Philmont: Boots, Boots and More Boots

Date: Sun, 13 May 2001 17:23:47 -0400 (EDT)
From: John LeBlanc <> [address updated 2may07] Subject: Boots, Boots And More Boots

<<Dateline May 12, 2001 I have seen several postings about boots. If you are still looking for boots (to wear at Philmont this summer) you are really asking for trouble, but if you are, Timberland makes a pretty good boot. It is around $80 and I hiked them at Philmont in 97'. In fact, about half of our Crew used them. Paul>>

Paul gives some good advice here. You better get after it. However today's boots need less break-in time than boots in the past, but the idea is that you want to mold the boots to your feet gradually before you go to Philmont, not mold your feet to stiff boots at Philmont. Again, get after it.

There have been some interesting boot posts in the last day or so. I think I'll add my two cents worth starting and ending with a comment on the 1959 variety of boots after having been challenged to do that by my friend Chris of Houston.

Philmont 1959

In 1959 there was no such thing as hiking boots. There were specialized very stiff mountaineering boots but not hiking boots. The boots available to us then were what you would call construction boots today. You can buy them at any WalMart or K-Mart. Quality varies.

I had always worn leather boots to Scout events ever since I talked my parents into buying my first pair about 1957 at age 12. Scouts and boots just seemed to go together. The boots I had at the time were about shot. I needed new boots for Philmont.

At the first parents meeting before our 1959 trek, the head advisor said he did not care which particular kind of boot we wore, just make sure it was sturdy and laced up. Sturdy being the key word here meaning giving ankle support and would not fall apart.

One boy going who was a year older than me had his dad for Scoutmaster. The dad was one of these "I know because I'm the Scoutmaster" type guys. He suggested lace to the toe boots because they could be unlaced and opened up to dry out. t just so happened that he was also a carpenter and most of the men in the carpenter union back then wore those kinds of boots. Sort of a badge. othing wrong with that. Just another view on the boot issue. Many scouts wore these because their parents bought them becasue Mr. Scoutmaster knows. They all needed to dry them out each evening because in addition to being easy to open up to dry out, the lace to the toe also let in a lot of water at stream crossings.

Anyway, the boots I used were a quality pair of 10" (yes, I know, too high) leather boots with crepe rubber soles. They went 2/3 of the way from my ankle to my knee. We had not even heard of Vibram soles back then. Keep in mind that quality meant good solid stitching.

I wore the boots that spring on a lot of around the town hikes and sometimes to school, all throughout summer camp, through my OA Ordeal work weekend and on to Philmont. They worked just fine and served me well for several more years.

At Philmont I never got wet feet crossing streams and water did not drip into them from my poncho either. Yes, we wore panchos! They worked too. Used them for ground cloths at night and to wrap the food in to string it up pre bear bag days. And they kept us dry in the daily rain. Well, sort of!

Colorado backpacking 1966

In 1966, I bought my first pair of Vibram soled leather lined top quality hiking boots. Paid $19.95 for them. Danner made them. I still have and use them and I just might take them to Philmont in 2002. Still thinking on that one. CoolMax lining on new boots surely looks inviting and leather lined boots cost $250.00 today. And they are heavy.

The old adage of one ounce on the foot is a pound on the back is very true.

I'll probably go light and high. Light weight, high quality (ie price).

My big question right now on Philboots is GoreTex or not GoreTex. I know and have experienced the value of each but I am just not sure which way I'll go at this point. I got about nine months to make my decision, so be it. Here is the bottom line on that issue. If it is hot and dry, you want non GoreTex. They are cooler. If it is cool and wet, you want GoreTex. They are drier. Philmont can and will be both! So the question marches on.

Combat Boots

All combat boots have virtually no arch support. When I was in the Army, I had to add inserts to accommodate this. A good fitting footbed is paramount to foot comfort. Foot comfort is paramount to making it through many miles and many hours on the Philtrail. Some can be added aftermarket. I have a pronounced but not extreme arch and nothing is more uncomfortable than no support there. That is a key point when selecting boots...or shoes for that matter.

If a Scout has good quality combat boots that support the arch and he uses them successfully, there is no reason he should not wear them to Philmont.

Just because they look like combat boots does not mean they are good quality or poor quality. There are combat boot look alikes made of the same quality as the jungle boot look alikes.

All combat boots are not created equal. My first Army issue boots in 1967 were pretty good. They had the old sewed and nailed soles. The next year they started issuing molded sole combat boots. They were and still are in my opinion junk. Lighter than the old ones, but junk still the same. they cannot be resoled.

I bought a pair of Corcoran jump boots while in the Army for $65.00 in 1968 and still have them. I have jogged in them many hundred miles on three continents courtesy the U S Army. They are top quality. I'd wear them to Philmont in a heartbeat, but they are heavier and taller and slicker soles than I need there. In my pinion they are not made for that. Marching yes, hiking rocky trails no. One further note is that all the armed services, not just the Army uses running shoes instead of combat boots for running exercises today. Less foot and leg bone injuries. Go figure.

