Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Follow-Up Gear Review: L.L Bean Technical Upland Boots

Since purchasing my L.L. Bean Upland Technical Boots in late August, they've hunted in four states over approximately 24 days and a total of 120 miles.  They've seen sage country, prairies, coulees, rolling hills, thick popples, marshes, creeks, and cactus.
While not without a few important shortcomings, I can emphatically say that without a doubt, these are the most comfortable, most supportive boots I have ever worn.

I'm a gear guy, and as any of my hunting buddies will tell you, I usually bring two or three spare pairs of boots on any given hunting trip. It's been my expereience that I always wind up soaking a pair or developing a blister and I frequently switch around my arsenal of boots.

My Upland Technicals are the only pair I've worn this season - they're that comfortable. The Boa stainless steel lacing system cinches the boot around your foot as tight or as loose as you want it -- perfect for different terrains and temperatures. I found myself lacing them up pretty tight during cool morning trips, and loosening them slightly during the warmer afternoons as my feet began to swell.

I hiked moderate hills (both rocky and sandy) while wearing the Techicals, and they passed that test with flying colors. I wouldn't recommend extensive sidehilling in these, but for prairie hills and Montana coulees, they couldn't be better.

I dropped in a pair of Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotics (the stock insole was a wafer-thin joke), and I think that helped to make a difference as well. Never did my feet show signs of plantar fasciitis like they did a year earlier.

Another key feature of these boots is the "Superfabric" uppers, billed as puncture resistant by L.L. Bean. To test this assertion (against my better judgment), I poked my boots with native Kansas and Montana cactus, and sure enough, the needles bent and never penetrated the fabric.

Much to my disappointment however, a recent trip to Texas demonstrated that these boots aren't as puncture proof as I'd like. My boots were pierced not once, but twice by prickly pear cactus -- without me even trying. It was a disappointment, for sure. If you do a lot of hunting around prickly pear or mesquite, these might not be the boots for you.

The other major disappointment (but not entirely unexpected) was the boots' waterproofness. On my first hike through a praire of wet grass, the boots became waterlogged within a mile. Major bummer.  I treated them with some Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent, and it helped.  I could ford streams and brief bogs and sloughs in Minnesota grouse country without getting soaked. As a general rule, I think Gore Tex is fine for brief splashes, but it's been my experience that prolonged exposure to moisture will compromise any breathable membrane.

This season, completely by coincidence, I began using a boot dryer that mitigated this issue. More on the boot dryer in another post.

I have not yet tested these boots in cold weather, but I don't typically like a lot of insulation in upland boots -- I prefer to regulate that through sock thickness.  They did not seem to be particularly hot during early season hunting, at least no hotter than any other boot I've worn.

Finally, I recently noticed that part of the toe rand (the rubber bumper that protects the leading edge of the boot) was coming loose from the Superfabric. It doesn't appear to be anything major, but it seems a bit early for adhesives to start breaking down.

At $190, these boots aren't cheap, and because of that premium price, I expect them to last for at least a couple of seasons.  Add in $40 insoles and $10 waterproofing material, and these treads get downright expensive.

Despite their flaws though, I absolutely love these boots. They are like wearing a comfortable sneaker and require absolutely zero break-in period. The lacing system makes a lot of sense for the varied terrain most upland hunters encounter.  Because of the toe rand coming loose, I may ask to exchange these boots. Thankfully, L.L. Bean has a generous return policy that would allow me to receive a new pair of boots before I send my old ones back.

Taken from L.L. Bean website
That's welcome news -- because after a month in my Bean Technicals, I don't think I want to go back to wearing my old boots.

Note from Scampwalker: L.L. Bean has sold out of these boots and their web page has been removed from the website. In a call to a L.L. Bean hunting specialist today, I was told that they will not be available again for sale until June 2011.

Second note from Scampwalker: I paid full price for these boots and I did not receive any compensation from L.L. Bean or anyone else for this review.

Final note from Scampwalker: Yeah, I know.  They're goofy looking, and you should hear the snickers I get when my buddies hear me clicking up the lacing system.  But if the shoe fits...


  1. Great review! I saw the lacing technique, and it really makes sense. COMFORT is the primo factor. as much as you hunt, they sound great. Maybe Bean can make some improvements on an already good thing. Happy stomping.

  2. Good to know about the water proofing. I just picked up a pair right before they took them of the website. I think I got the last pair. I've only wore them once and I'm already impressed.

  3. mine lasted 4 months of light use and are completely falling apart and the boa system just broke. very comfortable ,light and waterproof not durable