Indefinitely Wild

These Aren't Your Standard Wellies

An ode to the iconic Le Chameau Chasseur

In Europe, without our massive tracts of public lands, recreating outdoors is often a hobby limited to the wealthy. That's bad for normal people like you and me, but does create a unique market for high-end gear that's still technically functional, but retains classic looks and handmade production methods. (Le Chameau)

I’m just a redneck from Georgia, but through a twist in my dad’s employment, I spent a few of my formative years growing up on a little horse farm in the English countryside. There I was exposed to fancy people doing fun stuff outdoors without dressing down into jeans or technical apparel. That’s where I first saw the Le Chameu Chasseurs for the first time. 

I didn’t know the brand, the price tag ($489!), or what justified it. I just knew that the people who paid us to board their horses, the people I saw relaxing at the pub with their gun dogs after a wing shoot, and the people tracking mud into their Range Rovers all wore the same really nice looking rubber boots, all with the same muted shade of green.

They were very obviously not your average wellies. We’re all familiar with your standard rubber rain boot. They’re shiny, floppy, and the uppers gape open, barely managing to stand up on their own. But whatever the fancy people were wearing in England fit closely to their calves and appeared much more robust.

Unlike other rubber boots, Le Chameau builds it like a proper item of technical footwear. The lower is stiff and supportive, while the upper flexes for freedom of movement, while still providing ankle support. Yes, you can hike and even run in them for short distances. (Le Chameau)

I’m 37 now, and it wasn’t until late last year that I actually learned what all those horse-riding, pheasant-hunting, Range Rover-driving English men and women were wearing. Getting ready for a duck hunt (a much more egalitarian activity than bird hunting back in Buckinghamshire), a PR person said they had a pair of boots they wanted me to try. I didn’t think anything of it until a few days later, when I sliced open a box to find a pair of those perfect rubber boots from my childhood.

Testing outdoors gear, a ton of nice new products come through my house every month, and I’ve grown pretty jaded to it all. But opening these, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Finding them in that box was like finding a piece to a puzzle that’d I'd been missing for 25 years.

The calf skin lining doesn't just add a luxurious feel, or make the boots easy to take on and off. It also wicks moisture out of the boot, keeping them from becoming clammy. (Le Chameau)

I’m pleased to report that the Chasseurs live up to all my expectations. Each pair of boots are still handmade, by a single craftsperson, although that process now takes place in Morocco rather than France. What enables the tall calves to fit so well is that they come in eight different calf sizes, and have a full-length zipper, enabling you to slip them on, then cinch them up, easily. That zipper is a rubber-backed, waterproof, Swiss-made Riri, by the way.The soles are built like hiking boots, enabling support and grip. The lowers are Kevlar-reinforced, for durability. And, the definitive touch, the entire interior is lined in calfskin.

Like high-end, lifetime-quality leather footwear, the Chasseurs are also designed to accept orthopedic insoles. People have unique foot shapes, and adding your own insoles makes an enormous difference to support your body. Low-volume items will work best here: I use the same Superfeet Flex insoles that go in my Red Wings.

The waterproof Riri Aquazip is backed up by a rubber gusset attached on both sides of the opening. No water is ever getting through this. (Le Chameau)

All those ingredients don’t just look or feel fancy; they add up to a boot with unique technical merits. The stiff, tractive soles combined with the tight, personalized fit create a rubber boot that’s actually comfortable to hike in. You won’t do that in any other rain shoe. Your foot is held in place by the reinforced lower. Your ankles are supported but free to flex, thanks to the more flexible upper. And the calfskin lining wicks moisture, keeping the interior dry. Other rubber boots keep water and mud out but lock in sweat, making your feet cold and damp. Not the Chasseurs.

The soles are stiff, with large lugs for traction. They make the Chasseurs work as well as any leather hiking boot. (Le Chameau)

In them, I can hike through muddy fields and marshes with newfound comfort and surety. They don’t get in the way while driving my truck. And lined with a thick pair of wool socks (folded over the top, so the socks stay in when you take the boots on and off), they keep my feet as warm as anything I’ve ever worn.

I never got the accent, I never managed to pull off a flat cap, and I’m walking spitz-type mutts rather than working with pedigree setters. But the little kid who never quite fit in back in England feels pretty satisfied nonetheless.

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