OTG's Gear We Love series features off-road and outdoor related gear that we've had the opportunity to test in the field, typically for a minimum of a year. The Gear We Love series items and equipment we've paid for ourselves (we'll tell you if we didn't buy it), so you don't have to worry about biased and untruthful reviews. We receive no commissions or kickbacks for any of our gear reviews. Our ultimate goal is to help you make wise investments and discover gear that stands the test of time.
The Quest for the Perfect Overlanding/Camping Boots
If you're like us, you definitely try to spend your discretionary money wisely. We've come to realize that buying the cheapest gear isn't the best investment as it often doesn't stand the test of time. And with over 8 billion people on our planet, we all need to play a part in reducing our consumption and waste. When it comes to outdoor footwear and apparel, we often try to buy gear that can be used in everyday situations back at home but is also suitable for our time when camping or out on the trail.
In our search for the perfect camping boots, we strove to find a balance between form and function. The boot should be stylish enough that it can be worn around town in casual situations, durable enough to hold up to the rigors of yard work and short hikes, and have the ability to be removed and put on with ease (this was a big one for our overlanding and camping trips). This is precisely why we narrowed our search down to laceless, Chelsea-style boots that can be slipped on or off in a matter of seconds.
Danner Bull Run Chelsea Boots
Founded in 1932, Danner quickly established its rugged footwear as the go-to boot for loggers and lumbermen working in the Pacific Northwest. In more recent times, influencers and folks buying into the trendy rugged outdoor styles have become fans of the brand (along with many other brands like Filson, Fjallraven, and Patagonia). But don't let that dissuade you; Danner still makes a number of fantastic hiking shoes and boots, and you don't have to dip into the trust fund for a pair.
Like many items since COVID-19 struck, the Danner Bull Run boots have definitely seen their price go up. The current MSRP for these boots is $230, but as of January 2024, we've seen them listed as cheap as $180. And if you're a savvy shopper, keep an eye on Duluth Trading Co, which lists them on sale for as little as $130. Key Features
Full grain, oiled leather
Non-insulated, non-waterproof lining (not ideal for snow or heavy rain)
Oil-and-slip resistant outsoles made of light and soft polyurethane compound
Removable OrthoLite soles
Lightweight and breathable mesh lining
Recraftable (ability to add a new sole if worn out or damaged)
1 year warranty
Made in USA
Upon unboxing the Bull Runs, we were immediately struck by the beautiful brownish-red hue of the oiled leather finish. The boots are stylish, yet unflinchingly masculine in their design and appearance, and the thick outsoles give the impression that these boots were meant to stand up to years of torment and abuse. The Bull Runs slip on and off with ease, and the insoles are quite comfortable, while the polyurethane outsoles create a soft and comfortable experience while walking on hard surfaces like concrete. It was quickly evident the boots would be right at home with a pair of nice jeans and a flannel button-down at a casual dinner, or with a pair of Carhartt work pants in the yard. But how would they hold up when subjected to years of abuse in the great outdoors?
Durable and Versatile
The driving factor to purchase a pair of laceless boots was the ability to slip them on and off quickly. We spend a lot of time going in and out of our truck camper, and we strive to keep it camp clean, which means removing shoes/boots before going in and out. The Danne Bull Runs slip on and off quickly with ease — perhaps not as quick as a pair of Crocs or flip flops, but the Bull Runs are definitely a close second! And after two years of subjecting them to dozens of overlanding and camping trips, being the go-to boot for yard work, and wearing them around town, it's safe to say these things have held up like champs. We did end up replacing the insoles after about 18 months of use (they feel like new now), and more recently applied a new layer of leather oil (we probably should have done this after 12 months instead of waiting two years!).
The Bull Runs are fantastic 3-season boots, but since they're not insulated or waterproof, we wouldn't recommend wearing them when camping or hiking in the snow. Outside of the snow and extremely wet conditions, they're fantastic for wearing around camp and exploring. With the comfy insoles and grippy outsoles, the Bull Runs are perfect for shorter hikes (2 miles or less in our opinion). But if you're doing any serious mountaineering that requires scrambling up or down steep slopes, or longer hikes, we'd definitely recommend throwing on a pair of laced hiking boots or shoes. While the laceless design will keep the boots on your feet, scrambling down a steep slope will undoubtedly cram your toes against the front of the boot, and can make for an uncomfortable experience trekking down more than a few hundred yards of mountain.
If you wear your Bull Runs as often as we do (a lot!), and oil them as needed, these boots should easily last you 5-10 years. Remember, they are recraftable which means the outsoles are completely replaceable. But after two years of use around the city, outdoors, and dozens of hikes, we've only noticed some minimal wear on the heels. It's safe to say they should last another 2-3 years before the outsoles may need replacement. We loved this shoe so much that we bought one of our relatives a pair for Christmas, and we're featuring them in our first Gear We Love article for a reason!
Why We Picked Danner
During our search for the perfect camp boot, we'd also considered the Red Wing Heritage Classic Chelsea Boot, and Blundstone Boots. Red Wing has a fantastic reputation for craftsmanship and quality, but that definitely comes with a price. A pair of Red Wing Chelseas will typically run $260-$300 depending on where you buy them.
Another brand we long considered was Blundstone, based out of Tasmania. The idea of a boot that was built and designed for the wet and unforgiving conditions of Tasmania definitely caught our attention, and they were priced similarly to the Danners.
So why'd we end up going with the Danners? After a substantial amount of research, the long-lasting quality of the Blundstones didn't seem to hold up as well as the Danner or Red Wings (based on customer reviews and not our own opinion) over the years. We also had the chance to try on the Blundstones, and they weren't nearly as comfortable as we'd hoped (and that was simply putting them on at a local store). So that left the Danner and Red Wing. The reviews of both the Danner and Red Wing boots were quite impressive— noting comfort, style, craftsmanship, and longevity of each respective pair of boots. Since both pairs seemed to be of rather high quality, it was hard not to pass up the Danners that could be purchased for around half the cost of the Red Wings. And we have to admit, being born and raised on the West Coast, the idea of rocking a pair of boots from the iconic Oregon-based Danner certainly didn't hurt in the decision-making process!
Why We Love These Boots
Ruggedly stylish enough to wear around town
Extremely durable-- built for the long haul
Quality craftsmanship (made in USA)
Ease and quickness of slipping the boots on/off
Price that won't break the bank, especially if you get them on sale
Functional enough to go on short hikes (2 miles)
Perfect in most conditions (except snow and extremely wet/rainy environments)