Insulated Kangaroo Upland™ Bird Boots – a field-test review
By: Dan Carlson
I became a believer in kangaroo leather products a couple of years ago when I purchased a wonderful set of waterproof, insulated and very durable Cabela's Kangaroo Leather GORE-TEX®/Thinsulate™ Shooting Gloves.
Before I bought them I had read how kangaroo leather was supposed to be five times as strong as cowhide, yet much thinner, more lightweight and suppler. My use of those gloves proved the claims to be true. Late last summer I knew I had some antelope and bird hunting lined up for fall, and I was in the market for lightweight, lightly insulated and waterproof hunting boots. I did some research and decided to give Cabela's Insulated Kangaroo Upland Bird Boots a try.
I've probably owned about 15 pairs of hunting boots in the three decades I've been hunting. Some have served me well, while others have been a disappointment. The first thing I noticed when I slipped on a pair of Cabela's Kangaroo Upland Boots and walked around the store's footwear section was their light weight and flexibility. (Each boot weighs about 1.5 lbs.) It was clear to me that break-in time was going to be minimal. There were brown and green versions to choose from, and I bought the brown pair.
One of the benefits of having a job that permits casual attire is that I can wear hunting boots all day at work, and I always do so for several days before taking them in the field. I was correct in my assumption about minimal break-in time. From day one the boots fit and performed like they were made for me. I have the good fortune of being a perfect size 9D, and it didn't take long for my new boots to shape themselves to my feet as if they were custom made.
Much of the reason for the great fit and feel has to do with the boots' construction. The 9.5"-high uppers are supple, super-light kangaroo leather, so by day's end you don't feel like you've been wearing 4-lb. weights on your ankles. Padded collars prevent discomfort around the ankles. The lacing system that comfortably wraps the front of the upper and tongue against the front of the ankle and top of the foot, preventing lace bruising while enhancing stability. They also have removable polyurethane cushioned footbeds to help soak up shock when treading on hard surfaces. The boots are well made, but how do they hunt?
One mark of a good hunting boot is the ability to forget about them when you're hunting. If you notice a boot, it's usually because there's something wrong. On four bird hunts, three small-game hunts, an antelope hunt and a bison hunt (in weather ranging from sunny with temperatures in the 70s to overcast with temperatures in the 30s), I never gave the boots a second thought in the field. They are fully lined with a GORE-TEX® membrane for 100% waterproof and breathable performance, but I didn't encounter any precipitation on the hunts, and the boots' only exposure to moisture was while I was retrieving some downed doves from the very muddy edge of a stock pond. There's a urethane-coated, cowhide scuff tip to protect the toe area from the scrapes and abrasions encountered while hunting. The scuff tip took a beating, but the boots still look great.
A feature that came in handy after that stock pond experience was the shallow-tread EVA outsole. It offered excellent traction in mud and occasional prairie gumbo, but the nature of the tread is to shed any mud sticking to the bottom of the boots as you walk. As a result, the floor of my pickup and the mudroom at home were not nearly as messy as they have been after past hunts when I used boots featuring more aggressive and tightly packed lug patterns on the outsoles.
The 200-gram Thinsulate™ Insulation kept my feet comfortably warm through the range of temperatures I mentioned, and I'm confident of the boots' ability to continue to do so even in temperatures down to the 20s with a little light snow on the ground.
If there is a drawback to the Cabela's Insulated Kangaroo Upland™ Bird Boots, I believe it is in the name of the product. The name implies that a hunter would use these boots only for bird hunting, and they certainly perform well in that application. But I've also used these boots for bowhunting and early-season big-game hunts in milder weather. They are certainly well-suited to that application, and I can recommend them for any kind of hunting in states that seldom get significantly cold weather.
NOTE: Due to state law, these boots cannot be shipped to California.