The comfort of a lightweight hiking boot with all the ruggedness needed for the mountains.
The Kestrel mountain boot from Schnee’s is not your typical hunting boot. When you’re accustomed to a bulky mountain boot, the Kestrel feels shockingly light and much more like a trail hiker. And that’s exactly what Schnee’s was going for.
Hunting boots are typically heavy. Really heavy. I assume that when a non-hunter picks up a pair of dedicated mountain hunting boots, they’re likely thinking, “I wouldn’t want to walk anywhere in these.”
The boots hunters are used to are typically hefty — and for a good reason. Extreme backcountry or high-alpine hunting requires a lot of boot. Changing conditions, rugged terrain, and steep inclines and declines all require a good hoof. The protection and sure-footedness provided by a good hunting boot typically come with some mass.
This is where Schnee’s decided to take the Kestrel in a different direction.
In short: Designed for off-trail use while hunting, the Schnee’s Kestrel ($389) is stout enough for difficult terrain but light enough for long days on the trail. Those looking for a light yet supportive boot for hunting or hiking should consider this highly regarded brand.
Schnee's Kestrel Boot Specs
Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty.
Schnee’s Kestrel Hunting Boot Review
What’s Different About This Boot
Compared to all of Schnee’s other hunting boots, and really most any dedicated hunting boot, the big difference with the Kestrel is weight. The last thing any hunter wants is additional, unnecessary weight. Each step is just slightly more challenging with each extra ounce.
When comparing these to Schnee’s insulated Beartooth hunting boots, the Kestrel comes in at a whopping half-pound lighter per pair. When you’re counting ounces, half a pound is a heap of weight.
It does this primarily by reconfiguring the build of the sole. The Kestrel’s rand (that area of additional rubberized material between the sole and the upper) only wraps the toe and heel instead of a full 360 degrees. This offers the wearer protection where it’s most needed while cutting down on material on the sides.
The brand also removed the typical sole chassis from the boot, instead utilizing a new pLite midsole. This 100% polyurethane midsole is more flexible and much lighter-weight than its traditional mountain boot chassis. This not only cuts weight but increases comfort and adds a considerable level of shock absorbency.
The bulk of the upper is top-grain leather, but the tongue and trim are constructed from Schoeller fabric, which is highly breathable yet still incredibly durable. That new fabric component almost gives the boot a more athletic feel rather than a big ol’ leather boot feel.
Where This Hunting Boot Excels
The Kestrel is not insulated, which is a feature that lands in both the pro and con categories.
For scouting in the heat of summer, the construction is far more breathable than most mountain boots. This keeps your feet comfortable longer on those brutally hot days. For spring and fall, when you aren’t concerned with cold toes, the Kestrel is a great choice, offering you a rugged, waterproof boot without the added bulk of insulation or added weight of a heavy-duty sole.
For warmer climates where you aren’t battling subzero temperatures in the late season, this is a year-round boot.
In Montana, where I tend to spend my time, I’d say this boot would perform well in 7-8 months of the year. In this boot, you can bow hunt elk in during the rut in September and quest for turkeys in April.
Outside of the hunting world, I think the Kestrel would make for an excellent hiker. Those who are in for the long walk or are pushing the limit with thru-hiking would benefit from the durability and protection of the Kestrel without the weight of other mountain boots. It really is a happy medium between a hiking boot and a hunting boot.
The boot has a Vibram outsole and a 100% waterproof membrane, though the brand does recommend treating the leather to keep it in tip-top condition.
Where Schnee’s Kestrel Boot Falls Short
The Kestrel is not insulated. (I told you that would come back as a drawback.)
This is probably not a late-season boot — at least not if you live up north. It simply isn’t designed to keep your feet warm.
This is also probably not suited for high-alpine mountaineering or chasing Dall sheep. The flexibility of the midsole might leave you with foot fatigue if you’re traversing rocky, unstable terrain — particularly in the cold.
For extreme cold and ruggedness, you just have to go with a bulkier, hardcore mountain boot. If you’re fond of Schnee’s, I definitely would recommend the insulated Beartooth for such seasons and adventures.
It has that traditional mountain boot feel with heavy insulation and a rigid sole, without feeling too much like a true mountaineering boot. It also happens to be one of my favorite boots.
One other note applies only to the women’s line of Kestrels. The first few runs off the line had some sizing inconsistencies. Because I had the honor of having one of the first women’s pairs, mine were actually a bit too big. Luckily, I’ve been told that the sizing issue has been resolved, but it’s worth noting.
Are Schnee’s Kestrel Hunting Boots Worth It?
In my opinion: Yup!
With an MSRP of $389, they’re not cheap, but they’re certainly not on the high end of what a good hunting boot costs. It’s also a boot you can wear more often and more comfortably than many of the other mountain boots.
I’m a big fan of any piece of gear I can use in many different settings and multiple activities. I’ll favor Schnee’s Timberline as a midseason boot and Schnee’s insulated Beartooth as a late-season boot. But for everything else, these are just more comfortable, less bulky, and less cumbersome, making them worth it.