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Tree Planting Gear: What Boots Should I Buy?

Last modified on 2015-04-04 20:41:47 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

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.


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


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:


Tree Planting Supplies

Last modified on 2015-04-15 19:33:44 GMT. 8 comments. Top.

tree planting gear

With the 2015 season coming up, here is a quick reminder of what tree planting supplies you will need! It is end of March and most veteran tree planters are solidifying their summer plans and making quick check lists of needed supplies. If this is going to be your first year, you surely must be losing your mind trying to figure out what to bring. Many of you are poor students like myself, many of you have never really camped or spent considerable time outdoors. So in order to avoid the many mistakes I made my first year tree planting, I present to you a quick list of tree planting supplies in great detail:

60/70 Litre travel pack. Even if you are to pack minimally, you will come back with more than what you left with. The Value Village in Prince George is your best friend. You will not be moving your gear around very much so a big pack is not very cumbersome. Pack considering what you will wear on a 5 day shift(chances are you won’t change your pants or shirts very often), days off, cold weather, warm weather, when you sleep, etc.
Duffle bag. This will carry your sleeping bag, tent, boots, shovel, planting bags, etc. MEC, REI or Outbound make durable and inexpensive duffle bags. Don’t buy one from a mall luggage store.

Shoes. Sneakers for time spent in the city.
Rubber boots. Those cheap boots you can buy at Canadian Tire are great. Anything light and waterproof. You’ll want to wear something other than your planting boots around camp or to and from work and if it’s raining, shoes won’t cut it.
Caulks. Pronounced “cork” these are large orange rubber boots with steel spikes lining the bottom. They are heavy and relatively expensive at 120-150$ but the freedom to run over wet logs and not slip is worth the weight and cost. Not everyone likes these boots but they are hassle free.
Hikers. If corks are not to your taste, get a solid pair of hikers. They should be waterproof(Gore-tex, eVent, etc). Don’t go cheap; stick with brands like Lowa, Mammut, Scarpa, Vasque. If you buy hikers, you must buy waterproof gaiters. They will help keep your feet dry and prevents dirt and sticks from getting into your boots.

Click here for a comprehensive list of footwear options

Tents. You are going to live in your tent for months at a time so don’t go cheap and don’t go small. A 3 person tent is ideal as you’ll be housing yourself and your gear. Some people buy “mansions” but they are hard to put together, take up a lot of room when moving and do not stand up as well to wind. DO NOT buy a tent from Walmart/Canadian Tire. You will regret it. Tent design from mid-range manufacturers are essentially the same so most brands you can find at an outdoor retailer will be great. Go to a store on a quiet day and ask the salesperson if you can set up a tent or two with their help. Make sure it is easy to set up, has a low profile and a decent vestibule. If you cannot afford a footprint, buy a blue tarp from the Dollar store to put under your tent(not forgetting to tuck any visible parts under your tent). I’d also advise buying a tarp to put over your tent as it will prevent sun damage and give you extra rain protection.
Sleeping bags. After tents, the most important gear you’ll own. Again, don’t go cheap and don’t go for anything less than -7C(19F). MEC and REI both sell really decent sleeping bags that are relatively inexpensive. Down or Synthetic? Down is a great form of insulation, is very light and very compact. The downside is that if your bag gets wet, you’ll get cold and it will take a long time to dry. Synthetics are warm, bulkier and not as light. However the differences between the two in terms of warmth and compactibility are becoming negligible. If wet, synthetics will keep you warm and dry fast. IMO, go with a nice synthetic or a hybrid. I’d recommend buying a liner. It will keep you from having to clean your sleeping bag and it will add much needed warmth. My -7C bag alone leaves me shivering most nights but with a Sea To Summit liner, I’m toasty warm(ish).
Mats. People have a hard time justifying spending money for a good mat. My first two years I slept on dollar store yoga mats and I cannot stress how terrible that is. MEC and REI sell reasonably priced mats although the price of Thermarests seem to be dropping as of late. Go with a 3 or 4 season mat with a R value of 2.5 or higher. The R Value is the measure of insulation and the higher the number, the better the insulation against the cold. You crush the insulation of your sleeping bag when you sleep so a bad mat will let heat escape and cold get in.
Pillow. Bring a pillow case, stuff it full of your clothes and bam! you’ve got a pillow.

