Boots & Biscuits Feb. 19, 2011

Product Reviews:  Herman Survivors and Matterhorn Boots

Abercrombie & Fitch used to be one of the premier sporting goods stores in the world.  In their NYC shop, one could order a custom built rifle and book an African safari on which to use the rifle.  Now some designer owns the name and the A&F stores are in malls to sell grunge clothes to slackers.

Banana Republic used to sell very cool clothes suitable for hunting in Montana, carousing in Havana, or hiking the Alps.  Now they sell the same type slacker clothes as A&F.

Herman Survivors used to make some of the best hiking, work and combat boots, dating back to the late 1800's.  Now Wal Mart owns the name and sells boots under that label, made in China.

Back in December, I bought a pair of Herman Survivors 9" Suede and Camo Hunter Boots at my local Wal Mart. The website shows them at $35, but out of stock.  I got them for $26.  They are Thinsulate insulated and waterproof.  They are also pretty darn ugly.  I tromped around in the snow, and even stepped into the muddy edges of a frozen pond.  The tongue is pretty narrow and is not attached very high up on it, so they have to be laced up very methodically to ensure no gaps that would let in water.  If I did my part there, they kept my feet warm and dry.  They were pretty comfortable, but one of them had a slight squeak every step.  The reviews I read on line are pretty consistent that they are not very durable.  I haven't had mine long enough to judge.  I think these will find a home behind the seat of my truck to be a part of my winter emergency kit.  I'll save some money for a replacement by next year.  I can't recommend these, especially at the $35 price.  If you are flat broke and just need some winter boots to get you through this season, I might say you should look at them if your local store has them at the $26 that I paid.

Matterhorn® 10® 600 - gram Thinsulate™ Insulation Insulated Waterproof Leather Field Boot, BLACK, 9 
I bought my first pair at Camp Lejeune before we shipped out to Saudi Arabia in 1991.  We had some very cold nights out in the desert, and these things made me a lot more comfortable and battle ready.  After returning, I used them the following winter in my job caretaking elephants and rhinos.  The held up great to ankle deep piles of poo and freezing water from a fire hose.  I think I paid $120 for them, a pretty steep price for me at the time, but well worth it.  They lasted for years.  I got my second pair in 2001 from a roommate who was a retired Army helicopter pilot who got them when he was in mountain warfare school.  He had never worn them, so they were like new when I got them.  I still have them, and they still work great and are very comfortable.  The Gore-tex and Thinsulate lining is within a fine mesh casing, so they are great for slipping on over bare feet to check on a bump in the night or fire up the generator in nasty weather.  They are for sure my first choice, and I highly recommend them if you need a winter boot.

Civil War Hardtack

Today we went to one of the local battlefield parks to hike around and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I looked around the little gift shop and saw a piece of hardtack for only a dollar, so I picked it up.  If you don't know what it is, hardtack was the MRE or C-Ration of the Civil War.  A soldier would be issued a pound (about 10 pieces) a day when on the march.  It's kind of like a large, thick, extremely crunchy Saltine cracker, but without the flavor.  It will store indefinitely if kept dry, so it may have some use for you in your 72 hour or car emergency kit.

To make hardtack, use 5 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Knead all ingredients until you get a stiff dough.  Roll out on a floured surface and cut into 3" squares.  Poke 16 holes in the top of each square (4 rows of 4).  Bake for 15 minutes on each side.  Turn oven down to 200 degrees and let cool, then bake the crackers until moisture is gone, about 8-12 hours.  Eat plain, soak in a little milk, or fry in grease and sprinkle with sugar to make Skillygally.

My Excalibur dehydrator goes to 155 degrees.  I'm going to try a batch that way instead of 200 degree oven.  I'm thinking it might work pretty well that way.  I'll vacuum seal a handful and stick them in the truck. 


  1. This reminded me there's a piece of original Civil War hardtack in a museum in Minnesota I think. Here's video of it. So I'd say that "lasts indefinitely" claim is pretty much the truth. Never made any myself, but it's on the list of things to try. It doesn't look too high in nutrition value, but it would be good eating doctored up a bit like you describe or would also be good "sick person" food when you're needing something bland.

  2. Thanks for sharing the video, Angela. I think it's funny that Minnesota has that in their historical society. I imagine that around here there are several hundred families that still have a piece of great-great-great gandpa's hardtack in a box.

    It looks like there area a bunch of hardtack making videos on You Tube as well. I really need to look on there more.

  3. Hardtack lasted long after the Civil War, the pioneers coming out west used it a lot and cowboys still use it to this day when out on the trail. It does not taste very good but it sure will keep you alive in a pinch. Great post. I remember the days when Abercrombie And Fitch was a good sporting goods store too.


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