Hiking in Bean Boots (The Pros and Cons)

When it comes to picking the right hiking footwear, you’re faced with a plethora of choices: traditional hiking boots, rain boots, or even trail running shoes. One type of footwear that might not have crossed your mind is the bean boot.

Also known as duck boots, they’ve been a fixture in the wardrobes of many outdoor enthusiasts. But the burning question is: Are bean boots suitable for hiking?

With numerous trails under my belt, I’ve extensively tested and evaluated various hiking gear, including boots. My footwear has encountered everything from frigid temperatures to muddy terrains. Yes, I’ve even put my feet in the popular L.L. Bean Boots.

In this article, I’ll delve into the specifics of duck boots, discussing their unique features, such as the rubber sole and their ability to provide solid support. I’ll also address whether these boots can effectively keep your feet warm and dry or if they tend to cause sweating. Let’s dive right in.

Pros of Bean Boots for HikingCons of Bean Boots for Hiking
1. Waterproofing: Bean boots are highly effective in keeping feet dry in wet conditions due to their rubber soles and water-resistant leather.1. Limited Ankle Support: They may not provide sufficient ankle support needed for rugged or rocky terrains.
2. Comfort: These boots offer good support and cushioning, especially beneficial during long walks or hikes.2. Weight: Bean boots are heavier than typical hiking boots, which might increase fatigue during long hikes.
3. Durable Construction: Made with high-quality materials, Bean Boots are durable and suitable for various outdoor activities.3. Breathability Issues: Less breathable compared to specialized hiking boots, leading to sweaty feet in warm conditions.
4. Versatility: Suitable for a range of activities and conditions, Bean Boots can be used for both outdoor adventures and casual wear.4. Insulation Concerns: In warm conditions, the insulation can cause overheating and discomfort.
5. Traction: They provide good grip on slippery surfaces, reducing the risk of slipping.5. Tread Durability: The tread may wear out faster on rough terrains, reducing their effectiveness over time.

What Are Bean Boots?

L.L. bean boots

Bean boots, alternatively known as LL Bean Boots, represent a popular outdoor footwear type crafted by the American company L.L.Bean.

Their reputation is built on a solid foundation of resilience and functionality, particularly in inclement and chilly weather conditions. Originally conceived in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company’s founder, these boots have stood the test of time.

Distinctive in design, Bean Boots feature a robust rubber sole with excellent traction and a leather build. The lower section is waterproof rubber, adept at keeping your feet dry amidst rain or snow. Meanwhile, the upper portion typically boasts full-grain leather, ensuring both comfort and rugged style.

These boots have firmly established themselves as staples for outdoor pursuits such as hiking, camping, and hunting, largely due to their superb grip and weather-resistant attributes.

With various styles and heights, ranging from ankle-high to knee-high, Bean Boots cater to diverse preferences and requirements. Over the years, they’ve evolved into an iconic emblem of American outdoor footwear, symbolizing top-notch craftsmanship.

Can You Hike in Bean Boots?

closeup of a L.L. bean boots for hiking

You can engage in hiking while wearing bean boots, as long as you opt for an easy trail. Bean boots excel in wet and muddy terrains.

Their remarkable water-resistant qualities stem from the combination of full-grain leather and rubber soles, effectively shielding your feet from inclement weather and ensuring they stay dry.

In this regard, bean boots outperform many conventional hiking shoes, which often leave your feet soaked in extremely cold or wet conditions.

Drawing from my experience of subjecting over five pairs of bean boots to demanding hiking scenarios, it’s evident that they don’t offer the same level of support required for navigating rocky or rugged terrain, unlike specialized hiking boots.

In particular, this type of footwear falls short in ankle support and lacks the necessary traction for tackling more arduous hikes.

Nevertheless, while they may suffice for short hikes in cold or wet weather, duck boots do not possess an outsole with the aggressive grip required for challenging hiking conditions.

Are Bean Boots Good For Hiking in the Rain?

person hiking in a rainy day

Bean Boots excels in wet conditions, earning their reputation for outstanding waterproof performance.

The lower section of duck boots is crafted from high-quality rubber, purpose-built to keep your feet completely dry, even when facing heavy rain or water-laden streets.

This rubber extends well above the sole, forming a reliable barrier against moisture intrusion.

Moreover, duck boots typically boast precise stitching and seam-sealed construction, effectively thwarting water from infiltrating through the seams.

This meticulous attention to detail ensures that your feet stay comfortably dry, establishing these boots as a preferred choice for inclement weather.

However, it’s worth noting that while duck boots shine on rainy hikes, they do not deliver the same level of traction and support as specialized hiking footwear, whether boots or shoes. Consequently, they may be less suitable for tackling more demanding terrains.

Before selecting your footwear, it’s crucial to carefully assess the specific hiking conditions you’ll encounter.

Do Bean Boots Are Good for Hiking in the Snow?

person hiking in the snow

Bean boots are suitable for light to moderate snow conditions, but they may not be the best choice for heavy snow or extreme cold.

