Hunter Balmoral Neoprene Wellington Boots

Landscape photographers in the UK seem to be split into a number of groups when choosing footwear. Those that prefer to wear trainers or other non specialist footwear. Those who choose walking boots and those who prefer Wellingtons. These groups of course overlap according to location and conditions. Are these Hunter boots the best choice for Landscape Photographers? Read on

Working in the northern parts of the UK, my default choice whenever there is even the slightest possibility of wet ground is always Wellingtons. For beach, snow, lake, river or bog, I like to have dry feet.

For many years, I’ve been using neoprene lined Wellingtons from a number of manufacturers principally Hunter but also others at a similar price point. The Neoprene lining performs a double function in my opinion. Firstly as with a wetsuit, it provides excellent insulation. Secondly the soft lining provides what I find to be a dramatic increase in comfort compared with an unlined boot. I tend to wear two pairs of socks inside – a thinner and a thicker pair. I rarely seem to overheat in warmer weather although there is some inevitable condensation. In the snow, my feet are usually warm and cosy.

For a roadside stream or some local wet ground almost any Wellington will suffice. However when the distances increase or the conditions become more extreme, the requirements shift to a more specialised boot. My usual upper limit for longer walks in Wellingtons over rough ground tends to be 7-10 miles. I’m happy use them on the lower fells but generally not on the higher round where a specialised walking boot is a safer option.

The ‘Commando’ style sole giving and excellent grip on all terrain.

Having used the original Balmoral Neoprene lined Wellingtons for the last few years, Hunter kindly sent me a pair of their newly launched Balmoral Neoprene Wide fit boots to test.

Full Vibram Sole for unbeatable grip

Two aspects of these boots emerge at first sight. The first is that they feature a sewn welt, virtually unheard of in wellingtons. Hunter say this opens the possibility for such boots to be resoled. Secondly they feature a specialised Vibram walking sole with classic ‘Commando’ cleats. This sole would grace any specialised walking boot.

The ideal wellington boot for a landscape photographer has to succeed in many significant areas and even a minor failure in any one, renders them unsuitable for the task.

Straight from the box these boots look striking and stand out due to the above mentioned features. I’ve worn these boots through this year and they have dealt with long walks, snow covered fells, rivers, lakes, boggy ground and the sea. They have been warm, comfortable and waterproof. They have performed flawlessly in every way throughout.

The Neoprene lining is a good balance between insulation and not being too warm; if there were a thicker version I’d be tempted by them but only for the very coldest conditions. When used all day and over substantial distances I find them both very comfortable and very supportive. I’ve not found another Wellington boot at any price that is as supportive in both sole and ankle. This aspect alone would serve to extend the usefulness of such boots over rough ground. For me, the icing on the cake however is the superb Vibram Sole. As even ‘specialist’ walking boots have gradually drifted towards a more ‘trainer style’ flatter sole the significant advantages of a well defined heel breast have been lost. This Vibram sole has both a well defined heel and also a lug pattern in the classic ‘Commando’ style. This gives a combination which in my opinion cannot be beaten. The grip afforded when coming down steep ground is exceptional and the design works well on stony paths, wet grass and snow.

A classic sole that would grace any pair of mountain boots.

The final feature which makes Hunter stand out is their use of a distinct Kickspur on the heel to aid boot removal. If you size such boots correctly to give good support and precision they need to be a neat fit and removal is made infinitely easier by the presence of the spur.

Hunter Heel Kickspur to aid removal.

In addition to the spur for removal there is a grip tape to aid putting the boot on although I’ve never found this to be necessary. The boots are supplied with two different thicknesses of footbeds to enable the wearer to customise the fit to suit their exact size depending upon what socks are worn. The specific boots that I’ve been using are the Wide Fit and these suite me exactly. I tend to take a size 10.5 walking boot and the size 10 Hunters fit perfectly. The legs are side adjustable by use of a metal buckle and strap. Some wellingtons use a plastic buckle here which in my experience lasts almost no time under hard usage. The metal one here seems unbreakable.

Waterproof Wellingtons can of course be bought for a few pounds from most large supermarkets. The extra cost of a premium product is rewarded in warmth, comfort and safety due to the exceptional grip of the sole.

You may notice that apart from the stock image at the top, these are not clean/tidy product shots. They are of the boots in use as they have been every day since they arrived.

Sometimes I try a product and then put it to one side for whatever reason. In the case of these boots, from ‘day one’ they have lived in the boot of my car and been worn most days each week. All other wellingtons have been relegated to the garage and these are my first choice every day.

A permanent place in the boot of my car since the day they arrived.

Over the years I’ve worn Wellingtons and wished for improvements to make them work better. For the first time, I’ve found a pair that, for me,  work perfectly. I cannot suggest a single improvement. If they eventually wear out, I’ll simply order another pair the same. I recommend them without the slightest hesitation or qualification.

My boots were supplied by the excellent and award winning Keswick Boot Company. Whatever your outdoor footwear needs you could not find a better place to shop nor better advice.

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