Dear Cabela’s — Your Wading Boots Suck

In March of 2011, my Cabela’s Guidewear Pro Vibram® Wading Boots that cost me about $100, bit the dust after 2 years of use. I thought I was going to get another year out of them, but they fell apart.

I did a pretty good job of documenting that and the purchase of another pair of wading boots, the Cabela’s Ultralight 2 Lug Wading Boots that cost $70. I documented it all because the first purchase of those boots was a failure. This is how the ad reads for the Ultralight 2 boots. I thought I was getting a pretty good pair of boots.

We’ve upgraded our Ultralight wa­ding boots with high-grade components to make them more versatile and more durable than ever. The nylon/synthetic upper is built on a top-notch last with a base that accommodates a wide variety of foot widths. Molded EVA midsole increases cushioning and support. Rugged upper sports the added scuff and abrasion resistance of our Wade Guard™ on the toes and heels. Double and triple stitching in high-stress areas reinforces durability. Screw the included studs into the rubber cavities for extra traction on slippery rocks. Side mesh panels let water drain, while keeping out sediment. Padded tongue for maximum comfort and minimal weight. Imported.

So we’ll start from there…

I sent the initially failed Ultralight 2 boots back to Cabela’s on April 18, 2011. Cabela’s always includes a Pre-Paid Return Label in case your purchase needs to be returned for any reason. This is what they look like:

This is not what I had. I had a totally useless packing slip and had to pay $13 in order to ship the defective boots back to Cabela’s.

I assumed within two weeks I would have a new pair of boots in my hands. Exactly one month later they arrived. I distinctly remember mentioning in the letter I sent along when I returned the first pair of boots that they should consider doing a quality check to make sure all the eyelets were in place and the inside soles were glued in.

The tape seal on the box when it arrived showed that they ignored my suggestion.

I checked each boot as I removed them from the box. All the eyelets were in place and they looked pretty good.

I reached inside to check on the inside soles. Sure enough, they weren’t glued in.

I glued the soles in with some AquaSeal and they’ve held up just fine.

In 2011 I got out wading about 75 times. By the end of the year the boots were looking pretty beat up. So far for 2012 I’ve got out about a half dozen times. The boots look like they’re about to fall apart.

Which is a shame. I like the way these boots fit and feel. The long hikes I take to get to water have been made easier as they live up to the Ultralight part of their name. The soles have held up pretty well too.

It’s too bad they couldn’t make the rest of the boot so durable. If they fall apart beyond being able to be worn, budget is such at the moment that they can’t be replaced.

Around 5 years ago I had $150 to spend on a pair of Simms® Headwaters™ Wading Boots. I still have them stored away on a shelf in the garage, my daughter uses them for the rare times she gets out on a river with me.

They look like they’ve been run through a meat grinder and the nubs on the soles are almost worn flat, but the structure is sound and I can wear them if I have nothing else. If I need to, I can put them back into use. For those that are wondering, this is how they looked after two years.

It must be me and how I go wading. I can’t think of anyone I know that goes through a pair of boots in one or two seasons. A friend finally replaced a pair recently after having them for 11 years. Granted, he doesn’t fish as much as I do, but still.

Things could be worse I guess. I once gave Hodgman boots a try. In four months the soles were worn smooth and the boots fell apart.

So, when Cabela’s says in the marketing material for their Ultralight 2 Lug Wading Boots

We’ve upgraded our Ultralight wa­ding boots with high-grade components to make them more versatile and more durable than ever.

I have one question…

Compared to what?

13 thoughts on “Dear Cabela’s — Your Wading Boots Suck

  1. cofisher

    Funny how people have different experiences. Hodgemans were the first pair I bought and they lasted me a good long time before I thought they were unrepairable. I’ve got a no name pair for $15 on eBay that have also lasted longer than I wished they would…ugly but sturdy. Good luck finding a new pair.

    1. Ken G Post author

      That’s why I think it’s me. The Simms looked like that after 2 years of the least amount of river fishing I had ever done. Don’t think I made it out 50 times each of those years.

      Unless it’s that Fox River water doing it. A definite possibility.

      1. Travis

        About four years ago a few anglers tried to get me into ice fishing. Keeping my feet warm was a huge deal, but I didn’t have the spread to invest into a sport I wasn’t sure I would like. I walked into wallyworld and a bought a pair of 400 gram thinsulate boots. This year I upgraded my ice boats to Sorals. Which I like.

        But the other boots still work. I use them for milder weather and tracking in mud. They look just as good as the day I bought them. I spent $35 dollars.