These boots have a waterproof sole and a leather upper, which provides some insulation, making them effective at keeping your feet dry and moderately warm in snowy weather.

However, their insulation and warmth may not be sufficient for prolonged exposure to extremely low temperatures.

I often wear my favorite pair in light snowfall or occasionally use it in snowy conditions. The duck boots offer moderate traction on slippery surfaces and are comfortable for short walks in the snow.

But whenever I plan to spend extended periods in deep snow or frigid temperatures, I wear dedicated winter hiking boots with more insulation and advanced cold-weather features.

Bean boots are versatile and reliable, but for extremely cold conditions, specialized snow boots are a better choice to ensure comfort and safety.

What Are the Best Bean Boots for Hiking?

As I have already stated, apart from the original LL Bean, my team and I had first-hand experience with several types of bean boots that proved to be excellent companions on our hiking trips.

Here, I will share my insights on three such models, outlining why they are good for hiking. 

L.L. Bean Women’s Bean Boots, 8″ Insulated

L.L. Bean Women’s Bean Boots, 8" Insulated

After Chistina tried out the L.L. Bean Women’s Bean Boots, 8″ Insulated, I can certainly say these boots provide notable features for hiking enthusiasts.

Designed with an 8″ rise, these boots offer increased coverage compared to traditional hiking boots, which could be a boon when trekking through uneven terrain.

The team took note of the additional weight of these Bean Boots compared to typical hiking shoes, the result of their sturdy build.

Even so, comfort was still on par with other boots we’ve tested.

The waterproof features stood out during my tests, efficiently keeping my feet dry during drizzly hikes.

L.L. Bean Men’s Bean Boots, 10″ Shearling-Lined Tumbled Leather

L.L. Bean Men's Bean Boots, 10" Shearling-Lined Tumbled Leather

The L.L. Bean Men’s Bean Boots, with 10″ Shearling-Lined Tumbled Leather, possesses some fantastic features.

Their tumbled leather construction provides an aesthetic appeal and rugged endurance.

The shearling lining enhances warmth, making this bean boot an ideal winter boot.

Despite the extra weight due to the lining, my team found that it didn’t majorly affect our hiking trip.

Conversely, they fall short in breathability. During our test, we observed that these boots could cause sweaty, wet feet, especially in warm weather conditions – a characteristic not desirable for an avid hiker.

Thus, if you were wondering if they are a good choice for your next hiking trip, we deemed these duck boots good for hiking in the winter but not for hot weather.

L.L. Bean Men’s Bean Boots, 8″ GORE-TEX/Insulated

L.L. Bean Men's Bean Boots, 8" GORE-TEX/Insulated

L.L. Bean Men’s Bean Boots, 8″ GORE-TEX/Insulated is a pair of duck boots that can be well-suited for hiking in certain conditions.

The 8″ GORE-TEX offers waterproof protection, defending against harsh weather conditions, while the inner insulation adds to their allure for colder hikes.

Our trial of these hiking boots revealed the effectiveness of their sturdy sole, providing a strong grip and reducing the risk of slippage.

The team found that this makes these duck boots good for hiking on varying terrains.

Also, the full-grain leather grants durability, holding up well against rough use. However, due to the GTX lining, these duck boots lack breathability to an extent but could be useful for a cold, wet hiking trip.

Advantages of Using Bean Boots for Hiking

Bean boots, while not designed specifically for hiking, offer several advantages for certain hiking conditions. Below, I discuss the most important advantages as I try to answer the question ‘Are duck boots good for hiking?’.

1. Waterproofing

One of the primary things that make duck boots good for hiking is their superior waterproofing feature.

Designed initially as hunting boots, bean boots were made to withstand the wet environments typically encountered during hunting trips. In most L.L. Bean and Sperry duck boots, the leather is treated for water resistance, and the rubber bottom is inherently waterproof.

This combination ensures that your feet stay dry, even when hiking through wet terrains or in rainy conditions. 

You can check our article to learn more about the differences between hunting and hiking boots.

2. Comfort

Comfort is another significant advantage of using bean boots for hiking. These boots come with a mid-calf height, offering good support to the lower leg during strenuous hiking trips.

Furthermore, the insole is designed to provide added comfort and cushioning, reducing the stress on your feet during long walks. 

My expertise in this field allows me to conclude that, while duck boots are good for hiking, it’s essential to break them in before a big hike. As with any hiking boot, it might take a few walks or hikes before they align with the shape of your feet, ensuring maximum comfort. 

3. Construction

Wearing bean boots, particularly those by the renowned L.L. Bean, you’ll notice that they are crafted with care and precision. They feature a high-quality upper that is not only tough but also water-resistant.

According to a study on military footwear, leather boots provide more durability and comfort on long hiking trips compared to boots made from other materials. The leather on bean boots offers excellent durability and comfort, making them an excellent choice for long hikes.

