Carlton Boyce has always recoiled from spending hundreds of pounds on a pair of wellies. Can Le Chameau’s Chasseur boots change his mind?
If the world is divided into those who wear black wellington boots, and those who wear green, then it is probably also sub-divided into those who think that £20 is more than enough to spend on a pair of utility boots and those for whom £360 sounds reasonable.
I have always been the former; in a previous life, I owned a smallholding and used to do a spot of rough shooting. Black wellies with steel toecaps were my footwear of choice and I never considered spending more than £20-30 on a pair, largely because I’m a spiritual Yorkshireman at heart.
And yet, there was always a nagging doubt that there had to be a better way. Socks that rucked up in the sole of my boots and chaffed heels meant that I often defaulted to walking boots if I needed to cover a lot of ground – and that meant wet feet, which was even more miserable than having to keep stopping to take my wellies off to enable me to pull my socks back up. Again.
A friend recommended Le Chameau as a brand, and its leather-lined Chasseur boots in particular. With a recommended retail price of £360 they aren’t cheap, but I’ve long been a believer that there is no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate clothing, so thought they had to be worth a try; I spend an awful lot of my life is remote areas where the weather is something that needs to be tolerated rather than dodged, and given that a decent Gore-Tex jacket costs upwards of £500 and an Arctic-quality parka three times that, suddenly the thick-end of £400 for boots didn’t seem too bad.
Available in eight calf sizes between 39cms to 52cms, and up to a UK size 14, there should be a pair to fit everyone. Two minutes with a tape measure established that I’m a mid-sized 44cms – and there’s no need to fudge the measurement to take account of trousers, either because Le Chameau has figured all that out, so just measure your calves at their widest point and order the nearest size.
The boots arrived and the fit and finish were superb. Snug but not tight, there was plenty of room for furled jeans inside them but they are close-fitting enough that they stay on the foot much better than any welly I’d ever worn before. Walking long-ish distances in them is an absolute pleasure and I haven’t ever come close to thinking that I’d have been better off putting my old walking boots on for a day in the field.
The full-grain calf leather lining enables me to slip them on and off easily, although their form-fitting design means that it does take a bit more effort than with the usual wide-fitting boots. The leather insoles are removable for drying.
A waterproof Riri Aquazip and a snap fastening strap snugs them up so firmly that my black ones (obviously, I chose black although green is an option…) look more like knee-high riding boots than the traditional wellington boot.
The Kevlar reinforcement at the front is invisible but should help their longevity, while the outer sole has treads that are deep enough to give them a good grip even on the sort of treacherous mud that signals the start of autumn. The soles are said to be shock-absorbing; all I know is that there is a bounce to them that certainly makes long walks along country lanes effortless. There’s a reinforced shank in there apparently too, for extra protection.
If heritage is important to you – and if you’re thinking of buying a boot like this then it probably is – you’ll be delighted to hear that the Chasseur was the first wellington boot to feature a full-length zip; Le Chameau has been making boots since 1927 and rubber boots since 1970, so it has got its eye in by now.
On a more practical note, every pair is hand-crafted by one master bootmaker; the assembly line method of boot-making has passed it by but I like the attention to detail that this procedure enables.
And it’s an attention to detail that allows there to be a two-year warranty on the Le Chameau Chasseur boots. Day-to-day care is important, of course, but this amounts keeping them clean (water only, and maybe a soft-bristled brush to remove the crud) followed by a wipe over with the rubber-conditioning Care Sponge.
All-in-all, I like them a lot. Yes, they’re expensive but they’ll last for years with a modicum of care, which eases the pain a little. And, and this can’t be under-estimated, I get a little thrill every time I put them on, from the way my foot glides into them, the way the zip snugs them up against my leg, and best-of-all, the fact that I completely forget I’m wearing wellington boots at all.
My feet are warm and dry no matter what the weather, and that comes about despite me not having had to make a single compromise to achieve it. For me, that makes the Le Chameau Chasseur boot worth every single penny.