Home » Tree Planting Gear: What Boots Should I Buy?

Tree Planting Gear: What Boots Should I Buy?

Tree planting gear is a peculiar thing that seems to transcend time and space.Tree planters speak in days and weeks instead of months and years. I mean this to say, tree planting gear that lasts 3 weeks in the bush will probably last you 10 years in the real world. I have a rain jacket that has lasted 3 seasons without a hole and I now pray to it nightly. My tent has gone through 3 seasons and it only now starting to show it’s age. If a baselayer lasts me 3 months, that brand has my ultimate loyalty. And then there are boots. Boots are the first thing to go in the bush. Tree planters walk an average of 16km a day over rough terrain. They spend their days in the rain, trudging through rivers and standing in knee high mud. Finding a pair of boots which can withstand such abuse, be waterproof and be comfortable, well that is a rare thing.

Boots are often the biggest unknown for new and experienced planters. Everyone has a preference and every pair will have their benefits and downsides. Here is the TreePlantingBlog guide to buying boots:

1. Hikers:

By far the most popular option for Silviculture workers, hikers are lightweight, comfortable and relatively cheap. Your options are also limitless although as with most things in life, I would probably stay away from ultra-cheap brands and stores like Walmart. Most camping stores will have sales and it is worth shopping around. It is advisable to buy a waterproof pair. No one wants wet feet at the end of the day. And importantly, hikers offer great ankle support, something missing from the rest of this list.

Synthetic:

tree planting bootsSynthetic hikers have a few advantages over their leather counterparts. They are light and they dry fast. Light boots make it easier to navigate rough terrain and your legs get less tired by the end of the day. Importantly, synthetic boots absorb a lot less water than leather and dry a lot faster. If your boots are soaked straight through, you can stuff them with newspaper and by the next day, the water will magically be gone. The downside, they tear easily and seem to wear down a lot quicker. There aren’t effective synthetic care solutions the same as there are for leather products. If you are a vegan or just prefer synthetics, just make sure to wash your boots at the end of the day and you’ll be fine! The don’t last as long as leather, but they do break in a lot faster!

  • Comfort: 7.5/10 – decreases over time
  • Waterproofness: 8/10 – until you get a hole and then they aren’t very repairable
  • Durability: 6/10 – not easily mended

Leather:

LOWA boots tree planting

 

It’s no secret that leather products tend to withstand more abuse. I do not buy leather products but I would be remiss to not mention their benefits. If you take care of leather boots, rub in waterproofer and make sure they stay clean, chances are you’ll have your boots for a few seasons. They tend to be a bit more expensive than synthetics, but it is worth the cost when weighed on a scale of longevity. The downside to leather? Once they are soaked through, they take a long to time to properly dry out. And when they do dry out, you must be careful that they do not shrink. Furthermore, leather gets stiff and can be hard to break in.

  • Comfort: 9/10 – once they are broken in
  • Waterproofness: 9/10 – holes can be mended
  • Durability: 8/10 – leather boots can be mended easily and cheaply

2. Caulks:

caulk boots
Image taken from Replant.ca

Caulks(pronounced: corks) are the king of forestry boots. They are heavy, they don’t breath and unless you want to get trench foot, you’ll need special absorbing socks to wear them. But they are tough, they are waterproof and they let you dominate the ground under you. You may not be able to tell in the picture above, but the soles of caulks are lined with metal spikes. If you are going to be working a contract with a lot of screefing(kicking debris away), these boots make an easy job of it. Raining and need to walk over wet logs? Not a problem. And this especially is the advantage of caulks over hikers. There is no worse feeling than having your feet go under you when walking on a log. I personally have had bad luck with caulks and I have never had a pair last longer than a season. Usually a month into work, the metal spikes have created holes and water seeps in. However others have had caulks last 2 or 3 seasons. Luck of the draw. Caulks run anywhere from 150-250$. Edit: Hoffman Boots makes a leather caulk boot which I’ve heard is pretty solid.

  • Comfort: 6.5/10
  • Waterproofness: 10/10 – until you get a hole but they are patchable
  • Durability: 6.5/10

3. Blundstones

tree planting boots

2 years ago, everyone in my planting camp bought these boots. I thought they were crazy. However 2 seasons in and everyone I know still has them! Clean them up, and you can even wear them in the city afterwards. Because they are so low cut, you’ll need to pair them with gaiters, but for 150$ you really can’t go wrong. The downside to these boots are the same as every non-caulk pair, that is how much they’ll slip in wet conditions. *Thanks Andrew for the suggestion.

  • Comfort: 7/10
  • Waterproofness: 7/10 – they need to be treated often and worn with gaiters
  • Durability: 9/10

4. Gum Boots:

bogs boots tree planting

Do not buy regular rain/gum boots from Canadian Tire or Walmart. These offer no ankle support, will rip apart in days and will hurt your feet. However this season I’ve decided to try something new. A few companies offer boots similar to caulks but without the metal spikes. I bought a pair of Bogs Classic Ultra mids which are waterproof, have a reinforced sole and appear to be much more durable than the caulks I am used to. How they’ll fare with wet logs and rough terrain is another question, but I have high hopes. Good gum boots will run you 100-200$

  • Comfort: unknown
  • Waterproofness: 10/10 – until you get a hole but they are patchable
  • Durability: unknown

So what boots should I buy? As you can tell, boots are a crap shoot. What tree planting gear lasts someone 3 seasons may only last you 3 weeks. This job demands so much from gear and variables are uncontrollable. My best advice, if you can afford it, is to always have 2 of something. Buy a pair of gum boots or caulks and have a pair of hikers on reserve, or alternate depending on weather. And remember, no matter how waterproof your boots are, no matter how much money you’ve spent, nothing will keep your feet dry and comfortable in ALL situations:

IMG_3809(smalle)

2 comments

  1. kelly says:

    when ever possible i wear runners. but if i had a choice i wouldn’t wear shoes ever. anything you wear is going to fall apart. sorrel has a pretty fantastic warranty. as doe marks work wear house. i always worry about torching my knees in caulks. or falling and ripping my other leg open. its annoying when they fill up with wet leaves and you have heavy boots plus two lbs of wet leaf build up on each foot. they are handy for surfing snags down mountains.

    oh and those hooks and eye thingys. i have a problem with my feet catching on them and face planting. its hard to find hikers with out them.

    happy planting.

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