Tag Archives: cabelas wading boots

Dear Cabela’s — No More Boots from You!

The best wading boots I’ve ever owned were a pair of Cabela’s boots that I vaguely remember being called Guidewear. They had all leather uppers and rubber soles that weren’t lugs, but a soft rubber pretty much guaranteed to not slip. I put them through hell for two years before they wore out. When I went to purchase another pair of them, they had quit making them. At least the rubber soled version. All they had were the felt bottom version.

Felt is worthless around here. To get to the river you have to eventually walk on mud. Felt on mud is like walking on the slickest ice imaginable, out of the question.

Since then I’ve been trying different types of Cabela’s wading boots with varying degrees of success.

Back in April of 2011 I wrote about how a two year old pair of Cabela’s Guidewear wading boots bit the dust, These were similar to what I had used years earlier. Only problem was, I no longer had the budget for them and I had to get newer cheaper ones, I put up a post about what ensued from there.

Dear Cabela’s

In March of 2012, those boots had all but disintegrated and I documented that pretty well too.

Dear Cabela’s — Your Wading Boot Suck

Within a few days of putting up that post, the boots had self destructed completely.

Almost immediately I was contacted by Cabela’s customer service. They wanted to send me a pair of their latest greatest Gold Medal Wading Boots to try out. For free. Free is hard to turn down and I promised I would put up a review after I put them through their paces.

Six months later and they’re looking like I put them through a meat grinder, at least the bottoms. They are no longer useable and at the moment, I can’t replace them. Luckily they’re self destruction coincided with the end of the fishing season. Would be nice to get out a few more times, but I may have to give up on that idea. Unless I fall back on the old Simms boots I still have laying around. Ugly, but still useable.

So without further delay, here’s the review of the Gold Medal Wading Boots.

First, the details:

Cabela’s Gold Medal Wading Boots

• Wading boots that double as hikers
• Removable EVA insoles and 1/4″-EVA footbed liners
• Hard-rubber cleat receptacles
• Microscreen drains rapidly release water
• Waterproof, full-grain nubuck uppers

Extend your footwear options to accommodate a range of ground surfaces without having to invest in multiple pairs of wading boots. The hard-rubber cleat receptacles are compatible with both steel and carbide tipped cleats to double your ground-gripping options. EVA insoles and 1/4″-EVA footbed liners remove to make room for stockingfoot waders, or leave them in place for an added layer of warmth while feet are submerged in a cool stream. Dual-density rubber outsoles provide traction over a wide range of wading and trail conditions. Microscreen drains rapidly release water, while simultaneously blocking unwanted pebbles and sand from entering. Waterproof, full-grain nubuck uppers. Imported.

On March 23rd, they arrived on my doorstep.

Out of the box, they looked pretty good.

I knew right off the bat a couple of things were going to be an issue.

There was no way I would ever use these as hiking boots. After they had been marinating in the Fox River for a number of hours, there would always be some kind of layer of rubber or neoprene between my feet and the boots. I have no clue what’s in the Fox at any given time and I didn’t want to find out if the flesh on my feet would get eaten away by something I was wading in.

I would also never use cleats. I don’t understand the idea of screwing sharp objects into the bottoms of your boots, then applying nearly 200 lbs. of downward pressure to them on a regular basis. I would imagine it’s only a matter of time till it’s like walking on a bed of nails.

Before I got them wet, I tried them on while only wearing my usual pair of socks. I left both the insole and bed liner in the boots and they fit and felt well. I could see using them as a pair of hiking boots, but that’s not why I needed them.

Next I put on my waders. I wear a pair of socks like those pictured above. Over that I put on a relatively thick pair of socks made of merino wool, then slip on the waders. I wound up taking out the bed liner, the boots were a little too snug with them in place. They felt good.

Another issue became apparent. They don’t work with built in gravel guards. The boots don’t come up high enough. As soon as I started walking the guards crept over the top of the boots in the back. For the next six months I had to put up with rocks, gravel and sand getting in the boots. They might work with gravel guards that you just wrap around, but I don’t use those. It’s just two more things for me to lose.

As the little tag on the boots said…

For some this might work. I just needed wading boots.

I then proceeded to put them through hell for the next six months with over 75 wading trips. The soles, without adding cleats, did a decent job in keeping me from slipping. But then, this is the Fox River, not some clear mountain stream. I could see doing a bit of sliding on bigger rock structures. For the Fox, I’ve had better, but these did alright. The uppers are just stiff enough to keep my ankles protected from twists and turns and the boots are light enough that wearing them for extended periods of time was not a problem.

In October they started to fall apart. I had noticed a month earlier that the layer of rubber between the boot and the sole wasn’t looking too good. My feet were noticing this too.

It also felt like the rubber was getting compressed by that nearly constant 200 lbs. of pressure I was putting on them while I walked. Why I refrain from screwing things in the bottom of my boots also became apparent. I could feel the rubber nubs on the bottom of the boots pressing against the bottoms of my feet. I have no doubt the screws would have come up into the boot and I’d be getting stabbed in the feet by the points.

On Tuesday, October 23rd, the sole started pulling away from the boot rendering them now useless.

It’s too bad. The upper part of the boot is holding up really well. Much better than the last pair of boots I had bought from Cabela’s. I would like to recommend that another supplier of shoelaces be found. I kept cutting and patching these together every time they broke, rather than replacing them, just to see how they wound up at the end of the year. There has to be better shoelaces that can be supplied with wading boots.

So, would I buy and use these boots again?

No, too many issues for me.

Can I recommend them to others?

Well, maybe.

I think you have to look at your own wading and walking habits. Maybe someone who only wears these in crystal clear streams may not have the same issues. Once they dry out, maybe wearing them for a hike won’t bother you. Marinating them in a semi-urban river like the Fox and then putting them close to your feet? I wouldn’t do it.

They definitely don’t work with built in gravel guards. I do know a few anglers that use the separate gravel guards, that might work from what I’ve seen, if they don’t get lost first. It’s also just a bit too much fussing for me.

I would hate to think that based on my review of the Cabela’s Gold Medal Wading Boots that they would be rejected outright by others. They didn’t work for me on the river I fish the most. I think someone with different wading habits and a different locale needs to give these boots a try and do a review.

I think that would be a much fairer approach.

If you think these boots might work for you, go here:

Cabela’s Gold Medal Wading Boots

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?

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.