Irish Setter Rutmaster (800 gram Thinsulate) ($170)
I would guess most bowhunters wouldn’t tab Irish Setter a “top-tier” player in the rubber boot category but the impressive new 17-inch Rutmaster line proves otherwise. The company is calling these the “best fitting easiest on/off rubber boots” and it makes a strong case. A big reason why is the neat ExoFlex panel that allows the back of the boot to flex (expand) as your heel slides down in, then contracts to hug the back of your ankle/calf. This cool system works as promised, and I’d put the Rutmaster just a tiny notch below the 4X Burly in its ability to form to your foot/ankle/calf. Still-hunters and those who traverse uneven terrain will appreciate the very aggressive outsole that makes this one of the best hikers among the rubber boots tested. (888) 738-8370;
www.irishsetterboots.com — Mark Melotik
Under Armour H.A.W. 800 Grain ($170)
Under Armour’s 16-inch-high H.A.W. (Hurry-Up And Wait) is a slip-on, waterproof boot with plastic lowers and neoprene rubber. Insulated with 800 grains of water-resistant and breathable Primaloft insulation, it features what Under Armour calls a “technical air mesh lining” to increase interior airflow and wick sweat. An internal memory foam heel pad helps minimize foot movement within the boot.
The design of these boots is reminiscent of Muck boots, a design that I immediately preferred over the standard rubber slip-on boots when I first tried them a dozen years ago. A disadvantage of the boot’s construction is that the lightweight neoprene upper is comparatively fragile, and it doesn’t take much to rip or poke a hole in them. The upside is that I have a found them very easy to fix with a dab of silicone. The tough fabric lining on these boots will no doubt make them more durable. Another couple of features I like are a heavy-duty pull-on strap and the aggressive, high-abrasion rubber sole that, Under Armour says, is engineered to grip but drops mud and debris. Other features include a durable, high-abrasion rubber textured toe rand, EVA midsole for lightweight cushioning and shock absorption, and the molded Ortholite footbed with a memory foam top and a “high-rebound” foam bottom.
The boots I tried in size 10 came in at 5 pounds, 3 ounces per pair, which is a bit on the heavy side. Yet, I found them easy to wear and comfortable. However, even though they were about a perfect fit, my heel did rise some when I walked. (888) 727-6687;
www.underarmour.com — Mike Strandlund
Boot Field Test
We performed two objective experiments as part of our Field Test of hunting boots. One was our Freezer Test, in which we placed a thermometer and plastic “plug” into each boot, then placed each boot individually into a freezer for 30 minutes and recorded the interior temperature. All boots and tools were at room temperature at the beginning of each experiment. Those boots with the highest temperature after 30 minutes can be considered those that will keep your feet warmest.
The Waterproof Test consisted of placing each boot on our feet, then submerging and flexing it in 6 inches of water for five minutes, then checking for leaks.