What to Look For
First of all, you need to decide if want the boots for day or overnight use. Overnight backpacking boots need to be sturdier, stiffer and more durable. You will be covering more ground under harsher conditions with 30 to 50 pounds of camping gear strapped to your back. Soles should be the waffle-style Vibram soles, and they should be double-stitched to the leather part of the shoe. The ankle-high boot should not be waterproof, but instead should let the foot breathe.
A hiking boot should not be low-cut, as the ankle needs the full support of the footgear. A waterproof boot is another pitfall to avoid, as this type of footwear will cause your foot to sweat profusely. This can be especially troublesome when hiking in cold conditions. Also, avoid a hiking boot that is not made from leather.
Where to Buy
Chippewa hiking boots can be bought online either directly from Chippewa or through L.L. Bean's mail order service in Freeport, Maine. However, when buying such an important item as a hiking boot, it is good idea to visit a retail store, where you can try the boot on before purchase. Bean's retail outlets can be found in Illinois and the across the Northeast, while Chippewa outlets are scattered all around the country.
Prices for Bean's hiking boots range from $150 to $200. Avoid the lightweight "Hiker" unless you just need a boot for day hiking. Instead, search the Rugged Outdoor boot selections for the "Utility Hiker." Other comparable Chippewa boots include the "Norwegian Welt" or Katahdin Iron Works Engineer with the Vibram soles. These sturdy outdoor boots are suitable for very rugged backpacking and hiking.
Other comparative boots include the medium-weight Vasque Breeze GTX XCR, as well as the Zamberlan 760 Steep G, the Asolo TPS 520 GV and the Scarpa SL M3, which are all heavyweight boots. There is also the Limmer company in North Conway, New Hampshire, which will make you custom hiking boots or sell you their highly rated standard-sized mountaineering boots.
Socks are an important consideration when wearing hiking boots. A heavy sock with about a 3-to-1 mixture of wool to synthetic fiber will prove especially comfortable. Smartwool hiking socks, made by the Colorado-based company, are excellent companions for the Chippewa boots.
Breaking in a pair of Chippewa leather boots takes a while, and needs to done a little bit at a time. However, once broken in, these heavy leather pieces of footwear will fit quite nicely.