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Good Boots for Hiking and Travel

I am highly selective and proud about the gear that I use to travel. My boots, rucksack, bags, and clothing are never chosen by happenstance. Rather, I prim and ponder over all of my travel gear in an effort to outfit myself with the best possibly equipment and supplies for traveling, and what pair of [...]

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I am highly selective and proud about the gear that I use to travel. My boots, rucksack, bags, and clothing are never chosen by happenstance. Rather, I prim and ponder over all of my travel gear in an effort to outfit myself with the best possibly equipment and supplies for traveling, and what pair of hiking boots I wear is a decision of optimal concern.

This is kind of a hobby to me. It is something that I am just into. I like talking about, searching for, and pondering upon the travel gear that I use and carry with me. I do not travel with very much gear, and what I do haul around has been carefully chosen over a period of trial and error that has been going on for the better part of a decade.

In this time I have found that a sturdy pair of boots is a travel essential. The ones that I choose to wear are a seven-eyed, fully leather set of Carhartt working man’s boots (for women, there are a wide range of boot options). I have been tramping in them for two years, and they have not failed, nor even faltered yet.

Carhartt makes gear that is meant to be used, beaten, and battered. They make gear for the working man. I push my travel gear to the breaking point, and I have found that my Carhartt boots not only hold up to the test of the working man, but also that of the horizon struck wanderer.

When choosing travel footwear, it is my opinion that a solid pair of all leather working man boots are the best option. Hiking boots tend to fall apart surprisingly quickly, as I believe they are really made for the suburbanite or the weekend hiker, and sneakers hold up on the Road about as well as a pair of Japanese grass slippers. I hike in my boots everyday, and I do not want to deal with them falling apart and needing to be replaced regularly. I hate shopping. I do not like to buy things. I would rather make a purchase that will last me five years than have to completely re-supply myself yearly. I need a pair of boots that are travel worthy. I have found that hiking boots disintegrate in travel and sneakers are unmentionably worse. The Open Road necessitates a sturdy pair of working man boots.

For a couple of years I wore a pair of Redwing logger boots while traveling. But, although these were made for rigorous use and are still unscathed, they were a little too heavy for traveling. What I needed was a cross between Redwing logger boots and a pair of hiking boots. What I found was my current pair of road-doggers: my Carhartt work boots.

The advantages of these boots are as follows:

1. They do not have steel toes- I nearly had a couple toes freeze off during one winter night of sleeping under a pine tree in Albany because the steel in the toes of my boots got far too cold for my feet that were housed inside of them. I actually had to take my boots off in order to make my feet warmer. It seems ironic that I needed to remove my boots to warm my toes, but it is true: steel toes are perilous in winter climes. On another occasion of wearing steel toed work boots while traveling, I found my self walking for a very long distance over a mountainous terrain. Every time that I descended a highly vertical mountain side my toes would jam up against the steel in the front of the boots, which eventually began cutting into my feet. This became so painful that I eventually slung the steel toe boots over my shoulder and plugged on barefooted over the sticks and stones. Steel toed boots are not travel worthy.

2. Weight- My Carhartt work boots are very well put together, but they can not be considered heavy in the least. I think a balance was struck between quality of materials and weight in these boots.

3. Lack of Insulation- They are not insulated, which I think is really good for traveling because they do not run the risk of excessively over-heating my feet while tramping long distances. This is also good because the absence of insulation cuts down on their weight and if they happened to be fully submerged in water they can be dried relatively quickly. If additional warmth is needed in colder climates, I just wear multiple pairs of socks or additional insulators.

4. All Leather Exterior- The outsides of these boots are 100% leather, which is good not only because of leather’s natural durability but also because they can be cleaned, shined, and waterproofed easily.

5. Water Proof- There is a Gore-Tex like fabric liner in the boots that has not failed in two years of wear. The boots come pre-waterproofed but I also add mink oil and polish to them at regular intervals as the leather outers are also able to be periodically self waterproofed through general commercial applications.

6. Can be polished and waterproofed- Due to the leather exterior they can be cleaned, polished, and water-proofed easily using conventional supplies that can be found all over the world.

7. Comfortable- I have found my Carhartt work boots to be comfortable and relatively easy to break in. They do not blister my feet or make them sore. Their simplicity of design allows them to easily take the form of the foot rather than forcing the foot into a rigged mold.

8. Look worthless- My boots are old, battered, not fancy, made from a common material (leather), and, I assume, do not look to be worth much money.

9. Durable- They are well put together with quality, stitching, good materials, and tough soles. These boots cannot be broken, and, in two years, I have found that they are not prone to breaking down. They are made for hard, manual labor, and, given this, can withstand anything travel can throw at them.

10. Price- Compared to hiking boots and other work boots, my Carhartts are not too expensive. $80 – $120 gets you a pair of boots that will last through five years of travel.

All in all, I have found my Carhartt work boots to be good enough for long haul travel. They stick together, are easily maintained, and have kept me tramping on over mountain, desert, and jungle for the past two years. They are comfortable, not too heavy, simplistically made, and have a very general design that allows for cobblers the world over to be able to fix them if they were to someday need repair. These boots are an old-time classic, I did not think that such quality gear was still manufactured.

Carhartt work boots are for traveling.

Shop for Carhartt Boots at Amazon.com

Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Antigua, Guatemala
April 19, 2008

Update: April 15, 2011

I used these Carhartt work boots through two years of travel after this review was written, and they held up until the bitter end. After four years of hard travel — hiking, trekking, climbing, archaeology fieldwork in harsh, unforgiving climates — the soles (which were the originals having never been changed) finally bit the dust. My feet soon meet the ground surface as the soles completely wore away in the toes. If I had changed the soles every two years (recommended) I may still be wearing these boots today, as the uppers were beat and battered, but were still in tact and wearable.

I have never traveled with a better pair of boots.


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Filed under: Clothing, Travel Gear

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

5 comments… add one

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  • Rich April 15, 2011, 7:17 pm

    These look like they’ve had a proper test, used and abused like boots should be. Do you find leather comfortable in the warmer climates?

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    • Wade | VagabondJourney.com April 17, 2011, 12:35 pm

      Yeah, leather does not seem to insulate to much in and of itself. I have never noticed my feet overheating as they would sometimes when wearing insulated boots in the tropics. The leather in these boots just seem to mold to the foot itself and sort of becomes a second skin. Not too hot, and in colder places thick socks can be added without a problem.

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  • Frank January 13, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Great post!

    Do you know what the model of the boots you use is? Thanks!

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    • Wade Shepard January 13, 2014, 7:35 pm

      I don’t know. The one in the picture. Carhartt only has one that looks like this.

      Link Reply
  • LookAlive April 1, 2014, 1:45 pm

    Where did you get these?

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