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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gear Review: The Original Muck Boot Company, Woody EX Pro

After my hunting license, my gun and ammunition, the most important piece of gear in my arsenal is footwear. A good pair of boots, be they hiking, snow or knee, is practically essential to my success in the field. I'm not alone in this opinion. Take a look at the next outdoors catalog that arrives in your mailbox. Chances are, that big section in the middle will be devoted to boots, boots and more boots. Imelda Marcos would be impressed.

I started hunting right around the time the scent management craze hit the industry. If you weren't wearing some sort of carbon-infused fiber to "eliminate" your natural and unavoidable stink, you were wasting your time. Tennis shoes were right out.

After shelling out for a rifle, camo clothing, fanny back and all sorts of "essential" deer hunting equipment, I didn't have the funds for a pair of state-of-the-art hunting boots. I went with what I thought was the next best thing; some uninsulated rubber knee boots off the bargain rack and a pair of thick socks.

I'm sure some folks can sit in a tree stand for hours on end in such an outfit and never get cold toes, but I quickly found out after one miserable deer season that I cannot.

The next year, I received a pair of Lacrosse Lite 7.0 Alphas under the Christmas tree and I never looked back. For hunting the flat and temperate Coastal Plain of North Carolina, the neoprene/foam hunting boot was the way to go, except...

I'm hard on boots. Had I just stuck to tree stand hunting in my new boots, I'm sure I would have been satisfied with their superior warmth and comfort to the nameless, Spartan rubber jobs I had upgraded from. I couldn't leave well enough alone. I wore them rabbit hunting. I stalked wild turkeys in them. I donned them when I chased wild hogs in the Florida orange groves. In less than 12 months, the Alphas were falling apart.

Perhaps my expectations were too high for that pair of $80 knee boots, but I was disappointed. I kept wearing the Alphas despite the tears and the worn soles for the better part of 5 years. There always seemed to be something more pressing, sexier, to add to the arsenal than shelling out the big bucks for a better pair of boots.

My friends, I'm here to tell you that if you are like I was - trudging through life with inferior knee boots - you need to consider making a change.

Earlier this year, through my affiliation with the Outdoor Blogger Network, I was selected to receive and review a pair of Woody EX Pro knee boots from The Original Muck Boot Company.

I take this responsibility seriously. I can't give an accurate review of a pair of hunting boots by simply slipping them on and walking around the block a few times. I decided to wait to do this write-up until I had a real chance to put them through their paces during the toughest, prolonged test I could think of; the spring wild turkey season in the Appalachian foothills.

First, the specs:
 
Woody EX Pro 

All the standard MUCK BOOT™ features plus:
  • Stretch-fit topline binding snugs calf to keep warmth in and cold out
  • Anti-microbial treatment prevents growth of odor causing bacteria
  • Inscentible® scent masking for improved concealment when hunting
  • 5mm CR flex-foam bootie with four-way stretch Spandura®, 100% waterproof, lightweight and flexible
  • Natural rubber upper reinforcement for added durability
  • MS-1 molded outsole is rugged, aggressive and durable for maximum protection and stability
  • Additional achilles overlay for added protection
  • 2mm thermal foam underlay added to the instep area for additional warmth
  • EVA molded midsole with contoured footbed
  • Reinforced toe
  • Added toe protection with a wrap-up bumper
  • Reinforced shinguard
  • New Mossy Oak Break-Up® Camo
  • Comfort range of -40ºF to 60ºF 
I gave the Woody EX Pros a warm-up during a 2-day wild hog hunting trip to the South Carolina Low Country back in March. The boots are comfortable, there's no denying that. When I first put them on and walked around a bit, I was concerned by the stiffness of the midsole. For the first day or so, it felt like I was wearing a pair of downhill ski boots, forcing me to walk heel-to-toe. After a half-mile or so, however, the midsole loosened up and the boots became much more flexible. They have as much foot and ankle support as anyone can expect from a knee boot (far better than my old pair of Lacrosse), but riding around the marsh in a skiff and sitting in a tree stand was not the kind of test I was looking for.

Enter turkey season; scouting and hunting. The patch of land I hunted is hilly, and when I say hilly, I mean steep. Extended up and down hiking is the name of the game. Ripping, tearing wild blackberries and briars are everywhere. To be honest, knee boots are not suitable for it. Hiking boots are safer and more practical, but I wanted to see the Woody EX Pro perform and perform they did.

