“Are we hiking or are we hunting?” is a refrain I hear all too often at elk camp, usually as I charge up a mountain to warm my frozen toes. But if I sit down, the snacks and crinkly wrappers come out. Then we’re really not hunting. Enter the fully-insulated Beartooth 200g boot from Schnee’s. I’ll finally be able to sit still for a few minutes this fall—and they’re damn good for hiking, too.
Like most hunters in the area, my list of places to explore burgeons faster than I can cross spots off. This summer, I made it a priority to start checking out my areas of interest, most of which were high-alpine basins—the kind frequented by big mule deer bucks. Lacing up my new boots, I figured I could knock out two birds with one stone: find some big ol’ bucks, and break in my Beartooths. After dozens of miles, I accomplished only the latter. The deer proved elusive, but my boots are comfortable as ever.
Now, when I slip on my leathers, it’s like sitting down for a home-cooked pot roast after a cold winter day in the woods. I almost want to let out a sigh of relief. They’re comfortable and familiar, the leather melded perfectly to the shape of my feet. They almost feel like an extension of my body. I’ve tried dozens of different styles over the years, and finding the Goldilocks boot is an eternal challenge. But thanks to the Beartooth, I’ve finally found my new go-to.
What I Like
The thing I appreciate most about the Beartooth is the soft sole (a flex two rating, on Schnee’s four-point scale). There’s been a push amongst major boot brands lately to make lighter weight boots with extremely stiff soles. Essentially, adapting alpine sheep-hunting boots to elk hunting—which results in boots that are fine for steep, rocky terrain, but not ideal for long hikes. For high-mileage situations, softer soles are the key to comfy feet. Think about it: trail-running shoes and everyday hiking boots have a large amount of flex, but are rigid in a few key spots. Those features make them comfortable to hike or run long distances in, and give the shoes better ground contact. The Beartooth feel like a sturdier, insulated version of a summer hiking boot or trail runner, making them ideal for hiking long distances in rain, snow, or shine.
The other thing I’ve noticed is how Schnee’s cleverly avoided a common pinch point that forms on the front of most mid-calf hunting boots. Instead of a single piece of rigid leather along the heel (like most other brands), the Beartooth's have an oval-shaped soft spot stitched into the back. When the boot flexes as I hike, the leather compresses in that spot, eliminating any kind of pinching on the front—pretty clever, Schnee’s!
A Quality Boot
Finally, the overall build quality of these boots jumps out immediately. Not a single stitch is out of place, and the leather is top-quality. I’ve been rocking a pair of uninsulated Beartooths for three seasons now (with heavy use) and haven’t encountered a single issue. And, the longer I wear them, the comfier they get—to the point of dreading taking them off at the end of the day in camp. I know that the 200g version is going to perform similarly this fall, even on the coldest of days in the Montana high country or on the prairie.