof leather boots won’t hold up if you’re wading through puddles all day.
Can I wear hiking boots as hunting boots?
You certainly can, but just pay attention to the temperature and the terrain. If you’re going to be walking through fields in late summer or early autumn, hiking boots will probably serve you well. But, if it’s the dead of winter with half a foot of snow on the ground, you’ll need winter hunting boots. The better insulation and all-around waterproof construction make them the best choice.
Plus, hunting boots are often designed to be discreet, with camouflage patterns and muted colors. Not all hiking boots adhere to the same principle, and some even have reflective patches or bright streaks of color.