Our editor asked me to do a little piece on wellies, as wellie season has arrived, or is arriving - snow, slush, mud and muck. I have gone through many pairs from many makers, and I own many pairs now - more than I will ever need. They will probably bury me in one of those pairs, but not soon.
Wellies are, of course, Wellingtons, named after the Duke of Wellington who was copying Hessian military boots. Only later did the term refer to rubber, rather than leather, muck boots. History of wellies here.
Different sorts of wellies are made for gardening, walking in the rain, European hunting, and American hunting. Ladies look great in them. I am mainly interested in the rugged, uglier varieties which are suitable to northern climes where mud, snow, slush, muck, streams, and marshy areas abound.
Much as I may admire the LL Bean Maine Hunting boot, I tend to return to my rubber boots for all-purpose hunting, wet hiking, snow, marsh work, bird watching, and barn-work: they make you feel that you can go through almost anything. Over the years, the material has improved, and so has the design, so that they are more comfortable, and grip your heel much better so they don't pull off in muck and leave you waving a socked foot helplessly in the air like an idiot.
There are several considerations with rubber boots. First, you may want to be able to tuck your trousers into the tops (to keep them dry and to prevent the fraying which happens quickly in raspberry brambles), in which case you need spacious uppers on them. Second, assuming we are talking about uninsulated or lightly insulated wellies, you need a size that can handle liner socks and heavy socks. I keep different sized boots for both warm and cold weather. Third, you need to decide what height. I like the maximum height for fording streams, for deep snow, for dew-laden fields, and for bramble protection. Fourth, tread: I like a forceful tread for mud and snow, but the European boots tend to have minimal tread. They aren't used to snow, and their style of hunting does not typically include brush-busting in swamps - they let the beaters do that. So you have to check the tread. Fifth, lining: for versatile outdoor activity, you want some kind of lining or light insulation. Lastly, color: Color hardly matters, but black and green are classic. Many brands come in camo these days, which I feel is unnecessary since they end up covered with mud anyway if you are going anywhere interesting.
I do not like Le Chameau too much - you cannot tuck your pants in them very well, because most seem to be designed for breeks which Americans rarely wear. Plus they are too expensive, too fashionable, and most have a lousy tread. Still, they are probably the best-made wellies and they have a following - I own some. I am sorry to say that I do not love my LL Bean boots because the leather uppers get wet, tend to collapse and chafe your ankles, and they are not made for tucking in trousers. I like Aigle and LaCrosse. Here is one Brit source for some unfamiliar brands, and here is another. You can find very inexpensive versions of wellies, and they are probably just fine but might wear out faster, but who cares? Worn-out wellies means you are living.
Heavily insulated wellies for standing around in the snow in Vermont, sitting in a duck blind on rocks on a Maine island, studying Polar Bears on Hudson's Bay, or for ice-fishing in Minnesota, is another topic for later, perhaps, because standing-around, extreme-cold boots do not need a close fit. Work boots for chain sawing, etc., and plain dry-weather hiking boots are also another subject of interest to me. It's all about "happy feet." And, on the subject of happy feet, never wear boots for 6-8 hours without using foot powder - it works.
Photo is one of a number of styles of LaCrosse hunting boots, in camo.
The moon over San Miniato's bell tower, one hard week ago. Remarkable Michelangelo, wearing his military engineer hat, ordered cannon emplaced up in that tower during the Siege of Florence. A famous graffito during that ten-month siege in 1529: "Poo
Tracked: Nov 20, 09:57
Our editor asked me to do a little piece on wellies, as wellie season has arrived, or is arriving - snow, slush, mud and muck. I have gone through many pairs from many makers, and I own many pairs now - more than I will ever need. They will probably bury
Tracked: Dec 27, 16:54