Of all the products that I am accustomed to using, I have found one common thread. Once I find, and subsequently “like” something, it is nearly always discontinued, or changed beyond recognition. This is not to say that advances in materials and technologies do not offer Woodsbums around the world new and improved products occasionally. Rather, that some things are best left alone, especially when the current iteration is perfectly handy, functional, and usable as-is.
The LL Bean Main Hunting Shoe, as it is currently branded, is one of very few products that has remained nearly unchanged over the course of my 20+ years hunting. They have carried me over varied terrain, and countless miles. I first donned a pair in my early hunting career, before the recent boom in style options. Back then there were insulated and uninsulated variates, and one color- tan. Now offered in a number of options (even bison leather) the original Maine Hunting Shoe remains basically unchanged. It also remains my “go to” boot for all outdoor activities, from early season prairie birds, to December pheasants and everything in between.
When assessing the virtues of a boot comfort, durability and performance would be top points of interest, with price falling somewhere in the mix (generally relative to the thickness of your wallet). It has been my experience that the Main Hunting Shoe scores sound marks in all of these things and is priced competitively, if not very reasonably compared to other upland boot options.
When hunting in Montana two years ago, I brought two pair of boots, like any reasonable hunter would, but I don’t believe my spare pair touched ground in the Big Sky State. The temps were hot that year, walking mile after mile of rolling prairie, stubble, and alfalfa. Bean Boots are light, some of the lightest upland boots you can buy, making the miles that much easier. Paired with a good sock, the boats are more like sneakers, and comfortable enough to walk all day in.
My feet got hot on that trip, but not unreasonably so, considering the Montana heat. The key to the Maine Hunting Shoe is that you have no liner, so once your feet are out of them, the boots dry quickly. So fast in the dry Montana heat that I could take them off during lunch break, switch socks and put on dry boots after a sandwich and quick nap. This fall on a Michigan grouse hunt, I would again appreciate the fast drying attributes of these boots as we had rain every day. Again, sans-liner, the boots were able to dry before the next morning. The uninsulated boot without a liner makes your choice of sock a bit more crucial, but being able to pair the boot with the correct sock makes them more versatile.
I came back from Michigan and pushed through another season of grouse and woodcock in New Jersey, with some whitetail action thrown in. I routinely hunt a swampy valley along where a favorite trout stream takes to braiding and becomes a maze of beaver slews and thick briar brambles, mixed with alder. It is a great place to find birds, but also to have forward progress cut off by stream branches and have to backtrack. I love the fact that the 10” boots are waterproof to the very top, allowing me to ford the stream without worry of wet feet. Being able to get across the stream means I can get deeper into the cover where other folks shy away.
As the colder months close in, I opt for heavier socks to help keep the heat in. I was the recipient of some Alpaca Wool Socks this year from my mother in law, (she scored big points there) that have allowed me to keep wearing the boots right through December. Adding the wool socks, for me, means that I can hunt the same boots all year long. Now it is January and post season in the northern climes, and that same pair of boots has made it though another hunting season. That year in Montana was not their first season either so that makes 3 complete seasons on the same pair, and I expect to get at least one more.
Durable, versatile, and light the Maine Hunting Shoe is priced a bit over $100 dollars, and is truly a boot that can be used in all conditions. Coming from someone who has owned them for years, LL Bean Maine Hunting Shoes are a winner in every sense of the word- get a pair and try them for yourself.