  2. Pam

    Being relatively new to the fly fishing experience I finally broke down and bought my first pair of wading boots a month ago. Still haven’t had them on. I went with Frogg Toggs because they came recommended by a friend as being pretty sturdy and entry-level priced. I probably won’t be putting them through the paces you do though since I probably won’t be wearing them unless I’m in cooler temps. I’ll let you know how they turn out. Good luck!

    1. Ken G Post author

      I haven’t read much about or known any that have used Frogg Toggs. I keep hearing good things though. There you go Pam, a future post for you. I’ll be waiting for the review 🙂

  3. Mark

    Holy crap! I bought a pair of Cabela’s cheapest leather wading boots – their Three Forks Wading Boots – in 2000 for the princely sum of, IIRC, $50. The EVA and felt soles finally started separating last year. I don’t go easy on my gear either – when I wade fish, I hike in and wade at least a few miles a day, usually half in the stream, and half over rocky, nasty terrain between fishing spots. I’ve gone through half a dozen sets of laces over those years – but the leather uppers are still as solid as they were the day I bought them. The felt isn’t even in terrible condition – it’s about half or a third of the thickness it was when new – but it’s still there. They were even still comfortable to wear. If it weren’t for the soles literally coming apart, I’d probably still be using them.

    When my boots did go to crap, I couldn’t afford a “good” pair of boots, and wound up buying a pair that Dick’s was closing out for $30. They’re bottom of the barrel Hodgemans, with no padded sole, and stiff canvas for the upper instead of leather. The felts aren’t even sewn on, they’re just glued on. I hate them. There’s no cushioning, and my feet hurt after half an hour or sometimes less. I was seriously looking at another pair of Cabela’s boots, because of how well the others lasted. I think on average, I used my wading boots at least 30-40 days a year on the lean fishing years, and sometimes upto 70 days a year during my most hard-core fishing years. Maybe I got lucky? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair of wading boots as bad as yours are pictured after years of use, let alone months. Scary man, scary! Have you ever had that Fox River water tested, to make sure it’s not battery acid or something? 🙂 I hope it’s just bad luck on your part, and not Cabela’s taking the cheapest route possible… Good luck finding a good pair of boots to replace those.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Mark, I should have taken pictures of all the other ones I’ve owned over the years. Some have looked much worse when I got done with them.

      I’ve always assumed that’s how everyones boots turned out after a couple of years if you fish heavily enough. Now I don’t know. Cabela’s used to make a leather wading boot, first ones I bought from them over a decade ago. Tough as hell. But they discontinued making them with rubber soles, then got rid of them altogether because the whiners were complaining they were too heavy.

      I’m just resigned to the fact that I have to get new ones every other year.

  4. walt franklin

    If those shoes were human they’d be a scowling, one-toothed, 96 year-old geezer wielding a machete . Ugg-ly. Consider buying a new pair for your own safety. But you inspired me to check out my own footwear. No longer sure which Cabela’s I’ve been wearing for two years. Could be the same model, half the studs left in ’em, laces shot, and maybe three miles of wading to go. Considering the price, mine are usely pretty decent.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Walt, got a call from a Cabela’s customer service person this morning. I’ll be doing an update later. Pretty funny conversation and based on my loyalty to Cabela’s over these many years, my boot problem will be taken care of.

      I told her when I put up the post about Cabela’s waders in the next week or so, she doesn’t have to send me new ones. Next year I’ll just buy another pair.

  5. RK Henderson

    I’m not as enthusiastic about Cabela’s as I used to be, either. In Olympia they have a giant Redneck Mecca on the freeway, where my nephew and I sometimes hang out. But in the last few years we’ve become bigger fans of Wholesale Sports, a much smaller and less-hyped Canadian outfit nearby. The prices are better and the staff seem to know more about their stuff. Plus, as you’ve noted, the quality of Cabela’s merchandise has plummeted, especially anything with the “Cabela” brand on it. Seems to be the way:you make a name for yourself, then you sell that instead of merchandise.

    On the topic of footwear: I’ve found shoes in general really suck these days, across the board. I’ve got some Vasques that have delammed after several years of light use. They have imperfections inside that create blisters, and both of them squeak when I walk; drives me nuts. Vasque used to be the go-to boot, and they’re still priced that way. But now they’re made in China, along with every other shoe on the market. Are there any union-made boots anywhere anymore?

    All of which is just to say: I feel ya, brother.


    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

    1. Ken G Post author

      I give them the benefit of the doubt because of how I go about wading and fishing. But I used to get at least 2 years out of them. Barely one is ridiculous.

      They sent me new ones. I’ll be doing a write up and testing them out soon. I may have to bite the bullet and go with Simms from now on. They look like hell, but at least they haven’t fallen apart yet.

  6. Pingback: Dear Cabela’s — No More Boots from You! |

Comments are closed.