Nik begins testing a pair of hunting boots from legendary footwear makers, Meindl...
One of the more important purchases you can make in regard to your hunting gear is your boots. Your feet do the walking and it’s your boots that separate your feet from the ground, so it’s important to get boots that will handle the inevitable abuse you will deliver to them.
Over the years (I seem to say that often these days, a sign of getting older I am sure...) I have worn several brands of boots and while for the most part they’ve suited me well, it has been the Meindls that have worked the best. My first pair of Meindls was the Island series, which were more of a mid-level alpine boot, and while very comfortable and supportive, I found them a little stiff in the sole for the majority of my stalking, which is mainly bush hunting.
The Scotland GTX® offer a high-cut design providing good ankle support. The rounded cleats give good grip in moderate terrain.
My next pair of Meindls were the Torup “MFS”. These were much more suitable for my type of hunting terrain and have served me very well. They are a lighter weight boot which offer good ankle support. I’ve been wearing these for the last 4-5 years and although I don’t have an exact figure they would be close to doing a couple of thousand hard kilometres. In January this year they began to feel the strain and slowly but surely the leather around the big toe knuckle began to split to a point where replacement was needed.
Nik's old pair of Meindl Torup MFS boots. They served him very well over the years offering great foot support and protection.
I have to confess to being quite “lazy” in caring for my boots, and to be honest I basically never conditioned the leather! So to be fair these boots lasted extremely well and overall the rest of the boot is still in pretty good condition.
Anyway, with the roar looming I needed a new pair, and quick, so after checking out the Scotland GTX® boots that Hugh Bradley from Stager Sport NZ Ltd has been advertising in the mag I made a phone call and within a couple of days my new boots arrived.
The Scotland GTX® boots fall into the A/B category. I chose this particular model because they are described as being a superlight, high-cut profile boot designed for those with a wider foot. I suffer from bunions, my right foot being the worse of the two, so I needed a wider boot and that is where I hoped the Scotland GTX® would benefit me. The narrower toe of most boots would often led to blisters, another thing to battle with after several kilometres hunting and stalking, particularly on the downhill stuff.
Lifting one of the boots from the box I immediately noticed how lightweight it was. Hugh from Stager Sport had recommended dropping down half a size due to the wider design, so being a size 9, I ended up with an 8 1/2 sized pair. The Meindl website puts the weight of a size 8 boot at approx. 640g! The upper and outer sections of the boots are constructed from Nubuck leather interwoven with a stiff mesh that I guess would allow for a little more breathability than the other heavier duty models. The leather, in comparison to the alpine models, is much more supple and to be expected, I think would suffer somewhat on those harsh rock and scree terrain you experience in the South Island. However, for a bush-stalking boot, that softer leather and lighter construction should prove ideal.
The lace loop which Nik suspects may cause some issues as the boots wear. Time will tell!
The inner lining is Gore-Tex® which needs no introduction. Inspecting the sole tread I initially thought it looked a little shallow and rounded on the cleats, so was interested to see how well it would grip out in the field.
Putting the boot on was like hopping into a freshly made bed, luxury! The Air-Active® footbed is very comfortable – couple that with the Soft Grip Sole and you could tell that being able to feel the ground when you’re stalking could only be good for putting the “sneaky sneaks” on game animals.
The Scotland GTX® has no rubber rand and the leather joins directly to the sole. A standard lace set-up includes four brass holes in the lower part with three metal hooks to bring the upper together. I did notice that the lace loop where the ankle meets the foot was made from a thick nylon/cordura stitched into the boot and I will be interested to see how well that lasts.
OUT IN THE FIELD
Picking up the boots the day before our six-day sika hunt had me a little worried, why? “new boot blister syndrome”. I need not have worried though, the boots performed flawlessly. I was impressed with them on the first day. Man, are they comfortable! The terrain we were hunting in consisted of... actually check out the photos of our roar trip in this issue, a picture is worth a thousand words they say.
The concerns I had about the tread and grip were unfounded – the Meindl Soft Grip Sole provided adequate traction and is more than suitable for light to medium terrain as recommended by the manufacturer. The higher cut offered good ankle support and fits snug around the lower calf.
Are they waterproof? For the most part, yes. I have a pair of Markhor gaiters that I wear in areas where I can expect river or creek crossings, as well as steeper, rougher terrain. After spending a couple of hours traversing down a small creek with multiple crossings, my feet were still reasonably dry. Provided you don’t go too far above the top of the boot and for too long, and you are wearing decent gaiters, you will have “dry” feet. The Gore-Tex® lining works very well.
Bottom line, well, after six days of solid hunting in which I covered a fair amount of ground my feet were in pretty good condition. No blisters and my poor old bunions hadn’t flared up, thanks to the wider design.
WEAR & TEAR
While it is all very well to test out a brand new pair of boots over a one-week period and come away with a glowing report, the true test will be how well they stand up to the rigours of hunting over the lifespan of the boots. So, my plan for the Scotland GTX® s is to provide follow-up reports over the next year or so and report back about their overall performance. Nothing scientific, but enough to provide a decent overview of how they stack up over time and how well they perform when I’m hunting differing areas of the North Island. Also, with winter here now it will be interesting to see how they handle the colder weather and wetter conditions.
MEINDL SCOTLAND GTX UPDATE
10 months and several hundred kilometres on...
Back in issue #137 (Jul/Aug ’13) I began evaluating the Scotland GTX boots which had been kindly provided for review by Hugh Bradley at Stager Sport. These are a light to medium range boot designed and suitable for the majority of our bush stalking, up to and including hunting in low level sub-alpine terrain. As I mentioned earlier it is difficult to provide an accurate review of boots over the course of a couple of hunts so my plan has been to keep a record of actual field time over the lifespan of the boots.
After a fair old thrashing over the last 10 months, the GTXs are still in reasonable shape.
I keep a brief diary of my hunting and shooting and over the last 10 months I have accumulated around 80 days in the field, wearing the GTXs throughout the entire time. The majority of my field excursions have been spent hunting the local Te Puke hills as well as several trips to the Kaimanawa ranges. I also had a few days prior to last year’s Tahr Show hunting tahr and fallow in the South Island.
Overall the boots have performed very well and I have been impressed with their design. A high cut profile offers good ankle support, particularly when sidling, and certainly helps to keep moisture out when traversing or crossing small bush creeks or streams. The half shank sole provides adequate flex which certainly aids bush stalking. In fact, I have found the GTXs to be an extremely good bush stalking boot. Comfort wise they are brilliant, and to date I have not suffered any blisters from the boots.
I have been quite diligent with care, applying the Meindl Sportwax as often as recommended and allowing the boots to dry naturally. For the most part the leather is still in good condition but there does seem to be an area on the left hand side of the toe of the left boot that looks like it may wear through prematurely.
After returning from my trip down South I did have an issue with some of the stitching separating on the side of one of the boots. Sending them back to Stager Sport, they promptly repaired them. I should establish that I spent around three full days hunting tahr in a rocky alpine environment which the Scotland GTXs are not designed for, so this may have attributed to the stitching problem.
The stitching came apart on the inside of the right boot after my tahr hunt.
Stager Sport did a good job of repairing the stitching separation.
Meindl have specialist alpine specific boots designed for the harsh rock and scree terrain typical of the South’s high country, so to be fair the boots were placed in an environment outside their design and use specification. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this occasion. The lace loops that I thought might become an issue as the boots wore are yet to show any wear.
As it happens I have also begun reviewing a pair of Scarpa Delta GTX boots so the Scotlands may get some respite over the next few months!