|Le Chameau Boots|
by Paul Fersen Orvis writer and Alaska guide
Every once in a while we stumble across a piece of outdoor gear that performs beyond all our expectations and becomes an indispensable part of our lives. We can’t imagine being without it and upon its eventual demise, due to our now ingrained dependence, we replace it within the day. It’s become that important.
In this case it’s a boot—the Le Chameau Chasseur. Built in France since 1927, each pair is handmade by a single boot maker from start to finish and is easily the finest rubber Wellington-type boot made. They are standard issue for estate shooting in Europe and Great Britain, and there is good reason. These people can afford the finest the world has to offer and they choose Le Chameau.
I bought my first pair 10 years ago. I’d worn rubber boots all my life in some form or another for fishing, hunting, farming and country living in general. I’d seen friends wearing Chameaus, but couldn’t grasp paying the premium price for something I thought I’d wear out as fast as I went through regular rubber boots. I’d generally go through a pair every couple of years, but I was encouraged by a hunting companion to at least try on a pair. He’d had the same pair for more than 15 years. Most rubber boots are a chore to get on and off. I was struck by the ease of sliding my foot into the glove leather lining, not something you find in normal Wellingtons. The comfort was actually a bit startling and the normal instantaneous build up of rubber boot heat and sweat never occurred. I bought them and I’ve not regretted it since.
For eight years I wore those boots almost daily—hunting, fishing, even hiking in sloppy weather. They are that comfortable and the fit and support are that good. Unlike most rubber boots the sole is solid and the fit around the foot and ankle is as good as a leather boot. I wore them as boat boots in foul weather off the coast of Cape Cod; quail hunting, and turkey hunting almost every day of the season. I’ve stood calf deep in water for hours and remained perfectly dry, which is remarkable given the full-zip design. I wore them to work in snow, and tailgating at my son’s football and lacrosse games in torrential rains.
I wore them as camp boots and work boots in Alaska, hunted ptarmigan across miles of tundra. In every case the comfort of my feet, which when bad can ruin any outdoor experience, was taken for granted. My feet were always warm, dry and the traditional rubber boot clamminess non-existent even in warmer weather. Somehow the leather lining seems to regulate the temperature and the resulting comfort is remarkable. I can’t explain it. I just enjoy it.
At 6'5" and 270 lbs. I put a lot of stress on boots, far more than most. I wore these boots almost exclusively for eight years and living and working in Vermont, subjected them to conditions and abuse far beyond what would be considered remotely normal for an estate-style hunting boot. I think it’s safe to say that under normal conditions these boots would last for decades. They finally sprung a slight leak, when I was turkey hunting one morning crossing a creek and I felt the water seep in. I couldn’t bear to be without them, so that afternoon, I went out and bought pair number two, which I wore hunting the next morning. The first pair while no longer technically waterproof, are still as comfortable as ever and they now serve as work boots for cutting wood chores and I expect that with two pair, they might just last me the rest of my life.
When my son turned 21, I bought him a pair of Chameaus as a birthday present. I’m not sure there is a better testimonial to a boot than that. It is a memorable moment for a father and son and I wanted him to have something that I knew personally was the best of its kind and would last him for years. Seems a bit strange that a boot could fill that role, but to an outdoorsman, a great boot is a necessity and you never realize to what extent it can affect you.