Leon Leonwood Bean, the founder of Maine's L.L. Bean Inc., 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 to develop 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, and he sold his first pair in 1912 when he founded his company.
The Bean Boot was initially called the Maine Hunting Shoe. It has quietly been a utilitarian mainstay of L.L. Bean’s product lineup for the last 100 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. Other brands noticed the duck boot craze and jumped on board.
Don’t be fooled by the imitation duck boots, though. Quality doesn’t come cheap. Other brands may last a year, but quality brands like L.L. Bean expect shoes to last generations. 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. Of course, we will lead with the original Bean Boots.
L.L. Bean Tumbled-Leather Bean Boots
The original 8-inch Bean Boot dates back to 1911 one year before the founding of L.L. Bean. Of course, after a hundred years, they have developed 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 functional 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 also stood the test of time.
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 runs large, so size down 1-2 sizes from your standard shoe size.
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.
Sperry duck boots have stain and water-resistant full-grain leather uppers 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 was founded in 1898 and used natural rubber in its boots until 1982. Always striving to reduce their environmental impact, they phased out natural rubber 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. Two hundred grams of Thinsulate insulation keeps your toes warm. The removable felt liner is made from at least three recycled plastic water bottles.
Years later, once the boots are completely worn out, just call Kamik. The brand will mail you a pre-paid label to return the boots so they can fully recycle them. If you're in between sizes, think about sizing up for the Yukons.
Eddie Bauer Hunt Pac 6 inch
The Hunt Pac 6 inch is the ankle-high version of Eddie Bauer’s first Hunt Pac boot, which was introduced to the company's line 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 generally cold and wet conditions found in the Pacific Northwest during winter.
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 perfect for the wet, slushy conditions that these sturdy duck boots were designed to handle.
Sorel Caribou Wool Boot
If there’s something Sorel knows well, it’s winter boots. The company invented the Pac boot style with a 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.
Nautica Duck Boot
One of the more budget-friendly duck boots on our list, the Nautica Duck Boot has all of the features of a classic duck boot at a price just over $50. These boots are designed with a waterproof shell for all weather conditions and will keep rain and snow out while allowing your feet to stay warm, thanks to the boot's fleece lining.
The soles are designed to give you grip in slippery conditions. These boots do tend to run on the smaller side, so if you're planning to wear thick socks, take that into account and order a half size larger than you normally wear.
Whether you are trudging through the cold, wet woods in search of your hunt, or facing the bitter snow and ice in the darker winter months, one of these selections will be perfect for you.
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