With just a pair of lightweight tube socks separating me from my boots, the Woody EX Pros were far more comfortable than I thought was possible for a knee boot to be in that type of terrain. Each boot weighs 1230 grams (I weighed them), which is a full 100 grams lighter than the Lacrosse Alphas. Despite the weight difference, the Woody EX Pro seems far sturdier than the rival boot. In fact, they have so far proven to be, dare I say, indestructible.

The rubber uppers protect the cushy foam booty from thorns and sharp sticks. I have no doubt some of the briar tangles I waded through would have torn my Lacrosse Alphas to ribbons. The Woody EX Pros remain unscathed.

As I stated earlier, knee boots are not my first choice for hiking up and down steep slopes in the western Carolina springtime. With all the miles I logged in these boots (I'd guess 12 over the course of eight hunting trips) it was not surprising to me that I developed blisters on my heels. There were certainly times when I wished for lighter footwear - the kind only found in high end hiking boots - but overall I was amazed at how comfortable it was to hunt in the Woody EX Pros. After three straight days of hunting hard, you would think my feet would be screaming as I put my boots back on in the pre-dawn darkness, but it wasn't so. I always started the day in complete comfort.

As for warmth and waterproofing, The Original Muck Boot Company does not overreach in its performance claims, though I would have been sorely surprised if it did. Knee boots are supposed to be waterproof and should remain so for as long as the uppers stay intact. It seems after my experience, these are particularly durable, well-built boots that should provide many years of dry-footed service. The temperature during my hunting season ranged between 40 - 80 degrees, hardly a test for the Woody EX Pro claim of comfort from -40 to 60. That assessment will have to wait for winter, though I doubt any boot on this earth would keep my feet warm at -40. I can say that even at 80 degrees, my feet remained dry. 
As for claims of anti-microbial treatment and scent-masking technology, I cannot measure. Regardless, I feel these would be a great boot for tree stand hunters in terms of comfort and durability. 

Who should own a pair of these boots? If you still-hunt whitetails and/or wild turkeys in the mid-Atlantic coastal plain, or anywhere with mildly rolling or flat terrain, the Woody EX Pro is a superlative choice. If you walk-in short to medium distances to hunt from a tree stand, this boot is a great choice.

Now, what about the cost? With an MSRP of nearly $220, the Woody EX Pro is hardly an entry-level knee boot. They are priced nearly three times more than my old Lacrosse boots. They outperform them by that and then some.

The takeaway: When it comes to knee boots, at least in the case of The Original Muck Boot Company's Woody EX Pro, you get what you pay for. If you've got the money, I for one, have absolutely no reservations in giving my wholehearted endorsement to them.

Happy hunting.

Disclaimer: This review is an honest portrayal of my experience with the product. I received the Woody EX Pro boots from The Original Muck Boot Company free of charge in exchange for the above review. I am in no other way affiliated to, or have received any form of payment from The Original Muck Boot Company. If the boots sucked, I would tell you so. ~ The Bumbling Bushman

6 comments:

  1. nothing worse than cold toes in the middle of a marsh in January but a little steep on price.good,honest review

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  2. As you know I've reviewed something similar myself, I too am pretty much sold on the 'neoprene wellie' school of stalking boot. Perfect as long as you're not walking long distances. Yours have much chunkier soles than my pair; how did they do at shedding mud? Do you know if the New MossyOak Break-Up® is printed using UV brighteners? A lot of that 'photo camo' positively glows in the shop. Is the shin-guard any good or is it just the patch?
    SB Dub

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  3. Thanks tugboatdude. It's more than I ever considered paying for knee boots, but I'll never again look sideways at someone who does, especially these particular boots.
    SB Dub - your track record in reviewing gear is well known to me. I have a ways to go in asking (and answering) the thorough considerations a good reviewer tests. That said, honestly, I didn't run them through the mud. They shed red clay well enough, but it wasn't sopping wet. I have no idea about the UV glow, an excellent question for deer stalkers like ourselves. The shin guard is more than just window dressing. Far better than a patch - not as robust as a football guard.
    As always, thanks guys for your comments.

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  4. Top of the line boots. But don't make the mistake of wearing in summer or you'll find yourself face down in the marsh mud whimpering for a drink of water. They'll burn you up.

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  5. Trashman - Aren't they supposed to breathe really well? This web page: http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/muck-boots-c-29_526_527.html says they have "xpresscool" technology that is supposed to evaporate sweat quickly and keep it away from the foot.

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  6. Muck Boots supports the Humane Society of the US, an extreme animal-rights, anti-hunting activist group. I wouldn't buy them.

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