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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.