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What the Duck are Duck Boots (and Which Ones Should You Buy)?

Leon Leonwood Bean, founder of L.L. Bean, sold the first duck boot back in 1911.

He was sick of wet feet hunting and noticed that farmers wore rubber boots out in the fields to keep their feet dry. As Mr. Bean did throughout most of his life, he worked hard coming up with new ideas to solve problems. After stitching the bottom of a rubber boot to the top leather of a work boot the first Bean Boot was born.

duck boots

In 1912 he founded L.L. Bean to sell the strange-looking but practical boot.

The Bean Boot was originally called the Maine Hiking Shoe. It has quietly been a utilitarian mainstay of L.L. Bean’s product lineup for the last 100 or so years. In the early 2000s those quiet sales would change.

Students at elite prep schools started to pick up the Bean Boots as required parts to their wardrobe. The surge began, and is still going strong. Other brands noticed the duck boot craze and jumped on board.

Don’t be fooled by the imitators though. Quality doesn’t come cheap. Other brands may last a year but quality brands like L.L. Bean expect shoes to last generations. L.L. Bean once said, “I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and a customer is still satisfied.”

We’ve rounded up some of the best duck boot brands here including the original Bean Boots themselves.

L.L. Bean Tumbled-Leather Bean Boots

L.L. Bean Tumbled-Leather Bean Boots

The original 8” Bean Boot dates back to 1911 and the founding of L.L. Bean. Now there are versions with Gore-Tex, Thinsulate insulation, Primaloft insulation, or shearling lining. Our favorite has a tumbled-leather upper for a more supple feel with the traditional waterproof rubber bottoms.

The soft padded collar on the back updates the comfort but keeps the utilitarian features. The triple stitching that connects leather to rubber that started back in 1911 is still there. The signature chain-tread bottom is good for traction and has stood the test of the time as well.

Most companies would ship such a popular model to be made offshore, but L.L. Bean has steadfastly stuck to its brand and still makes the Bean Boots by hand in Maine.

The fit on these Bean Boots is quite large so size down 1-2 sizes from your normal shoe size.

Sperry Cold Bay Duck Boot

Sperry Cold Bay Duck Boot

What started as an experiment in grip on the wet decks of sailboats, Sperry has grown to be a global brand in many different footwear styles. Their classic look carries over to their version of the duck boot, the Cold Bay.

Stain and water-resistant full-grain leather uppers are attached to a lightweight and durable EVA shell on the bottom. They come fully lined with 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation for extra warmth. And of course the signature super-grippy, razor-cut, non-marking Sperry sole is ready for sailing or any other terrible condition you want to throw at it.

Kamik Yukon 5

Kamik Yukon 5

Kamik was founded in 1898 and used natural rubber in their boots until 1982. Always striving to reduce their impact on the environment, natural rubber was phased out in favor of RubberHe, a synthetic alternative that is 100% recycled and 100% recyclable.

The Yukon 5 boot from Kamik features the lighter RubberHe sole with large, grippy lugs, a moisture-wicking liner and waterproof leather upper. 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation keeps your toes warm. The removable felt liner is made from at least three recycled plastic water bottles.

Years down the road, once the boots are completely worn out, just call up Kamik. The brand will mail you a pre-paid label to use to send the boots back so they can be fully recycled.

If you’re in between sizes, think about sizing up for the Yukons.

Eddie Bauer Hunt Pac 6”

Eddie Bauer Hunt Pac 6

The Hunt Pac 6” is the ankle-high version of Eddie Bauer’s first Hunt Pac boot introduced in the 1960s. With a waterproof, seam-sealed leather upper and 200 grams of ThermaFill polyester insulation, they’re great for light snow and rain. The perfect boot for the Pacific Northwest.

The gusseted tongue is connected to the rest of the boot and keeps water and dirt out. The rustproof hardware and vulcanized rubber sole are a good match for the wet, slushy conditions these boots love.

Sorel Caribou Wool Boot

Sorel Caribou Wool Boot

If there’s something Sorel knows well, it’s winter boots. The company basically invented the Pac boot style with the waterproof bottom and tall laced upper with a felt liner inside. Perfect for shoveling the driveway or getting around in deep snow.

The Sorel Caribou Wool Boot is a cross between a duck boot and a Pac boot. Totally waterproof and seam sealed the Caribou has no issues with wet sloppy snow or rain. This version of the Caribou has a removable wool liner inside. Sorel rates this one down to -40 F, plenty to keep you warm in the dead of winter. The soft rubber grips well on ice and is designed to never load with snow.

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