Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: Wolverine Northman GTX Gore-tex Thinsulate Boots

Wolverines!!! No, these are not the boots Patrick Swayze wore when he escaped to the mountains with a band of high school kids in the 1984 film Red Dawn. However, they certainly could have filled that role based on their features which include tough, waterproof construction.

An American company with a history going all the way back to 1883, Wolverine knows a thing or two about making boots. According to their website, "Wolverine made the original boots that helped build the railroads, erect skyscrapers, and expand highways across this great country." That's pretty impressive if you ask me.


  • Horween leather upper
  • Gore-tex waterproof membrane lining
  • 400 Grams of Thinsulate insulation
  • Dual-Density Vibram Rubber Lug OutSole
  • Weight- 5.0lbs

Check out this video of workers at their Big Rapids, Michigan plant making Northman boots by hand:


Wolverine's Northman GTX boots feature a waterproof Gore-tex lining, 400 Grams of Thinsulate insulation, a heavy Horween leather upper and a Vibram Rubber Lug Sole. The lacing system is a classic design but also reliable and easy to use when tightening the boots. The Vibram soles are also tried and true, with a deep tread pattern great for a variety of conditions like snow, mud or rocky terrain:

(click to enlarge)


Yes, the Northman's are essentially all weather work/bushcraft boots, but they're also not a bad-looking boot either. The nice thing about black leather boots is that if you get'em dirty after playing "Survivorman" all day, just throw on some black shoe polish and wear'em out to dinner! 

(click to enlarge)

 Field Test

Dave and I both gave the Northman's a sound thrashing in the mountains over the last 4 weeks. This included a weekend backpacking trip to the top of a local 10,000 foot mountain, snowshoe testing on Longs Peak Trail, and two submersion tests.

My feet were always warm and comfortable in them, but Dave, who has "cold feet", did get slightly uncomfortable after sitting with his feet in the snow for several hours during our weekend backpacking trip. He wasn't wearing sock liners under his main socks, but had he been wearing them we think he would have been fine. In defense of the Wolverines, Dave did test out a pair of Sorel Caribous in a past review as well as a pair of Danner Raptor GTXs and had the same problem.

The Northmans were a bit stiff and slightly uncomfortable for the first 2 days of break-in, but after that were very comfortable. In fact, I had to keep an on eye on Dave because he kept trying to steal them from me even after the test was over, under the guise of "test purposes." Turns out they're great motorcycle boots too, and Dave was trying to be sneaky by grabbing them to use while riding his Suzuki Enduro around town!

(click to enlarge)

For our main submersion test, we took the Northman's to our favorite waterproof testing location, which is a mountain lake with shallow water close to the shore (shown above).

The air temperature over the lake was a frigid 7 degrees F (with the windchill factor) as measured by our US made Kestrel 3500 Weather Meter. The water temperature as measured by the Kestrel was a chilly 33 degrees (shown above). With Dave pulling camera-duty, I had the nervous task of submerging the boots for 20 mins straight in the lake. No leakage was detected and my feet stayed warm.

We also submerged the boots in a river that runs out of Rocky Mountain National Park while testing US made water purifiers. We probably spent an hour walking in and out of the river and our feet still stayed dry.


We cannot heap enough praise on these simple yet reliable boots. They do everything you ask of them and more. Yes, they are a bit heavy for traditional long distance backpacking. However, outside of that role, they are excellent for just about anything else you can think of-- bushcrafting, hiking, fishing, hunting, even riding motorcycles.

These boots are handmade and durable, so they should provide years of service. If the soles ever wear out, just take them to a shoe repair shop and have new ones put on. That's not something you can do with just any ole' pair of boots today, especially ones made in China.

I also can't help but think that these are the type of boots the teenagers would have grabbed from the sporting goods store in "Red Dawn" while escaping to their mountain hideaway. In a scenario like that, you'd want boots that were tough as nails and dead reliable. After our experience with the Northman's, we think they certainly fit this description.

So the next time the communists invade, make sure you're wearing a pair of Wolverine Northman's before you run into the hills!

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly recommended)

For more info or to buy these boots directly from Wolverine, click HERE

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

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