There are 18-gallon totes filled with boots I rarely wear in my gun room. Much like the typical discard pile of holsters, hunters tend to have discard mounds of boots. It doesn’t mean I never wear those boots but it does mean they aren’t my go-to pairs. Of the dozens of pairs of boots I own – yes, really – I have a few preferred sets. When it comes to heavy-duty boots I usually want my Kenetreks.
As with most of the truly successful industry companies, Kenetrek was founded by a hardcore hunter, Jim Winjum. Winjum says there’s nothing he’d rather do than hunt sheep despite its being an extremely difficult venture and that it inspired him to make his own boots:
“We began designing and building boots after a ten-day hunt in the Mackenzie Mountains of the Northwest Territories in 2002. The merciless country tested us in unimaginable ways, but it was the toll on my feet that made me want to lay down and die. When blisters became freakish gashes, I knew we had to design and build a better boot that could keep up with the needs of a high-country mountain hunter.” (Kenetrek Boots founder and President Jim Winjum, How it All Started)
Kenetrek was founded based on a seemingly simple goal: making comfortable boots for hunters, hikers, and backpackers. Nearly two decades later they’ve not only reached but surpassed their goals. Today the boots are handmade in Italy and made for superior performance – and they deliver. Good boots need to fit exceptionally well and stand up to hard use. Kenetrek does those things and more.
For descriptive purposes, I’m sticking to Kenetrek Women’s Mountain Extreme 400 boots but I’ve found every style of Kenetrek boots has performed just as well as these. The Mountain Extreme 400 style is a rugged boot custom-made for harsh conditions and heavy use. I’ve worn mine doing everything from chasing mountain lions in the Sierra Nevadas to hunting mountain turkeys in South Dakota.
These boots are manufactured with 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation and a Windtex membrane for superior breathability. They’re warm enough for hours of hiking through snowbanks but have also been good in clear fields (they hold their own in mud, too). My feet get cold very easily and these boots are the only pair I own that have kept me going during sub-zero hunts. The outsoles are K-Talon for traction and an added layer of warmth.
There are a ton of features that work together to make these such fantastic boots. They have 8-inch, 2.8-mm thick leather uppers that have maintained their shape through serious abuse. The uppers have not collapsed, torn, or otherwise failed. They’re made using one-piece construction without any seams around the tongue of the boot so they remain waterproof. The stitching the boots do have is reinforced double-and-triple stitching. Midsoles are 5mm nylon for better support, an important detail when you’re packing out big game. Hardware swivels so it won’t snap under pressure.
Kenetrek Mountain Extremes are on the heavier side but aren’t excessively bulky. They weigh 3 pounds, 2 ounces which do put them at a higher weight than most of my boots but they’re made compact and secure enough that the weight doesn’t matter. They do not flex much which is a good thing because the last thing you want when you’re struggling up a muddy mountainside is a bendy, slippery boot. They flex just as much as needed so your foot can move and remain comfortable. If you do not like stiffer boots Kenetreks are not for you, but if you’re a serious hunter odds are good you do want a pair of heavier-duty boots.
The boots have a brown upper with maroon highlighted panels around the ankle and the sole is black. The hardware is gunmetal gray (some might argue it’s glossy black). When mine get truly filthy I hose them off and keep on going.
It’s difficult to find high-quality boots that fit your feet comfortably and won’t give you blisters or run your heels raw. In the boot world, you do get what you pay for and these boots are worth the expense. I’ve had this last pair of Mountain Extremes for years. My boots have carried me through ten states hunting a wide variety of game and predators. I have zero complaints. They’re that good.
Something worth noting is that Kenetrek does make products I’ve used in conjunction with their boots with excellent results. They have a full line of boot socks; I’m partial to their Ultimate Liner Lightweight Over-the-Calf Socks. Yes, your socks matter. Much like a good holster works far better with a well-made gun belt, your boots will make you much happier if you pair them with nice boot socks. I also have a set of Kenetrek Hunting Gaiters in RealTree that I like quite a bit. It isn’t always logical to wear mid-calf or at-the-knee boots and removable gaits are a happy medium. Also, gaiters allow for greater movement.
Your feet matter. There’s no reason to go through a hunt miserable from foot pain or to risk infection or injury. Invest in Kenetreks and you’ll not only be a happier hunter but your feet will thank you.