4. Versatility

Another element that makes duck boots good for hiking is their versatility in both design and functionality. Their classic and timeless appearance means you can wear them for hiking and then seamlessly transition them into everyday use.

This versatility can save you from having to invest in separate hiking and casual boots, making them a practical choice for those who enjoy a variety of outdoor and urban activities. They are as effective as a hunting boot in the wilderness as they are casual shoes in the city. 

5. Traction

Traction is one crucial aspect where duck boot models shine compared to trail running shoes or road shoes. The soles of these boots are designed to provide good grip, reducing the chances of slipping while hiking on slippery rocks or wet surfaces.

This study has documented data on injuries related to hiking, and these injuries constitute a significant portion, up to 46.1%, of all injuries associated with outdoor activities. Therefore, good traction on the trail is essential.

However, while I consider duck boots good for the job in most situations if you are heading for technical terrain, I recommend choosing a sturdy pair of hiking boots.

Disadvantages of Using Bean Boots for Hiking

Duck boot models have been a popular footwear choice for years. However, when it comes to hiking, they may not always be the best option. Here, I’ll delve into five main drawbacks:

1. Ankle Support

While I love to wear duck boots for their unique style and comfort, they don’t always provide sufficient ankle support needed for hiking.

study by the Center for Research on Movement Science, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines highlighted that good ankle support can help prevent injuries during strenuous activities like hiking.

However, from my direct experience with duck boots, I can say that they don’t have enough padding in the ankle area, thus lacking in this critical aspect. 

Another study on the fatalities among Iranian high-altitude outdoor enthusiasts showed that falling was the most common cause of hiking accidents, occurring in 48% of the cases of death, which further highlights the importance of wearing boots that can offer stability and reliable traction.

Duck boots, while good for hiking in regular conditions may prove insufficient for tough hikes.

2. Weight

Weight plays a crucial role when selecting a hiking boot. The lighter the boot, the less effort is needed to hike. However, duck boot models are made with the same materials as the sturdy winter footwear, which consequently makes them heavier.

According to a study by Mississippi State University, heavy footwear increases energy expenditure and affects gait. Thus, a hike with duck boots might be more taxing compared to using specific hiking boots. 

3. Breathability

Breathability is a significant factor to consider. Duck boots are designed to keep feet warm and dry in cold, wet conditions. Yet, after thorough examination and testing, I found them to be less breathable than most hiking boots.

Wearing bean boots leads to sweaty feet and even foot health issues on long hikes, especially in warm weather when wearing thicker socks is also involved

4. Insulation

One of the primary concerns about duck boots is their insulation. Duck boot models are designed to keep your feet warm in chilly conditions, but this feature can turn into a disadvantage during hikes.

I’ve seen it many times: unnecessary insulation can lead to overheating and excessive sweating, which increases the risk of blisters and discomfort on long hikes. 

5. Tread Durability

Another important aspect to consider is tread durability. Duck boots, including Sperry duck boots, which are my favorites, are known for their initial good traction.

However, my investigation into the matter shows that their tread tends to wear out after heavy use, especially on rough terrains.

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What Are Bean Boots Good For?

LL bean boots

Duck boots, while not typically designed for intensive hiking, are highly versatile and find utility in various other scenarios:

  • Wet Weather: In wet weather, duck boots shine with their superior waterproofing. Their extended non-slip soles form a reliable moisture barrier, ideal for rain walks, navigating muddy fields, or stream crossing without the risk of wet feet. This reliable waterproofing delivers both comfort and protection in bad weather.
  • Casual Wear: Duck boots also excel in casual wear, offering a versatile, classic aesthetic that suits a variety of casual looks. Whether you’re visiting a coffee shop, running errands, or at a casual event, these boots add a rugged flair. Their timeless design allows for both casual and slightly dressier looks, securing their place as a wardrobe essential.
  • Outdoor Activities: For outdoor activities, duck boots are a solid choice, although not for intense hiking. Perfect for gardening, light work, or short hikes on well-kept trails, they offer good traction, durability, and protection against minor obstacles and moisture. In changeable weather, their reliability is unmatched.
  • Fall and Spring Seasons: In the unpredictable weather of fall and spring, duck boots are particularly useful. On chilly mornings or during unexpected rain, my L.L. Beans and Sperry duck boots outperform hiking shoes. They provide enough insulation for mild cold, making them apt for cool but not freezing temperatures.
  • Fashion Statement: Duck boots have evolved into a symbol of American craftsmanship and outdoor heritage, making a fashion statement of rugged authenticity and outdoor connection.
  • Campfires and Bonfires: Finally, duck boots are great for campfires and bonfires, protecting your feet from sparks and uneven terrain while keeping your style casual and comfortable.
Catalin Geangos

Catalin Geangos

Catalin is a writer and outdoor specialist who has been traveling in over 35 countries so far. He loves spending time in nature, enjoying mountains and nature adventures, and ultimately inspiring people to travel more. In his time off, he is testing, analyzes, and reviews hiking and other outdoor gear and accessories.

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