Dear Cabela’s,

The sky blue sky was telling me to stay home. The water levels were beckoning me to go wading. I opted for getting the waders wet. After all, I had a brand new pair of wading boots to baptize . . .

But I get ahead of myself.

I first purchased Cabela’s products around 20 years or so ago. I wasn’t fishing much back then, but I was always pleased with the quality of the Cabela’s brand products.

In 1996 I started wading rivers and it eventually became an obsession. For a 5 year stretch, I was wading rivers and creeks between 100 and 150 times a year. Since 1996, ninety percent of the waders and wading boots I have purchased have all been the Cabela’s brand.

During that intense 5 year stretch, I was going through a pair of waders and boots every year. I complained about this to a fishing friend. He pointed out that it would take him 10 to 15 years to fish the amount of times I was fishing in one year. He also pointed out that he never bush whacked as hard or fished as many hours in one day as I was doing. He said his waders would probably succumb to dry rot before he had the opportunity to burn them out from fishing.

Point well taken and I resigned myself to having to get replacements on a yearly basis.

In the past 5 years, things have changed. My fishing time has been cut in half along with my finances. I’ve been able to squeeze a couple of years out of your waders and boots. Granted, by the end of the second year the waders were more to protect me from the bush whacking rather than keeping me dry, but the leaks were never that bad and more annoying on cold water days than anything else.

2011 marked the third season for the Cabela’s Guidewear boots I had been using. They were holding up pretty well and didn’t look all that bad. The soles still had enough rubber and I thought for sure they would go one more year.

Then in March, a seam along a sole pulled apart. If it were anywhere else, I would have ignored it, but this section is critical for keeping out river rocks. I couldn’t afford to replace waders yet, so I bit the bullet and decided to get new boots.

I thought for sure another season could be squeezed out of them.

My beer budget won over my champagne tastes when I put in my order for boots. I wanted to get the Cabela’s Guidewear Pro Vibram Wading Boots, but my checking account would only allow the Cabela’s Ultralight 2 Lug Wading Boots. I had no problem with that since history showed all Cabela’s boots worked well.

Within a week the boots arrived. Without bothering to open the box, I put the boots in the back seat of my SUV. The old Cabela’s boots were ceremoniously removed and gently placed on the shelf of my wading boot museum in my garage. The museum is much smaller now after an unauthorized person was cleaning the museum and thought they would get rid of the old garbage lying around.

But I digress.

I knew I would be going fishing soon and looked forward to putting the new Cabela’s boots through their baptismal rites. That day finally came. The intro paragraph to this letter describes the conditions, but I was on a mission and needed to fish.

Miles from home, parked along a scenic stretch of the Fox River, I methodically prepared my fishing outing. With waders on and adjusted, I opened the new box. The smell of new boots wafted into the air and I sniffed it eagerly. The first boot slid on perfectly. I laced them up, tied them off and bounced up and down on that one boot. A perfect fit.

The next boot slid on easily. I began threading the lace through the eyelets when I got to the top to find . . . the top eyelet missing from one side.


What's wrong with this picture?

Trust me, the running commentary was much more profane than that.

I now had a conundrum. Do I pass up this beautiful day on the water because of a missing eyelet? I probably shouldn’t get the boots wet since I was going to return them, but the river was 50 feet away so I decided, the heck with it. I’m going fishing. I tied off the lace one eyelet short of the top and went fishing.

While out on the water I noticed that something seemed a little odd inside my boots. I could feel something bunching up near my toes. I chalked it up to getting used to new boots. I probably screwed up putting on my socks. In the long run, I convinced myself, it didn’t matter since I was returning the boots.

When I got done fishing and back to my car, I pulled my foot out of the boot and the inside sole came out with my foot. That’s odd. I took off the other boot, the same thing happened. I turned the inside soles over in my hands. I thought maybe the glue had come undone, that’s why they came out and that’s the bunched up feeling I was getting in the boots while out fishing.

There were no glue marks on the soles anywhere. The soles had been placed loose in the boots. I know this doesn’t work. My slight twinge of guilt at wearing the boots even though I was returning them, was negated by finding another flaw with the boots. One that I could have only found if I wore them.

This usually happens after I've worn them for a year, not a few hours.

So pardon any mud that may be on the boots in the box. Consider it the aftermath of intensive testing and research.

I do like the boots. Other than these manufacturing issues, they performed flawlessly. I was a little apprehensive about the lug soles as they were advertised. Lug soles are notorious for basically being crap when it comes to wading rocky rivers, but these performed a lot like sticky rubber soles I’ve had in the past.

I look forward to giving them another try.

So, would you please take these back and replace them with the exact same thing. When the new ones arrive, I expect the tape seal to be broken on the box. I’ll assume it’s because some one at Cabela’s took the boots out of the box and verified that all of the eyelets were in place. I’ll also assume that some one reached into the boot to verify that the inside sole was actually glued down, rather than slipping right out.

In the mean time, I’ve had to delve into my wading boot museum to see if I could squeak a few more trips out of an old pair of boots. The recently retired Cabela’s boots were out of the running due to that sole seam separation. I did find an older pair of Simms boots that looked like someone had thrown them through a thresher, but they still worked. A little slippery on the rocks due to the once extensive nubs being worn down to nothing, but if I’m careful, I should be able to squeeze in a couple of fishing trips till the new boots arrive.

If I had a champagne AND caviar budget, I'd be getting these again.

I look forward to getting this issue resolved. I am surprised that after all these years I actually have to use the return receipt supplied with your products. I hope to never have to do that again and I assume you would like that outcome in the future as well.


Ken Gortowski

P.S. This thing is written this way because it’s also going to show up on my blog, with pictures.

Of course I’ll be fair and put up how this all gets resolved when I get the new boots.

8 thoughts on “Dear Cabela’s,

  1. bob long

    good writers can write about, just about, anything.

    gray’s – grey’s

    I wear studs. True I tear up floors and wood, but I never slip.

    1. Mel

      Atta’ boy, Ken! Cabela’s has a great reputation. I will be following this post to see if, indeed, their QA is better this time around.

  2. argosgirl

    It’s disappointing to have that happen with brand new gear. I think your letter is more than fair and I’ll be checking back to see what happens.

  3. Ken G Post author

    It was odd for Cabela’s. I’ve never run into that before. I’ve called them in the past with questions about products and they’re always very helpful. It will be interesting to see if they actually read the letter and the box is opened and examined by them like I suggested.

    I don’t want to come back and write something negative and I’m sure they prefer that too. Shipping them out on Tuesday. I expect a couple of weeks before seeing them again. Stay tuned . . .

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