What Makes a Good Ice Fishing Boot
The chief purpose of your winter footwear is to keep your feet warm and dry while allowing for long-term driving, walking, and standing. That being said, your main bet with boots goes with the quality of materials that should have the following characteristics:
- waterproofness of both the bottom part and uppers to save your feet dry and prevent material degradation;
- reliable synthetic (e.g. Thinsulate) or natural (e.g. wool) insulation to ensure good heat retention;
- toughness and durability of the outsoles to provide long-term slip-resistance;
- shock-absorbent design of the insole or footpad to keep you comfortable during long hikes.
As a rule, warmer boots tend to be pretty bulky. While keeping your feet toasty at -30 °F, they may be not as all-purpose as a lighter pair; for instance, large boots could limit your ability to drive. Living in negative temps can go to a point where you’ll need to own an extra pair of shoes just to drive a car.
However, if yours is not an extremely cold environment, you might want to consider buying a less bulky option to be able to drive without changing.
Boot materials are key as long as they determine the comfort, wearability, and longevity of your footwear. Nylon is excellent for lightness and higher breathability, but it doesn’t stop water from getting in, not all on its own. At the same time, leather can be waterproof to the max, but its breathability is moot. That is why the best winter boots feature either a blend of materials, such as split-grain leather combined with nylon, or advanced materials, like Gore-Tex in Danner boots, to be both breathable and waterproof.
Rubber is, undoubtedly, the most reliable material for soles and the one offering the greatest traction. However, due to heaviness as its main disadvantage, many manufacturers seek after alternative sole materials, such as polymers or modified/synthetic rubber. A good example of this is Kamik’s rubber (He) created specifically with lightness in mind (50% less heavy than natural rubber). Depending on whether an angler puts the emphasis on sturdiness and durability or a higher speed of movement, he/she should choose the combination of materials accordingly.
Wetness in your shoes begins with snow, bits of ice and drops of cold water entering through the material and/or from over the top. This explains why rubber and hybrid rubber (He) are superior to leather in the winter boot manufacture – rubber remains both leak-resistant and impenetrable for cold air, where leather would soak slowly through unlacquered patches in below-zero temps. This goes for the boots’ sole and instep, while the waterproofness of the shaft mainly comes with polymer materials, also allowing your foot to breathe and not accumulate wetness in the form of perspiration.
Some anglers, however, may have a somewhat lower level of requirements to water resistance. If you are planning to be standing and walking on unstable and slippery ice, rather than trailing through ankle-deep slush, your focus, then, should be on a waterproof and gripping outsole. Check your purchase by putting it to test in water/slush reaching over the foot portion of the shoe. Completely sealed boots are great for sleety weathers, whereas a good grip is more important in dry frost.
The thickness of insulation is what makes your shoes bulky; still, buying larger boots is worth it where the temperatures get real low. The trick is, you can wear good quality socks even with well-insulated fishing boots, thus maximizing the heat retaining capabilities of your footwear. In not-so-freezing weather, though, an over-insulated pair of boots could be too hot to wear. Normally, you can judge the amount of insulation by grams, where 400 g will make for a cooler pair and 2,000 g is quite hot. Moderate options, such as 800 g and 1,000 g are the most popular due to their higher versatility.
You also should understand that insulation isn’t the only thing that renders the boots warm. A concept of ‘action warmness’ is your another guarantee of a comfortable wear as it may completely balance out the thinner insulation yet preserve the lightness of your shoes. In some winter footwear, you will notice a plastic honeycomb separator immediately underneath the liner, which creates a heat-insulating layer of air at the bottom of your boot. For people doing a lot of walking, this technology may be more preferable to thicker and heavier boots.
Boot weight and height
Experienced anglers know that mobility outweighs warmness when things get active. You wouldn’t want to be clumsy if you need to walk around regularly in deep snow/slush or have a lot of heavy pulling/lifting on the agenda. In the footwear industry, lightness is born with hybrid materials, like fabric/rubber in MuckBoots or a polymer construction of the Baffin. Modern polymers and modified rubber bring in a good lot in terms of cold protection and grip. As the result, composite boot designs are both lightweight and durable, with thermosetting parameters completing the bargain.