Jungle Boots.

Just like posted earlier, Philmont has no jungles.

All Jungle Boots are not created equal. The real ones are great for their purpose. I have a pair that I use on canoe trips many times each summer.

You can buy new top quality ones for about $70.00. These are the boots Northern Tier recommends.

The POC (piece of caca) look alike jungle boots made in China of cardboard and water soluble glue and sold for about $20.00 are NOT jungle boots. In fact they are not even boots! They are cardboard and water soluble glue POC's. Need I say any more?

Any boot made similarly no matter what the name, what it looks like or what it is called have no business on the Philtrail. Leave the garbage in the garbage can at home, not at Philmont.

Using the right tools

I am a firm believer in using the right tools for the right job. Boots included. Today we have so many varieties of boots that we can realistically pick and choose.

I went Elk hunting in 1993. I did not have suitable boots for wet, cold mountain weather. My outfitter advised me to get some. I did have the Sorel pacs with 1/2 inch felt liners for blizzard conditions that might occur, but not boots for the snow, melt, snow, melt, slush and mud of the day to day activities.

A friend suggested the then new Rocky Stalkers with 200 gm Thinsulate and Gore Tex. They looked good to me. Light weight too. I asked my outfitter.

He told me they had all the right characteristics, but the sharp lava rocks of the West Elk volcanic  mountains in Colorado ate up the nylon side panels.

He had found leather to stand up much better.

I bought a pair of all leather Danner Leathernecks with the old style Vibram Montagna soles, 200gm Thinsulate with Gore Tex. If I were going to Philmont in winter, I'd wear these boots. They handle cold, wet weather very well and I can walk in them all day long comfortably. However, they are not summertime boots.

They did sustain a lot of scratches on that hunt but served well. I had done my homework well.

I have not looked at Danner hiking boots, but if they have a suitable pair for summer use, I will probably go that route because the Danner last (the mold a boot is made on) fits my foot like a glove.

Now back to 1959.

Billy was a good Scout. He was in a different troop than I was, but I looked forward to summer camp each year so we could be around each other. I really enjoyed canoeing with him and canoeing was my thing. Billy was a friend to all. He came from a poor family, but wanted desperately to go to Philmont.

The Scout council hired Billy as a dining hall helper for the remaining 7 weeks of summer camp after he finished his troops summer camp week. He peeled a lot of potatoes and washed a lot of dishes, pots and pans to get to go to Philmont. Most of the money he earned at camp however went to support his family.

Billy was different from most of us. He was a little eccentric (aren't we all?), but Billy had a goal. His goal was to become a truck driver. That is all he ever wanted to do. Billy even dressed the part. He wore what back then were called "engineer boots".  Today they are popular with the Harley Davidson crowd. Black, ten inches tall, slip on, a buckle strap across the instep and one on the side at the top of the boot. And heavy!

I never saw Billy wearing anything else. Even wore them from camp throught the woods to the waterfront when everyone else was in moccasins. Billy didn't have moccasins and he loved wearing what he had.

Billy also wore one of those leather truckers wallets hooked on a massive belt with a shiny silver chain.

He wore that to Philmont also. Every mile of that trail he walked in those slip on boots and carried his Philmap and compass in that wallet. He would whip it out in an instant and could he do "map and compass". We never missed a trail, got lost or even confused with Billy along. He did maps and did them well. All part of his desire to become a truck driver.

He was the kind of Scout that was different from most but at the same time was loved and respected by all.

In fact, Billy still wears that same kind of wallet and boots even today. It is just Billy.

Remember I told you Billy had a goal? He reached it, then he surpassed it.

He now owns a multi state trucking business. Billy is a multi millionaire.

He knew what he was doing in 1959. If I remember correct, his first truck driving job was driving that old 3/4 ton Dodge WWII surplus Power Wagon type truck collecting trash barrels at summer camp the summer after we went to Philmont.

Don't sell Scouts short just because they don't want to wear YOUR choice of boots to Philmont. If they are good quality and made well, let 'em wear them. Many have before them and succeeded. That is what you want for your Scouts isn't it? Success? Why get in their way?

Maybe they will remember Scouting like Billy does. There is nothing he is asked to do for Scouting today that he doesn't do. He'll tell you in an instant Scouting helped him a lot. He set his goals in life early, much earlier than most of us and he attained them.

He walked to the beat of a different drummer in engineer Boots at Philmont in 1959.

What more can you ask from a boy?

You know, I outta charge a dollar for this instead of two cents! Or maybe pay you two dollars for reading it.

John LeBlanc
Eagle Class of 1959
Phirst Philmont Ptrek 1959
Philmont bound in July 2002
My latest adventure was yesterday
Today is not over yet!

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