Baselayers. I’ll layer this section the same way you should layer your clothing. Let me begin with a warning: do not ever, ever let cotton touch your skin. Cotton clothing retains moisture, gets cold when wet and offers no protection from the elements. In heat it isn’t the end of the world, but even on a summer day rainfall and cotton are a terrible duo. Baselayers are the foundation of your clothing system and when it gets warm, can be worn by themselves. If money is no issue, buy baselayers made from merino wool. Otherwise, synthetics offer a great alternative. The downside to synthetics is that once bacteria has a chance to bond to the plastic fibers(and they will eventually) the smell becomes unbearable and requires constant washing. Merino wool can be worn many, many times before needing to be washed. What I typically do is use merino for my upper body and synthetics for my bottoms.
Fleece/mid-layer. A heavy fleece is very necessary. Even if it is too hot to plant in, you’ll appreciate it on chilly mornings and for your cashbreaks and any walking you have to do. I would buy either a light fleece or a light-breathable softshell jacket to actually plant in when it is warm enough to not have to wear a shell.
Waterproof shell. You absolutely need a waterproof jacket. I lost my jacket near the beginning of my 2nd season and the cold and pain experienced is indescribable. If money is no issue, buy a jacket made with Gore-Tex Pro shell. Their Paclite line will probably not withstand the rigor of the job. Any 4 season membrane will do the trick. If money is an issue, just stick with non-membrane jackets from well known brands. There are a few that sell decent jackets for around 130$. There are days where it will rain heavily for 8+ hours. You need a good rain jacket. Rain pants can be useful but they can also be cumbersome and will easily rip. I have a pair on hand for those days of 8+ hours of rain. Membrane or not, please wash your jacket properly and often.
Gloves. This is hard. There is no happy medium with gloves. Your hands will get cold and it is always a terrible experience. I typically carry 4 pairs with me at all times; curved neoprene gloves, liners, light fleece gloves and the garden gloves most people use for planting. The neoprene gloves are great for your shovel hand as they stay warm when wet. The liners I wear under the garden gloves as they help keep my hands warm and the fleece gloves are my apres-planting gloves.

The Little Things:
Bug spray. Watkins is probably the best; spray or lotion. Get something with a high DEET count and bring two. If you are afraid of the chemicals for whatever reason, I wish you luck. Those “natural” or citronella bug sprays are beyond awful.
Utensils. Buy utensils that are unique or make them unique. People always steal utensils in camps but having unique ones can help you find them again. You can buy plates and bowls at the dollar store…or buy a frisbee! Frisbees make great plates due to their size and shape and alternatively, they make great frisbees!
Headlamp. Flashlights are for suckers. Petzl and Black Diamond make great headlamps and they are very, very practical. Buy one that allows you to adjust the brightness.
Day pack. You need a daypack for your lunch, jacket, etc. Get something large and waterproof if possible. If you don’t have a waterproof bag, buy a waterproof cover! Trust me on this one.
Music player. Bring your iPod and you’ll never feel alone. Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t listen to music, pack it full of podcasts and books and it’ll make the day go by faster.
First aid. A little first aid kit in your day pack is always a good idea. Something that includes an emergency blanket and matches. It is very, very rare for anything to happen that would require using these things, but i’ve heard stories…
Sewing kit: It sucks to buy that 100$ merino baselayer only to have it snag on a branch.
Thermos. I love my Primus flask. Having a hot coffee at mid-day is a great luxury.
Books. Don’t anticipate having access to a library or bookstore(Books & Co. in Prince George is a must by the way). Bring something small and easy to read. Don’t expect to have the ability to understand Quantum Mechanics or thermodynamics at the end of a 10 hour day.
Knife. Everyone should own a small knife. There are many uses for it in the bush.
Duct Tape. Bring two rolls or one big one. It is incredibly useful for reasons I will not mention but you’ll find out quickly(thanks Andrew!). Protip: wrap you duct tape around a #2 pencil in order to save space.
Watch. You do not want to be the last person in the truck at the end of the day, nor the last person in the truck at the beginning.
Sunscreen. Take it from someone whose shoulder once looked like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb blast, wear sunscreen and apply it often! Even on cold days, the sun’s rays will get you.
Battery Pack. I never thought to buy this before, but a rechargeable battery pack could be a lifesaver. Depending on where you are camping, you may not have a reliable source of power for days, or you may have to fight over the one powerbar for your entire camp. A battery pack which can re-charge your ipod and cell phone a few times over would make life a lot easier(look for something over 10000mAh).

