I’m very particular when it comes to footwear. I’m not one to go to one of the big box stores and buy a cheap pair of shoes or boots. I wear hikers on a daily basis, and I demand waterproof hikers because we get a lot of rain in Oregon, and I’m out in the rain, sunshine or snow, when I do some shooting or hunting. By “waterproof” footwear, I mean with a waterproof lining, like Gore-Tex, not a spray-on sort of thing that some companies are attempting to pass off as “waterproofing”. That stuff doesn’t last, and it simply will fail you. Even shoes and boots that come with a waterproof lining of some sort will lose their ability to repel rain after a year or two.
One of our local discount grocery store chains carries all manner of stuff, not just food. Some time ago, they had purchased a close-out deal on genuine USGI military boots and were offering them as a deal of buy one pair for $29.95 and get the second pair free. I was sure it was a misprint, so I went to check the deal out for myself. Sure enough, it was buy one and get the second pair free. I picked up several pairs of these boots for myself and other family members, including my wife and oldest daughter. How can you pass up a deal that great? I checked around on the ‘net and through some catalogs; these same boots were selling for $129.95 and up. Once again, they were genuine mil-spec boots; they even have the NSN (National Stock Number). To be sure, there are several different makers of genuine mil-spec boots. The brand I obtained were made by Wellco.
When my youngest daughter joined the U.S. Army, fresh out of college, and headed off to her Basic Training for two months, she was not the least bit pleased with her USGI issued boots. One pair was too big, and one pair was way too small. She tried explaining to the powers that be, but they wouldn’t allow her to exchange those boots for the correct size. Luckily, the too large pair was just slightly too big, so she wore those all through Basic Training. When she entered her Advanced Individual Training, for a Combat Medic, she was allowed to pick just about any sort of boots she wanted so long as they were either mil-spec or close to it. We got her a pair of Blackhawk Products boots that were light-weight and desert tan in color. Unfortunately, those boots have been discontinued for some reason, but our youngest went through two pair of them in four years. Also, everyone she worked with bought the same exact boots because she raved about how comfortable they were.
Let’s get back to the Wellco USGI boots. These are the same exact boots our youngest daughter wore in her Basic Training. We are talking super tough boots that are extremely well made. The lowers are flesh out suede, and the uppers are ballistic nylon, which is breathable! There is a pull-on tab on the rear top of the upper. It has five eyelets on the lower, and the upper has four speed lace eyelets. It also has a fully gusseted tongue. The soles on these boots are truly something; they are more than an inch thick in the toe area and close to two inches thick in the heel. The bottom of the soles is Vibram lugged for all-terrain use. Of course, the boots are desert tan; however, the military is changing that and going to either a greenish color or even camo colored boots, depending on which branch of the military we’re talking about.
Now for the bad news, at least in my case. These boots are extremely heavy. I’m used to wearing hikers most of the time, but I do have some Rocky insulated and waterproof boots that I sometimes wear when I go hunting if it is very cold out with lots of rain or snow. My Rocky boots are much lighter in weight compared to these Wellco boots. I wasn’t able to weigh these boots, but I’m sure they are a couple of pounds each. They do have a nice insole, so that’s good news. However, I wear prescription insoles because of high arches, and I simply place them over the insoles in any boots or hikers I wear.
When I joined the military, way back in 1969, we were issued all-black leather combat boots. Every branch of the military wore the same exact boot. Once broken-in, they were extremely comfortable. The best way to break in those new all-leather boots was to put them on, go in the shower, soak them, and then wear them until they dried on your feet. Then they were broken in; it was just that simple. However, it was supposedly an Article 15 offense if you did that, but the drill sergeants told us, with a wink and a nod, to not to it. I wore those boots for many years and had them resoled several times. Today, it’s hard to find any type of boots that you can resole. So it is with these Wellco USGI boots. Once the sole wears down on you, you have to toss ’em in the trash. You can’t have ’em resoled.
I note that these boots have single, double, and even triple stitching on them, depending where you look, so there isn’t much chance of these boots failing you, even under the worst conditions. The ballistic nylon uppers are very heavy-duty nylon, too. It’s not cheap and thin. I’m not sure what the inner lining is made out of, but it’s comfortable to slip the boots on and off without much trouble. These boots stand slightly over nine inches tall, too. The upper lip of the boots also have a suede collar for comfort, which is nice!
I wore these boots, on and off, for several weeks, and they still look brand new, other than a little dirt on the soles. I even wore them on gravel logging roads as well as in the dirt. The boots are comfortable. However, they are very heavy, and I mean they’re HEAVY! I’m used to wearing hikers most of the time, so putting on these boots really gave my feet and legs a good workout. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t care to wear these boots every single day. They cause your legs to get tired in short order. I took no long hikes on any roads, but even short hikes found my legs tiring from the heavy weight of these boots. My youngest daughter also complained of the same thing when she was in Basic Training.
I would suggest that, if you buy a pair of genuine USGI boots of any sort, you wear them quite a bit so your legs and feet get used to the heavy weight of these types of boots. If you’re looking for heavy-duty boots for the end of the world situations, these would be hard to beat, assuming you’re in the type of climate conducive to these boots. If you live in a cold climate, like Alaska, where it gets very cold, I would pass on these boots; they aren’t going to cut it. However, for moderate or hot temps, these boots would be great for your survival needs. In my case, where we get a lot of rain eight months out of the year, these boots are okay at best, so long as you don’t get them soaking wet. While we do get a lot of rain, we don’t usually get downpours. We get moderate to light rain. Still, if these were the only boots I had, I could get by just fine in my neck of the woods. However, they wouldn’t be my first choice.
I’m a bargain hunter. I have to be on our family income. So, I shop around for the best deals I can get on quality-made products. Yeah, I could go to a big box store and buy “similar-looking” boots, for fifty bucks, but they wouldn’t be the real deal, genuine mil-spec surplus. Sure enough, they will look like the real-deal, but they aren’t. They are light-weight, poorly-made boots, that you’d be buying. They wouldn’t last you very long, nor would your feet appreciate the cheap knock-offs, either. There is one mail-order catalog company, and many of you probably will know the one I’m talking about without me mentioning the name of the company. They always advertise and sell “military surplus” clothing and footwear. However, if you read the ad copy carefully, you will note that it says “military-like” or “military-style”, not the genuine article. Steer clear of them! You are NOT getting your money’s worth by purchasing look-alike products. If you’re serious about survival, long-term survival, then buy the best products you can. When it comes to footwear, you should always without hesitation, buy the best footwear you can afford. Save your money until you can get the best.
I have no doubt in my mind that with a little care these USA-made Wellco USGI desert tan boots would last me for years and years, worn on a daily basis, in a survival situation, where I was exposed to the elements in my area. I would just need to make sure I have them completely broken-in and build up those lower leg muscles a bit more so the boots don’t feel so heavy when I’m walking. Still for the price I paid, I’m extremely pleased with my purchase. Where can you find brand new USGI boots for $29.95 at buy one pair get the second pair free? Like I said, I’m a bargain hunter, and I know a deal when I get one. I got one great deal on these boots, for myself, my wife, and oldest daughter.
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio