Boot recommendations for Northern Tier?

9:24 p.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
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My son and I are going to the Northern Tier scout base next summer. I understand that the right boots are imperative to make your stay enjoyable. I have read a lot of information and am now completely confused. They do not allow shoes such as crocs or water shoes and they recommend a boot that looks like an old army boot.

For anyone that has made this or similar trips, do you have recommendations for boots that would be good for portages, getting wet, etc. and still be good for hiking when we get home?

Any other advise is also welcome re: NT. Thanks in advance.


12:05 a.m. on September 30, 2010 (EDT)
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That is a great question. Good footwear is very important in canoe country. One injury can wreak the trip for everyone!

You need a boot that protects your feet and toes from the very sharp rock. Portage trails are rugged so you will need something that will support your ankles. The boot should also be designed to drain water away from your feed (such as drain holes) to avoid foot rot.

For this reason Northern Tier recommends "Jungle Boots". These boots protect your feet, drain water, have good traction, and support your ankles. Jungle boots are very different than Army boots (Jungle boots are much lighter, do not have a steal toe, drain water, etc).

When purchasing Jungle boots it is important to get a name brand such as Wellco or Altama. There are many generic 'cheap' China made brands were the sole is glued instead of stitched on. The result is the sole falls off on the second day.

You can use your own Hiking boots for this activity. However, it will be very important you dry your feet once at camp to avoid getting foot rot. Some hiking brands also cannot hold up to the exposure of water and fall apart on the trip or are too damaged for use hiking again. Some people have also re-used or purchased acceptable alternatives such as Chota Quetico boots, or Patagonia or LL Bean wading boots (though, unless on clearance these cost way more than Jungle boots!).

The key is having the right equipment for the right activity. Hiking and Paddling are two very different activities. This ensures you will be comfortable and avoid injury. Philmont has a lot of backpacking experience; Northern Tier has had a lot of experience with Canoeing. This includes a LOT of experience with foot injuries. This is why they are very specific on this item as to what you need to ensue a successful trip.

You can purchase Altama or Wellco boots from local retailers or online. However, you will almost always find the best price direct from the manufacture or the Northern Tier Trading Post. For Altama model Jungle boots don't pay for "Military Spec" models, this is not needed. On their Web site ( you can find "Jungle" boots under the products menu. Also check the "Sale" page under the same menu for clearance Jungle boots (Note, I would not do this unless you are sure the size will fit, which is difficult, as the may not accept returns on clearance items).

You can order Wellco boots directly from Northern Tier on their Web site ( It is most cost effective to order your boots as a crew since you will save a lot on shipping. Northern Tier is very good about exchanging new boots that do not fit.

9:33 p.m. on September 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks so much for your help. I have looked at the Chota Quitico boots. They are about $99 and it looks like they could be used in the future for hiking, etc. On the other hand, the jungle boots just look down right uncomfortable. I am judging this on what I see in the pics, not personal experience. Any input? Your post was great information. Anything else you can share (this is my first long term canoe trip and first trip to NT) would be greatly appreciated.


1:24 a.m. on October 1, 2010 (EDT)
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I would not call Jungle boots unconformable though it does feel different than wearing a hiking boot. The purpose is to keep you confterable the boots provide ankle support, foot protection, and water drainage.

I have found many boots run wide including most Jungle boots. This can be a slight issue if you have narrow feet. It's helpful to wear a thicker wool sock and lace up tight. Needless to say, I am on my third pair. Never really gone on a trip where someone has complained about their Jungle boots... the mosquitoes are another issue though!

While Chota Quetico Trekkers could be used for hiking, their designed use is for canoeing. Personally when hiking I would use something else as these will not breath well like a normal hiking boot. FYI-- It appears Chota is no longer in business as their Web site is no longer up and most businesses only have limited sizes available.

As for preparing for Northern Tier, I would highly recommend reading the Expedition Guide (Leader's Guide) and the Voyageur Handbook to Adventure booklet (for everyone). There is a lot of great information in these publications that will help you prepare for the trip. I do meet a lot of leaders soon going to Northern Tier that know very little of what to expect onl because they did not read what was sent to them!

The information also explains Northern Tier's wet-foot one-portage methodology. Crews wet foot portaging, that is you get out before the canoe hits the ground. This is good for the (expensive) canoes but makes it easier when unloading/loading as you don't have to lift gear as high. It also avoid people hopping on and slipping of rocks when attempting to keep feet dry. They also practice going across a portage once. Three people travel in a canoe. When you reach a portage, one person takes the canoe and the other two take a pack. This really reduces your travel time as you don't have to walk back and cross a second time.

12:59 a.m. on October 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Chota is now handled by Piragis. I like the Trekkers, as the provide support on the portage trail and are comfortable. They are durable, but not indestructible. My son, who uses them at Keewaydin, reckons he gets about a season and a half out of them(about eight to ten weeks of hard tripping) Eventually, the stitching gives out. The Piragis link is here.

Things like crocs or sandals are not useful except around camp. My own personal camp shoe is a rubber overshoe. They are light, easily packed, and keep your feet dry on dewy mornings or in marshy ground.

Mike is correct about loading and unloading in the water. It works. No matter what anyone else says, canoes are about getting wet, wading loading, portaging. Proper apparel should be rugged and dry quickly. That means no cotton, and only synthetics and wool.

7:25 p.m. on October 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I used to use Bean boots which work just fine. However for summer months I now use Keen sandals, they are very close to perfect, though the scouts will likely not allow them. In colder weather I would go back to Bean boots, but not for summer.

February 19, 2020
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