New this year from Danner is their collaboration grouse boot with Filson. Both companies are gaining favor among what, I believe it was — Jason “Upland Lowlife” Dowd has quipped is the “hipster hunter” crowd. Millennials who want to know where their food comes from, and have the disposable income in order to buy quality gear based on principles like “Made in America” or brands with a pedigree in the outdoors. Well this pair of boots has both.
When my Danner Mountain Light boots had to be sent out for repairs, and I’d waited just a little too long, I needed a backup pair in order to get me through small game season. Normally I’d wear Belleville combat boots, my general office boot of choice, but I’d chewed through several pairs over the last 6 years and I needed something that would withstand all the activity I was about to put them through over the course of what ended up being an entire season of hunting, hiking, scouting, and just spending time in the outdoors.
The Danner x Filson boot is packaged simply in the Danner box, with a pair of Airthotic insoles, a set of laces, Gore-Tex metal lace devices, and of course the boots. If you’re looking for an over the top unboxing video, just pretend that a bearded myopic thirtysomething opens the box and goes “golly gee, new boots!” and promptly struggles on how to lace them up with the Gore-Tex medallion properly facing upwards.
The Grouse Boots are an 8 inch boot with 5 speed laces per side. I love the fact it has a regular eyelet above the speed laces so the boots can actually be laced several different ways depending on how you need to run them for ankle support or plain laziness. These aren’t the boots you just “throw on” to run to the store, these are meant to provide you the support and grip while walking through the grouse woods and all the muck, mire, and brambles it can throw at you. The soles are sewn on Vibram, meaning that they are completely rebuildable by either a local cobbler which are getting more and more hard to come by or you can opt for their fantastic boot recrafting service I’ve reviewed in a previous article. The boot outers are made of full grain leather accented by Filson Tin Cloth panels, the interior is a Gore-Tex booty to keep your feet dry even when trudging through a mountain spring on your way to your stand.
The Airthotics are minimalist orthotic inserts. I think they look just a little bit like the beam sword from Halo but my wife thinks I’m crazy. Like the beam sword, they will poke you. It’s been a couple months now of owning the boots and some mornings I have to re-position the orthotics several times before the tips aren’t attempting to jab the bottom of my foot. This is a minor gripe, and you don’t have to even use them, but I find that they help me immensely when wearing the boots both in my office as well as in the field. I can wear the boots longer without discomfort — that is if you can get a proper fit into the heel of the boot to keep you from stepping on a sharp plastic edge. That said, if you don’t like the Danner Airthotics I’m not sure there’s any room for anything else. These boots have a comparatively low “ceiling” compared to other boots I’ve owned. The toe box is both narrow and short, so wearing heavy wool socks or using Dr. Scholls style insoles might not work for you if you buy your normal size. Their re-crafting service will stretch a boot up to a half size for you, but I’d recommend buying a size up or not use the boot in the super chilly weather as they’re not insulated anyway.
Before taking them out into the woods I put them on cubicle and around town duty for about two weeks. The first day it was the back of the boot, or the shank where I felt the most pressure. It didn’t rub the back of my legs raw but it darn sure tried. Thicker socks were necessary for the second day. On the second day the toe box is where I felt the most pressure, and the shank of the boot was beginning to break in. Don’t just give up on these boots, they do stretch a little to fit your feet. After having read several early reviews I heard that they fit just the same as other Danner boots but I found them to be a little snug before the break-in period. For the first couple of days I made sure they were the first thing that came off me when I stepped foot in the door, but after about the first week they were broken in. After about two weeks the boots had become my new friend. Taller than my mountain lights they had more speed laces — so they wouldn’t be my cubicle cowboy boots any time soon as 5 speed laces per side are anything but speedy.
True to its name, the grouse boot makes short work of the cover. At no point did I have briars penetrate the Filson Tin Cloth side panels of the boots. While the laces did have a tendency to collect burrs and seeds, it was a matter of keeping my pant leg over the laces or to chalk that up as part of hunting birds in the field.
After a few weeks of hard use I had a little cut in the leather as shown below, but you can’t exactly be tiptoeing through the tulips while hunting for grouse and pheasant. Alongside my english setter Lily I often swim through blackberries and multi-flora rose. I’m knocking my boots against logs and climbing all manner of treetops through clear cuts both young and old while Lily does figure eights around me, circling like a propeller on a Piper Cub. These cracks happened more likely through the wet-dry cycle of hunting the early morning dew and the rain followed by being dried directly in front of the propane fired heater. In order to keep the leather hydrated I smeared a thin layer of Red Wing Mink Oil on them and sat them by the heater to even out before bringing them back into our main room. That brought them back to life and caused the leather to swell that crack right back up!
The Tin Cloth is different than the regular fabric that Danner tends to use, but not by much on these. I recently bought my wife a pair of Danner Sierras since she was lamenting that the hunting world doesn’t offer a boot like this to women. It turns out, they do! Care for them is with a damp cloth and they look good as new.
Overall I’m very satisfied with the boots. They’re made in America from two companies I’ve had a history with and trust their quality of manufacture. Sure, the $390 price tag will drive some folks away, but the beatings these boots take will destroy lesser quality footwear. They are a little chilly to be using as an all-season boot in the Northeast, but using them for a hiking boot as well as a small game and early to mid-season big game boot is where the Danner x Filson Grouse boot shines. At the time of this writing the boots are looking a little thin on inventory, here’s to hoping Danner and Filson make this a long time partnership.