Remember that there is a fine line you must walk between owning nice things and bringing nice things out to the bush. Nice things get ruined easily tree planting so buy products that carry good warranties.

Tree planting gear

Tree Planting Nutrition Guide

Last modified on 2014-04-28 15:27:58 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

tree planting nutrition

There are a thousand different ways you can pack your lunch on the block. It seems almost stupid to even write about it. What you eat though has a huge impact on everything you do. It’s something super simple, but can make a huge difference over your whole season.

Eating right will give you the energy to keep planting fast. It will speed your body’s recovery, keeping you feeling fresher longer into the season. And it will power your immune system, so you’ll be laughing when that inevitable camp cough comes around.

Delia Roberts at Selkirk University has put together a comprehensive set of material to help you eat right while planting.

Now, unless you’re on a motel show, most of your diet is in the hands of your cook. Hopefully they’ve already taken a look at this stuff. Where you can make a lot gains, though, is on the block, with strategic snacks to power you through the day.

On the Block

What Roberts recommends varies on the time of your bag outs, another reason why a watch is so key on the block. If you’re bagging out in under an hour, a quick snack at each bag up will serve you right. Here’s what she recommends

  •      a few small slices of fresh fruit
  •      a couple bites of sandwich, good mix of carbs and protein
  •      some sugary snacks, quick and dirty energy boost.

The trick here is to go for easily digestible. You want that energy out and into your system as soon as possible.

You obviously need to be drinking a ton of water here too. She recommends a half litre for every hour of work. More on hot days or in high elevation

If you’re bagging out longer, and god help you if you are, you’ll need more protein and fibre to keep you going. Time for a half sandwich and a whole apple, some kind of sweet treat.

Excuse me while I butcher some science:

The point of all this constant grazing is to restore your levels of CHO or glycogen. Glycogen is essentially the store of energy in your muscles. Endurance athletes, like tree planters, often experience glycogen depletion, where their stores of energy run out. Severe exhaustion sets in. The body begins scouring itself for more glycogen. When there isn’t any, it starts converting fat to energy, an extremely inefficient process. This is why planters look so gaunt by the end of the season.

After Work Recovery

There’s often little chance for recovery while tree planting. Late nights by the fire drinking or smoking, the partying. It doesn’t give your body much of a chance to put itself back together. One thing Roberts suggests to boost recovery is to eat right after finishing planting. Pack a spare sandwich and some fruit for the bus ride home.

After finishing planting you body is screaming to repair itself. Enzymes in your muscles and liver essential to recovery are more effective in the hours after exercise stops. It’s then crucial to fuel those systems to accelerate the repairing process.

If there’s any more than an hour between the end of planting and when dinner’s served, Roberts recommends this second lunch. For me though, that’s a hard call to make, even if it’s a short drive dinner could be delayed. I would err on the side of caution and load up on the bus anyway.

I have to eat at every bag up?

It’s obviously a huge, maybe even foolish, commitment to eat at every bag up. This isn’t something which will net you gains right away, but rather over the long haul of the season.  And, like, everything in planting, there are definitely ways to make this more efficient. A few minutes of prep in the morning slicing up fruit, maybe a compartmentalized lunch container, even just knowing this is going to help you will encourage a quicker cache break.

You should take a look at Roberts’ Power Planting Nutrition Guide for yourself. There’s a lot of good stuff in there which can really help your season.

main-thumb-9513342-200-7BAZ86KEMj80dw81M08z7kQuC9YTJgLRColin Rabyniuk is a writer and journalist from Hamilton, Ont. This is his fourth summer tree planting in northern Ontario, his third with A&M Reforestation. His writing has appeared on Geekword, Aesthetic Magazine, and the Oakville News. shutupandplant.ca

tree planting gear

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