An October 2011 article in Survival Blog, Choosing the Right Footwear, coincidentally authored by Desert Rat in this case, brought up something that had been on my mind lately; replacing my 10+ year-old combat boots with something that would last a bit longer if/when TSHTF. Wouldn’t want to have to pull a Doug Carlton with duct tape.
I looked at REI and similar places for good hiking boots, but prefer military boots. Soon the relatively new USMC RAT (rugged all-terrain) boot caught my attention. The RAT boot is set to become a USMC standard issue item in 2012.
Made with a couple types of leather and 1000 denier nylon, and Vibram soles, polyurethane coated leather over toe and heel, they seemed like a winner. There are two versions, hot (with drain/vent holes on the side) and temperate (waterproof, with Gortex). Sound awesome.
The problem is price, from most stores for about $300. They are made by both Bates and Danner. However the Bates RAT boots were recalled after they began falling apart in Afghanistan. Danner is now the sole supplier.
That’s why you can find a lot of Bates RAT boots relatively cheap online, when the used to go for $300. These boots may or may not be part of the rejected/defective lots. For example, The Sportsman’s Guide (TSG) has the Bates version (hot weather) for $100, cheap due to “slight blemishes.” Or are they actually the defective boots? Seemed too cheap, but see below…
I eventually found a pair of Danner temperate RAT boots in my size on eBay for about $200 (eBay return policies can be iffy so you need to know your size for sure). The finish on the boots is outstanding, no break-in was required. The only problem is that they are too hot if it’s over 50 degrees with any sort of activity, like walking. I found out that these are also referred to as “cold” weather boots and Marines in Afghanistan also said they were too hot.
So I mistakenly thought “temperate” would be suitable for most weather in the U.S. Sadly not the case, walking a bit when it’s 60 degrees out had me ready to get the boots off soon. No doubt they’ll be great for winter, but it’s been an expensive lesson.
During my search I had contacted Bates to see if the boots for sale at TSG were from the defective lots. Didn’t hear back until after I’d purchased my Danner boots; they are NOT part of the defective lots.
I said screw it and bought another pair from TSG. Since I’ a club member there, got them for just under $90. Combined shipping with a bunch of other stuff.
The Danner RAT boots are superior in fit/finish to the Bates boots. The leather/nylon materials are a little bit nicer and better cut. The Danner boot went on with zero break-in while the Bates were a little stiffer, though I don’t think they’d cause blisters if I did a 20 mile walk from day one. The Vibram soles are exactly the same. Stitching on both seems to be excellent. The coyote brown is a bit darker on the Bates version, which I prefer. Laces on both are identical.
Overall I would say the Danner RAT boots are a bit better, if the Danner is a $300 boot, the Bates is a $200 boot, IMO. But for around $100 the Bates version from TSG is an excellent deal. I noted some really slight blemishes on the pair I got, nothing I’m concerned with at all. If you’re within a couple years of needing a new boot, I suggest getting some from TSG at they low prices while they still have them.
Now with two pairs to alternate, one for winter and one for the rest of the year, I expect these boots to last me 15-20 years at current levels of use. Probably a lot less if TEOTWAWKI kicks off as they’ll get more use, but we’ll cross that road when we get there. Would not want to get caught in something like that with only my old boots on hand.
UPDATE: Wellco also makes them, right now for sale at $140. I have no idea about the quality of these boots.