Face it – gear starts with boots. We don't think about them much until they start to leak or rub.
November 1, 2019
When we arrived in Dillingham in 1982 for our first trip to Alaska we were told we needed boots. No problem, though – the company store had a pair roughly our size, black rubber, made in China for only $50, and they'd be happy to advance us the cost.
Those boots, over three pairs of socks, lasted the month of June in the blast freezer of the Galaxy. I doubt they would have made it more than a couple of days on deck in the rain in November.
Today's offerings are built tougher to stave off the inevitable wear for much longer. They're also better insulated and much more comfortable.
Judging solely on observation, the big fish in the pond remains XTRATUF, whose ubiquitous brown boots with tan soles have been tagged "fishermen's sneakers."
Over the years the brand has added features, improved comfort and beefed up the recipe to make them resistant to cleaning chemicals, contaminants and other corrosive substances found on or below deck. The built-in cushion insoles with arch support make the boots much more comfortable than our 1982 "bargain" rubber boots, so you can wear them all day and at least your feet won't get tired or wet.
XTRATUF's full line of boots, including insulated and safety toe, can be found at xtratuf.com.
Though it has been well more than a quarter century since we geared up to head to Bristol Bay for the summer, a recent perk of the job has been to deck-test work boots. We can imagine the Grundéns Deck Boss safety toe boots (grundens.com) are just as comfortable picking fish in the Bay as they are for spending Saturdays busting blackberries in the back 40. We're sure Carl A. Grundén would be proud to work in a pair of today's comfortable Deck Boss boots.
A new offering from Grundéns is the Deck Boss Ankle Boot, made with non-marking gum rubber sole that ensures traction on wet surfaces. While not a commercial-grade product, the Ankle Deck Boot is tough enough to wear on deck but also the perfect fit for going into town. An anti-microbial cooling liner keeps things "fresh" while a molded heel wedge makes removal easier for old guys like us. The boot is available in blue, brown, gray and white.
We also had the opportunity to take a pair of XTRATUF Ankle Deck boots with us to Naknek, when attending the Bristol Bay Fish Expo in June. The lightweight boots were a delight to wear when touring the boatyards and marveling at the beefy new 32-foot mega vessels. Luckily we didn't run into any of the curious brown bears hanging around the yards this summer, but, outfitted with these waterproof, slip resistant boots, and a bit of adrenaline, we imagine we might be able to make a mad scramble to safety.
XTRATUF and salmon Sisters (http://www.aksalmonsisters.com) have teamed up to produce a special edition of the ankle boot for women with special colors and designed for women's feet.
Finally, a boot that doesn't belong on deck but would be right at home in the shipyard, the pickup truck or the campsite is the Blundstone (http://www.blundstone.com), a Chelsea-style low boot brand from Tasmania. These rugged and durable boots have a supple leather (Cow? Kangaroo?) upper, leather lining and a tough and rugged sole made from oil and chemical-resistant thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
The sides of the boot have a tough brown elastic gusset that clamps the boot closed and keeps junk from getting in, while allowing your feet to breathe. The inside feels like a nice supportive sneaker, and there's extra protection in the heel for shock absorption.
The company also offers a dress boot, featuring a leaner profile and chisel toe, whatever that is. We'll stick with the work boot.