The Classic Jungle Boot

A service life just as long as the M16

As I have returned to the Malaria swamp we call the Southeastern United States, I have also resurrected a classic boot to fuel adventures. It may be old, it may be far from stylish, but it should be on your radar if you live anywhere water is a way of life. I am talking about the classic green jungle boot. Tried and true, it still can’t be beaten for certain environments.

Fully sewn tongue

As a young Marine, the green jungle boot was a staple of the Reconnaissance community. Given what we did for a living, and where, there really was no other option. The green jungle boot did eventually fall out of favor, with the advent on non-shinable brown boots and a 20-year war in the desert. But returning now to the bogs, I remember why these are so awesome.

Classic canvas stitching

If you are working in a place that is truly wet, it is just a given your feet are going to get soaked. I don’t care what kind of magic cloth or coating you have, it isn’t going to keep you dry. Gortex, you say? Still doesn’t work in knee-deep water. And even in non-wading conditions, Gortex does eventually reach saturation. Then you have a sponge wrapped around your foot, which is less than ideal.

Original Panama Sole

First invented in the Vietnam war, the jungle boot takes another direction. It says, if we can’t avoid getting soaked, let’s slap a drain hole in the side so that water can at least flow back out. Those drain holes also promote air circulation around the foot, which further helps dry out as well as prevents trench foot.

The “Panama Sole”  of the jungle boot looks simple, but still has yet to be beat for traction in the mud. It also sheds mud, which prevents the energy sapping build-up of weight. That might sound dumb if you have never slogged miles over sticky wet Earth, but it matters. A lot. The Panama Sole is like the Ag tire of boot soles. It looks simple, it is simple, but it still can’t be bested in design. It might not work as well on concrete or sand, but it is the clear champion in the arena it was built for.

Drain holes

That air bit might sound like something that is less than ideal for the cold, but once again water is the key feature. If it is going to be above freezing but still wet, this is still the ideal solution. With a thick set of wool socks, the jungle boot is the weapon of choice down to about 35 degrees. You kind of have to try it to believe it, but it’s true. Having done river crossings in temperatures like that, routinely as a young man, it is still preferable to a saturated insulated boot.

Made in the USA

Jungle boots are getting harder and harder to find, but some digging yielded us a great test sample. McRae footwear, out of Mt. Gilead, NC, still builds one up to snuff. Not only is it built to the original standard of 1967, but the soles are also stamped on original equipment! As something of a jungle boot connoisseur, I am very impressed with the result. Available in wides, this boot is every bit as good as the old school ones we had in Mother Corps. Quite a feat in an era of knock-off Chinesium airsoft equipment.

The only choice for here

If you are hunting the Southeast or generally living that low country swamp life, this is one I highly recommend. Sometimes, the classic is just what the doctor ordered.

Shedding mud like it was meant to

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Lyle Bonny April 26, 2022, 11:28 pm

    I hope I am reading too much into this. You didn’t move from beautiful Idaho?

    • Tenbones May 2, 2022, 9:34 am

      Curious minds would like to know!

  • charles N Nasello April 25, 2022, 8:07 pm

    I still have my boots from nam. I served 1969-70. When I was leaving country while I was at Cam Ranh Bay we
    were told to shed anything we did not want to take with us. I remember there were a pile of jungle boots, some
    looked brand new. I wish now that I should have gone thru them found my size. The ones I have now I cannot wear because the steel sole broke in half and is coming thru the leather sole.

  • ParabellumGW April 25, 2022, 7:01 pm

    My first weekend after separating from the USAF I did a four day hike in Shenandoah, with 11 other guys. Some had $200 Lowas and Salomons. Some had $50 Walmart/Pay Less hikers. My feet were as comfortable and blister-free in my issued “Jungles” as the guys who broke the bank on their boots. (The others were hating life on those sharp, rough limestone trails.)

  • Stan92166 April 25, 2022, 6:45 pm

    Back in the early 80s in the 82nd ABN Div we were not issued the jungle boots . Yet every grunt had a pair for the field.

  • letcalhunt April 25, 2022, 3:40 pm

    Plus they keep nails from going thru to the foot.

  • JB April 25, 2022, 3:29 pm

    A set of snake leggins to go with these boots is wise when trudging swamps. Lessons learned long ago during my Everglades days.

  • Firegoat02 April 25, 2022, 10:30 am

    Jungle boots are the way to go in West Virginia. The tread is awesome for sticking to the hillsides while I’m weed eating or fishing the rivers and streams.
    And definitely great for the hiking.
    They stick to rocks, but you may want to beware of wet downed trees.

  • Frank Garza April 25, 2022, 9:14 am

    Semper Fi…you write some good stuff young man. I have a few pairs of military boots that I alternate wearing. About a year ago I found a pair of used “Jump Boots” for sale and I snatched them up. When I was a Jarhead back in 1976, being able to afford a pair of Jump Boots was a nice luxury. In those days we got issued 2 pairs of boots in boot camp, one pair for PT(Physical Training) and one for drill and inspections. I’ve owned Jungle Boots over the years and they come in handy….:) When I go for my exercise walks I still prefer to wear military boots over athletic shoes. I like the support military boots give my feet…:)

  • survivor50 April 23, 2022, 6:25 pm

    My originals are 1971 from returning RVN… they’re ALL TAN these days, and still work JUST fine after 50+ years…

    I think I’ll get a NEW pair now… for the NEXT 50+ years…

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