However, you might as well opt for classic 100% waterproof rubber if you don’t mind working out with heavier shoes.
In what concerns the height and ankle fit, the general practice tells us that you can’t go wrong with the higher boot. Taller boots protect your heel and ankles more effectively. It greatly reduces the risk of strain on rocky terrains and also provides you with improved warmness. Some winter styles go up and over your calf to enhance the comfort. However, beware of too-high boots if you’re walking around a lot because they might tire you more.
Earlier we mentioned breathability, as an important parameter to protect your feet from getting sweaty due to all the activity. Although many brands may not mention this directly in their product descriptions, a moisture-absorbing inner liner is a great thing to check for.
Another useful extra feature is the compatibility with heating inserts. This type of boot heaters uses charge to keep your feet toasty for up to 8 hours. In addition, the inserts could also improve the overall waterproofness.
Many winter boots are enabled with cleats to get you firm footing on slippery surfaces. Whether you need them built-in or prefer slipping them on/off when needed really depends on your lifestyle. Certain anglers prefer removable cleats to avoid tracking in their car while driving. On the other hand, integrated cleats provide you with a surefire anti-slip feature since they are impossible to walk out and save you the trouble of trying to wear them on in bulky winter clothes.
A heel kick is necessary for some boots that tend to sit on your leg maybe too well. Always make sure that your newly bought boots are equally easy to put on and off. Laces or straps in the uppers will come in handy for taking the shoes off; still, they often are missing in winter footwear that’s why you should look for a heel kick whenever possible.
Tips for keeping your feet dry&warm
Actually, you can improve your fishing experience with any boots by following the tips below:
- Don’t put your fishing boots on before you make it to the lake. Give your feet some freedom and wear the boots only when on the ice.
- For long-distance hikes, you’ll benefit remarkably from setting out in a lighter pair and later switching it when you start feeling colder. Have a change of dry socks too, especially if you are prone to sweating.
- A combination of wool socks under a pair of thin wicking socks is very efficient.
- Always leave a channel for the trapped moisture to escape. For this, try not to lace/strap your boots too tightly at the top. Provided your shoes have a wicking, breathable insulation, your legs will be able to dry up as you walk.
Do I Really Need Special Ice Fishing Boots? Why?
The main point of these boots is that they are both waterproof and sleep-resistant at the same time. Mostly they have additional insulation, which allows you to stay out on the water for a long time — in case you’re not satisfied with the catch.
Do I Need Special Material?
There are some variants. You can choose fabric, leather, neoprene, and nylon. It depends on your comfort and your own esthetic. We instead recommend leather (for example, Baffin Men’s Snow Monster) if you get sweaty fast. Neoprene is more flexible (check Muck Boots Arctic), the fabric is fine, but it’s less waterproof (still, Kamik Men’s Canuck is partly waterproof). Anyway, you are free to choose!
Which Insulation Level Is Better?
All models from our list have extensive insulation. And we like models, which have regulation near the shin — the possibility that snow will get inside will be less. Kamik Men’s Canuck is a great example. Plus, it’s useful, if the boots have heels, this will help to keep you warm.
Which Socks Do I Need?
You don’t need anything special. The only thing we’d recommend is not choosing socks that are too thick— ice fishing boots are hot enough. We’d recommend only taking cotton socks.
Should I Take Crampons with Me?
You can’t be too careful, and you can take them. Unless there’s a chance, you won’t need them. Despite the fact that the boots’ heels are mostly from rubber, they are quite strong. Baffin Men’s Snow Monster may have a poor design, but they are impeccable in their anti-sleep effect.
Do I Need Additional Snowshoes?
The answer is like with crampons. You can take them, but you should be prepared for them to be useless.
We hope that you get it right. Not only high-quality polymers and leather ensure you durability and waterproofness, but also the design of your boots itself. A well-thought-out boot construction will include a multilayer insulation, a removable liner and, at the same time, will remain lightweight to not get your feet sweaty during long hikes. Extra goodies in the premium models will be an EVA cushioned midsole, special snow traction, and a rubberized or rugged exterior. Take your time considering the suitable model and stay reliably warm on your outings!